THE NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, LOS ANGELES TIMES, AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER
“A band of brothers in an American tank . . . Makos drops the reader back into the Pershing’s turret and dials up a battle scene to rival the peak moments of Fury.”
—The Wall Street Journal
From the author of the international bestseller A Higher Call comes the riveting World War II story of an American tank gunner’s journey into the heart of the Third Reich, where he will meet destiny in an iconic armor duel—and forge an enduring bond with his enemy.
When Clarence Smoyer is assigned to the gunner’s seat of his Sherman tank, his crewmates discover that the gentle giant from Pennsylvania has a hidden talent: He’s a natural-born shooter.
At first, Clarence and his fellow crews in the legendary 3rd Armored Division—“Spearhead”—thought their tanks were invincible. Then they met the German Panther, with a gun so murderous it could shoot through one Sherman and into the next. Soon a pattern emerged: The lead tank always gets hit.
After Clarence sees his friends cut down breaching the West Wall and holding the line in the Battle of the Bulge, he and his crew are given a weapon with the power to avenge their fallen brothers: the Pershing, a state-of-the-art “super tank,” one of twenty in the European theater.
But with it comes a harrowing new responsibility: Now they will spearhead every attack. That’s how Clarence, the corporal from coal country, finds himself leading the U.S. Army into its largest urban battle of the European war, the fight for Cologne, the “Fortress City” of Germany.
Battling through the ruins, Clarence will engage the fearsome Panther in a duel immortalized by an army cameraman. And he will square off with Gustav Schaefer, a teenager behind the trigger in a Panzer IV tank, whose crew has been sent on a suicide mission to stop the Americans.
As Clarence and Gustav trade fire down a long boulevard, they are taken by surprise by a tragic mistake of war. What happens next will haunt Clarence to the modern day, drawing him back to Cologne to do the unthinkable: to face his enemy, one last time.
Praise for Spearhead
“A detailed, gripping account . . . the remarkable story of two tank crewmen, from opposite sides of the conflict, who endure the grisly nature of tank warfare.”
—USA Today (four out of four stars)
“Strong and dramatic . . . Makos established himself as a meticulous researcher who’s equally adept at spinning a good old-fashioned yarn. . . . For a World War II aficionado, it will read like a dream.”
Historian Makos (A Higher Call) draws on correspondence, secondary sources, and first-person testimony to tell the story of Cpl. Clarence Smoyer and his tank crew as they fought across Europe in the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Division, nicknamed "Spearhead," in WWII. Losses in the division were so high that tankers stopped naming their vehicles because they were destroyed so quickly. Stroyer's crew was one of only 20 to be selected to man the new, top-secret M-26 Pershing tanks, and it was in an M-26 that the most famous of Smoyer's exploits took place during the 1945 battle for Cologne: a one-on-one showdown against a formidable Panther tank, reminiscent of an American West gunfight, on the streets all caught on film. Makos also includes the experience of the Panther's German crewman Gustav Schafer and Smoyer and Schafer's latter-day meeting in the city square in Cologne; they walk the street where their tanks faced each other 70 years before. The tension, death, and courage that were everyday experiences for American tankers fill the pages of Makos's book. This moving story of bravery and comradeship is an important contribution to WWII history that will inform and fascinate both the general reader and the military historian.
I grew up during the Cold War era and was almost drafted for Viet Nam. I’ll admit I was afraid to be in a war because I was sure I would die during combat. Still, I’m always drawn to these nonfiction WWII stories, where the men were really no different than I, afraid to be killed or even to kill another human being. The fortitude that many of these soldiers exhibited, knowing that death was close by, makes me tear up, especially when many had newborn children that they would never get to hold or wives/sweethearts they would never see again. Thank you for providing this exceptional book about exceptional men in chaotic times doing the best they could, no matter for which side they fought.
A great read!
It’s been a long time since I have enjoyed a book this much- maybe never. And I read a lot of books! Unlike some true accounts of WW2, this powerful piece never slows down with names of every soldier or officer in the armed forces. What a drag that can be. However, in this account only the main characters are discussed and made very personal to the reader. And the descriptions of the tank battles and lives of the tankers is spellbinding. This author doesn’t skip a beat. I found that I literally knew nothing about what these men went through , be it the heat of battle, the horror involved in same, or the very personal emotions they experienced. The author tells the story from both sides, allied and German. The epilogue is terrific as well. Final word- Get it, Read it!