Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

A story of heroism, remorse (and a tank), coming soon to Midtown Scholar.

Next week, you may see an unusual sight in Midtown Harrisburg: a Sherman tank parked right on N. 3rd Street.

Don’t worry—it won’t be there in any official capacity.

The demilitarized tank will serve as an apt prop to help illustrate the life of Army veteran Cpl. Clarence Smoyer, whose life is recounted in a new book, “Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy and a Collision of Lives in World War II.”

The 95-year-old Smoyer, a coal country native, will be on hand at Midtown Scholar Bookstore, along with the author, Adam Makos, and the tank’s owner, Gettysburg resident and collector Frank Buck.

“We’re very excited they’ve chosen Harrisburg for the book launch,” said bookstore Manager Alex Brubaker. “Originally, they were going to launch in Washington, D.C., but they got such a response from Pennsylvania, where Smoyer is from, that they shifted it to here.”

The book recounts Smoyer’s experience as one of the war’s premier tank gunners, known for his uncanny accuracy, according to the book.

Following the near-disastous Battle of the Bulge, Smoyer’s 3rd Armored Division was given a new weapon, the state-of-the-art Pershing tank, just one of 20 deployed in the European theater.

Soon, Smoyer’s unit led the invasion into Cologne, Germany’s “fortress city,” in the largest urban battle of the European war, much of it caught on film by a U.S. Army combat cameraman. For this, he earned the nickname, “Hero of Cologne,” destroying a German Panther tank right at the Cologne Cathedral.

Smoyer’s unit also was featured in the 2014 film “Fury,” which starred actor Brad Pitt and told of the unit’s role in the final days of the war, deep inside Nazi Germany.

In 2012, working off a tip, the book’s author, Makos, found Smoyer living in Allentown, one of the last living members of his unit. He then learned of the latter-day friendship Smoyer had forged with his long-ago enemy—a German soldier behind the gun of an opposing Panzer IV tank.

Makos also learned of the deep remorse that Smoyer felt for the fate of a young German woman, Katharina Esser, whose accidental death during the Battle of Cologne was filmed, footage that Smoyer had watched repeatedly and that had rekindled horrible memories from the war. Smoyer eventually returned to Cologne, where he met the woman’s family, the visit featured recently on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

“This is such a great story,” Brubaker said. “It’s so special that they’re coming right here to the bookstore to launch this book.”

Clarence Smoyer and Adam Makos will appear and sign books on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. The tank will be parked outside of the bookstore. For more information, visit

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