Clarence Smoyer, a tank gunner during World War II, was honored for his heroism by his hometown in Lehighton, Penn., on Wednesday where, unbeknownst to him, a fellow veteran was hoping to get the chance to speak.
Smoyer, 95, has been called a hero for his efforts in Germany — notably, when he destroyed a German tank in the Battle of Cologne near Cologne's famous cathedral in March of 1945. It is considered to be possibly the most famous tank duel in WWII, and some regard the video captured by correspondents and cameramen as the most iconic war footage of WWII.
Thanks to Smoyer, and many other G.I.s, Cologne became the largest city taken by U.S. troops during the war.
Among those men was a fellow veteran, Earl Bridygham, now 94.
During the event held at Lehighton Area Elementary Center to promote the book, Spearhead, which document's Smoyer's experiences, Bridygham was given the microphone, WNEP reports.
"I never got around to meet you," Bridygham said. "But I would like to meet you now."
Smoyer did not know that Bridygham's infantry division had been marching towards the cathedral, not realizing the American and German tanks were battling there.
"We were heading towards to the cathedral and somebody flagged and said, 'Don't go farther. There's a Tiger tank,'" said Bridygham.
Bridygham said that he came to the event to thank Smoyer for saving his life.
Smoyer was humbled by the admission, and he and Bridygham shared the stage as they remembered that fateful day.
"All the buildings around there were really shot up and bombed, and the cathedral had a couple little holes in the roof," Bridygham said. "Fifty-caliber, the shingles were flying off the houses."
Smoyer, who left school in the 10th grade and was drafted into the war, will be given an honorary diploma at the district's next board meeting on June 24.
Spearhead, written by Adam Makos and named after Smoyer's tank, is available now.
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