An American Tank Gunner, his enemy, and a collision of lives in World War II
By Adam Makos
Published by Atlantic; Dist. in Australia by Allen & Unwin
RRP $39.99 in hardback
Adam Makos is a journalist, historian and editor of the military magazine, Valor. (Click on the link for more information about the magazine.)
Together with Larry Alexander, he is the author of A Higher Call which became a Sunday Times bestseller.
In Spearhead, Makos once again recounts the story of an individual but how he arrives at this story is a story in itself. Tipped off by a former college classmate to a World War II veteran living in obscurity in Allentown, Pennsylvania, but with an interesting story to tell, he did not waste time in tracking down the former tank gunner, whom he first interviewed in 2008.
Clarence Smoyers, who deplored violence, became the gunner of one of the first Pershing tanks in the European Theatre, spearheading the American invasion of Germany. Smoyers’s story is a powerful evocation of the lives and challenges of the ‘tankers’, so critical to the war effort, as well as of German civilians caught up in the conflict.
In 2013, Smoyer and three other veterans travelled to Germany, back to where the action happened and to an unlikely meeting – with the German Panther gunner, Gustav Schaefer, they had defeated at the Battle of Cologne. As part of his research for the book, Adam Makos tagged along.
In fact the depth of his research is evident in every chapter.
Not only does he visit former battlefields, but he also delves deeply into the archives, using original orders, rare interviews, radio logs of tank commanders, even daily weather reports, to help him bring the story to the page.
As he says in his introduction, this is not about tanks. Or how machines performed. It is a story of people.
Told in an engaging narrative style, Makos brings the story alive. Readers can safely live the experience of brutal tank warfare from the comfort of their armchairs, through Makos’s extraordinary talent for storytelling.