The ‘Hero of Cologne’ receives his Bronze Star 75 years late

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World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer, 96, poses for a picture in front of a Sherman tank after receiving the Bronze Star, near the World War II Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in Washington. Smoyer fought with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Division, nicknamed the Spearhead Division. In 1945, he defeated a German Panther tank near the cathedral in Cologne, Germany — a dramatic duel filmed by an Army cameraman that was seen all over the world. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — When 96-year-old Clarence Smoyer came to Washington, he thought he was heading to the Pentagon to sign copies of a book detailing his exploits as a World War II tank gunner.

Instead, he found a full Army color guard and ceremony awarding him a Bronze Star, 75 years after the battle that made him a hero.

Smoyer, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was part of a famous duel in Cologne, Germany, where his Pershing tank destroyed a German Panther tank. The battle was captured on film and Smoyer became known as the “Hero of Cologne.” But he was denied a Bronze Star at the time due to a minor disciplinary issue.

The Army ruled last month that Smoyer deserved the medal and helped arrange Wednesday’s surprise at Washington’s World War II memorial.

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