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in: Podcast, Travel & Leisure, WWII

March 27, 2019 Last updated: April 16, 2019

Podcast #494: The Inspiring Story of One of WWII’s Greatest Tank Gunners

Recently, I participated in the AoM podcast’s first live audience interview. It took place at Magic City Books here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and joining me for the interview was two-time past guest Adam Makos. Makos, the author of A Higher Call and Devotion, was here in T-Town to discuss his most recent book, Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II.

Spearhead follows the story of Clarence Smoyer — a quiet kid from Pennsylvania coal country who became one of the greatest tank gunners in World War II history — and how his life crossed paths with an enemy tanker, Gustav Schaefer, during the Battle of Cologne. Adam shares how he became interested in WWII history as a kid and how he found Clarence’s story. He then gives us an engaging rundown of tank warfare in WWII, and walks us through Clarence’s hero’s journey and the epic battles he faced with calm commitment and a love for his team of tankers. We end our conversation discussing what happened when Clarence and Gustav recently met up as old men, and the lessons Adam thinks members of the social media age can take from the veterans of the Big One.

Show Highlights

  • How Adam got started writing WWII history books as a young guy 
  • The unifying theme of Adam’s work 
  • How Adam found the story of Clarence Smoyer 
  • The run down on tank warfare in WWII
  • Why America’s tank technology lagged behind 
  • The 5 different roles on a tank crew 
  • How Clarence cemented his role as a gunner (despite not wanting it) 
  • Gustav, the German tanker, and why he’s easy to root for
  • How Clarence and Gustav crossed paths 
  • The epic Battle of Cologne 
  • Clarence’s feelings — 75 years later even — on his heroics in that battle 
  • Clarence’s final WWII mission  
  • His life after the war 
  • How Clarence and Gustav met as old men 
  • The homecoming that Clarence finally received as a 95-year-old 
  • The takeaways Adam got from writing this story 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Adam 

Adam’s website

Adam on Twitter

Adam on Instagram

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Read the Transcript

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