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Smoyer & Eagle7 Crew Awarded BSM

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by TD-Tommy776, Sep 18, 2019.

  1. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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  2. Emzel

    Emzel New Member

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    Bronze star is the least we could have awarded him. Congratulations to Mr. Smoyer and the entire crew for their heroic feat. Spearhead is a great read. Thanks for the post Tommy.
     
  3. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    The tank commander, Robert Early, and the cameraman, Jim Bates, were awarded BSM's in 1945. This matches what they received. I don't think Clarence would want it any different.
     
  4. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    This was in my local paper today.

    John DeRiggi Sr. served in the Army as a tank crew member in battle memorialized in new book, “Spearhead.”


    When John DeRiggi Jr. was growing up, his dad was his idol, a great father who played catch in their Levittown backyard and took him hunting and fishing.

    It wasn’t until he was getting up in years, though, that his father opened up about his experiences in World War II.

    He had been a member of a tank crew. Not just any tank crew. One that recently has been immortalized in a New York Times best seller, “Spearhead.”

    On Wednesday, the senior DeRiggi was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star in a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., attended by his son, John Jr. and his wife, Bev. John Sr. had died in 2005 at age 83.

    “It was amazing,” John DeRiggi Jr. said. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Allentown, was there, as well as many military officials and World War II vets.

    “He was my hero even before this happened,” the Bristol Township resident said Monday as he prepared to travel to Washington. “We were the closest father, son. He was a great father. This just solidifies the fact I was on point with him.”

    The tank crew’s gunner, Clarence Smoyer, of Allentown, is the only member of the five-member tank team still alive and was surprised by the Bronze Star ceremony that included a tank brought to a field near the memorial in the crew’s honor.

    The medals for heroism were long overdue.

    DeRiggi said his dad was the sole survivor of an earlier tank attack when the American Sherman tanks were being outgunned by the Nazis’ more powerful Panthers. But by the end of the war, the American Army introduced a new, experimental tank, the Pershing, which had a larger gun to take on the Panthers.



    Smoyer, DeRiggi Sr. and their other crewmates were specifically assigned to operate it, leading the charge into Cologne in March 1945 after the Battle of the Bulge, said Robert Makos of Broomfield, Colorado, whose son, Adam, wrote “Spearhead.”
     
  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I am finally getting into writing the section on the "Z" Team AKA the "ZEBRA Mission" and the combat debut of the Heavy Tank T26 in For Purpose of Service Test and Makos' book is a good source. However, one huge question remains unresolved...how did the material of ZEBRA get to Europe? MG Gladeon Barnes and the senior members of the team flew in, but at least three men and all the materia - 20 tanks, 2 motor carriages, a cargo carrier, a gun, and some 200 rounds of ammunition went by ship, but which one?

    Barnes said the convoy left New York on 16 January and arrived c. 2 February...except no ships in any convoys match that. The closest are the seven ships departed on 18 January as part of Convoy HX.333 and arrived as part of Convoy TAM.69 on 4 February. The ships were:

    Edward L Grant, Ida Strauss, Louis Kossuth, Morris C Feinstone, Samuel F B Morse II, Thomas Sim Lee, and William C. Endicott

    None of the other departures and arrivals between New York and Antwerp in the time period appear to match? Has anyone run into any other mention of what ship the ZEBRA material was on?
     
  6. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Rich, I reached out to a friend with your question. He said he found no hard info, but said - based on what is in Hunnicutt's "Pershing" - that he suspects the ship arrival in Antwerp would be closer to 11 Feb 1945. Hopefully that is of some help.
     
  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    No, Hunnicutt is unclear on the date I suspect for the same reason everyone is...it is never specifically mentioned by Barnes in his report or in the Ordnance History of the T20 Series. However, it is very specific that the shipment was supposed to leave New York on 16 January and arrive 2 February, so if it was two days late then 18 January and 4 February fits. Furthermore, the plan was for the airborne party to leave CONUS after the ships arrived - they took off from Washington at 1235 8 February. Unloading was a different matter; Barnes noted on 14 February that Captain Gray told him they had completed unloading. We also know that the 559th Ord Bn were preparing them at Spa on 17 February, the teams from 3d AD arrived 18-19 February and began training on the vehicles 20 February. They were in action on 23 February.

    It just seems odd that the departure and arrival of the ship and the name of the ship wasn't recorded. I suspect it was the Thomas Sim Lee, but would like to find some confirmation.
     
  8. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Rich, first I neglected to add that my friend emphasized that he considers you an authority on this subject. Second, I misquoted him slightly. He did not use "would be closer". He said he suspected it arrived closer to the 11th. He agreed with you that Hunnicutt is not clear on the date. His suspicion was from indirect references in Hunnicutt. Sorry for the bad paraphrase.
     
  9. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I suspect what may have happened was that Barnes said "leaving the 16th" because that was when loading was complete and the ship left the dock. However, the reality of convoys was that ships could sit in harbor for a while waiting for the final convoy assembly, arrival of escorts, and so on. Ditto for the arrival...they first went to Southend and reformed as a Antwerp bound convoy, arriving on 4 February...but that was not necessarily when unloading took place. Delays often meant ships sat for days or even weeks waiting to unload. I was just hoping someone ran into more specifics. Sadly, the port documentation at Antwerp is not very specific, just giving daily unloading figures for total number of vehicles.

    So is you friend an acquaintance of mine? I'm not sure I'm really an authority, unless an authority is someone that reaalizes nearly every day how much they still don't know about a subject.
     
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  10. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I suppose that also explains the change in convoy designation.

    No, he mentioned that he's read your contributions elsewhere. The only place he specified was TankNet.

    I think you've hit on the distinction between an expert and an authority. ;)
     
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  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I just noticed that Hunnicutt captioned a photo on page 14 as being a Pershing loading on a T25 Transport Trailer at Antwerp on 9 February and that the convoy to Aachen set out on 11 February after Captain Gray was sent from Spa to join Captain Griffin, who had crossed on the ship. The port of Antwerp recorded vehicle unloading on 6, 7, and 8 February, but none on 9 February. There was also unloading of vehicles 2, 3, and 4 February, but none on 1 or 5 February. In the TAM 69 convoy, only the Thomas Sim Lee was recorded with a cargo including "AFV's", so I think it most probable...but wish I could find some conformation.
     
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  12. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    It gets even more interesting, but you may have to wait for For Purpose of Service Test to get the juicy details. :D
     
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