DENVER (CBS4) – A vintage tank stopped traffic along Wynkoop Street Saturday morning. People watched as history rolled through Union Station, but the tank wasn’t nearly as fascinating as the man inside — Clarence Smoyer.

Clarence Smoyer (credit: CBS)

Smoyer fired the shots that helped disabled German tanks and win the battle for Cologne. The 95-year-old is known as the “Hero of Cologne” for his actions as a tank gunner.

Clarence Smoyer (credit: Adam Makos)

Saturday marks 74 years since the death of Smoyer’s leader, Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose.

Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose (credit: CBS)

“As far as I’m concerned he was the greatest general in the entire war. It’s a terrible shame that he got shot down but Ill always remember him,” said Smoyer.

The Denver native was the highest ranking American to die in action during the war in Europe.

Broomfield author Adam Makos has written a best selling book about Smoyer’s journey that also solves the mystery of how Rose was killed.

(credit: CBS)

“He was a general who always wanted to lead from the front and it cost him his life,” Makos told CBS4. “So we want to remember him on this day. Union station is the perfect venue. When a lot of our soldiers went off to war, soldiers said good bye to their loved ones, maybe for the last time, (including) guys like Gen. Rose who never came home. That’s hallowed ground in Denver and the perfect place to remember.”

(credit: CBS)

Rare but detailed film footage of the Cologne battle was captured by combat photographer Jim Bates of Colorado Springs and broadcast in newsreels back home in the United States.

Makos organized the tribute to Rose in Denver. He and Smoyer signed copies of the book “Spearhead” after the event at the Tattered Cover in Union Station.

(credit: CBS)

Makos and Smoyer donated a memorial painting of the Spearhead Division by Scottish artist Gareth Hector to be hung at Denver’s Union Station.

Tori Mason

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