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March 31, 2019

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‘Spearhead’ is a gripping WWII tale

WITH his two previous books, journalist Adam Makos established himself as a meticulous researcher who’s equally adept at spinning a good, old-fashioned yarn.

In “Spearhead,” he doesn’t venture far from what he does best. Again, he returns to World War II, but he follows men on the ground rather than in the skies. And, again, he finds a hidden hero worthy of highlighting. This time, it’s Clarence Smoyer, a gunner from a working-class family in industrial Pennsylvania.

We follow Smoyer and the US Army’s 3rd Armored Division’s Easy Company across the battlefields of Germany in 1944. In his third book, though, rather than speeding through the narrative’s twists and turns with nary a bump in the road, Makos regales readers with every detail of every firefight.

That said, Makos’ writing remains strong and dramatic. And some of the strongest storytelling comes near the end when Smoyer, now well into his 80s, meets his German counterpart. The seminal battle of Smoyer’s service took place on the streets of Cologne where he faced off with an enemy tank, and two fleeing civilians were killed. Smoyer had been haunted by their deaths all his life. Turns out, Gustav, the only surviving German tanker from that day, had been haunted, too. Their meeting in 2013 at a Cologne hotel bar is cinematic.


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