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Advance of E Company in Cologne 1945 Deutsche Version

The advance of E Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division on 6 March 1945 into Cologne city centre. Images from the films of the accompanying cameramen and photographers, colorized by me. Unless otherwise stated, the original images come from the NARA archive.

This aerial photo of the destroyed Cologne shows the route taken by E Company on March 6, 1945.

data by OpenStreetMap
And again in map form. Special features to be seen after the start (1) the Pershing tank location (2), the location of Katharina Esser's car (3) and the tank duel at the cathedral (4). large map

Starting point: at the Gladbacher Strasse railway underpass

data by OpenStreetMap
Features to see in this first section after launch (1) the Pershing Panzer site (2). large map

On the morning of March 6, 1945, US units advanced under the Gladbacher Strasse railway underpass in the direction of the city centre.

The tanks and other military vehicles and units advance on Gladbacher Strasse until about just before Spichernstrasse.

The infantrymen also run into the side streets, here into Gilbachstrasse, which branches off to the right immediately behind the underpass. Two of the houses (the ones on the right in the picture) are still standing today, house numbers 27 and 29a, the other houses visible here were all demolished later.

The units advance further from behind.

In the front right you can see the junction with Spichernstrasse. The soldiers observe what is happening in front of them, especially behind the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring. There, behind a bend in the road, a German tank seems to be waiting.

A Pershing advances to the Spichernstrasse junction and considers how to disable the German tank. But the tank is waiting patiently behind the corner of the house. The Pershing shoots toward the corner of the street. The location of the Pershing is right in front of house number 13 on Gladbacher Strasse. This house still stands today.

photo source Adam Makos
  Among others, the radio operator Gustav Schäfer (18), who is also responsible for the machine gun, sits in the German tank.

The Pershin gunner is Clarence Smoyer (19).

While the German tank, protected by the corner of the house, is shooting in the direction of the Americans and the Pershing in the direction of the German tank, suddenly a car, an Opel P4, coming from the direction of Hansaring, turns into Christophstrasse, right in the firing line of the military opponents.

The car is hit, presumably by machine gun salvos from both directions. The car drives to the right side of the road and stops there without the occupants being visible.

data by OpenStreetMap
On the map you can see again how the car coming from Hansaring gets between the fronts. Clarence Smoyer had assumed that there were no private vehicles in the city and that the vehicles could only be military vehicles. He also thought he saw military camouflage colors on the car. He therefore shoots specifically at the vehicle. Gustav Schäfer's tank shoots in the direction of the Americans and only sees too late that the car has driven into the area in front of him. Schäfer assumes that the car was also hit from his side. large map

The car is now standing motionless and far from any assistance in the middle of the focal point of the fighting on Christophstrasse. The German tank is still lurking. Clarence Smoyer decides to shoot at the house fronts so that they collapse over the German tank and, in the best case, knock it out. He cannot shoot him directly in the cover.

Again and again the Pershing shoots in the direction of the German tank.

The facade of a hit house on Christophstrasse falls down with a great deal of noise. The hit Opel P4 is still there at the roadside (seen on the right) while the shells flew past it towards the fronts of houses, shot off with a deafening sound of gunfire. If anyone is still alive in the car, it must be a great ordeal. Minute by minute, time flies by without help coming to the car.

The US troops look spellbound to see whether they have dealt with the German tank.

The Americans also fired from the ruins of the houses in the direction of the German enemy.

The Opel P4 that was hit is still on Christophstrasse. A passer-by runs across the street to the right. The remains of the facade of the hit house lie on the street. The Americans shoot at the passers-by, but at the last moment he just manages to get to the right behind the houses/ruins there.

The Americans feel safer after the facade collapsed. Individual tanks advance, pass the Pershing and turn into Spichernstrasse.

The US infantrymen advance. The houses are searched for enemy forces / resistance. Montage of two single images. large photo

Always carefully along the house wall. Entry into the houses, house by house.

  The ax is occasionally used to get into a locked house.

View of Werderstrasse, which branches off from Gladbacher Strasse. The corner house is searched, more infantrymen advance to Werderstrasse.

The infantrymen are just before the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring or are already running around the corner of the house. The Opel P4 that was hit is still standing on the side of the road at the back of Christophstrasse. He must have been standing there for over an hour. The Americans advance cautiously and very slowly on Gladbacher Strasse. Searching through the houses in particular takes time.

Infantrymen run around the corner into Hermann-Becker-Strasse. At that time, this led back in the direction of the Gereon railway station, today to the "Mediapark".

In the middle of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring is the Kaiser-Wilhelm I monument. Under its protection, the infantrymen run across the ring road to the other side of the road. Image montage from three different single images. large photo

In the background on the right is the junction with Christophstrasse. The soldiers soon reached the area where the Opel P4 that had been hit is still standing.

Now the soldiers have reached the car. The driver is dead. There was also a female passenger in the car who had survived the shelling so far. But she is obviously badly injured. In the background the Pershing has moved up with Clarence Smoyer, who had shot at the car. To the right of the Pershing another US Sherman tank.

A paramedic and other soldiers take care of the woman.

1918, March 22 - 1945, March 06
source Adam Makos
  As it turned out many years after the war, the woman was Katharina Esser, who was 26 at the time. On this day, she and her boss Michael Johannes Delling, a grocer, are on their way to the other side of the Rhine by car. They want to drive to the last remaining Rhine crossing, the Hohenzollern Bridge. Since the car owner is a grocer, he has a special permit to drive his car in times of war. But not a good idea this day.

The soldiers examine the woman and look at the injuries.

At the moment there is nothing they can do for the woman. They leave the woman, who is fully conscious, next to the car. Her head is raised on a bag.

A soldier gets a coat from the car.

He carefully places the coat on the woman. Since the soldiers cannot simply take the woman with them in the middle of the fighting, they have to wait for advancing units that can transport them away and treat them further.

So the US units advance further and leave the woman lying next to the car. These are the last film images of her that exist. The further fate of Katharina Esser is unclear. She probably succumbed to her severe injuries, which had not been treated for a long time, and was then taken away dead from the scene. Or she was taken alive to a hospital and died there without her name being known. In any case, her family only found out about her death later.

Gustav Schäfer from the German tank later said that some vehicles had been in this area. It is unclear whether this car, which is standing on the corner of Christophstrasse and Von-Werth-Strasse and was probably hit by a grenade, was hit this morning or before. In any case, the occupants did not survive.

The remains, probably already torn apart by the explosion and later also by passing tanks, are scattered around the car.

data by OpenStreetMap
After crossing the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring the further route is clear. In particular, after passing Katharina Esser's car (3), the route continues via Christophstrasse and Gereonstrasse towards the cathedral. large map

The remains of the collapsed facade of the house hit by Pershing are clearly visible on Christophstrasse. In this area the German tank had been lurking.

The Pershing advances further. Hidden by him, Katharina Esser's car is behind it on the left-hand side. In the foreground again the ruins of the house facade.

Tanks on Christophstrasse shortly before reaching Gereonstrasse.

Clarence Smoyer's Pershing reaches Gereonstrasse, it now stands level with St Gereon's Church and overlooks the whole of Gereonstrasse.

The tanks continue to roll into Gereonstrasse. On the right there is a small truck at the roadside. Soldiers stand next to them.

When you get closer, you see a dead person lying next to the car. The car obviously wanted to drive west and thus met the Americans. They didn't hesitate and shot the car, killing the driver.

In the windscreen you can still see the bullet holes. The driver was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Pershing advances further across Gereonstrasse, watched by soldiers at the roadside. In the background the financial district.

More Sherman tanks advance behind the Pershing.

The tanks were just on the Gereonstrasse when they heard over the radio that two Sherman tanks were being fired on by a German tank on the nearby Komödienststrasse. Clouds of smoke from a hit Sherman rise in front of the cathedral.

The infantrymen are also advancing across Gereonstrasse. Always in front of the cathedral.

data by OpenStreetMap
Now it's off to the banking district and the street Unter Sachsenhausen area. large map

Looking back over Gereonstrasse and St. Gereon's Church.

The street Unter Sachsenhausen. Covered infantrymen fire their rifles down the road toward the enemy.

The cameraman records how the Pershing advances.

The Pershing is near the former Commerzbank building. The house is still there today and was renovated just a few years ago.

The Pershing tank is now on the last section of the Unter Sachsenhausen road. Again and again he shoots in the direction of the street An den Dominikanern, where apparently isolated German soldiers are still suspected.

View from Unter Sachsenhausen towards An den Dominikanern. In the background in the middle you can see the former building of the German Labor Front, which still stands today and houses the social court.

Another view to the east, behind the houses in the background is the main train station.

The Pershing shoots at the windows of the house of the German Labor Front.

A German defender surrenders and approaches the US soldiers from the area of the German Labor Front building. On the left is the main post office building, which has recently been replaced by a new building.

The tank duel at the cathedral is only briefly addressed here with the colorized pictures. All details about the tank duel can be found on my main website:

Tank Duel
Tank duel at the cathedral

The Pershing leads to the crossroads An den Dominikanern / Marzellenstrasse, where it wants to try to surprise the German tank lurking on Komödienststrasse, which had previously shot down the two Sherman tanks, and to shoot down.

The Pershing enters the intersection and fires three shells at the German Panther tank.

The German tank after the first hit. The commander wants to get out through the turret.

View from the house of the German Labor Front on the hit and burning German tank.

Small animation of the colored photo from above...

View from the house of the German Labor Front from a slightly lower position on the hit and burning German tank.

The crew of the Pershing made themselves available for a group picture after the German tank had been shot down.

Once again the crew of the Pershing.
Some days later

Soldiers go across street Gereonstrasse, looking for the destructions.

Return 2013

Clarence Smoyer and Gustav Schäfer, who were enemies at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring and had shot at each other, met again in Cologne for the first time after the war in 2013 and stayed until Schäfer's death in April 2017 friendly connected. The story and many other facts about the advance of the Americans can be read in the book "Spearhead" by Adam Makos. Photo from my archive. I was allowed to get to know the two veterans and Adam Makos at the time.

On the occasion of his visit, Clarence Smoyer also inspected the Gladbacher Strasse area, from where he fired in the direction of Christophstrasse. Photo from my archive.


St. Cemetery

The remains of Katharina Esser and Michael Johannes Delling are buried in a mass grave in the small cemetery of St Gereon.

data by OpenStreetMap
The small cemetery is located right next to the North Tower of St. Gereon, easily accessible from Gereonstrasse.

You simply go through the small gate next to the tower and after a few meters you see the graves or crosses on the right in an enclosure.

Directly to the left is the cross for the unknown dead. Clarence Smoyer had me put down a bouquet of yellow roses for Katharina Esser.

Behind some memorial stones.

The memorial stone for Michael Johannes Delling.

So far the depiction of the advance of E Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division on March 6, 1945 into Cologne city center in colored images.

The link below to the main page on the subject of tank duel with many other subpages.

Tank Duel
Duel at the Cologne Cathedral

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