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Special - tank duel at the cathedral (2) Deutsche Version

The following graph shows the positions of the Panther crew in the second, the Pershing shell had hit the Panther. The gun and the turret pointed toward the Pershing and the intersection An den Dominikanern / Marzellenstrasse

This and following graph created from two graphs by F. Gruber, from the book "Panzer V Panther" by Spielberger/Doyle, with friendly permission by Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2010

- Position 1: commander
- Position 2: gunner
- Position 3: loader
- Position 4: radio operator
- Position 5: driver

The nearest or the fastest achievable emergency exits of the crew are visible on the graph below

Driver: driver's hatch (red)
Radio operator: radio operators's hatch (green)
Commander / gunner: upper turret hatch (blue)
Loader: rear turret hatch / loader's hatch (yellow)

Another shell is on the way to the German tank
The shell a short time before the hit

The shell hits the tank
A German crew member is running away.

And a third shell appears
Again a hit.
Video popup:
2. and 3. hit


The German Panther tank is on fire
Following the film made by Jim Bates four crew members are able to escape, one of them dies in a hospital a short time later. According the records another soldier was found dead in the Panther the next day.

Smoyer Pershing gunner Clarence Smoyer described the event several times. The following description is based on a meantime outdated thesis from cameraman Jim Bates, that no German soldier survived the tank duel:

... our driver drove into the middle of the intersection so we wouldn't be a sitting target. As we were moving, I fired once. Then we stopped and I fired two more shells to make sure they wouldn't fire at our side. All three of our shells penetrated, one under the gun shield and two on the side. The two side hits went completely through and out the other side.
As for the German tank crew, I spent many years wondering if they survived. Only recently, did I find the answer. A documentary film about the life of Jim Bates, the Army photographer who took the famous Cologne footage, revealed that three of the crew died outside of the tank. A letter I received from another soldier who looked through one of the shell holes said he saw one burned to death inside the tank. Apparently none of them survived the ordeal. The T26 tank was the best tank we had during the war.

Source: 3rd Armored Division Website - www.3ad.com


The three hits caused by the Pershing - (1), (2) and (3). Number (4) is the Panther's optic, not a hit (one can see the optic in the little picture top right showing another Panther - red arrow). So you see the fire inside the Panther through this optic. Hit number (2) is hidden behind the gun.

On this picture one can see hit (2) much better.
The burning German tank. The Sherman which was hit by the Panther is located in the road going to the right side.

Photo: NARA.
The burning Panther. Photo was taken by Signal Corps photographer John Himes.

Made with Freemake video software
Short animation of the colorized photo above ...

The same view, about 70 years later, year 2013.

Photo: NARA, published on footnote.com
Another picture showing the burning Panther and the theater.

The description of the tank duel Pershing / Panther above is only a short summary of the events. A more detailed description of this tank duel and especially the bale out of the German tank crew with 37 and more photos and detail pictures can be found on my webpage tank duel blow-by-blow. In addition there are 5 digital worked movie sequences close up and not that blurred as the original.
Video popup:
Youtube video, the entire Panther movie sequence. Video runs on youtube server.


The next days US soldiers examine the destroyed German tank, it becomes a popular photo subject
Again the destroyed German tank in front of the cathedral
The days and weeks after the tank duel many people took pictures of the Panther. First when he still stood at the place where he was shot (they turned the gun to the side later) and then when he was moved to the square in front of the central station


The crew of the US tank which fired at the German tank, left to right:

Asst. Driver Homer Davis
Tank Commander Robert Early
Gunner Clarence Smoyer
Driver William McVey
Asst. Gunner John Deriggi

Photograph by Jim Bates. Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District, 161-3307, photos.ppld.org
Once again the Panther tank at the cathedral. This and the following three other pictures were taken by Jim Bates on March 07, 1945, when Bates and other reporters were taking pictures around the cathedral. At the right side of the picture one can see the destroyed Sherman on street Komoedienstrasse (red arrow).

Excerpt from picture above, the destroyed Sherman on the street.

Photographs by Jim Bates. Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District, 161-3311 and 161-3314, photos.ppld.org
Left: Asst. Driver Homer Davis and Asst. Gunner John Deriggi in front of the destroyed Panther tank. Right: Davis and Deriggi with a third soldier on top of the Panther.

Photo: Bryan Allen. Courtesy of his son Dave Allen
Davis and Deriggi with a third soldier on top of the Panther. At this time there were several photographers that took photos from this scene.

Photo excerpt: Bryan Allen. Courtesy of Dave Allen
Bulldozers remove the debris on the street Komödienstraße. On the right side the Sherman, the Panther had destroyed the day before. The Sherman driver Julian Patrick, who was killed during the duel, was still sitting on the driver chair at this moment.

And finally a photo where one can see the way the US-troops made through the Cologne center.

Yellow line the way of Company 'F' with the Sherman tanks coming from Friesenstrasse, passing Zeughausstrasse and ending in Komödienstrasse next to the cathedral. Red line the way of Company 'E' with the Pershing tank, coming from Gereonstrasse ending in street An den Dominikanern. Blue point the location where the Panther was located finally - at crossing Komödienstrasse / Marzellenstrasse.
This picture in big resolution here - 535 KB.


The German Panther tank at the cathedral was one of the last German tanks in the city center at this time. The other German units had already left this side of the city and had withdrawn across the Rhine. During the senseless tank duel at least 2 crew members (one inside the tank, one later in a hospital) of the German tank and 3 crew members of the US tank die. From two German soldiers we know they survived WWII. The German crew:

Bartelborth - survived
König - survived
? died in a hospital
? died inside the tank
? ?

Clarence Smoyer today lives in the US. The other German and US tank soldiers died in the meanwhile.
Tank Commander Early and cameraman Bates received the Bronze Star for their action soon after the battle. Smoyer and posthumously recognized McVey, DeRiggi and Davis received the Bronze Star during a ceremony in Washington on September 19, 2019. Externat link to the MSN article


  Overview battle area
  Several pictures show the interior of a Panther, one
can see how straitened it was for the tank crews.

Video Battle for Cologne - tank duel
Youtube Video tank duel at the cathedral, March 06, 1945. Chronic and analytical presentation of the famous tank duel at the Cologne cathedral. See the fascinating original film with descriptions. 10 minutes of interesting film scenes show the destruction of a Sherman tank, the destruction of a Panther tank and the escaping crew members. 5 presentation parts show different analyses. Original film scenes show injured persons.
tank duel sightseeing tour
In case you plan to visit Cologne and look for the places the tank duel took place, this page could be a little help for you. Here I have created a little sightseeing tour, where you will visit the most relevant places of the tank duel. Even without a scheduled visit this page is certainly very interesting because of the many pictures and descriptions.

Then and Now in one photo, same position
More Then and Now ?
You like this Then and Now pictures ? Watch my page Cologne Then and Now with more than 40 interesting Then and Now pictures.

More Weblinks:

General links:
Corbis photo: Panther and Cathedral - Corbis server
Corbis photo: Sherman before hit (Ramage)
3AD Panther photo sequence (with partially incorrect descriptions) - 3ad Server
youtube Video, 3AD during capture of Cologne - youtube server
1000 bomber raid May 30/31, 1942 - youtube server
Bates interview with movie sequences - youtube server
Smoyer interview, History channel - youtube server
Smoyer memoirs on 3ad.com - 3ad server
Once again capture of Cologne, tank duel - youtube server
Combat Mission scenario "Duel in Cologne" - server scenario-depot

Please visit and support this fantastic project: Donald Becker from New Jersey, US, is working his 2nd large area 1/35th scale recreation and tribute to the soldiers who bravely fought in World War 2. This project will represent March 06 1945 in Cologne, the tank duel at the cathedral:

And another great project, already finished. Christian van der Sanden created a model of the destroyed Panther in 1:35 scale. He worked 6 months, every day 4 hours, at this project. The finished model:

More pictures here

And here's a russian page about the tank duel:

Spearhead cover
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Higher Call, Adam Makos, comes the riveting World War II story of Clarence Smoyer, the Pershing gunner
Battling through the ruins, Clarence will engage the fearsome Panther in the Cologne tank duel immortalized by an army cameraman. And a few hours earlier he will square off with Gustav Schaefer, a teenager behind the trigger in a Panzer IV tank, whose crew has been sent on a suicide mission to stop the Americans.
As Clarence and Gustav trade fire down a long boulevard, they are taken by surprise by a tragic mistake of war. What happens next will haunt Clarence to the modern day, drawing him back to Cologne to do the unthinkable: to face his enemy, one last time. Well, I had the honor to attend this meeting. Photo link leads to Amazon website, where Adam's book can be ordered.

In case you want put a link to this website on your homepage feel free to use the banner above. Download the zip archives here.

Only a fake ?
In early 2008 the German journalist Hermann Rheindorf had published a DVD in Germany with title "Köln 1945 Nahaufnahmen" - translated: "Cologne 1945 close up" - about the last war days in Cologne in March 1945. In this documentation he says the tank duel was only a fake, a propaganda show to promote the new Pershing tank. He presented several proofs for his opinion.
I have checked Rheindorf's proofs and arguments and after all I'm sure they are wrong. I have published an extensive inquiry in German on my webpages and there I check and refute each of Rheindorf's proofs and arguments. Since there's no English DVD version available I do not publish this webpages in English. You will find this webpages here. In case you are interested you can use two free online translation tools which are included there to translate the text to your favourite language.

Tank duel
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Tank duel blow-by-blow
At war
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Back to the Cologne Page

Photos courtesy of:
The U.S. Army 3rd Armored Division History website
Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society
The Third Armored Spearhead Division website
Kevin "The Rocketeer" Trotman
Movie "Allies Drive Across Rhine To Victory" by Universal Studios


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