The World War II Liberator from Three Lakes

Jul 27, 2018

In 1945, a young man from Three Lakes was among the soldiers serving in the 14th Armored Division, and earned himself a unique place in the history books.

Local historian Gary Entz has the story in this week's episode of A Northwoods Moment in History.

During World War II, the 14th Armored Division of the United States Army was assigned to the Seventh Army of the Sixth Army Group.  This division served with distinction during the war and earned the nicknamed “the Liberators” for its actions in freeing several sub camps attached to the Dachau Concentration camp and numerous other forced labor camps.  In 1945 one young man from Three Lakes was among the soldiers serving in the 14th Armored Division, and earned himself a unique place in the history books.

Clarence Javenkowski grew up in Three Lakes during the Great Depression years of the 1930s.  Like many young people from rural areas, Javenkowski went to the big city after graduating from high school in 1941 and found employment in Milwaukee.  However, the war caught up with him in 1944 and he was sent off to join Company D of the 14th Armored Division.

The 14th Armored Division joined the Allied invasion of Western Europe in October 1944.  The Division landed in Marseille in southern France and by early 1945 had advanced as far as the province of Alsace-Lorraine.  In March and April the 14th Armored Division drove through the Rhineland and into Bavaria.  By May 8th the Division had reached the Danube River.

On May 7th the 14th Armored Division entered a heavily wooded area and found itself scissored in by three German anti-tank guns.  The Division lost two tanks and suffered six casualties before it could silence the weapons.  On May 8th the Division was advancing when it rounded a curve on a ridge road.  As it did so a German motorcycle sped around the bend and was headed straight for the tank column.  Sgt. Frank Hendricks and Cpl. Clarence Javenkowski were manning the lead tank.  They fired their .30 caliber machine gun and sent the motorcyclist over the ridge.  At that moment the column commander, Lt. Nolan Smith, received word via radio of the German surrender.  It was VE Day.  Smith, however, was in the second tank, and before he could relay word of the surrender to the lead tank, Hendricks knocked out two more German vehicles, and Javenkowski destroyed a truck carrying a German anti-tank gun.  While the war continued in other places, according to Yank Magazine Clarence Javenkowski of Three Lakes, Wisconsin, fired the last shot of World War II for Company D of the 14th Armored Division.

This story was written by Gary Entz and produced for radio by Mackenzie Martin. Some music for this commentary came Podington Bear

A Northwoods Moment in History is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.