DONAT L. LAFERRIERE
Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Copley Township
1. Insignia of the 104th Infantry “Timberwolves” Division 2. Donat Laferriere’s headstone in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium
Donat L. Laferriere was born August 11, 1920 to Louis and Alma Crottier Laferriere in St. Louis, Saskatchewan, Canada. He had a brother, Nelson, five years older than him, and a brother Henry, two years younger. His sister Mary (Gagnon) was 17 years his senior. Louis was born in the U.S. to a French Canadian father, and in 1902 he immigrated to Canada and became a citizen in 1907. Louis farmed near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan until 1925, when his wife Alma died and he decided to move the family back to Minnesota to the Argyle area. In 1938 Louis moved to Copley Township near Bagley, where he grubbed out a new farm. Nels had found work clearing rocks with the Forestry Service and Donat was helping out on the farm. Donat had become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. by then.
Donat registered for the draft on February 14, 1942. He was still employed by his father on the family farm. He had brown eyes and black hair, and listed his next of kin as Louis Laferriere, his father.
Donat was inducted into the Army and sent to the 414th Infantry Regiment, a part of the 104th Infantry Division. The 104th was nicknamed the “Timberwolf” Division after the area in Oregon where it trained. After training, the Division arrived in France on September 7, 1944. It was attached to the First Canadian Army on October 15, 1944, and soon it received its baptism of fire when it was ordered to move into defensive positions near Wuustwezel, Belgium, a municipality in northern Antwerp. By October 25, the Timberwolves had gone on the attack, pushing back German defenses and liberating the Dutch city of Zundert. An accounting on November 7th found that the fighting in the Netherlands had cost the Timberwolves 1,426 casualties, including 313 killed and 103 missing.
On November 5th, the Division was reassigned to the U.S. VII Corps near Aachen, Germany, and 11 days later it attacked the German cities of Stolberg, Eschweiler and Weisweiler. They met resistance from well-entrenched German forces in pillboxes and found that the industrial areas and factories were heavily fortified, but that didn’t stop them from achieving their goals quickly.
Following that, the Timberwolves were ordered to clear the way through to the Roer River and capture the cities of Inden, Schophover, Pier, Lucherberg and Merken. The fighting for these towns was some of the bitterest encountered by the 104th Infantry Division in the entire war.
On December 10th, Donat’s 414th Regiment hurled itself against Schophoven and Pier, meeting heavy fire. German self-propelled 88s ran up and down the streets and darted out from behind walls, destroying three allied tanks. These German 88-mm flat-trajectory guns brought down thousands of bombers and tens of thousands of soldiers, and, unfortunately, the Allies had nothing as good. The 88s crumbled buildings and forced the 414th into cellars, but Schophoven and Pier still fell to the Allies after fierce combat.
The 104th Division went on to liberate the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp, a horrifying scene, but Private Donat Laferriere could not be there. He had been killed in action on December 12.
Donat was buried in Plot B., Row 18, Grave 35 of the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. He was 24 years old.