Ludwig Frank Hrovat was born on 6 August 1923, in LaSalle, Illinois, to Frank and Caroline Misjak Hrovat. Both of Ludwig’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Slovakia and married in LaSalle on 17 June 1901. A few months after their first anniversary they had their first child—a son who they named Frank Hrovat Jr. Over the next several years, the couple had at least six more children before having Ludwig in 1923. Throughout this time Ludwig’s father Frank supported his family by working as a miner.
On 13 February 1931, when Ludwig was seven years old, his father Frank died. All but one of his older brothers were adults when they lost their father. And over the next nine years, they remained at home at 314 Garfield avenue in LaSalle, possibly helping to support their mother. Each worked for different local employers including American Nickeloid and the zinc mill. Ludwig’s brother Rudolph operated a tavern.
During this time as the Depression wound down and war enveloped the rest of the world, Ludwig, supported by his older brothers, was able to attend the LaSalle-Peru Township High School. Known as “Babe,” he played on the high school football team. The following accolades were reported about him in his 1942 high school yearbook published his junior year:
“When everything seemed to be going wrong and the team was not progressing very rapidly toward the last white line, Babe had the ‘stuff’ to pull the boys out of the ‘blues’ and keep them ‘in the mood’ to give the fans a real football game.”
In the summer of 1942, between his junior and senior year, Ludwig registered for the draft. At the time, he was 18 years old and working in Seneca, Illinois. Now an adult, he stood 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 165 pounds and had hazel eyes, brown hair, and freckles. His older brother Henry had enlisted the year before on 15 December 1941.
Perhaps many young men like Ludwig starting their senior year that fall of 1942 wondered if they would graduate before being drafted to serve in the war. For Ludwig, he managed to remain in school long enough to finish his final season of high school football. And his performance on the field was so outstanding it earned him placement as end on the All-Big Eight team—a list of top players in that conference selected by conference coaches and sports writers. Three of his team mates also made the list.
Ludwig returned to school after Christmas break and within the month was enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was eventually assigned to Company C of the 242 Infantry Regiment of the 42nd Infantry Division, also known as the Rainbow Division. In October 1944, Ludwig spent about a month in the hospital for tonsillitis. He was discharged in November 1944. If with the 242nd at the time, he would have then boarded a train for Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. The next month the division arrived in France.
In France, Ludwig’s regiment along with the 222nd and the 232nd made up “Task Force Linden.” They were sent to the Strasbourg area just before Christmas to provide relief to the 36th Infantry Division. By March 1945 they had crossed the Siegfried line and entered Germany. During the first week of April, the Rainbow Division battled to take Wurzburg. After securing the town, they moved onto the town of Arnstein fighting the resistance there and clearing nearby towns. At some point in the fighting, PFC Ludwig Hrovat was killed in action after being hit in the head with artillery shell fragments. He passed away on 9 April 1945. A few weeks later the Rainbow Division would participate in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp.
In 1948, PFC Ludwig Hrovat was buried in St. Vincent Cemetery in LaSalle, Illinois. For his service he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, American Campaign Medal, European Campaign Medal with Two Battle Stars, WWII Victory Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 421,000+ of the US WWII fallen saved on Together We Served and Fold3. Can you help write these stories? These stories will be accessible via smartphone app at any war memorial or cemetery.
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- SBTS Historian: Pam Broviak
You can also access this story at the following sites:
- 1920 U.S. census, Frank Hrovat, Ancestry.
- 1940 U.S. census, Caroline Hrovat, Ancestry.
- “Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1940,” Frank Hrovat to Caroline Misjak, FamilySearch.
- Illinois, U.S., Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947, Frank Hrovat Sr., Ancestry.
- “Co-Champions Divide Six Places on All-Big 8 Team,” The Freeport Journal-Standard, 1 December 1942, p. 9, Newspapers.com.
- U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1970, Ludwig F. Hrovat, Ancestry.
- U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, Ludwig Frank Hrovat, Ancestry.
- U.S., World War II Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954, Ludwig F. Hrovat, October 1944, Ancestry.
- U.S., World War II Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954, Ludwig F. Hrovat, April 1945, Ancestry.
- U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Ludwig F. Hrovat, Ancestry.
- Rainbow Division Veterans Foundation, WWII, http://www.rainbowvets.org/wwii
- “History & Bibliography of the ‘Rainbow,’” NY DMNA, https://dmna.ny.gov/arng/42div
- 42nd “Rainbow: Infantry Division, Lt. Hugh C. Daly, Army Signal corps/