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Highlighting the World Wars I & II Memorabilia Collection of Dave Sleeper

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Brdeja, John E.


Rank: Staff Sergeant
Serial Number: 12030240
Military Branch: 437th Bomber Squadron, 319th Bomber Group, Medium
Origin: New York
Date of Death: 1942-12-15
Arlington National Cemetery
Featured: No

John Brdeja was born in New York State December 8, 1919.(Probably in Buffalo) He was the son of Stephanie Brdeja. No record of his father's name has been found. He had 5 brothers and sisters. Brdeja enlisted in Buffalo in the Army Air Corps on September 8, 1941. He was a high school graduate at the time.

SSGT Brdeja's group includes his officially engraved posthumous slot brooch Purple Heart with its presentation box, Roosevelt Accolade with its mailing tube, internet research and the unit history mentioned below. SSGT Brdeja received a posthumous Air Medal, but its location is unknown.

SSGT Brdja was initially memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at North Africa American Cemetery. He is also memorialized at the St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Buffalo.

Until the year 2000, the location of the crash that took the lives of Brdeja's crew was unknown. That year a dredging operation in the Bay of Tunis discovered the wreckage of his plane and the remains of the crew. The plane was a B-26 Marauder #41-17759 called Horsefeathers, as described in Missing Air Crew Report #16380.

The crew was re-buried in a common grave at Arligton on April 23, 2003. Interred in that grave are SSGT Brdeja, Major Ellis E. Arnold, Jr. 1st. Lt. Robert B. Jenkins, Sgt. Joseph Johnson, Jr., Sgt. Maurice L. Cohen, and Col. Charles T. Phillips. The grave is located in section 60, gravesite 8043. A picture of that marker is included here.

On returning from a bombing mission based at Telergmar, Tunisia, Brdeja's plane was seen to be hit by flak and crash into Tunis Harbor. Apparently no effort was made to recover the bodies at that time. All of this and the other actions of the 319th are well documented in the book "Records of the 319th Bombardment Group" printed in 1978.