Raymond F. "Buddy" Brueggemann Jr. entered the Army Specialized Training Program while a student at Cathedral High School in Belleville. After graduating, in September 1943, he was sent to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In November 1943, his whole class was washed out and put in the infantry. Buddy then volunteered for the Rangers (comparable to the Philippine Guerillas), and was sent to Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training.
In March 1944, Bud was promoted to private first class. The News-Democrat reported: "Pfc. Brueggemann recently returned to his post at Fort Bragg, N.C., after being in New York City, where he was one of the men representing the 398th Infantry Regiment of the 100th Division, who were on parade in the city on National Infantry Day in connection with the opening of the Fifth War Bond Drive. In the near future Ray will leave for another post where he will take amphibious training."
During that month he came home on furlough. He had four sharp-shooter medals which he refused to wear. "Anyone can go the military store on the Square and buy them. As an afterthought he added: "When I get the Purple Heart, I'll wear that."
In August 1944, Bud came home again on furlough. It was a wonderful visit, all too short. Knowing he was soon to go overseas made it difficult for him to leave and for the family to see him go. He went to St. Louis early in the morning to go back to camp, but learned he could take a later train. He returned home to spend a few more hours with Mom.
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In September 1944, he was sent to a port of embarkation in New Jersey, arriving in southeastern France early in October 1944.
Things were very bleak in December 1944. Buddy was fighting in the Vosges Mountains in France. The news was discouraging and casualties were very high. On Friday, Dec. 30, a telegram from the War Department was delivered by a taxi cab driver, who was eager to get away from our door. Our mother was home alone. The telegram reported that Buddy was missing in action on Dec. 17.
Grief overtook anxiety. He was buried in Bitche, France. The Purple Heart and Bronze Star were awarded post-humously. He also had the European Theater of Operations ribbon with two battle stars and later the Victory Medal.
On Jan. 17, 1945, a memorial service was held at St. Mary's Church.
The following article appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat on Jan. 5, 1945: "SSgt Fred Tylka, 300 S. 2nd St., and Pfc. Raymond F. Brueggemann, 2010 Madison Ave., are with the 3989th Infantry Regiment of the 100th (Century) Division in France. Baptism of fire is an experience few soldiers ever forget and these men have special reason never to forget theirs for they went into action for the first time in one of the toughest sectors of the long Sixth Army Group in Eastern France. The enemy held their positions in dense forests. Their dugouts were deep, covered with logs and well-camouflaged. Their artillery was placed on mountainous heights, that rose above forest level. Numerous tank traps, booby traps and land mines -- many of the latter ingeniously fitted with tripwire -- blocked the narrow routes and paths through the forest. The weather condition included rain, snow and ankle-deep mud. Brueggemann was recently awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge."
In May 1945, the war with Germany was won and in August 1945 the war with Japan was won. The celebration was something to see. Most of the citizens of Belleville and Scott Field were out on Main Street and the Square. Horns were tooting, sirens were blaring, bells ringing, people were singing and dancing in the street. Some were even trying to swim in the fountain on the Square. It was a very happy time for many people, but, a bitter-sweet time for many others. Buddy would not be coming home.
In July 1948, Buddy's body was brought home for final burial in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
Delrose Brueggemann is the sister of Pfc. Raymond "Buddy" Brueggemann. She lives in Belleville.