In Memory of
Navy Lieutenant
John Matthew Bregel
Webster, South Dakota
Day County
August 1, 1917- January 14, 1943
Killed in training mission in Texas

John Matthew Bregel

John Matthew Bregel was born in Fairfax, MN, on August 1, 1917. He came to Webster with his family in 1920.  John was the eldest son of four children born to Edward and Nelly Bregel. He had two brothers, David, an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, and George of Webster, and one sister, Rita of Webster. John was a graduate of Webster High School, and then attended the Notre Dame University.  He spent his last two years at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. In June 1941, he graduated from Pensacola, Florida, Naval Air Corps Base. He was united in marriage at Corpus Christi on February 11, 1942, to Mary Jean Kiehlbauch of Santa Monica, California. They made their home in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Long Beach, California.

Prior to his graduation, John had enlisted in United State Navy Air Corps.  He received training at Wold-Chamberlain Field in Minneapolis.  From there he was sent to Pensacola, Florida, where he received his wings and rank of ensign.  He was retained at Pensacola as an instructor and later transferred to the Naval Air Base at Corpus Christi, Texas, as instructor. Ensign Bregel was one of very few men chosen to take advanced training in stratosphere flying of multi-motored planes.  After completing this course he was assigned to the Terminal Island Naval Airbase in California and received a promotion to Lieutenant.

On January 14, 1943, Lt. John Matthew Bregel was killed when a navy patrol bomber crashed at Grand Prairie Naval Air Base of Dallas, Texas, at 5:30 p.m. Lt. Bregel was copilot of the heavy, bimotored plane when it apparently dropped from an altitude of seventy-five feet, bounced, flipped, and burst into flames.  Seven men were killed and two were injured.  Mrs. John Bregel accompanied the body from Dallas, Texas. Funeral Services were held at St. Otto’s Catholic Church in Webster, and Lt. Bregel was buried next to his father in St. Otto’s Cemetery.

A letter from K. McGinnis, commanding officer of the Terminal Island Base, to Lt. Bregel’s mother reads:

During the time that Lieutenant Bregel  had been attached to this command, he had made
many friends among his brother officers and was liked and respected by all of us who had the    
opportunity to learn to know  him.  His gentlemanly and officer qualities and manner of
performance of duty had made a very favorable impression upon me and other officers under
whom he had performed his assigned duties while on this station.  I deeply regret the loss of
this young officer and extend to you, for myself and my officers, our heartfelt sympathy in
your bereavement.

Lt. Bregel made a great sacrifice for our country.  His death was a shock to the city, county, and his family for he was a native son, a young man of ambition, of courage, and with a personality that made him universally admired.

 John Matthew Bregel, memorial cross photo from dedication

This entry was respectfully submitted by Eric Jens and Carrie Nyvold, Waubay High School, Waubay, South Dakota, March 22, 2002.  Information for this entry was provided by newspaper clippings and Claire Bierschbach, Webster, South Dakota.