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John DeJohn

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: October 29, 1915 Birmingham, AL
Date and Place of Death:    June 17, 2005 Birmingham, AL
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Second Base
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Military Unit: 369th Bomb Squadron, 306th Bomb Group USAAF
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

John T. DeJohn, a 24-year-old second baseman from Birmingham, Alabama, signed with the Waycross Bears of the Class D Georgia-Florida League in 1940, and batted an impressive .309 in 140 games. The following season he moved up to Class B baseball with the Savannah Indians of the South Atlantic League and batted .290 in 138 games.

DeJohn entered military service in May 1942. He trained as a tail gunner, and was stationed with the 369th Bomb Squadron, 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh, England. On November 8, 1942, Staff Sergeant DeJohn’s Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was returning from a bombing raid on Lille, France, when German Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes attacked it. The pilot, First Lieutenant Robert "Rip" Riordan, skillfully handled the plane on its journey home, despite suffering severe damage to the nuymber one engine, the vertical and horizontal stabilizers and the left wing tip. Staff Sergeant DeJohn, in the tail gunner's compartment, was hit by shell fragments in his abdomen and all down his left side. Despite his injuries and having one og his guns knocked out of action, he kept firing at the enemy fighters and was credited with shooting down two. When Spitfires appeared to escort the stricken bomber back to safety the German fighters dispersed and it was not until then that DeJohn informed the crew of the severity of his injuries.

He was air evacuated to the 2nd General Hospital at Headington, near Oxford, where he was awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart by Brigadier-General Newton Longfellow, commanding officer of VIII Bomber Command.

DeJohn had lost the use of his left arm and was shipped home just before Christmas 1942. He then spent 15 months in Halloran General Hospital, New York. He went on War Bond tours in New York and Connecticut, while at Halloran. The Army Air Force wanted him to teach gunnery, but he opted to leave the service with 70% disability in July 1944.

Unable to return to baseball, DeJohn worked for the US Employment Service, assisting other returning servicemen to readjust to civilian life and remained in the employment of the State of Alabama until his retirement.

John DeJohn passed away in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 17, 2005. He was 89 years old and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.

Date Added December 25, 2017

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