A recipient of the Military Order of William, he was one of only four Dutch pilots to dogfight the Japanese in the Battle of Java. Born in Tubbergen, Overijssel, Bruggink followed a Catholic seminary. A replica B-339C Brewster Buffalo (B-3107) was built in July 2008 and delivered to the National Military Museum in Soesterberg, Netherlands, carrying the markings of the plane flown by Bruggink.
Bruggink, along with Lieutenant
August Deibel and Officer Cadet January Scheffer, volunteered to join Captain Jacob van Helsdingen on his mission using the last three working Buffalo aircraft on Andir airfield.
The four pilots took off on March 7, 1942 and proceeded to Lembang to provide air support for ground troops fighting the Japanese in the city. Helsdingen"s squadron travelled 200 kilometers when they encountered a Japanese aircraft, which Deibel attacked before it escaped.
Some time later, three Japanese A6M Zeros appeared.
Deibel fired at two of them which turned away, but was hit in the oil tank by the third Zero and had to break off from combat. His wingman, January Scheffer escorted him back to Andir airfield under a tropical rainstorm, where Deibel crashed landed his aircraft without suffering any injuries. Helsdingen and Bruggink remained above Lembang, but were now dogfighting six Zeroes.
Helsdingen was soon shot down, but Bruggink managed to escape into the clouds before returning to Andir airfield.
Dutch forces in Lembang surrendered the next day. They were reunited in December 1945, after the war.
In 1955, Bruggink left the air force and emigrated with his family to the United States, where he worked as a flight instructor for civil aviation in Texas. In 1959, Bruggink started working for various research organizations, including the National Transportation Safety Board, inspecting aircraft incidents and air safety before retiring in 1982.
He died in his home in Skipperville, Alabama, on 5 December 2005, after a long illness.
He was 88 years old.