William A. Behnke – Lieuenant Colonel, United States Air Force

William C. Behnke, 86, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who was a World War II fighter pilot, died of a heart attack June 24, 2007, at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Maryland.

Colonel Behnke was born in Evansville, Indiana, and graduated from Evansville University. He joined the National Guard as a student and was transferred to the Army Air Forces at the beginning of World War II.

He spent five years in the Pacific theater as a fighter squadron commander and participated in a 1945 raid that rescued 500 U.S. prisoners from a Japanese prisoner camp in Cabanatuan, Philippines. The mission was the basis for the 2005 film “The Great Raid.”

Colonel Behnke later served at NATO headquarters in Europe and at the Pentagon.

He lived in Fairfax City for many years and later in Solomons before moving to Fredericksburg seven years ago. He enjoyed sailing and golf and was a member of Peace United Methodist Church in Fredericksburg and of the Quiet Birdmen, a flying organization.

His marriage to Claudia Knight Behnke ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 15 years, Berit Behnke of Fredericksburg; two children from his first marriage, William C. Behnke Jr. of Cascade, Oreron, and Carolyn Bradley of Boulder Creek, California; two stepchildren, Michael Neely of Locust Grove, Virginia, and Melinda Walker of Savannah, Georgia.; a brother; 13 grandchildren; and one great-grandson.


Lieutenant Colonel WILLIAM CHARLES BEHNKE, USAF (Ret.), 86, of Spotsylvania County, Virginia died Sunday, June 24, 2007 at Mary Washington Hospital.

Survivors include his wife, Berit Behnke; his children, William C. Behnke, Jr., Carolyn Sue Bradley; stepchildren, Michael Neely, Melinda Walker and Emiko Seibold; a brother, Karl Behnke; 13 grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Burial will be at 11 a.m., August 24, 2007, at Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Peace United Methodist Church Building Fund, 801 Maple Grove Drive, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22407

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