In Memory of
Lieutenant Junior Grade, U.S. Navy
Lewis John Behrend
Parkston, South Dakota
Hutchinson County
July 24, 1918 -- April 21, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at sea

Lewis John Behrend headstone

Lewis John Behrend was born July 24, 1918, at Parkston, Hutchinson County, South Dakota, to Mathew and Julia Behrend. He had one brother, Joe, and five sisters, Marie, Frances, Esther, Helen, and Evelyn. Lewis attended Sacred Heart grade school, graduated from Parkston High School in 1936, and was a member of the local fire department. From 1937 to 1942, Lewis worked as a clerk for Matt’s Liquor Store in Parkston. Although the same age, Lewis was an uncle to another Hutchinson County casualty, Paul Fergen. We are told by family that the two “were inseparable childhood friends.”

Lewis entered the service in July of 1942 at Minneapolis, Minnesota. Trained as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, Lt. Behrend went overseas to the Pacific theater in 1943. Lt. Lewis Behrend was killed in action on April 21, 1945, at Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. His mother received a letter from the Commander of Fighting Squadron Thirty, who provided these details:

His plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while making a strafing run on an  enemy held Island. He parachuted down to the water about three miles  north of the Island. By the time I could get to his position, he was in the  water and appeared to be all right. I couldn’t tell if his life jacket was inflated, but apparently it wasn’t as he sank a few minutes later. We  had dropped him a rubber raft, but no attempt was made on his part  to recover it. From this it is reasonable to assume he had sustained an  injury. I want to assure you that every effort possible was made to save  him. Immediately after the accident, I radioed for seaplanes to be sent  from our ships. They arrived shortly thereafter, but were too late to be of any assistance.

The letter concluded with the sentiment, “The men in the squadron were deeply moved by the loss of your son, Lewis. Even though many of them were there and witnessed the accident, they found it hard to believe that such a fine pilot was gone.”

Lt. Lewis Behrend is on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Air Medal with Gold Star, and the Purple Heart.

This entry was submitted by Josh Freier & Zach Dicus, 7th grade, Tripp-Delmont High School, South Dakota, March 28 2002. Information for this entry was provided by Alta Behrend,  Parkston,  South Dakota, an application for a SD veteran’s bonus payment and newspaper clippings.