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Sosthenes Behn : biography

January 30, 1882 - June 6, 1957

Sosthenes Behn (January 30, 1882 – June 6, 1957) was an American businessman widely known for founding ITT. He held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army.

Sosthenes Behn was born in the island of St. Thomas, then part of the Danish West Indies. His ancestry was German on his paternal side, and French on his maternal side.

Behn served in the United States Army and was commissioned a Captain, Signal Corps, on June 19, 1917. He later achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, having served with distinction during World War I. Behn served with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France until February 1919. He was given command of the 232nd Field Signal Battalion, Chatteau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Argonne. In recognition of his meritorious service during the war he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM).

After his return from military service, Colonel Behn co-founded the Puerto Rico Telephone Company which eventually spawned ITTMorales Cortés, Ramón. (paper). New York, USA: Virtual Institute of Information. Under his direction ITT was granted the monopoly of telephone service in Spain (Compañía Telefónica Nacional de España) in 1924,García-Algarra, Javier: , IEEE HISTELCON 2010 and purchased the international division of Western Electric.

According to Anthony Sampson's book The Sovereign State of ITT, one of the first American businessmen Hitler received after taking power in 1933 was Sosthenes Behn, then the CEO of ITT and his German representative, Henry Mann. Antony C. Sutton, in his book Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, makes the claim that ITT subsidiaries made cash payments to SS leader Heinrich Himmler.

ITT, through its subsidiary The Lorenz Company, owned 25% of Focke-Wulf, the German aircraft manufacturer, builder of some of the most successful Luftwaffe fighter aircraft. In addition, Sutton’s book uncovers that ITT owned Huth and Company, G.m.b.H. of Berlin, which made radio and radar parts that were used in equipment going to the Wehrmacht.

Behn, along with his brother, Hernan, built the Two Brothers Bridge —Puente Dos Hermanos in Spanish— in San Juan. The bridge links the districts of Condado and Old San Juan.

During the war, all of ITT's German holdings were put under German government control. These included a minority share in airplane manufacturer Focke-Wulf, which ITT had acquired through its contacts with German financier Kurt Baron von Schröder. After the end of the war, the US authorities returned these assets to their rightful US owner.

Behn appointed Gerhard Westrick to the board of Focke-Wulf after the reconstitution in 1936. He was ITT's corporation chairman in Germany. After Pearl Harbour, at meetings with Baron Kurt von Schröder and Behn in Switzerland, Westrick nervously admitted he had run into a problem. Wilhelm Ohnesorge, the elderly minister in charge of post offices, who was one of the first fifty Nazi party members, was strongly opposed to ITT's German companies continuing to function under New York management in time of war. Behn told Westrick to use Schröder and the protection of the Gestapo against Ohnesorge. In return, Behn guaranteed that ITT would substantially increase its payments to the Gestapo through the Circle of Friends. A special board of trustees was set up by the German government to cooperate with Behn and his thirty thousand staff in Occupied Europe. Ohnesorge savagely fought these arrangements and tried to obtain the support of Himmler. However, Schröder had Himmler's ear, and so, of course did his close friend and associate Walter Schellenberg. Ohnesorge appealed directly to Hitler and condemned Westrick as an American sympathiser. However, Hitler realized the importance of ITT to the German economy and proved supportive of Behn.Higham, Charles. Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949. Chapter 6: The Telephone Plot. New York: Delacorte Press, 1983. ISBN 9780440190554

In 1943 ITT became majority shareholder of Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau GmbH with 29% due to Ludwig Roselius' Kaffee HAG share falling to 27% after he died on May 15.Dieter Pfliegensdörfer; Volker Bergmann; Willi Elmers; Manfred Fittkau; Michael Jung; Michael Wolf; Wolfgang Günther. Wellblech & Windkanal. Arbeit und Geschäfte im Bremer Flugzeugbau von den Anfängen 1909 bis heute. Steintor, 1989, ISBN 3926028513

Behn died on 6 June 1957. In recognition of his service to his country, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

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