WWII Christmas Card Identification Research: Henry Behrens of Grand Island, Nebraska

UPDATE: This Christmas card has been returned to the Son of Mr. Henry Behrens.  He found this post while searching for information about his father online.  I’m pleased to have returned yet-another WWII photo to it’s rightful place.

Followers of PortraitsofWar will know that I love to do in-depth research to ferret out the names and stories of WWI and WWII veterans through the photographs they left behind.  In this case, I purchased an inexpensive World War II postcard on eBay with the hopes of doing some sleuthing to find the identity of the sender.  I already have a huge backlog of material to post, but I figured I would add yet another to the collection.

A Pilot Christmas Card

A Pilot Christmas Card


The card was interesting, and had nice composition.  These style cards were often sent home by veterans to family members back home.  With this in mind, I flipped over the card to check the reverse.  Bingo.  A name and address.  Figuring that he likely send the card home to a family member (and not to himself) I began a quick ancestry.com search for the name.  John Behrens of Grand Isalnd, Nebraska.  I pulled the 1930 census record for the Behrens family to see if there were any likely candidates for the sitter in the photo.  My initial guess was the he was likely 20-25 years old.

1930 censusThe address matched up on another record, so I’m 100% confident that this is the John Behrens named on the reverse of the postcard.  John had two sons named Willie and Henry.  Both were born in Germany and eventually emmigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1920s.  I thoroughly researched both brothers and eventually found a reference to Henry having been in the air corps during WWII.  His obituary also confirms that he was born in Eckenforde, Germany.  It also sounds like he was a lifetime Air Force veteran.

Here’s his obituary:

Marin Independent Journal
Saturday, June 29, 1985


A memorial service for Henry Behrens of Novato will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Redwood Chapel Funeral Home in Novato.

Mr. Behrens died unexpectedly Wednesday at his residence. He was 67.

He was a native of Eckenforde, Germany. He spent 31 years in the U.S. Army and the Air Force. He retired from Hamilton Air Force Base in 1966.

His most recent job was office service manager for Mission Equity Insurance Co. in San Francisco.

He is survived by his wife, Runee Behrens of Novato; two sons, William H. Behrens of San Jose and John W. Behrens of Fairfield; a daughter, Linda P. Garrecht of Irvine; his mother, Alwine Behrens of Grand Island, Neb.; and three grandsons.

Inurnment will take place at 3 p.m. Tuesday during a graveside service at the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio.

The family prefers memorial gifts to the American Heart Fund.