Sosthenes Behn (Sosthenes Behn)

Sosthenes Behn

Businessman. His first name was Greek for “life strength,” and he was born in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands. He and his brother Hernand was educated at St. Thomas, Ajaccio, Corsica, St. Barbe and Paris, France. His father was Danish and his mother French-Italian. In 1906, Behn and his brother took over a sugar business in Puerto Rico and snapped up a small and primitive local telephone company by closing in on a mortgage. Realizing the potential of the telephone, Behn began to buy up more companies in the Caribbean. He became a United States citizen in 1913. In World War I, he was commissioned a Captain in the Signal Corps, later rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served as chief of staff for General George Russell and also commanded the 232nd Field Signal Battalion, at Chatteau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Argonne. He learned a great deal about military communications systems, and his services to France earned him the Legion d’Honneur. Back in the United States, Behn became associated with AT&T, of which Winthrop Aldrich was later a director. In 1920, Behn’s work in the field of cables enabled him and his brother to set up the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, (ITT), with $6 million paid in capital. Gradually, he spun out a web of communications that ran worldwide. He soon became the telephone king of the world, making deals with AT&T and J. P. Morgan that resulted in his running the entire telephone system of Spain by 1923. In 1930 Behn obtained the Rumanian telephone industry, to which he later added the Hungarian, German, and Swedish corporations. By 1931 his empire was worth over $64 million despite the Wall Street crash. He became a director of – inevitably – the National City Bank, which financed him along with the Morgans. He was known to not only help the United States war cause during World War II, but also with his holdings in Axis countries, the opposing forces as well. Regardless of that fact, on February 16, 1946, Major General Harry C. Ingles, Chief Signal Officer of the United States Army, acting on behalf of President Harry S Truman, presented the Medal of Merit, at that time the nation’s highest award to a civilian, to him at his office on 67 Broad Street in New York City. As he pinned the medal on Colonel Behn, Ingles said, “You are honored for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the United States.” Ironically a few years later he received millions of dollars in compensation for war damage to his German plants in 1944. He also was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, Commnder of the Legion of Honor of France, Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella la Catolica of Spain, Grand Officer of the Order of St. Gregory. (bio by: Ugaalltheway)  Family links:  Spouses:  Amelia Minnie Willis Hall (1881 – 1976)*  Margaret Dunlap Behn (1891 – 1977)*  Children:  Edward J Behn (1922 – 1966)* *Calculated relationship


  • January, 30, 1884


  • June, 06, 1957


  • Arlington National Cemetery
  • Virginia
  • USA

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