Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Lawrence Taylor Biehunko, 89, of Moulton, Texas, formerly of Victoria, passed away August 19, 2010. He was born June 18, 1921, to the late Frank and Ernestine Koenig Biehunko in Moulton. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps at Randolph Air Force Base as a private in 1940. He worked as an assistant Air Craft Mechanic until 1941. Because he wanted to learn to fly he took an exam to qualify for enlisted pilot training. He entered into the pilot training program in September of 1941 and graduated as S/Sgt Pilot on April 29, 1942 from Kelly Air Force Base.
After graduation his first assignment was Las Vegas Army Air Field Gunnery School. In December of 1942 he was promoted to flight officer and in June of 1943 to 2nd Lieutenant. In April of 1945 he was promoted to 1st Lt. and went into the B-29 flight training at Pyote. From there he went to Topeka, Kansas, for training overseas when World War II ended.
He was then assigned to Clovis Air Force Base, New Mexico, where he married his wife, the former Leona Malec. He joined the newly organized B-17 radio control unit which was in route to the Marshall Island where the first atomic bomb test took place. He served as an aircraft commander on a B-17 aircraft which gathered data for scientists who were assigned to the Marshall Islands.
After completing his assignment in the Marshall Islands the Radio Control B-17 unit returned to Field 9 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to undergo further training. They later returned to Eglin, and in January of 1947 he participated and tested aircraft equipment under the cold weather conditions at Ladd Air Force Base, Alaska.
On May 27, 1947, while testing an aircraft at the air proving school he developed engine fire in the plane which caused the whole crew to bail out into the Gulf of Mexico. After treading water without a may west for over thirty minutes, he was picked up by a fishing boat. Four of his crew were lost when they drowned. On June 8, 1947, he was made a member of the Caterpillar Club because of an emergency parachute jump from the burning aircraft.
In May of 1947 he was elevated to Senior Pilot Rating and assigned to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, as a propulsion and assembly officer on the Matador Missile Project, and as a pilot of a T-33 and F-86 chase plane on the Matador Missile. While there he was checked out in the F-86 by General Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier, who at that time was a 1st Lieutenant. While at Holloman he was promoted to Captain. In 1950 the Matador Missile Project moved to Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, where Colonial Biehunko flew the F-86 chase plane at Cape Canaveral, Florida. In 1952 while flying the F-86 Fighter his aircraft developed engine trouble going into a flat spin which he managed to regain control of the aircraft and crash landed at Cape Canaveral.
He was promoted to Major in 1951, and in 1952 was transferred to Randolph Air Force Base for B-29 refresher course and a few months later assigned to the 19th Bomb wing in Okinawa. He served as aircraft commander and operations officer flying combat missions over Korea.
In 1953 he returned to Pinecastle Air Force Base, Florida, with the Strategic Air Command 19th Bomb Wing to serve as aircraft commander on a B-47 bomber.
In 1957 Col. Biehunko was appointed a Major in the air force and was elevated to command pilot before attending command and staff college at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
He was later assigned to Columbus Air Force Base Mississippi as a B-52 Aircraft Commander with the Strategic Air Command.
In 1960 he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and assigned as a commander of the Command Post at Columbus Mississippi.
In 1961 he was assigned as a project officer of the 2nd Airborne Command Post in Barksdale Air Force Louisiana where he retired.
During his 23 years Col. Biehunko accumulated 8500 hours flying time and flew 31 different military aircraft.
In 1962 he retired and returned to his hometown of Moulton and went into the insurance business with his father and remained active in the insurance business for over 33 years. He was a member of the American Legion, VFW, and Moulton Chamber of Commerce in which he served as the first President of the club. He was also a member of the Moulton Volunteer Fire Department and served as secretary for the Moulton Community Development Corporation when it was organized in the 1960s. One of his accomplishments was getting a new post office for Moulton. Colonel Biehunko was honored as citizen of the year in Moulton in 1998 and received the Community Builders award from the Moulton Masonic Lodge. He was a mentor to many young men and ladies in the community of Moulton.
He is survived by his wife Leona Malec Biehunko of Schulenburg; sons, Terry Biehunko and wife, Becca, of Southlake, Michael Biehunko and wife, Angie, of Victoria; five grandchildren, Kelly Biehunko, Airman Clayton Biehunko, Jack Taylor Biehunko, Elizabeth Biehunko and Sarah Biehunko.
In addition to his parents, Frank and Erna Biehunko, he was preceded in death by his brother, Lt. Ernest "Buddy" Biehunko, who followed his brother's footsteps becoming a pilot in the United States Air Force but was tragically killed in 1961 in California while piloting his F-106 Fighter Jet.
Lt. Colonel Biehunko will lie in state at Rosewood Funeral Chapels, 3304 Mockingbird Lane in Victoria, Texas, Saturday, August 21, 2010, starting at 10:00 a.m. The family will receive friends at Rosewood from 5:00-7:00 pm.
Lt. Colonel Biehunko will lie in state at Smith Funeral Home, 404 W. Bobkat Drive in Moulton beginning at 10:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2010. The family will receive friends at Smith Funeral Home from 5:00-7:00 pm Sunday evening.
Funeral mass will be celebrated at 10:00 am Monday, August 23, 2010, at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 601 N. Pecan Street in Moulton, Texas, Rev. David Berger and Msgr. Dennis Darilek concelebrating. Burial with full military honors provided by the United States Air Force Honor Guard will follow at the Moulton City Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be General James Freytag, General Robert Biehunko, Chris Bludau, Thomas H. Hoyer, Joe Sullivan, Ervin Patek, Albert Pozzi, and Adolph Welfel.
Honorary pallbearers will be Hank Furrah, Kathleen Chovanetz, Bobby Olle, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Newton, Mr. and Mrs. Hank Furrh, Al Fojtik, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Fisbeck, Mrs. Minnie Lee Fisbeck, Mr. and Mrs. Willie Pilat, Mr. Larry Finch, Clarence Walker, Patsy Mikulencak, Robert and Kelly Moller, Dolores Grieve, and Doris Lala.
The family would like to extend their sincere appreciation to Dolores Grieve and the Regency Nursing Home staff for all the love and support given in their time of need, to Dr. Susan Kraemer for her kind devotion and care, and to Hospice of South Texas for their tremendous support.
Memorials may be made to the Moulton Volunteer Fire Department or Hospice of South Texas.
Words of comfort may be shared with the family at www.rosewoodfuneralchapel.com.
Arrangements are under the direction of Rosewood Funeral Chapels, 3304 Mockingbird Lane, Victoria, Texas, 361/573-4546.