Lloyd Bentsen Bentsen was born in Mission, Texas, to the grandchildren of Danish immigrants and to the children of first generation Americans, and was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1942, where he was a respected Brother of the Upsilon Chapter (0484) of The Sigma Nu International fraternity, and upon graduation served in the United States Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1945. After brief service as a private in intelligence work in Brazil, he became a pilot and in early 1944 began flying World War II combat missions in B-24s from southern Italy with the 449th Bomb Group. At age 23 he was promoted to the rank of Major and given command of a squadron of 600 men.
In 18 months of combat, Bentsen flew 35 dangerous missions against many difficult, remote and highly defended targets such as the Ploie┼čti oil fields in Romania, which were critical to the Nazi war strategy. The 15th Air Force, to which the 449th was attached, is credited with destroying all of the petroleum production within its range, which equated to about half of Germany's sources of fuel on the continent.
Major Bentsen's unit also flew against communications centers, aircraft factories and industrial targets in Germany, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Bentsen participated in bombing raids in support of the Anzio campaign and flew bombers against hard targets in preparation for the landing in southern France. Overall, while in the Army Air Corps, he flew over 200 bombing missions over Europe.
Bentsen was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the Army Air Corps' and now the Air Force's highest commendations for valor in combat. In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bentsen was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. The Air Medal and each individual cluster represent specific campaigns for which he was decorated. Before completing his military service, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.