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Peter L. Benzinger

Company L-2

18 Jul 1935 – 27 Nov 1965

Place of Death: WRAMC, Washington DC

Interment: Rosedale Cemetery,
Linden, New Jersey


Class Memorial Pages\L-2 Pete Benzinger.pdf


Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

The last time I talked to my brother-in-law, Pete, was in November 1965. I in my body cast in New Jersey recovering from injuries incurred in Viet Nam and Pete from his bed in Walter Reed Hospital where he was courageously waging a battle with Hodgkin’s disease. We exchanged a few comments on the status of our families, wished each other the best, and vowed to pray for one another. Pete’s last phrase was, “Stick with the Army, it is the best thing that happened in many of our lives.” How true!

Pete was born in Bronx, NY, on July 18, 1935, to Louis and Viola Benzinger. Resurrection Ascension School, Rego Park, and De La Salle Institute, NY, were the settings for his earlier formal education. Following high school, Pete attended Hunter College with the goal of becoming a doctor. Pete worked part time to meet financial obligations, also joining the New York Army National Guard. Through the Guard, Pete became interested in leadership and the Army way of life. He could not deny a growing love of the Infantry and all its associated challenges.

Fellow Guardsmen noted that he had an easygoing temperament and never turned away from an assigned task. Pete was one of those soldiers who always managed to get the job done without much fanfare. Encouraged by the officers and NCOs of his unit, Pete became interested and applied for admission to USMA.

Pete lived in the 46th Division during our Plebe year in Company L-2. We remember him fondly as the “runt of a flanker company” and one of the “old men” of the class.

It was during and after Camp Buckner that many of us really got to know him. Yearling Year was one of hard work for Pete, but he thrived upon it, militarily and academically. Can we ever forget his friendly “All right, Sir?” when he made his rounds as Cadet-in-Charge-of-Quarters? It was also in 1957, following a football game, that we met Pete’s parents. Pete stood tall on the steps of the old gym as he introduced them, that ever-present warm smile on his face beaming with pride. It was the last time many of us were to see his father, Louis. He unexpectedly passed away that Thanksgiving.

Our friendship continued to grow. That year and the next, my fiancée, Marge, Pete, and I regularly became a weekend threesome at the movies, for ice and roller-skating, and at the hops. Pete played for the L-2 intramural football team and was an active member of Catholic Acolytes, the Newman Forum, and the German Club. His participation in the Goat Team’s victory over the Engineers foretold the successful conclusion of the 1958 Army football season.

During Christmas leave of Cow Year, on New Years Eve, 1958, Pete met my sister, Sophie, while attending a party at my Dad’s tavern. She became his Sophie, and his one true love.

Term end exams in January of Cow Year brought academic dismissal. Solid Mechanics proved temporarily too tough, but Pete was determined to return to West Point. He studied on his own during the rest of the year, working part time to pay for a tutor.

When Firsty Year came for the Class of 1960, Pete successfully passed the re-entrance exam and was readmitted to USMA as a member of the Class of ‘61. He accomplished his academic mission over the next two years, proudly wearing his “Turnout Star” on his B-Robe and remaining a spark plug for numerous L-2 intramural squads. Many more successes were to be his.

Pete graduated proudly with the Class of 1961on June 6th, and, four days later, married his Sophie in the Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity at West Point. This joyous period was interrupted with the sudden death of his mother on the day the Berlin Wall was erected.

After the Basic Infantry Officer Course, and Airborne and Ranger Schools, it was off to Gelnhausen, Germany and the 48th Mechanized Infantry of the 3rd Armored Division. Their first child, Viola Marie, was born in 1962 in the Army hospital in Frankfurt. 

Pete loved the men of his unit. He pushed himself to master all the details of leading a Mech/Infantry Platoon and later a Company. His heart was at home in this unit. His proudest moments were when he was out on maneuvers, riding in the copula of his command vehicle. His hard work and dedication earned him the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge.

Marge and I visited Pete and Sophie several times from Mainz, where we were stationed. Thanksgiving, 1963, Viola Marie had turned one and Peter Louis, Jr., “Re-Pete”, had just been born. It was to be our last happy visit to Gelnhausen. Over the Easter holidays in 1964, the Benzingers and Baras celebrated together in Mainz. A week later Sophie phoned from Gelnhausen to inform us that the family was returning to the States. Pete had discovered a “lump” that required immediate medical evaluation and treatment.

Knowing that he would likely be offered a disability retirement, Pete and Sophie built a home near my Dad’s in Linden, NJ. Pete was medically retired in 1965 in the rank of Captain and went to work with my Dad. He was cautiously optimistic about his future as a civilian even though he faced periodic trips to Walter Reed for treatment and follow-up evaluations. Unfortunately, his condition worsened, requiring hospitalization again at Walter Reed. After a brief but courageous battle, the Lord called Peter home on November 27th 1965.

Pete’s career as a commissioned officer lasted but four and a half years. In that short time, however, he came to exemplify all of the attributes of a superb, and dedicated officer, a proud and loving father and a devoted husband. All of us who had the privilege of knowing Pete saw in his life the full measure of a true son of West Point who, to the fullest, embodied our motto of “Duty, Honor, Country”.

Today, we can continue to see Pete in the eyes of his daughter, Viola Marie, those of her children, Kyle, Caitlyn, and Cory, and those of his son, Peter, Jr.’s daughter, Danielle. A proud grandmother four times over, Sophie continues to tend to family matters as an extension of Pete’s love

He saw life for what it is:
Fleeting as a breath,
Brief as a penny candle,
Chancy, but tremendously consequential,
As a prelude to eternity.
He had a merry heart,
Because he had a quick soul:
Quick, that is, with a familiar knowledge
And a living love of God.
He was merry
Because he was going home…..
(Author unknown)

Memorial written by: Ted Bara (USMA '60) with assistance from Sophie Benzinger and Tom Magness