PRIVATE PETER JOSEPH HENKEL was born in 1912 to Augustus Henkel Sr. and his wife Virginia. He was one of at least eight children. Augustus Henkel was working as a tin roofer when the Census was taken in January of 1920. The family then lived at 1410 South 4th Street in South Camden.
The 1930 Census shows Peter Henkel living with his parents and younger brothers Amos, Herbert, and Richard at 358 Atlantic Avenue in Camden. Older brothers Augustus Jr. and Ralph also lived in the same building, with their wives and families, as did older sister Helen and her husband, Mark Ross. The three Henkel sons worked for an express company, Augustus Jr., the oldest, was an assistant foreman. This was probably the Railway Express Company, as Augustus Jr. worked their for many years.
It appears the Peter Henkel married shortly after the Census, as records from the Union Methodist Episcopal Church show an infant Eleanor D. Henkel, daughter of Peter and Eleanor Henkel, born on March 18, 1932 and baptized on April 16, 1933. The 1940 City Directory shows Peter J. Henkel, his wife Eleanor D. and widowed mother Virginia at 1207 Locust Street. He was then working as a laborer. Sadly, his wife died in the early 1940s, leaving him alone to care for his daughter. He worked as a carpenter for some time and may have relocated to Gloucester City. He was not drafted until late in the war due to his being a widower with a child.
Peter J. Henkel was inducted into the United States Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey on May 5, 1944. After completing his basic training he returned home to Camden on leave. He married Dorothy E. Haines of Philadelphia on July 29, 1944 at Union Methodist Episcopal Church, South 5th and Mt. Vernon Streets, in Camden.
Private Henkel qualified for parachute duty and was assigned to E Company, 2nd Parachute Training Regiment, which was located at the Parachute School at Fort Benning Georgia.
Private Henkel drowned with nine other paratroopers during a training jump onto Dog Island, Florida. The aircraft dropped the stick of men into the water and they drowned before they could be rescued. This was the second deadliest personnel accident involving members of the Parachute School during airborne operation in World War II.
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