Army mechanic took time to pull wounded soldiers from the water on D-Day

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 2, 2014 

D-Day veteran, Bellingham

Walt Binggeli of Bellingham was a U.S. Army sergeant who participated in the D-Day landing in France on June 6, 1944. Binggeli died May 4, 2014, at the age of 94.

LAURENE RUSING — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

After the war, Walt Binggeli didn't talk much about what he saw 70 years ago when he landed on a beach in northern France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

But he did mention to his family the anguish he felt when he was told to keep moving forward even as he passed by wounded soldiers in the water crying for help.

"They were instructed just to get on the ground, do your mission," said Laurene Rusing of Bellingham, a granddaughter.

But Binggeli decided his mission that day included helping the wounded. He grabbed arms, legs, straps, whatever he could latch onto, and pulled about six soldiers ashore while staying low to avoid being shot himself, Rusing said.

"He couldn't leave them," she said.

Born in a small town in northern California, Binggeli joined the Army when he was 21 and became a staff sergeant in the 341st Engineer Regiment, driving and maintaining Army vehicles.

"He was raised on a farm, he and his brothers knew how to work on engines," said son Larry Binggeli Sr. of Bellingham, a retired fisherman.

After D-Day, Binggeli saw action in northern France, the Battle of the Bulge and Germany. He served in the Army four and a half years.

Binggeli moved to Whatcom County from Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1982. He worked as a small-engine mechanic, taught engine repair at Bellingham Technical College and opened his own business, Walt's Small Engines, at Northwest Drive and Aldrich Road.

After he retired, he welded scrap metal into whimsical objects he called "Walt's Goofies."

Binggeli died May 4, 2014. He was 94.

"I just wish my grandfather had lived to see the 70th anniversary," Rusing said.

Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-229 or dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com .

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