The chance meeting in 1981 between Andrea Bingler and David Mamaux occurred during some particularly bad weather in Germany.

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com

The chance meeting in 1981 between Andrea Bingler and David Mamaux occurred during some particularly bad weather in Germany.
Andrea, a nursing student, had called a friend of her brother’s to come by her house and have some food from her farewell party from her job at a local hospital. She had so much food she told her friend to bring anyone else he could think of. When he didn’t arrive after a very long time, she began to wonder what had happened. Soon her friend appeared, accompanied by a man in mountain gear.

David, an American who was stationed at Bad Tolz, Germany, was attempting a hike through the Alps to Innsbruck, Austria. On the way, a snowstorm struck and he had to turn back because of the heavy downfall. Buses had stopped running and he decided to call his and Andrea’s mutual friend to pick him up.
Andrea was intrigued by the rugged American who loved hiking and made plans to go out on a date with him. Little did she know that he would someday be her husband.

On her first visit to David’s lodging at Bad Tolz, Andrea noticed that he had many framed photos on a wall. She was drawn to one in particular.
“I looked at one and it was obviously military people in front of an airplane, but I didn’t really focus on the airplane,” said Andrea. “I asked David if he had flown the plane and he said, ‘no.’ Then it occurred to me of course that it was a World War II plane and the man in the photo was wearing a uniform. Then David said, ‘That’s my dad, he was a navigator in the B-17 and he flew out from Italy and he flew over the Alps into Germany during wartime to bomb Germany.”
But as Andrea points out, the amazing part of the unfolding events was that her mother, Annie, had been in very close proximity to David’s dad during 1944. She was working in a civilian air raid warning network and her job was to make calls when radar picked up aircraft flying over cities in Germany and alert people to imminent raids.

“She would wait for American planes to come, then call different cities to send out alarms, to turn on sirens, stop the streetcars and get people into shelters,” said Andrea.
F

ighter planes would then organize for takeoff on the runways.
Annie became well versed about aircraft and she knew all of the names of the planes. She and her coworkers could identify a plane by its sound or if they saw only the tail.

Annie was 15 years old when she began. Girls in Germany were required to report for some type of work during the war. While Annie worked in the air raid warning network, many girls worked on farms or in hospitals.
When Andrea realized that the area her mother was in and reported on was exactly the route her future father-in-law flew in the bomber, she was stunned.
“I had mixed feelings about a relationship with David,” said Andrea. “When we talked about it and he told me about his dad and what he did, and I knew what my mother did, oh my gosh, he flew over and my mom called and warned that the Americans were flying over and I thought ‘and here we are, a German and an American.’ I started thinking about it and had second thoughts. It was an emotional subject. In Germany my generation had not really discussed the history of the war. We didn’t learn much of the history of the war at school. Nobody wanted to talk about it. It was too soon after the war. Nobody understood how this could have happened, the pain that was caused and all the Jewish people that were killed. Did nobody realize it was happening or was everyone so scared? There were a lot of questions.”

But any second thoughts were soon left behind as Andrea realized she loved David and began planning his introduction to her parents. Although her parents had always been very welcoming of foreigners and had hosted exchange students in their home, when she suggested to her parents that she bring David to meet them, her father said he didn’t want him in his house. Andrea persisted and soon David was invited into their home.
“My mother was the one who hit it off immediately with David,” said Andrea. “They just really liked each other from the first moment. David called her ‘Radar Annie.’”

It took a little longer with her dad. He had lost a lot of his friends in the war. He served as a tank driver when he was 17 in France and the bad memories were still a little too fresh.

“There were so many bad experiences for my dad,” said Andrea. “He couldn’t really talk about the horrible experiences. My aunt, who was in a different part of Germany, was really grateful to the Americans. She never forgot the chocolate they gave her. They gave her Hershey and she thought that was the best thing she ever tasted because they didn’t have anything. It really depended on what kind of experience you had in the war I guess.”
It didn’t take long for her father to come around and he began talking to David.
“Dad was really strong and he could have said ‘hello and goodbye’ and never had a relationship with David and his parents, but they became very close,” said Andrea.

When David and Andrea decided to get married and David’s parents came to Germany to visit them for the first time, things became more challenging. When Annie and David’s father, also named David, met there was tension in the air and the circumstances and experiences of their respective jobs in 1944 came back in a flood of memories. But they all grew very close over time and looked forward to their children’s marriage.

“David’s parents came for the wedding to Germany and my parents wanted to show them around the neighboring towns, but David’s father didn’t want to do that since he remembered bombing the cities,” said Andrea. “They were wonderful people and welcomed me with open arms. David said he had to extract information about the war from his dad because he just didn’t want to talk about it. He couldn’t ever talk about it.”

Andrea understood this well since she had experienced it with her uncles who had been held as prisoners in Russia for a year and a half during the war.
“When they returned to Germany they were emaciated and sick,” said Andrea. “I told one of my uncles that I would really like to know what had happened to them in Russia and he just looked at me and started crying. I never found out what happened. Maybe he was tortured, he would just cry.”  

David’s father flew the missions from January to May 1944. As the war intensified, the missions grew from 25 to 35 to 50 before soldiers were sent home. On New Year’s Day, David flew a raid beginning in Casablanca, Morocco, where new airplanes were waiting, and on to Foggia, Italy, which had just been taken from the Germans. There they loaded up their machine guns and ammunition and flew their planes into a base in Italy, got their engines serviced, gassed up and were told they would be flying missions the next day.
David said they were assigned the raid for New Year’s Day because it would be a good day since the Germans would be drunk and hung over from the night before.

“They flew the raid on New Year’s Day to send a message to the Germans that this thing’s for real,” said David.
When Andrea and David moved to Leavenworth, Andrea knew she wanted to serve the community. She called Anne Divine to volunteer with Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society.

“Growing up my family had always had animals and we had taken care of injured wild animals like birds and fawns,” said Andrea. “I loved nurturing injured animals in Germany. I learned from childhood to take care of animals. We always nurtured them. We didn’t have animals when David was in the military because we didn’t want to have to leave them behind. I am grateful for the people I have met through LAWS and the friendships I have made throughout the years. They are people on the same wave length. I could call them anytime of the day or night and they would help me. You don’t find that too often.”   
Andrea treasures the close bonds that her parents and David’s parents had, and she is particularly thankful for the chance meeting she and David shared in Germany in 1981.

“There is no winner in a war but you can live together in peace,” said Andrea. “Even if someone has bombed your town you can live together in peace and respect and love one another. I’m grateful my life worked out the way it did.”