The two daughters of an American who flew combat missions for the Royal Air Force before the United States entered World War II will this week travel to Inishowen to view the site where their father’s Spitfire aircraft crashed 70 years ago.
Barb Kucharczyk and sister Betty Wolfe are leading a group of 12 other family members and friends to see for the first time the place in Ireland where Roland ‘Bud’ Wolfe’s plane crashed and to meet the people who have adopted the American’s story as a symbol of courage and hope in a dangerous time.
It was November 30, 1941 and Wolfe was returning to base after an afternoon sortie when he had to jettison from his Spitfire as its engines failed.
The pilot landed safely, just 13 miles from his intended destination - RAF Eglinton, now City of Derry Airport. Seven days later, Japan attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor and America was at war.
“We’ll be connecting with our father in a very different way,” said Barb Kucharczyk, “We really don’t know what to expect, other than a deep emotional tug.”
Bud’s spitfire crashed into the turf bog of the Inishowen peninsula, County Donegal, and remained there until earlier this summer when, thanks to the highly unusual, soft nature of the terrain in the bog, a team of archaeologists succeeded in unearthing the aircraft.
Searchers not only recovered the Rolls-Royce V-12 piston engine, propeller, six machine guns, large pieces of the fuselage and a fully inflated tail wheel, but also Wolfe’s leather flight helmet and many other items.
All the recovered remains have since been carefully cleaned, identified, preserved and catalogued.
Bud’s family say they are humbled by the interest in their father.
“We find ourselves drawn into the lives of these Irishmen and women, via a part of our father we are largely unfamiliar with,” Barb Kucharczyk added. “As Betty said, it’s almost a homecoming.”