MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press Writer BILLINGS (AP)
The remains of a Hardin sailor who was killed in a plane crash during the Vietnam War have been identified and will be returned to his family, the Defense Department said Friday. Lt. Donald F. Wolfe, 26 years old at the time, was a crew member on board an aircraft en route from Chu Lai Air Base in Vietnam to the USS Oriskany aircraft carrier when the plane crashed into a cliff near the town of Da Nang. Five service members were killed in the Oct. 8, 1967 crash. The sailors' remains were returned to the United States in 1993, 1994 and 2007 after a series of searches of the crash site by U. S. and Vietnamese authorities. The remains were recently identified by the military's Missing Personnel Office, which used DNA comparisons and dental records. "It's been 40 years," said Wolfe's brother, Roger, who lives in Billings. He said he had given a DNA sample to the military in the mid-1990s but did not expect anything to come of it. He was told his brother's remains had finally been identified in July. "It's closure, but it also brought everything back up again. I honestly didn't think they would find him," Roger Wolfe said. Lt. Wolfe was married and his wife was pregnant at the time of the crash. His daughter was born seven days later. She now lives in Oregon, Roger Wolfe said. The crash was blamed on adverse weather. The wreckage site was found by a search helicopter three days later. A ground recovery of the victims was not possible because of hostile forces in the area, according to the Defense Department. Roger Wolfe said a grave marker was erected in his brother's honor at Custer Battlefield National Cemetery within months of the accident. The family plans to return for a graveside service with full military honors in the spring, he said. On the floor of the U.S. Senate Friday, Montana Sen. Jon Tester called for a moment of silence in the killed men's honor. "It will remind everyone that it's never to late to show appreciation for heroism," he said in a statement.