Neal Roelofsen (37434973) served in the United States Army during World War Two. Like many American GIs, he left his mark on Northern Ireland. Roelofsen left a more permanent mark than most as his graffitied name still graces some red brickwork in Co. Armagh.
During World War Two, Kircassock House in Magheralin, Co. Armagh served as headquarters of 8th United States Air Force Composite Command. The USAAF had a base here from November 1942.
New owners demolished the house and much of the US Army and Air Force’s buildings. The red brick gate lodge remains on the B2 road between Dromore and Lurgan. Alongside his name on the gate lodge, Roelofsen added the date 30th March 1944 and his hometown of Harris, Iowa, USA.
Early life in Iowa
Roelofsen was born on 6th September 1916. He was the son of Timen Roelofsen and Gertie Roelofsen (née Rook) of Melvin, Osceola County, Iowa. He had three brothers, John, Gerrit, and Vincent.
Neal spent his early years across the state line in Sioux Valley, Minnesota before moving to a family farm north-east of Harris, Iowa.
He married Helen Minnie Recher, daughter of Emil Recher and Bertha Recher of May City, Osceola County, Iowa. The wedding took place on 12th December 1941 and the couple set up home on a farm to the south of Harris. They had three daughters, Louise, Lola, and Linda.
Career in the US Army
Neal Roelofsen enlisted on 9th October 1942 at Camp Dodge, Iowa.
Twenty-eight Osecola county men left last Thursday for Army Camps to begin training. In this group were three from Harris: Lee A Bell, Neal Roelofsen, and John Sikma.
Lake Park News – 15th October 1942
With training completed, he left the United States on 14th December 1943 with Military Police Platoon, XV Corps. XV Headquarters were at Kircassock House, Magheralin, Co. Armagh from 1st March 1944 – 25th May 1944. The date engraved on the gate lodge by Roelofsen coincides with the arrival of XV Corps, Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment at Kircassock.
He returned on 16th October 1945 and received an honourable discharge on 24th October 1945. Documentation signed by notary public CE Spengler reports, he was never disciplined by the army.
Remembering Neal Roelofsen
Neal Roelofsen applied for his United States Army pension in Harris, Iowa on 17th May 1949. Receipt of the application was two days later. He spent much of his life after the war in Lake Park, Dickinson County, Iowa.
Roelofsen died on Thursday 28th March 2008 aged 91 years old at Lake Park Care Center. His wife, Helen died on 1st June 2013 at Lake Park Care Center in Lake Park, Iowa, where she lived since 2008. Her grave is in Union Township Cemetery, Harris, Iowa, the funeral taking place at Turner Jennes Funeral Home on 3rd June 2013. She was 94 years old.