Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Donald E. Underwood, accounted for on Sept. 9, 2017,
will be honored next to his mother’s grave in Flat Rock, Michigan, November
25, followed by his burial at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington,
D.C., November 28.
Underwood, 23, of River Rogue, Michigan, was killed during World War II.
On Jan. 21, 1944, Underwood was a member of the 38th Bombardment Squadron,
(Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group, stationed at Hawkins Field, Helen Island,
Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, when his B-24J bomber crashed shortly after
Following the crash, the squadron’s physician recovered the remains of six
individuals and interred them in the Main Marine Cemetery No. 33 on Betio
Following the war, the U.S. Army’s 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration
Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio between 1946 and
1947. Using Marine Corps records, they began the task of consolidating all
the remains from isolated burial sites into a single cemetery called Lone
Palm Cemetery. The remains of the crew on the B-24J bomber were believed to
be among those moved, however Underwood’s remains were not identified and he
was declared non-recoverable.
In May 2017, DPAA, through a partnership with History Flight, Inc., returned
to Betio to conduct excavations of osseous remains. The remains were sent
to DPAA for analysis.
To identify Underwood’s remains, scientists from DPAA used laboratory
analysis, including dental, and anthropological analysis, which matched his
records, as well as circumstantial evidence.
DPAA is grateful to History Flight, Inc. for their partnership in this
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000
died during the war. Currently there are 72,975 service members
(approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still
unaccounted for from World War II. Underwood’s name is recorded on the
Tablets of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site along
with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to
indicate he has been accounted for.