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1st Sergeant James Underwood-37th Infantry, 145th Regiment, Company E, 3rd Platoon

Discussion in 'What Granddad did in the War' started by rkline56, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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    View attachment 15631
    (Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: First Sergeant James D. Underwood, United States Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company E, 145th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces near Malabon, Luzon, Philippine Islands, on 11 February 1945. At daybreak, Company E, 145th Infantry, prepared to make an assault crossing of the Dampalit River east of Malabon to seize a strategic crossroads. The enemy, 500 in number, delivered intense mortar, small arms, and automatic weapons fire on our troops as they forced the crossing, causing such heavy casualties that a withdrawal was ordered. First Sergeant Underwood three volunteers in the evacuation of the casualties, all of whom were exposed to hostile fire. Using native dugouts and litters, he and his men made repeated trips under constant, intense fire from the enemy positions, wading through mud and water to load the wounded and dead on the dugouts, and then dragged and pushed them across the river through the deadly fire to safety. Working over a period of two and one half hours, First Sergeant Underwood eight times crossed the treacherous river and, by his complete disregard for safety and heroic determination in the face of grave danger, saved many lives and furnished a shining example of high courage. His intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 37th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
    General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Forces-Pacific, General Orders No. 162 (1945)
    Action Date: 11-Feb-45
    Service: Army
    Rank: First Sergeant
    Company: Company E
    Regiment: 145th Infantry Regiment
    Division: 37th Infantry Division Valor awards for James D. Underwood | Military Times Hall of Valor

    Mr. James Underwood is a true American hero. He served with my Grand Uncle, Corporal, Paul Glasgo, (Assistant Squad Leader, 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad, Co.E, 145th of the 37th I.D.) from Nashville, Ohio on Bougainville. Paul rotated home prior to The Manila / Fort Stotsenberg Operations but I am sure he learned of Jim's heroism and was fittingly proud of his valor.

    I have had the good fortune to correspond with Mr. Underwood several times and will continue to listen in awe of this great man's achievements. He is truly an American to be treasured throughout the generations. I have Mr. Underwood's permission to post his letters here for your review and will do so after checking with the moderator of this forum. I was able to contact Mr. Underwood through the 37th I.D. Veterans Association (Thank you - Mandy!!) and I encourage others to contact similar organizations. Many of the Organizations have newsletters that will post private messages for you and this was most helpful in my research.

    James has been interviewed for the Library of Congress Veterans Project and his recollections should be posted there sometime this summer. Another important act of World History will now be preserved for future generations.
     

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  2. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Thanks for posting this account of 1st Sgt Underwood's bravery under fire to save his fellow soldiers. I don't know if he will ever see this, but I salute him for his service and valor. :S!

    I look forward to seeing his letters posted here. It will be a great addition to the forum. BTW, Rick, was his interview for the Library of Congress Veterans Project an audio or video interview? I look forward to watching/listening to that as well.
     
  3. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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    Thanks for your kind words, Tom. I will ask Mr. Underwood in my next letter if the interview was in video format. That letter is going out today - 1-30-12.

    His daughter has looked at the 37th Thread and the forum. She checked that out prior to him graciously authorizing me to post his letters among the great posts in this forum.
     
  4. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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    Here is the second letter I received from DSC and Bronze Star recipient 1st Sgt. James Underwood. His letters are very respectful. He does use a common slang expression from the time of his service to our country to describe our bitter enemies. This is in no way meant to offend any of our Japanese allies and friends today. The letter is posted in its entirety for historical purposes and has been cleared by WW 2F Admin. It is a treasured possesion, as is this Great Man's friendship.

    I believe it would have been ultimately hairy crossing the Dampalit River one time on that day. And for him to do it eight times - well there are no words to describe the devotion to duty and his fellow soldiers he exemplified on that day. The file is pretty large so it will follow in two posts.
     
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  5. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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  6. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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  7. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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  8. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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  9. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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  10. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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  11. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Thanks for posting the letters, Rick. It is great to read what this amazing hero has to say!
     
  12. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Here is a link to an interview with James Underwood by the Woodford Times. It has a great photo of Mr. Underwood with his DSC medal.

    I wish I had come across this a day earlier as yesterday was the 67th anniversary of Mr. Underwood's heroic actions to save the lives of many of his fellow soldiers.
     
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  13. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    This is great! I just read the article and was floored that Mr. Underwood lives in Metamora, Illinois. I've been through there many times and my Grandmother was born in a log cabin (1900) not far down the road. Rick, could you ask Mr Underwood if he had any relatives that worked at Caterpillar Tractor company? I worked with a Bill Underwood and he once mentioned a relative that was in WW2. Small World.
     
  14. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    That is pretty cool, Biak. What an incredible coincidence to have that connection.
     
  15. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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    Be glad to Ask Mr. Underwood for you, Biak. I hope to receive a letter from him this week. Still have one more to post too. That would be great if there is a connection at CAT. Indeed it is a small world.
    Please see letter 5 at post 19 for the information on Bill. Thanks for asking, my friend.
     
  16. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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  17. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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    View attachment 15839 :flag_USAwave:

    The great thing about this post is that my father was born in Wooster, Ohio where Platoon Sgt. Hawkins operated one of his markets. Earl and his wife also had a nice diner inside the store. I had lunch there with my Grandparents when I was 12. They (Grandpa Jim and Grandma Marjorie) frequented the store and diner regularly. My Aunt and Uncle and Cousins still see Mr. Hawkins around town now and then as they live in the area and own several businesses in Wooster, they have the privilege of knowing him as well. Mr. Hawkins and his wife built a golf course near town and Mrs. Hawkins operated it throughout the years. When her health began to decline she donated the course and country club to the town of Wooster. What fantastic people IMHO! I salute you, Mr. Hawkins, and your wife.
     

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  18. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Very fascinating letters, Rick. It's quite refreshing after reading official reports and journals.
     
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  19. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5 Patron  

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    Thank you for your interest, Tom. I am sure his LOC interview will be fascinating. The more I read about Hill 700 the tougher the battle seems to have been. Especially about how the two guys in an OP from Company E killed 9 inside the OP and shot the heck out of several squads or a platoon before being overrun and KIA. They had to call in the 105's to a near broken arrow scenario right outside their own wire (what was left of it). If the hill was lost, the Piva airstrips and the Torokina fighter strip airfield would have been severely threatened or lost outright (the ultimate objective of the attacks on hills 260, 309, 608 and 700). There are also accounts of platoons crawling up steep sections of the hill under intense fire to regain seven firing positions and foxholes and two pill boxes that were lost during the attack. Thought I saw a picture of some 155's somewhere but it is not in the data here.

    View attachment 16102

    During the period 8-13 March the 37th Division lost five officers and seventy-three enlisted men killed.[SIZE=-1][SUP]14[/SUP][/SIZE] The artillery expended a considerable amount of ammunition in defense of Hill 700: 20,802 105-mm. rounds; about 10,000 75mm. rounds; 13,000 81-mm. and 811 4.2-inch mortar shells.[SIZE=-1][SUP]15[/SUP] (Source: ibiblio hyperwar)
    [/SIZE] View attachment 16103 I sent a few pictures to Mr. Underwood along with one of the letters he requested.
     

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  20. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    I agree with you, Rick. It was a very bitterly fought battle. Unfortunately, some consider that it was strategically less important than other battles, so not as much has been written on it as compared to some others. However, for those men at that time, it was the most important battle of their lives. Like virtually every other soldier in the War, they were doing their part to win the War. God bless them all for what they did and what they sacrificed.

    On a lighter note, what a great story from Mr. Underwood! I nearly laughed out loud. I'm glad he got his wish in the end and returned to E Company -- stripes intact. :D
     

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