Never Forgotten: 1st Lt. Kenneth H. Underwood
As a young lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, 1st Lt. Kenneth H. Underwood died May 18, 1944 in his P-38 Lightning, as he prepared for D-Day. Hear his son and grandson recount his story of service and sacrifice during World War II.
KENNETH UNDERWOOD: It’s not just 400,000 men, it’s one man or one woman who left their children behind during World War II. My father Lt. Kenneth Harry Underwood is buried at Madingley Cemetery, the American cemetery in Madingley, England, which is near Cambridge, England. He was killed in his P-38 Lightning in World War II on the 18th of May 1944, and this is really about him and what he did. He was out flying one day, getting ready for D-Day, and he was doing a lot of low level maneuvering, and something happened with his P-38 Lightning. To this day we don’t know for sure, he tried to bring it in. He brought it into a field. It spun, and crashed into an oak tree, and the oak tree won. His plane exploded into quite a few pieces, spread over quite an area. Whatever happened, we don’t know. Only he knows. Only he can tell me some day what happened, and I’m going to ask him.
HARRYSON UNDERWOOD: He’s not the only one with a story like that. He’s a story that gets publicized often, but there was hundreds, thousands of other men that gave their lives for their country, and all of them need to remembered and memorialized somehow.
KENNETH UNDERWOOD: I’m afraid that the American public doesn’t really understand what was done. World War II, there will never be another one like it. I would hope that they never forget the sacrifices by these men.
HARRYSON UNDERWOOD: Personally, I feel that it’s important for Americans to go visit these locations overseas because lots of times these men are forgotten, not thought about, but they’re over there buried, close to where they gave their lives for their country, where they gave that last full measure, and I think that it’s definitely a different feeling being over there in a military cemetery, full of military men, all of whom gave their lives for their country.
KENNETH UNDERWOOD: I look at those crosses, I look at those names, and there’s a story behind every one, and it’s a beautiful place. And when I first went there in 1971, I thought, my gosh, it’s like being in northeast Kansas, where my father grew up, where I grew up. And there was a field in the distance of flax, the yellow. It was just an absolutely beautiful place. And I’m glad he found a nice place to be.
HARRYSON UNDERWOOD: And I hope one day, if I make it as a pilot in the Air Force, you know flying combat if I get the opportunity, I’ll again continue to experience those same emotions he experienced all those years ago in that same aircraft, wearing that same uniform.
KENNETH UNDERWOOD: He was just a guy who wanted to do his duty and come home, as one of the fellows that flew with him said.