The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Donald E. Underwood, 23, of River Rouge, Michigan, will be honored next to his mother’s grave in Flat Rock, Michigan, November 25, followed by a burial at Arlington National Cemetery, in Washington, D.C., November 28. 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 take-off.
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 Island.
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 recovery mission.
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.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.