Veterans Day was Sunday, but this compelling story about four brothers from Sycamore is worthy of attention any day of the year. Thanks to Glen Underwood, a Vietnam veteran, for sharing this story about his father and uncles.
Glen’s father, Bob, served in the Marines during World War II and was part of the invasion force that stormed the beaches at Guadalcanal and Tawara. He was wounded twice but returned to active duty after recovering.
Two of his brothers were killed during the war. Army Cpl. Glen Underwood served in the infantry and was killed in action and buried in Italy. Another brother, Jay, was training pilots to fly B-17s and died when his plane crashed into a mountain in Washington state while on night maneuvers.
The fourth brother, Miles, was a sergeant in the infantry and was the most highly decorated. He fought in the South Pacific, including Bougainville, Solomon Islands and Luzon in the Philippines. His bravery under fire earned him the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, plus other medals now framed and hanging on the wall of his son Mike’s home in Genoa.
Three of the brothers, Jay, Bob and Miles, are buried in Sycamore. They all were born in Rochelle, but their parents Don and Vinna Underwood, later moved to Sycamore, where the two surviving brothers spent most of their lives. I cannot imagine the grief their parents must have suffered when losing two sons in the war. This family gave so much for our country and deserves our heartfelt gratitude.
I want to mention two other veteran stories that were shared during a meeting of the Oak Crest Area Rotary Club this past week. Larry Sallberg told about his father, Benjamin, who fought in World War I in the trenches during battles in France. He received shrapnel wounds but continued to fight. His 25th birthday was two days before the Armistice was declared. Larry said his father brought home his uniform and a gas mask that was so flimsy it wouldn’t have been much help against the poisonous mustard gas used by the enemy. I can relate to that, as my uncle Mark Simpson was gassed during that war and never recovered his health, dying several years later in Hines Hospital.
Another story, very current, was shared by Janice Docherty. Her mother’s first cousin Herbert Harms was a sergeant and tail gunner in WW II. His B-17 was on a bombing mission over Germany when it was shot down. Eight of the nine crew members bailed out and were captured, but Harms died in the crash. His remains never were identified until last year when DNA testing (matched with his sister, who is still living) made it possible to return his remains to the family Nov. 1.
A military honor guard accompanied Harms all the way back to his hometown of Rutland, where he was buried. Janice said 10 overpasses on Interstate 55 and Interstate 80 were lined with firetrucks, their crews displaying American flags as the procession passed by. His parents had asked that if his body was ever recovered that he be brought back home to be buried, and the family kept that promise, Janice said.