Herbert Patton Underwood – United States Army

Courtesy of the United States Military Academy:

Herbert Patton Underwood, NO. 17666
8 February 1927 – 28 February 1987
Died 28 February 1987 in Sylacauga, Alabama, aged 60 years
Inurnment: Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery


Herbert Patton Underwood was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on 8 February 1927, the son of the late Clarence Woody Underwood and Mrs. Tapley Lee (Patton) Klein. He was valedictorian of the Class of 1945 at Columbia Military Academy, Columbia, Tennessee, and was appointed to the United States Military Academy in June 1946.
He was the first appointee from Franklin County, Alabama to graduate from West Point.

The October following graduation he married the former Florence Bernadette Swinyard of New York, New York (divorced in 1981). By the fall of 1955 he was the loving father of four.

Twenty-one years were spent in the service of his country. He saw military action in Korea and Vietnam, and was the recipient of the Bronze Star in 1951 and 1968 and the Army Commendation Medal in 1951. His military assignments included tactical officer with the Officer Candidate School, Fort Benning, Georgia; both Infantry and Engineering School Basic Courses at Fort Benning and Fort Belvoir, Virginia; instructor at the Engineer School, Murnau, West Germany; company commander, 35th Engineer Battalion, Kitzingen, West Germany; Infantry Advanced Class, Fort
Benning; the Infantry Board, Fort Benning; S4, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Wurzburg, West Germany; executive officer and commanding officer, 15th Infantry Battalion, Kitzingen, West Germany; Research and Development, Infantry Weapons, Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois; professor of Military Science, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; and his final
assignment prior to retirement in 1971 with the Department of Research & Development at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.

He became an authority on the M-16 rifle. Initially involved with the original testing of this weapon during his tour of duty with the Infantry Board in 1958, later assignments saw him involved with the writing of contracts awarded for its manufacture. He was twice sent on temporary duty to Vietnam to follow up on its performance in battle.

Following retirement, he pursued a hobby that intrigued him all his life, the building and flying of radio controlled model airplanes. Always a perfectionist, his handmade airplanes were works of art which he proudly displayed and competed with in meets all over the country.

In the later years of his life, his interests in combating illiteracy led him to the Reading Reform Foundation. He intended to work with the underprivileged and the penal systems. However, he chose to begin his efforts closer to home. It gave him such satisfaction to work as a volunteer phonics instructor for his granddaughter Nicole's Summer Day Camp Program, and also for the Oregon, Ohio, Summer School Remedial Reading Program. Once the school year began, he also assisted the first grade teachers (in Nicole's school) in their reading classes. Today Nicole is an above average reader, implementing the disciplines permanently instilled by her “Grandpa Woody.”

Diagnosed in December 1986 with terminal cancer, his battle was over just 3 short months later. He is inurned in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery.

Surviving are his mother; two sons, Keith and Herbert, Jr.; two daughters, Diane and Karen; two grandsons, Kevin and Herbert III; and four granddaughters, Nicole, Michelle, Mallory and Amy.

From his eulogy delivered by his daughter Karen, “He will live in our hearts for infinity, as there will still be things our memories will keep; some things known to each other only.”

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