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"He'd tell you what you wanted to know," Russell Underwood said. "But he never wore it on his sleeve."
"Pete had just been through boot camp," said his grandson, Robert Underwood. "He'd been on the USS Utah only a short time before it was attacked."
The USS Utah, a battleship, was anchored at Pearl Harbor along with other ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet when the attack began that Sunday morning. Pete Underwood and other sailors on the Utah were below decks in their living quarters.
"He and his shipmates knew something was wrong," Robert Underwood said. "They could hear planes flying overhead and also the explosions."
During the confusion, an officer of the ship appeared in the men's quarters, telling them to stay below decks. The Japanese were attacking, the officer said.
Pete Underwood, as ordered, stayed where he was. But the calamity outside was soon to affect the Utah.
"A Japanese torpedo struck the ship," Robert Underwood said.
The strike caused the Utah to start to list. It was at that time when the officer's order was disregarded.
"The attack was something that was unthinkable," Robert Underwood said. "It was time for Pete and the others to live by their wits."
What Pete Underwood and other sailors did was make their way topside and find a perch from which to jump into the harbor.
"Pete and the others were still in a lot of trouble," Robert Underwood said. "Japanese planes were strafing anything in the harbor, and that included men trying to reach the shore. How Pete was able to make it 50 yards without being shot had to be close to a miracle."
After the attack, Pete Underwood and the others realized something about what they were wearing.
"They were in their underwear," Russell Underwood said. "What they did was make their way to an officer's quarters nearby and take his clothes to wear. They also decided to have some of the officer's liquor while they were at it. They'd had a rough morning."
After surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, Pete Underwood was assigned to convoy-escort duty on the USS Detroit from the continental United States to Pearl Harbor. Then, while he was taking part in the New Guinea and Philippines campaigns, another ship he was aboard was sunk.
"It was the USS Helena, a cruiser," Russell Underwood said. "They had been intercepting the Japanese at night to keep them from resupplying, but they took some shots. They all made it, though."
Pete Underwood survived the rest of World War II, and, unlike many men who left the Navy at the conclusion of the war, he made it a career. He saw more combat during the Korean War, and he later became a Navy recruiter in Cape Girardeau and Charleston, Mo., before he retired in 1961. He then worked at the Todd Uniform Co. in Cape Girardeau until 1985.
"He had a good retirement," Robert Underwood said. "He loved to hunt, fish and go camping. He was at his happiest then."
At his burial, members of the Cpl. Mason O. Yarbrough Marine Corps League Detachment 1081 performed a rifle salute, and two sailors from the U.S. Naval Reserve Center in St. Louis folded the American flag and presented it to Pete Underwood's daughter, Teresa Miller.
"It's an honor for us to be here to serve a fallen comrade," said Petty Officer Donald Floyd. "I'd want someone to do it for me."
Lightner Memorial Cemetery, Scott City, Mo.