In Charge

Captain Herbert Underwood, who came out of retirement to head the WAVES officer training facility at Smith College with trainee Lt. Elizabet Boland Crandall in early October 1942. Note that she isn’t even in a WAVE uniform yet.

The photograph comes from the National Archives.


  1. Greg Underwood says:

    Herbert was the brother of my grandfather. He lived in the house President Calvin Coolidge grew up in for one dollar a month. I believe he lost his infant son when on duty in China. The Waves loved him, but thought his wife a bit “too cultured.” She would invite them to tea to make a lady out of them. They did not like this. He commanded destroyers in WW1 and Franklin Roosevelt personally called him to command the WAVEs in WW2. At first he did not know how to take this. He thought it a bit of an insult that he would be in command of women. He was a civilian at the time, but he listened to the proposal to command the Wave officers at Smith College and he thought it a good idea. Recipient of the Navy’s Highest Medal the Navy Cross. The above information was told to my father by a WAVE that lived next to the Calvin Coolidge house. Herbert’s brother Stephen Alexander Underwood Sr. was a Sgt. in the Army in WW1. He could run a 10 flat hundred at MU and had to stay at home to take care of his sick mother. We called him POP. Great guy. His other brothers….one was a PHD from Harvard in French Literature, another the Superintendent of Schools in St Louis, one the Principal at Wesport High School in Kansas City, Missouri. The last made a million dollars three times losing it in the Great depression. He finally made it again as a mining engineer in southern Missouri. Pop inherited quite a bit from this man. His son was my father and was a rifleman in the 36th infantry division fighting in Colmar Pocket against Heinrich Himmler. Pop’s other two sons Joe and Jim were respectively a Marine and Sailor. His grandson served in the army in Vietnam. They don’t make them like that anymore or do they?
    There’s still some good ones left.

    1. Thank you for sharing!

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