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Brightwood Boys, The History of the Men from the North End of
Springfield, Massachusetts, During World War II
by Christopher P. Montagna

Prelude to war


In December of 1939 my father, Adam Montagna, lay in his bed listening to events happening off the coast of Uruguay.  Warships of the British Navy had hunted down the German pocket battleship Graf Spree, which was damaged and lay moored in the port of Montevideo.  The action provided an escape from the heartache Adam and his family had felt for the past five months.  On July 17, 1939 his mother Leonina, the family matriarch, died from complications due to diabetes.  The loss of Leonina was difficult for her sons.   My father often spoke of the wonderful, comforting and humorous attitude Leonina brought to the sometime strict immigrant home.  That evening the war seemed as distant and untroubled as the sound carried over the airwaves.


In the December 7, 1941 issue of the Springfield Union/Republican residents read of President Roosevelt’s appeal to the Emperor of Japan as a last resort to ease the crisis as Japanese forces moved into Indo-China.  The paper reported on the close of the 1941 deer season and that Christmas shopping was beginning in earnest as the weather cleared, with the first Christmas shopping rush expected to see a 10-20% increase in sales.  The Springfield Indian’s hockey team regained the division lead with a victory over the Caps.  Residents also read reports of a German raider ship being sunk in the South Atlantic.


The pages bore some echoes of war as the paper reported on Westover engineers getting practice bombs that permitted training under combat conditions.  The paper also reported on a large caravan of army vehicles that rolled through the city for five hours the previous day as members of the First Division returned from maneuvers in South Carolina.  More than 500 trucks and armored vehicles crossed the North End Bridge passing along Plainfield Street and up Crew Street on their way to Fort Devens.
Among the men in the convoy was Sylvio Beauregard, the son of Charles and Amanda (Cole) Beauregard.  Sylvio grew-up on Medford Street and was living at 1462 Dwight Street when he joined the Massachusetts National Guard on January 16, 1941.  At the time Sylvio was serving as a member of the famed Yankee Division.

John Lawrence Kelley, Jr.As families went about their business at 1:55 pm on December 7, 1941, they were unaware of the events taking place half a world away in the Hawaiian Islands.  It was 7:55 am in Honolulu.  On the morning of December 7th, 1942, the destroyer U.S.S. Tracy was moored to berth 16, Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor.  A young naval officer, John Lawrence Kelley, Jr. was serving aboard the shipJohn was raised on Holland Street in Springfield’s Brightwood section, the son of John Sr. and Theresa Kelley. John’s father, served in the Navy for 31 years and retired as Lieutenant.  John, Jr was a 1932 graduate of Technical High School and a 1937 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, having enlisted on June 8, 1933 and was assigned as an ensign aboard the USS Tracy.

The following is taken from the After Action Report filed by the Commander of the USS Tracy:

Four officers and the duty section were on board. The entire crew was being quartered and messed at the Receiving Barracks, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, T.H., so that only the duty section was on board, the remainder being at the barracks or on liberty.


About 0753, the Officer of the Deck, Ensign L.B. Ensoy, U.S. Navy, and the watch on deck saw dive-bombers make attacks on battleships and Ford Island (about ten planes). These planes came from the North. This attack was immediately followed by attacks of horizontal bombers and dive-bombers on same objectives plus the ships in the dry dock. One of the dive-bombers passed a single engine biplane, probably a type 94. At 0805 torpedo planes were observed coming in from an Easterly direction and launching torpedoes against the battleships at Ford Island.


At the first attack, fire hoses were connected but not laid out. The ship was closed up as much as possible, and work started to break out and assemble .30 caliber and .50 caliber machine guns. Steel helmets and damage control gear were broken out.


At 0820 men were sent to the U.S.S. Cummings to assist at gun batteries and in the ammunition train. At 0825 approximately fifteen men attached to the U.S.S. Tracy were sent to the U.S.S. Pennsylvania to fight fires. WHITE, W.A., BM2c, USN, was senior man in this party, and reports that part of this party helped fight fires in the drydock, while others went aboard and helped with the ammunition train. While setting fuses in the after starboard gun compartment of the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, ZACEK, Laddie J., F.2c., USN, was killed by the explosion of a bomb which hit just above this compartment. Two other men, BIRD, John A., Sea.1c, USN, and PENCE, John W., R.M.3c, USN, were thought to have been in this same compartment and are now missing.


At 0825 Tracy was ready to open fire with three .30 caliber Lewis guns, very limited ammunition. At 0900 high altitude bombers passed overhead in several waves. One bomb fell in the slip between the stern of the U.S.S. Rigel at berth 13 and the stern of the U.S.S. Cummings, the outboard ship at berth 15. Fragments of this bomb did minor damage to the gig, which was moored astern.


At 0915 this commanding officer returned on board and found the ship and crew well organized, alert and calm. The two .50 caliber machine guns had been mounted and parties were attempting to borrow ammunition from other ships present. About this time dive bombers attacked out of the sun. Two drums of .50 caliber ammunition appeared miraculously and fire was immediately opened. One plane of this group pulled out over the submarine base and flew low over Building 155 and crashed in flames in the vicinity of Hospital Point, after a salvo by the U.S.S. Cummings. The plane appeared to be a type 99 dive-bomber. Intermittent action against stray planes lasted until about 1000. Type 99 dive-bombers were observed rendezvousing at about 3000 feet to seaward of Hickam Field. When observed, there were approximately 18 planes in the formation, which was a tight vee of vee's. By 1000 all officers and men were on board and more .50 caliber machine gun ammunition became available.


At 1040 the U.S.S. Cummings got underway. Intermittent attacks by stray planes were observed. Prior to getting underway, the U.S.S. Cummings returned all of the Tracy men who were on board. Crew was mustered at stations and eighteen absentees reported. Approximately ten Tracy men were sent to help fight fires on the U.S.S. California. By 1100 it became apparent that the Japanese had definitely withdrawn.


At 1200 sent four gunner's mates qualified in mines to West Loch. At 1430 upon the return of all working parties, careful muster was taken of crew. Three men were missing: ZACEK, Laddie John, 368 50 90, F.2c., USN; PENCE, John Wallace, 321 30 25, R.M. 3c., USN; and BIRD, John Arthur, 376 19 51, Sea.1c, USN. All of these men were detailed at the Receiving Barracks to help fight the fire on the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. ZACEK's body has been definitely identified. The bodies of the other two men have not been found, but while it cannot be positively stated, it seems more than probable that they were killed at their stations on the U.S.S. Pennsylvania.


Ralph DoughertyDuring the attack on Pearl Harbor, Springfield suffered its first casualty of the war.   Seamen First Class Ralph McClearn Dougherty was killed while serving aboard the USS Arizona.  Ralph’s sister, Mrs. Bessie Cross, widow of Reverend Edward Weeks Cross, lived at 62 Randolph Street in the Forest Park Section of Springfield.  Reverend Cross, Pastor of the First Church of Christ, had died in 1939.


Ralph Dougherty was born in Glenwood, MN on October 3, 1898.  He enlisted in the Navy in 1917 and served in World War I.  After the war he continued to serve in the Navy.  On December 7th, 1941 Ralph was serving as a Fire Controlman First Class aboard the USS Arizona.  Ralph Dougherty is entombed along with 1,102 of his shipmates in the sunken remains of the USS Arizona.


The destruction of the USS Arizona was a personal as well as emotional loss for John Kelley.  After his graduation from Annapolis, John Kelley had been stationed aboard the Arizona.