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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



Ralph BrennanRalph Brennan, whose mother Anna Brennan was living at 36 Cumberland Street, was a 1939 graduate and all Western Massachusetts Basketball star from Technical High School. He enlisted in the Navy in 1940 with plans to make the radio branch of the service his life work.  He studied and passed three of the examinations before he was given the chance to attend radio school.  At the outbreak of the War, Ralph Brennan was a Radioman, Third Class serving aboard the submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-9). 


USS CanopusOn December 7, 1941, the Canopus, was anchored at the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines, as tender to Submarine Squadron 20.  With the Army falling back on Manila, the Canopus sailed to Mariveles Bay at the tip of Bataan on Christmas Day 1941.


On December 29, 1941 and January 1, 1942, the Canopus received direct bomb hits which resulted in substantial damage to the ship and the loss of six crewmen.  The crew of the Canopus maintained it mission of servicing other ships, while playing a game of deception against the Japanese forces.  The crew of the Canopus  set smoke pots around the ship to present to appearance of an abandoned hulk.   

In late December of 1941, the USS Canopus serviced her last submarine, but she continued to service other small ships.   The Canopus' launches were converted to makeshift gunboats designed to disrupt Japanese supply ships.   Ralph Brennan and the remaining men of the Canopus initially took up arms on the island of Bataan.


Fires at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands, resulting from the 10 Dec 194The defenders of Bataan fought on for three months, calling themselves the Battling Bastards of Bataan, "no mamma, no papa, no uncle Sam and nobody gives a damn".  On April 9, 1942, Allied forces on Bataan surrendered.  The end of the USS Canopus came on April 10, 1942 when she was scuttled to prevent her use by the Japanese forces.


With the fall of Bataan, Ralph Brennan and the remaining crewmen of the Canopus moved to the island of Corregidor, where they lived in caves. They owned only what they wore, and were sick, starving, and fighting for their lives.