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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

CHAPTER 8 - Part 1


After a brief layover in Wallingford, New Zealand, Nino Montagna boarded the USS Barnett on July 15, 1942 and sailed from there on July 22, 1942.  The members of the First Marine Division would remain on the USS Barnett for the next eleven days.  Finally, on August 7, 1942, Nino disembarked at a little known island in the Pacific called Guadalcanal.  Nino landed in the Tulagi area and participated in operations with the 1st Marine Division.

Marines land on GuadalcanalThe Tulagi-Guadalcanal operation was launched at a critical time in the summer of 1942.  Repulsed in the Coral Sea and again at Midway, the Japanese forces seemed prepared for a third attempt to sever sea communications between Australia and the United States mainland.  This effort appeared to be a step by step progression down the Solomon Islands to destroy Allied bases.  The United States military decision was to sever the Japanese plan by going on the offensive in the Solomon Islands.


Under the cover of clouds, which masked the task forces approach from the Japanese, the Marines landed on the islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi.  The landing caught the Japanese forces by surprise and after some stiff resistance Tulagi was secured on August 8, 1942.  The same day, the Marines secured the unfinished airstrip on Guadalcanal.  Nino Montagna and the Marine 1st Engineer Battalion took on the majority of the work at the partially completed Japanese airstrip, which was renamed Henderson Field.


However, the ease with which the Marines secured the airstrip was short lived.  In the early morning hours of August 9, 1942, the skyline off the coast of Guadalcanal was illuminated with the lights from naval guns as the Japanese and Allied navy's engaged in battle off of Savo Island.  Participating in the action was Roland Dupre, the sailor from Main Street, who was serving aboard the USS Quincy (CA-39).


The Battle of Savo Island took place between the Allied naval force screening US Marine landings at the start of the Guadalcanal campaign, and seven Japanese cruisers commanded by Vice-Admiral Mikawa Gunichi. Immediately the Japanese were alerted to the landings, which started on August 7, 1942.  Vice-Admiral Mikawa was dispatched and before dawn on August 9, 1942. Mikawa surprised the Allied ships off Savo Island.

The following account of the battle was provided by PO1 Daniel Galvin who was serving as a Fire Controlman aboard the USS Quincy:


USS Quincy (CA-39)"The USS Quincy had the honor to fire the first offensive shots at the Japanese military [on Guadalcanal] on August 7, 1942. We were under air attack by high level bombers, dive bombers, and torpedo planes during the first 2 days of the operation. In the early hours of the 3rd day we suffered a terrible onslaught by 7 Jap cruisers which attacked with torpedoes and gun fire at very close range. Sometime after midnight, as August 8th turned into August 9th, the Quincy and two other cruisers, the USS Vincennes and the USS Astoria, were sailing off Savo Island. I was at my battle station in Sky Forward, atop the ship, when I saw something in the darkness - I realized they were Japanese warships just as the sky exploded. Their first salvos were star shells, used to illuminate the target. 

The eerie beauty of the star shells gave way to deafening shelling. Everything around me exploded, the bridge blew up and I knew the Captain was dead. I slid down the ladder from Sky Forward just as the torpedoes slammed into the hull. I felt something hit me in the chest but it was pitch black so I didn't know what it was but I grabbed hold of it anyway. It was a life preserver that somebody was handing out and I got one by chance. Within minutes, the ship was listing 45 degrees and then she rolled over. I was running down the hull on the starboard side and I could hear my feet ping on the metal, I think I was probably the last guy off.   The Quincy sank in less than 10 minutes."


The Japanese ships sank the USS Quincy, USS Astoria and the USS Vincennes. Fearing the air attacks that daylight might bring, the Japanese forces withdrew without attacking the U.S. landing and supply transports lying helpless in Lunga Bay.

During the Battle of Savo Island, 1,270 Allied seamen lost their lives and 709 were wounded.  FM3C Roland Dupre was among those missing in action and presumed killed in the Battle of Salvo Island.  The September 26, 1942 issue of the Springfield Union reported:


 "Roland Dupre, the son of Joseph and Josephine Dupre of 2991 Main Street was reported missing in action".


The Battle of Savo Island resulted in the U.S. Navy's task force withdrawing and taking with it most of the supplies and ammunition which were to support the landing forces on Guadalcanal.  Thus began the long Battle of Guadalcanal.  The Marines were John Montagnaplaced on two meals a day and were subjected to day and night bombardment from Japanese aircraft. 


Ten days after Nino went ashore at Guadalcanal, on August 17, 1942, twenty-two-year-old John (Monty) Montagna enlisted with the Army Air Forces.  He would report for duty at Camp Briggs, Texas on August 31, 1942.  John attended technical school for training as an airplane mechanic.  John was certified on both B-24 and B-29 bombers and served throughout the southeastern United States attaining the rank of Sergeant.