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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 12 - Part 1


On March 19, 1943, the fourth Montagna brother Serafino Montagna, Jr., known as "Fini", was inducted in the Army at Fort Devens, MA and was involved in maneuvers throughout the United States.  He was originally assigned as an infantryman with the 75th Infantry Division at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri.  Soon after the activation of his unit, Fini was transferred to a medical unit as a Corpsman.  He received medical training in Louisiana under the direction of fellow Springfield native Captain Louis Izenstein, MD.

In the spring of 1943 my father, Adam Montagna, was 17-years-old and residing at 58 Huntington Street in Springfield, MA.  Adam was living with the patriarch of the family, Serafino.  Like many immigrants, Serafino spoke limited English and could not read English.  Adam would use this to his advantage in the late spring of 1943.   After the death of Leonina, Adam left school and drifted through a series of jobs.  In the spring of 1943 he was working for the Perkins Machine, Tool and Gear Company as a hardener helper doing contract work for the U.S. Armory in Springfield, MA.  Not finding much reward in the position, and hoping to find some self-discipline Adam decided to move on to military service.  In late May of 1943, Adam went to his father bearing a slip of paper.  He informed Serafino the paper was necessary for his return to school the next fall.  Serafino signed the paper and handed it to his son.  However, this paper was not a permission slip to return to school, it was the enlistment waiver Adam needed to join the Navy. 

Adam would not be joining the Navy alone.  He persuaded a childhood friend, Carl Hooper to enlist with him. At the time, Carl Hooper was living at 26 Greenwich Street with his parents Edward and Helen Hooper.  Carl’s father was employed as a foreman at Moore Drop Forge.  On June 2, 1943, both Carl and Adam were sworn in as a Seaman Apprentice with the United States Navy. However, their paths would suddenly diverge.  Adam was sent to the Naval Training Station at Sampson, NY.  However, since Carl had completed high school with coursework in drafting, he was tapped for duty with a Seabee Unit.  Carl was sent off to the Navy Combat Training Center at Camp Peary in Williamsburg, VA. 


On June 7, 1943, Adam Montagna boarded a train from Springfield for the trip to Sampson Naval Training Station in Seneca, NY.  The next day, June 8, he began basic training with Company 203.  That warm June day, Adam and the other recruits walked in to the large reception center at the USNTS Sampson.  They quickly began the separation from civilian life and into the world of a seaman recruit.   After being welcomed aboard, they learned the language and traditions of the Navy.  The floor was now called a deck, walls become bulkheads and stairs are ladders.  Standing at attention he received his serial number.  He was now 667xxx.


Boots training at Sampson Naval Training Station, 1943 The physical examinations came next.  After passing through the ear, eye, and teeth examinations,  Adam turned in his civilian clothes and underwent more examinations.  The final examination was with a psychiatrist who asked a series of questions.  After the completion of the psychological questions, Adam was officially a seamen apprentice.  

Adam received his personal gear, including: a pair of undress jumpers, blankets, and a feather pillow.   He also received his dog tag and two pairs of leggings, the basis of the term “boot”, which is what a Seaman Apprentice was called during the indoctrination period.    Adam then boarded a truck to his assigned unit, which would be his home for the next two months.

 Guadalcanal  1943
In July of 1943 Chet Sadowski was sent from Bougainville back to Guadalcanal, the home base of the 3rd Marines.

On July 27, 1943 Adam Montagna discarded his leggings, a sign that he has graduated from apprentice seaman to second-class seaman.  Just prior to completion of basic training, all seamen in Company 203 were asked to count-off by tens.  Adam called out “number ten!”  The instructor pulled him aside and informed Adam that he was “number one”.  As it turned out, all seamen designated “number one” were assigned land duty, while all others were assigned sea duty. 


Adam recalled years later that many of the men assigned sea duty did not survive the war.  He credited his fortune to his “good luck charm”.  When asked about the good luck charm, Adam reached into his wallet and removed a worn piece of paper. Adam’s mother, Leonina died in 1939 when Adam was 13 years old.  Since that day, and up until his death, Adam carried a copy of his mother’s obituary with him.  That small worn piece of paper served as a physical reminder of his guardian angel.

S2C Adam MontagnaOn July 27, 1943, Seaman Second Class (S2C) Adam Montagna returned to Springfield on leave prior to his next duty station. His return was greeted with an icy stare from Edward Hooper.  Mr. Hooper’s anger shielded his jealousy.  After completing three weeks of basic training, his son Carl Hooper was assigned to a Seabees construction battalion.  Carl was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations assigned to the 104th, 61st and 143rd Naval Construction Battalions.  Mr. Hooper would have to wait until the end of the war in the Pacific before he got to see his son again.  On August 13, 1943, Adam reported for training at the Naval Reserve Station in Lido Beach, Long Island, NY where he received additional training


On October 6, 1943, Adam returned once more to Springfield.  The leaves of the trees lining Huntington Street were beginning to turn their brilliant, colorful burst before the long cold winter.  Adam, who was home on leave, sat on the porch of his childhood home taking in the crisp air.  He and his big brother Joe talked of Adam’s enlistment and his future deployment now that basic training was completed.  Joe looked at his young brother and the man he was becoming. Joe’s personal life had been in turmoil, since his divorce three years earlier.  While the brothers talked about the past, present and future, Joe informed Adam that he too would be joining in the service of his country. 


Adam returned to Lido Beach on October 10, 1943.  Later that month, on October 28, Adam was transferred to the Advanced Amphibious Assemble and Training Unit (ABATU) at Lido Beach.  While assigned to the ABATU, Adam received his orders that would send him to the European Theater of Operations.