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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



On January 11, 1945, after completing 31 missions with the 457th Bombardment Group, Bert Sitek departed England for his return to the State’s.  For his service, Bert was awarded the European - African - Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, the Good Conduct medal and the Air Medal with one silver and one bronze oak leaf cluster representing his missions as a gunner.


While Joe Montagna was experiencing his first encounter with enemy action, Adam Montagna departed England on January 13, 1945 aboard the HMS Queen Mary from Gourock, Scotland and arrived in New York, NY on January 19, 1945.    He spent one week in the hospital at USNH, St. Albans, NY.   On January 29, 1945 Adam was transferred to the USNH at Sampson, NY to recover from his injury.  It was at Sampson that Adam began his military career twenty-one months earlier.  


While recovering at Sampson, Adam visited a new Apprentice Seaman, his childhood friend (and future best man) Dan Sitek.  Dan enlisted in the Navy in late 1944 and was undergoing his “boots” at the Sampson Naval Training Station.


Dan Sitek graduated from high school in June of 1944 and was going to turn eighteen on July 2nd.  Like all eighteen-year-olds, Dan was required to sign up for the draft.    During that time, most draftees were designated to the Army and assigned to infantry units for the planned invasion of Europe.  Dan reported to the Navy Recruiting Station and asked to enlist in the Navy.  However the navy recruiter informed Dan that he could not join the navy and would have to enlist in the Army.   Dan had confided his concern regarding the Army and desire to join the navy to a friend, Anthony “Tony” LaFleur, who was a veteran sailor in the Navy.  Anthony LaFleur, the son of Ernest and Anna LaFleur lived at 29 Greenwich Street.  Prior to joining the Navy, Tony was employed as an inspector at the Gilbert and Baker Manufacturing Company. 


Tony LaFleur returned to the navy recruiting station with Dan Sitek and introduced him to the recruiter saying, “This is my cousin Dan”.  After a private conversation between Tony and the recruiter, Dan was sworn in as a Navy recruit.  Dan Sitek completed his “boots” training in February 1945.  Dan would eventually be assigned to ship duty aboard the USS Hazel, a net tender stationed out of Boston, MA.


On February 11, 1945, Edmund Olbrych returned to Saipan in preparation for the next island invasion.  He set sail from Saipan on February 16, 1945.  Three days later he hit the beach in his final battle of the war.

On February 19, 1945, the USS Pringle was assigned to gunfire support for the invasion of Iwo Jima Island. On D-Day the Pringle was providing anti-submarine protection off the assault beaches when the Japanese resistance stiffened and the Marines requested gunfire support. The Pringle moved closer to the island and began sending gunfire.


On the morning of February 19, 1945, Edmond Olbrych and the members of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division were landing under heavy fire on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.  During the initial assault phase, Edmund was wounded in the right foot by fragments of shrapnel.  The shrapnel fractured several bones in his foot.   Although the wound was non-life threatening, it was severe and required Edmund to be evacuated from the island.  He was placed aboard the USS Logan.


The USS Logan received casualties from the beach to be treated by the ship’s medical department while unloading vital combat gear as rapidly as possible to the LSMs and LSTs waiting alongside.  With 200 wounded soldiers in sick bay, the USS Logan departed Iwo Jima on February 28, 1945.  On March 4, Edmund Olbrych disembarked the USS Logan on the island of Guam. On March 10, while recovering at the United States Naval Hospital  #10, Edmund Olbrych was awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds.


Fellow Brightwood Boy, Chet Sadowski was stationed aboard a troop ship off the coast of Iwo Jima.  As he recalled, "[I] spent a month aboard ship taking on wounded.  We would wake at 5:00 am with packs on, ready to go hit the beach [only] to be called off at 10:00 every day we were there."


Edmund Olbrych was eventually transferred to the USNCH located on the campus of Springfield College.  While recovering at Springfield, Edmund met up with Edward Connolly, another kid from Greenwich Street who would become his future brother-in-law.  Edward was recovering from an injury sustained from an accident.  Edward Connolly enlisted in the Navy and was scheduled to serve aboard the USS St. Paul.  However, the injury delayed his deployment.