PFC Angel Montez

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NAME:
Angel Montez
NICKNAME:
SERVICE NUMBER:
337886
HOME OF RECORD:
Eaton, CO
NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Eleanor R. Montez
DATE OF BIRTH:
October 27, 1918
ENLISTED:
December 29, 1941
DATE OF DEATH:
October 9, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal B/1/2 PFC KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Drowning
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private First Class
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
Angel Montez was born to Jesus and Eleanor Montez of Delta, Colorado, on October 27, 1918. The family moved to East Eaton, Colorado while Angel was young; Jesus and Eleanor opened a grocery store in town, and when Angel was not attending class at Eaton High School, he could be found behind the counter working as a clerk. Angel befriended Pantalion “Pat” Zamora while in high school; both young men were doggedly working towards graduation when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
On December 19 1941, Montez and Zamora left Eaton to enlist in the Marine Corps. They passed through boot camp at MCRD San Diego as members of the same recruit battalion, and received orders to report to the 2nd Marines. There, the two friends were separated; Private Zamora went to Item Company in the Third Battalion, while Private Montez went to Baker Company, First Battalion.

Wartime Service:
Montez was promoted to Private First Class on April 4, 1942. That summer, he boarded the USS President Jackson for a two-month sail across the Pacific. After leaving the United States, Montez set foot on land only once before making an awkward and embarrassing mock landing on the island of Koro. There was no time for a second rehearsal; the ships weighed anchor and steamed off for the Solomon Islands.

At dawn on August 7, 1942, PFC Montez made his first combat landing; his company assaulted Florida Island in support of the landings on Guadalcanal just a few miles away. They encountered no live enemy and quickly secured their objective. Later that day 1/2nd Marines re-boarded their landing craft to return to the USS President Jackson, but Company B was diverted and ordered to make a landing on Tanambogo under cover of darkness. Planners hoped that the assault would relieve some of the pressure on the Paramarines fighting on nearby Gavutu, but the Japanese discovered the company’s boats and opened fire. Only a third of the men, mostly from First Platoon, made it to shore; the rest were driven off. The role that Montez’s Second Platoon played is unknown, but they likely never touched dry land on Tanambogo.

Company B rejoined their battalion on now-conquered Tulagi a few days later. For the next two months, they garrisoned the tiny island. There were no Japanese to fight and little else to do; the men occupied themselves by building shelters, constructing fortifications they would never use (at least one company built a double line of barricades from sharpened eight foot logs, simply to stay busy), standing guard duty, and battling boredom. The first cases of malaria and dysentery were reported, and the worst cases evacuated.

Date Of Loss:
On October 9, 1942, Lieutenant Floyd E. Parks called his platoon together for a briefing. They were finally leaving Tulagi and heading for the fighting on Guadalcanal – and would be making a combat landing at the village of Aola, thirty miles from the nearest friendly forces. Most of the Marines welcomed this break in the monotony, and spent the day packing up their few belongings and combat loading their packs.

That evening, Second Platoon climbed into a Higgins boat tethered to a YP craft that would tow them the twenty miles from Tulagi to Aola. Night had fallen by the time they reached the center of Sealark Channel. The plywood Higgins boats groaned and creaked under the strain of their load. Each YP boat towed four Higgins boats lashed together in a chain, which meant the first boat in the chain took the most stress.

Montez and his platoon were unfortunate enough to be in the first boat. When their YP suddenly increased its speed, the plywood hull of the Higgins boat split in half, dumping Second Platoon into the channel. Loaded down as they were for a combat landing, many of the Marines never had a chance to get out of their gear. Fourteen Marines of Second Platoon – including PFC Angel Montez – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Pat Zamora made it through the campaign on Guadalcanal; he was wounded in action on Tarawa and again on Saipan. He survived the war to return to Colorado, where he married and raised a large family before his death in 2009.

Greely Daily Tribune, July 1944.
Greely Daily Tribune, July 1944.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Eleanor Montez

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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