Montgomery earned his pilot's wings at Pensacola, Florida, in 1922 and was closely identified thereafter with naval aviation. In the late 1920s, he was the air officer of the aircraft carrier Langley, the U.S. Navy's first carrier. A full commander by 1930, he commanded the Seattle Naval Air Station until 1932. He was executive officer of the carrier Ranger in the Pacific from 1934 to 1936 and her captain in the Atlantic from 1940 to 1941. Montgomery remained on board as chief of staff and aide to the commander, aircraft, Atlantic Fleet in 1941 and 1942. In June 1942, as a rear admiral, he took command of the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas.
From August 1943, Montgomery commanded Carrier Division 12, and later Carrier Division 3 in the Pacific Theater. He was almost continually engaged in operations until December 1944, commanding task groups that were usually composed of four fast carriers with escorting vessels. He participated in nearly all of the major Pacific engagements of that period, including the major fleet actions in the Battles of the Philippine Sea (June 1944) and Leyte Gulf (October 1944). He gained a reputation as an aggressive, forceful leader.
Rotated back to the United States, Montgomery commanded the air component of the West Coast Fleet (1945) and, as a vice admiral, the Pacific Fleet Air Forces (1945–1946), rising by 1947 to command of the Fifth Fleet and then the First Task Fleet. Reverting to rear admiral, he held commands in Alaska and Bermuda before retiring in June 1951 in the grade of vice admiral, leaving his final assignment as commander of fleet air at Jacksonville, Florida. Montgomery spent his last years in Seattle, Washington, and died at Bremerton, Washington, on 15 December 1961.
Richard G. Stone
Reynolds, Clark G. The Fast Carriers: The Forging of an Air Navy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.; Reynolds, Clark G. Famous American Admirals. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002. (Reprint of 1978 edition).