Commissioned in 1937, the light cruiser Montcalm was the second of six ships of the La Galissonniere-class as built in France. The class was well-designed, measuring in at almost 600 feet in length while displacing some 9,120 tons when loaded. By 1937 standards, her 9 x 6" 54.3 caliber main guns (set across three turreted mounts) were considered state-of-the-art. Her geared turbines delivered up to 84,000 shaft horse power from her four boilers allowing the vessel to maintain 31 knots. Forgotten by most, the French Navy was in fact one of the best navies in the world when World War 2 began in 1939. When France fell to the Germans, the Montcalm and her sister ships came under the control of the Nazi-sponsored Vichy French government.
In September of 1940, the Vichy ordered Montcalm - accompanied by her sister ships Marseillaise and Georges Leygues - to Dakar to attack British and Free French forces trying to take over the port. Montcalm and her flotilla helped to repulse the Allies. In February of 1943, the alliance had changed at Dakar and the Vichy French forces now joined the Allies under the Free French banner. Montcalm and her two sister ships joined in on the revolt to now help fight the Germans.
The three cruisers were inspected by the US Navy and were found to be in disrepair. It was decided to send the ships to the United States for refit and upgrades. Therefore, Montcalm and her sister ships steamed into the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After six months in dry dock, the ships had received the latest in radar technology and increased their anti-aircraft gun protection.
Montcalm and Georges Leygues were assigned to the fleet in support of the Free French during the invasion of Europe on June 6th, 1944 (D-Day). Drawing in only 17.5 feet of water, Montcalm mission was able to shell German shore positions at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. It was a hard day for the French sailors as they were being called to fire on their home land. Nevertheless, she continued to support Allied actions until the European Campaign's end in May of 1945.
After the war the French government sent her to IndoChina in 1955 to show the flag and support French troops. Montcalm was formally decommissioned in 1957 in Tunisia and turned into a reserve ship for a French submarine school. Renamed the Q457 in 1969, she was unceremoniously sold for scrapping - a fate that awaited many wartime ships.