Henry Dixon Sturr Jr., 67, Navy lieutenant commander

July 09, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Henry Dixon Sturr Jr., a retired Navy lieutenant commander who led a clandestine mission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the Bay of Pigs invasion, died Monday of a rare form of dementia at Madonna Heritage Assisted Living in Jarrettsville. The Kingsville resident was 67.

He was born in Baltimore, the son of a Navy captain, and was living at Pearl Harbor with his parents the morning of the Japanese attack there in 1941. Although he was not quite 5 years old, he recalled the event clearly.

Mr. Sturr was a 1958 graduate of the Naval Academy and earned a master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. He also studied ocean engineering at the University of Rhode Island.

While serving aboard the USS Thuban off Cuba in 1961, he was the boat group commander in charge of several small landing craft that rescued Marines at Guantanamo Bay during the CIA's failed covert action.

"He had to remove his dog tags and regular uniform to be nonsuspect. He blackened his face to escape detection," said his wife of 42 years, the former Mig Garrity. "He was never given any recognition for what he did. It was a secret operation."

In 1971, he was named commanding office of the USNS Bowditch, a Navy oceanographic survey ship that charted ocean currents in the North Atlantic. He then taught at the Naval War College's Command and Staff School in Newport, R.I., and, before retiring in 1978 as a lieutenant commander, worked in underwater acoustics and ocean currents at the Fleet Numerical Weather Center in Monterey.

He later worked for Martin-Marietta Corp. in Middle River and Mitre Corp. in Reston, Va.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. John's Episcopal Church in Kingsville, where he was a former vestry member.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three daughters, Dixanne Sturr of Bel Air, Dara Lynn Van Pee of Forest Hill and Sharon Lund of Williamsburg, Va.; two sisters, Bette Nelson of Martinez, Calif., and Mary Stuart of Orinda, Calif.; and five grandchildren.

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