By Jeff Veesenmeyer
Image above is of the HMS Spartan lost 46 dead and 42 wounded
During the naval battle of Anzio, the British cruiser HMS Spartan was hit amidships by a guided missile. This new German weapon had made its debut during the Salerno campaign. It was now being used more extensively. It had fins so it was designed to glide rather than drop and was radio- controlled from the launching aircraft. Fritz, as the missile was named, had an armor piercing warhead with 320 kilograms of explosive. The resulting blast caused massive flooding in the Spartan’s boiler room spaces. She listed and quickly sank.
The Luftwaffe had coordinated 18 missile attack planes on Anzio Harbor at sunset 29 March 1944. Another ship was hit setting off its cargo of fuel and ammunition. The fire and explosions lit up the harbor throughout the night.
There were LCIs nearby supporting the landings and re-supply of troops. One of the LCIs came to the aid of Spartan crewmembers in the water. Boatswain Mate 2/c Harold Marquardt would be decorated for his action in saving lives of British sailors. His story appeared in Gator newsletter.
The Amphibious Training Base at Little Creek, Virginia published a weekly newsletter during the war. It was called GATOR. In the issue published on 17 March 1945 nine officers and enlisted men were honored. Marquardt’s story was one of them. He was attached to Unit 222, Division 3 and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for saving British sailors who were in immediate danger of drowning.
Excerpt from Gator issue 17 March 1945
“Marquardt was aboard an LCI that was in the fleet of landing craft off the Anzio- Nettuno beach when the British cruiser was hit by a Nazi glider bomb and immediately began to sink. The whole area was covered with a thick smoke blanket and the men in the water couldn’t find their rescuers or could the rescuers find them. When the LCI had pulled as close alongside as possible, Marquardt and another Boatswain’s Mate launched a rubber boat and paddled through the dense clouds of smoke and oily wreckage under the side of the capsizing ship and brought back four men. They then went back, amid exploding ammunition and falling bombs and guided a raft full of survivors back to the LCI.”