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ARA General Belgrano

The General Belgrano was an Argentine naval (Armada Republica Argentina, ARA) warship sunk with significant losses during the Falklands War.

General History

She was built as USS Phoenix (CL-46), the sixth of the Brooklyn-class light cruisers, in New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation starting in 1935, and launched in March 1938. She was decommissioned from the US Navy (USN) in July 1946, and sold with another of her class to Argentina in October 1951, for $7.8 million. She was renamed the 17 de Octubre, but following the 1955 overthrow of Presidente Juan Perón, in 1956 the vessel was named the General Belgrano (C-4) after General Manuel Belgrano, who had fought for Argentine independence in 1816.

Falklands War

In the early phase of the 1982 Falklands War, much of the Argentine navy had avoided any conflict. The General Belgrano had left Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego on April 26, 1982 with two destroyers, the Piedra Buena (D-29) and the Bouchard (D-26, both also ex-USN vessels), as Task Group 79.3. On the 29th they were patrolling the Burdwood Bank, south of the islands. On the 30th she was detected by the British nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine HMS Conqueror. The submarine approached over the following day. Although outside the British-declared total exclusion zone of 320 km radius from the islands, the group was decided to be a threat. After consultation at cabinet level, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed that Commander Chris Wreford-Brown should attack the group. At around 1600 hrs on May 2, Conqueror fired three conventional "straight running" Mk 8 mod 4 torpedoes (each with a 800lb warhead), two of which hit the General Belgrano, severing her bow. The cruiser was abandoned at 1624 hrs, May 2, 1982, with the loss of 323 Argentine crew. The other two ARA destroyers, lacking anti-nuclear-submarine defenses, dispersed lest they also be attacked, one to the northwest and the other in a southerly direction. The survivors of the cruiser suffered greatly over the next 40 or so hours, before being picked up by ARA vessels and a Chilean ship from May 3 to May 5, 770 men in all being recovered.

The General Belgrano was the first ship ever sunk by a nuclear-powered submarine in wartime.

General Characteristics