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ARA General Belgrano

The General Belgrano, named after General Manuel Belgrano[?], was a Argentinian naval (Armada Republica Argentina, ARA) warship sunk on May 2, 1982 during the Falklands War.

She started life as the sixth Brooklyn-class[?] light cruiser USS Phoenix (CL-46), built in New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation[?] from 1935, and launched in March 1938. She was decommissioned 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 Octobre, but following the overthrown of Perón in 1955, in 1956 the vessel was named the General Belgrano (C-4) after General Manuel Belgrano[?], who was one of the men who had won independence for Argentina in 1816.

During the Falklands War much of the Argentine navy had avoided any conflict. The General Belgrano had left Ushuaia[?] on April 26 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 the group was decided a threat. After consultation at cabinet level, Margaret Thatcher agreed that Commander Chris Wreford-Brown[?] should attack the group. The submarine attacked at around 16.00 hrs on May 2, firing three conventional "straight running" Mk 8 mod 4 torpedoes (each with a 800lb warhead), two of which hit the General Belgrano removing the bow of the ship. The cruiser was abandoned at 16.24 hrs and 323 Argentine crew were lost. The other two ARA destroyers dispersed fearing they too would be attacked as they were no match for a nuclear submarine, one to the north west and the other in a southerly direction.. The survivors of the cruiser suffered terible conditions over the next 40 or so hours and were 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

  • Displacement: 9,575 tons (empty) 12,242 (full load)
  • Length: 608.3 ft (185 m)
  • Beam: 61.8 ft (18.9 m)
  • Draft: 19.5 ft (5.9 m)
  • Speed: 32.5 knots
  • Complement: 1,138 officers and men
  • Armament: 15 6-inch (152 mm) guns, 8 5-inch (127 mm) guns, 40 mm and 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, British Sea Cat missile system (added 1968)

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