ARA General Belgrano
The ARA General Belgrano was an Argentine Navy
Argentine Navy
The Navy of the Argentine Republic or Armada of the Argentine Republic is the navy of Argentina. It is one of the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Argentine Republic, together with the Army and the Air Force....

 light cruiser in service from 1951 until 1982. Formerly the , she saw action in the Pacific theater of World War II
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 before being sold to Argentina. After almost 31 years of service, she was sunk during the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

  by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 submarine with the loss of 323 lives. Losses from the Belgrano totalled just over half of Argentine deaths in the Falklands War.

She is the only ship ever to have been sunk in anger
Fire in anger
"Fire in anger" is a phrase used in military contexts to describe the use of a projectile weapon to deliberately cause damage or harm to an opponent, as opposed to training exercises or warning shots. For example, Napier of Magdala Battery "never fired a shot in anger"; the battery never engaged in...

 by a nuclear-powered submarine and the second sunk in action by any type of submarine since World War II, the first being the Indian frigate INS Khukri by the Pakistani Hangor during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

The vessel was the second to have been named after the Argentine Founding Father Manuel Belgrano
Manuel Belgrano
Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano , usually referred to as Manuel Belgrano, was an Argentine economist, lawyer, politician, and military leader. He took part in the Argentine Wars of Independence and created the Flag of Argentina...

 (1770–1820). The first vessel was a 7,069-ton armoured cruiser completed in 1899.

Early career

The warship was built as , the sixth of the s, in New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation starting in 1935, and launched in March 1938. She survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 in 1941, and was decommissioned from the US Navy (USN) after World War II in July 1946. Phoenix earned nine battle stars for World War II service.

The former USS Phoenix was sold to Argentina in October 1951 with another of her class ' onMouseout='HidePop("46430")' href="/topics/ARA_Nueve_de_Julio">ARA Nueve de Julio
ARA Nueve de Julio
The ARA Nueve de Julio was an Argentine Navy cruiser, purchased from the United States Navy on January 11, 1951. Nueve de Julio was decommissioned in 1978 and sent to Japan to be scrapped.- Early career :...

 (C-5)), for US$7.8 million. (Nueve de Julio was scrapped in 1978). She was renamed 17 de Octubre after the People's Loyalty day
Loyalty Day (Argentina)
The Loyalty Day is a commemoration day in Argentina. It remembers October 17, 1945, when a massive labour demonstration at the Plaza de Mayo demanded the liberation of Juan Perón, who was jailed in Martín García island...

, an important milestone for the political party of the then president Juan Perón. Ironically, she was one of the main units which joined the coup in which Perón was subsequently overthrown in 1955
Revolución Libertadora
The Revolución Libertadora was a military uprising that ended the second presidential term of Juan Perón in Argentina, on September 16, 1955.-History:...

, and the ship was renamed General Belgrano (C-4) after General Manuel Belgrano, who had fought for Argentine independence
Argentine War of Independence
The Argentine War of Independence was fought from 1810 to 1818 by Argentine patriotic forces under Manuel Belgrano, Juan José Castelli and José de San Martín against royalist forces loyal to the Spanish crown...

 from 1811 to 1819 and founded the Escuela de Náutica (School of Navigation) in 1799. The cruiser accidentally rammed her sister Nueve de Julio on exercises in 1956, which resulted in damage to both cruisers. The Belgrano was outfitted with the Sea Cat anti-aircraft missile system
Sea Cat missile
Sea Cat was a British short-range surface to air missile system intended to replace the ubiquitous Bofors 40 mm gun aboard warships of all sizes. It was the world's first operational shipboard point-defence missile system and was designed so that the Bofors guns could be replaced with minimum...

 between 1967 and 1968.

Sinking of ARA Belgrano

After the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands
1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands
On 2 April 1982, Argentine forces mounted amphibious landings of the Falkland Islands . The invasion involved an initial defence force organised by the Falkland Islands' Governor Sir Rex Hunt giving command to Major Mike Norman of the Royal Marines, the landing of Lieutenant-Commander Guillermo...

, the Argentine military junta began to reinforce the islands in late April when it was realised that the British Task Force was heading south. As part of these movements, the Argentine Navy fleet was ordered to take positions around the islands. The General Belgrano had left Ushuaia
Ushuaia may refer to the following:*Ushuaia, a city in Argentina.**Ushuaia Department, an administrative division**Ushuaia River**Ushuaia International Airport**Colegio Nacional de Ushuaia, National School of Ushuaia....

 in Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of a main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina with an area of , and a group of smaller islands including Cape...

 on 26 April 1982, with two destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s, the ARA Piedra Buena (D-29)
USS Collett (DD-730)
USS Collett was a World War II-era Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer in the service of the U.S. Navy, named after Lieutenant Commander John A. Collett , a Naval Aviator and commanding officer of Torpedo Squadron TEN, who was killed during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942...

 and the Bouchard (D-26)
USS Borie (DD-704)
The USS Borie , an , was the 2nd ship of the United States Navy to be named for Adolph E. Borie, Secretary of the Navy under President Ulysses S. Grant.-Construction:...

 (both also ex-USN vessels), as Task Group 79.3.

By 29 April the ships were patrolling the Burdwood Bank, south of the islands. On 30 April the Belgrano was detected by the British nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine . The submarine approached over the following day. Although the group was outside the British-declared Total Exclusion Zone of 370 km (200 nautical miles) radius from the islands, the British decided that it was a threat. After consultation at Cabinet level, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 agreed that Commander Chris Wreford-Brown should attack the Belgrano.

According to the Argentine government, Belgranos position was 55°24′S 61°32′W.

At 15:57 on 2 May, Conqueror fired three 21 inch Mk 8 mod 4 torpedoes (conventional, non-guided, torpedoes), each with an 805-pound (363 kg) Torpex
Torpex is a secondary explosive 50% more powerful than TNT by mass. Torpex is composed of 42% RDX, 40% TNT and 18% powdered aluminium. It was used in the Second World War from late 1942. The name is short for Torpedo Explosive', having been originally developed for use in torpedoes...

 warhead. While the Conqueror was also equipped with the newer Mark 24 Tigerfish
Mark 24 Tigerfish
The Mk 24 Tigerfish torpedo was a heavyweight acoustic homing torpedo used by the Royal Navy for several years. The early Mod0 and Mod1 variants were unreliable and unsuccessful, and were issued to the RN even though they failed Fleet Weapon Acceptance...

 homing torpedo, there were doubts about its reliability. Two of the three torpedoes hit the General Belgrano.

One of the torpedoes struck 10 to 15 m (32.8 to 49.2 ft) aft of the bow, outside the area protected by either the ship's side armour or the internal anti-torpedo bulge
Anti-torpedo bulge
The anti-torpedo bulge is a form of passive defence against naval torpedoes that featured in warship construction in the period between the First and Second World Wars.-Theory and form:...

. This blew off the ship's bow, but the internal bulkheads held and the forward powder magazine for the 40 mm gun did not detonate. None of the ship's company were in that part of the ship at the time of the explosion.

The second torpedo struck about three-quarters of the way along the ship, just outside the rear limit of the side armour plating. The torpedo punched through the side of the ship before exploding in the aft machine room. The explosion tore upward through two messes and a relaxation area called "the Soda Fountain" before finally ripping a 20-metre-long hole in the main deck. Later reports put the number of deaths in the area around the explosion at 275 men. There was no fire after the explosion, but the ship rapidly filled with smoke. The explosion also damaged the Belgrano's electrical power system, preventing her from putting out a radio distress call. Though the forward bulkheads held, water was rushing in through the hole created by the second torpedo and could not be pumped out because of the electrical power failure.

The ship began to list to port and to sink towards the bow. Twenty minutes after the attack, at 16:24, Captain Bonzo ordered the crew to abandon ship. Inflatable life rafts were deployed, and the evacuation began without panic.

The two escort ships were unaware of what was happening to the Belgrano, as they were out of touch with her in the gloom and had not seen the distress rockets or lamp signals. Adding to the confusion, the crew of the ARA Bouchard felt an impact that was possibly the third torpedo striking at the end of its run (an examination of the ship later showed an impact mark consistent with a torpedo). The two ships continued on their course westward and began dropping depth charges. By the time the ships realized that something had happened to the Belgrano, it was already dark and the weather had worsened, scattering the life rafts.

Argentine and Chilean ships rescued 770 men in all from 3 May to 5 May. In total, 323 were killed in the attack: 321 members of the crew and 2 civilians who were on board at the time.

Controversy over the sinking

There was some controversy surrounding the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano. The sinking also became a cause célèbre for anti-war campaigners (such as Labour MP Tam Dalyell
Tam Dalyell
Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch, 11th Baronet , known as Tam Dalyell, is a British Labour Party politician, who was a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005, first for West Lothian and then for Linlithgow.-Early life:...

). Part of the reason for the controversy was that early reports claimed or suggested that approximately 1,000 Argentine sailors had been killed in the sinking.

In later years, some sources asserted that the information on the position of the ARA General Belgrano came from a Soviet spy satellite that had been tapped by the Norwegian intelligence service station at Fauske, Norway and then handed over to the British; Conqueror had been shadowing the Belgrano for some days, so this extra information would have been unnecessary.

The sinking occurred 14 hours after President of Peru Fernando Belaúnde
Fernando Belaúnde Terry
Fernando Belaúnde Terry was President of Peru for two non-consecutive terms . Deposed by a military coup in 1968, he was re-elected in 1980 after eleven years of military rule...

 proposed a comprehensive peace plan and called for regional unity, although Thatcher and diplomats in London did not see this document until after the sinking of the Belgrano. Diplomatic efforts to that point had failed completely. After the sinking Argentina rejected the plan but the UK indicated its acceptance on 5 May. The news was subsequently dominated by military action and it is not well known that the British continued to offer ceasefire terms until 1 June.

Legal situation

The Belgrano was sunk outside the 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) total exclusion zone around the Falklands. Exclusion zones are historically declared for the benefit of neutral vessels; during war, under international law, the heading and location of a belligerent naval vessel has no bearing on its status. In addition, the captain of the Belgrano, Héctor Bonzo, has testified that the attack was legitimate (as did the Argentine government in 1994).

Though the ship was outside the 200-mile (370 km) exclusion zone, both sides understood that this was no longer the limit of British action—on 23 April a message was passed via the Swiss Embassy in Buenos Aires to the Argentine government, it read:
Interviews conducted by Martin Middlebrook
Martin Middlebrook
Martin Middlebrook is a British military historian and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He was appointed as a Knight of the Order of the Belgian Crown in 2004.-Education and military service:...

 for his book, The Fight For The Malvinas, indicated that Argentine Naval officers understood the intent of the message was to indicate that any ships operating near the exclusion zone could be attacked. Argentine Rear Admiral Allara, who was in charge of the task force that the Belgrano was part of, said "After that message of 23 April, the entire South Atlantic was an operational theatre for both sides. We, as professionals, said it was just too bad that we lost the Belgrano".

The modified rules of engagement permitted the engagement of Belgrano outside the exclusion zone before the sinking.

Key decisions

According to the British historian Sir Lawrence Freedman
Lawrence Freedman
Sir Lawrence David Freedman, KCMG, CBE, PC, FBA, FKC is Professor of War Studies at King's College London, and was a foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair...

, in a book written in 2005, neither Thatcher nor the Cabinet was aware of the Belgrano's change of course before the cruiser was attacked, as information from HMS Conqueror was not passed on to the Ministry of Defence or Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward
Sandy Woodward
Admiral Sir John Forster "Sandy" Woodward GBE, KCB is a British Admiral who commanded the British Naval Force in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.-Naval career:...

 (commander of the RN task force). In his book, One Hundred Days, Admiral Woodward makes it clear that he regarded the Belgrano as part of the southern part of a pincer movement aimed at the task force, and had to be sunk quickly. He wrote:

Later political controversy

Some details of the action were later leaked to a British Member of Parliament, Tam Dalyell
Tam Dalyell
Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch, 11th Baronet , known as Tam Dalyell, is a British Labour Party politician, who was a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005, first for West Lothian and then for Linlithgow.-Early life:...

, by the senior civil servant Clive Ponting
Clive Ponting
Clive Ponting is a British writer, former academic and former senior civil servant. He is the author of a number of revisionist books on British and world history...

, resulting in the unsuccessful prosecution of the latter under the Official Secrets Act 1911
Official Secrets Act 1911
The Official Secrets Act 1911 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It replaces the Official Secrets Act 1889....


In May 1983, Thatcher appeared on Nationwide
Nationwide (TV series)
Nationwide was a BBC News and Current affairs television programme broadcast on BBC One each weekday following the early evening news. It followed a magazine format, combining political analysis and discussion with consumer affairs, light entertainment and sports reporting...

, a live television show on BBC One, where Diana Gould questioned her about the sinking, claiming that the ship was already west of the Falklands and heading towards the Argentinian mainland to the west. Gould also claimed that the Peruvian peace proposal must have reached London in the 14 hours between its publication and the sinking of the Belgrano, and the escalation of the war could have thus been prevented. In the following, emotional exchange, Thatcher answered that the vessel was a threat to British ships and lives and denied that the peace proposal had reached her. After the show, Thatcher's husband Denis lashed out at the producer of the show in the entertainment suite, saying that his wife had been "stitched up by bloody BBC poofs and Trots
Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky considered himself an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party of the working-class...

." Thatcher herself commented during the interview "I think it could only be in Britain that a prime minister was accused of sinking an enemy ship that was a danger to our navy, when my main motive was to protect the boys in our navy."

Admiral Enrique Molina Pico, head of the Argentine Navy in the 1990s, wrote in a letter to La Nación, published in the 2 May 2005 edition, that the Belgrano was part of an operation that posed a real threat to the British task force, that it was holding off for tactical reasons, and that being outside of the exclusion zone was unimportant as it was a warship on tactical mission. This is the official position of the Argentine Navy.


The Suns headline "Gotcha" is probably the most notable (and notorious) headline in a British newspaper about the incident. Kelvin MacKenzie
Kelvin MacKenzie
Kelvin Calder MacKenzie is an English media executive and former newspaper editor. He is best known for being editor of The Sun newspaper between 1981 and 1994, an era in which the paper was established as Britain's best selling newspaper.- Biography :MacKenzie was educated at Alleyn's School...

, editor of the popular tabloid, is reported to have used an impromptu exclamation by The Suns Features Editor, Wendy Henry
Wendy Henry
-Early life:Wendy moved with her twin sister Sara from her mother's house in St Annes on Sea to Manchester in the late 1960s to live with their father, a Jewish market trader. By the age of eighteen, she had a child....

, as the inspiration for the headline. After early editions went to press further reports suggested a major loss of life and Mackenzie toned down the headline in later editions to read "Did 1,200 Argies drown?" Despite its notoriety, few readers in the UK saw the headline at first hand as it was only used on copies of the first northern editions; southern editions and later editions in the north carried the toned-down headline.


The area where the Belgrano sank is classified as a War Grave under Argentine Congress Law 25.546. In 1994, the Argentine government conceded that the sinking of the Belgrano was "a legal act of war". In 1999, Sir Michael Boyce
Michael Boyce, Baron Boyce
Admiral Michael Cecil Boyce, Baron Boyce, KG, GCB, OBE, DL , is a cross bench member of the British House of Lords. Lord Boyce is a former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy and Chief of the Defence Staff. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa.-Naval career:Educated at Hurstpierpoint College, Boyce...

, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, visited the Puerto Belgrano
Puerto Belgrano
Base Naval Puerto Belgrano is the largest naval base of the Argentine Navy, situated next to Punta Alta, near Bahía Blanca, about south of Buenos Aires...

 naval base and paid tribute to those who died. In 2003 a search team aboard the Seacor Lenga, crewed by Argentine and British veterans, was sponsored by National Geographic to find the sunken cruiser but failed to locate the ship. Belgrano's captain, Héctor Bonzo, died on 22 April 2009, aged 76. He had spent his last years working for an association called Amigos del Crucero General Belgrano (Friends of the Cruiser General Belgrano) whose purpose was to help those affected by the sinking. Captain Bonzo also wrote his memories about the sinking in the book 1093 Tripulantes del Crucero ARA General Belgrano, published in 1991.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.