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26 April 2013

Belgrano: Enemy ship posed threat to forces

"  In the afternoon on May 2, the British Submarine HMS. Conqueror shot two torpedoes of Mark VIII to an Argentinean Cruiser Ship General Belgrano”. In 40 minutes General Belgrano sank. The attack of British submarine occurred at the waters about 36 miles out of “The 200 Mile War Zone” declared by British. This was recorded as a violation against the war limitation declared by the British itself. However, possibly such violation was certainly conducted on purpose, and became a part of British strategy to remove the power of Argentine Navy from Falklands territory. "  (  Lessons Of The Falklands War ).
Fifteen years after the battle in the south Atlantic the order to sink the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano remains the most controversial decision of the Falklands War. In 1982 the 10,650 ton ship was already aged. As the USS Phoenix she had survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour forty years before.
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But with her 15.6 inch long-range guns and Sea Cat anti-aircraft missiles, she was believed to be a threat to
Britain's task force.

Ask Cmdr Jeff Tall to justify the attack and he is adamant it had to be done.

He went to the South Atlantic in 1982 as submarine staff officer to the Task Group Commander. He was on the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes.

I was part of waterspace management, rather like air traffic control. It was my job to be part of the link between the admiral and headquarters in Northwood.

Submarines in the task force included HMS Conqueror, the nuclear-powered sub that torpedoed and sank the Belgrano. Of her 1,000-plus crew, 368 perished, many of them new recruits.
Cmdr Tall, 59, said: `Conditions on Hermes were cold, uncomfortable and packed. The decision had been made that we were not going to risk losing people if we were torpedoed.

 `Therefore we were living high up on the ship, sharing cabins. Sleep became an irrelevance. You found a space someone had vacated and rested where you could.

`The comradeship was wonderful. We knew there would be loss of life but morale was high. We expected things were not going to be easy. We had no airborne early warning and we were in unknown territory.

 `We were there with a Royal Navy equipped to fight the Soviets. We believed in what we were doing. It was the right thing in the face of aggression.'

`The Argentinians have since said Belgrano was a legitimate target, that they would have done the same.

`Imagine it is dark and you have no night vision. You hear the enemy creeping towards you. For some reason he sneaks away. You see nothing. Then he comes back. It is your one chance to catch him. That is why Belgrano was sunk.

`It was war. Of course there was sadness at the number of Argentinian sailors killed. We did not want that. Belgrano was old. She was totally incapable of taking any kind of hit.

`She was not taking even the most simple anti-submarine measures. But she was part of an aggressive act by the Argentinians. She was going about her legitimate war function of trying to hit the task group.'

Steaming homeward after the battle of the south Atlantic was a time of mixed emotions, he said.
`We had demonstrated the capability to operate independently, miles from home and do the job. But we had lost friends and comrades.

`My overwhelming feelings were sadness, pride in the way things went, pride in being British - and of being more than ever in love with my wife.'

Cmdr Tall left the Royal Navy in 1994 after 30 years service. He was awarded the OBE and is now director of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.
Source  :

About General Belgrano, Light Cruiser of the Brooklyn class.

USS Phoenix earned 9 battle stars for the WWII service.
After being decomissioned on 3 July 1946 she remained at Philadelphia until being tranferred to Argentina on 9 April 1951. On 17 October 1951 she was commissioned into the Argentinian Navy as Diecisiete de Octubre (C-4) but renamed General Belgrano in 1956.
On 2 May 1982, during the Falklands War, General Belgrano was operating some 220 miles from the Falkland Islands and steaming toward the mainland at 10 knots, screened by destroyers Hipolto Bouchard (D-26) and Piedra Buena (D-29). At 1600 hours, local time, General Belgrano was torpedoed twice by the British nuclear attack submarine HMS Conqueror (S-48). The cruiser sank in 45 minutes with the loss of 321 men. Keeping station on the far side of General Belgrano from the submarine, Hopolto Bouchard was reportedly struck by a third torpedo from Conqueror, but it did not explode. The destroyers delivered a depth charge attack, but HMS Conqueror escaped undamaged.
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