USS Phoenix (CL-46), a Brooklyn-class light
cruiser, was the third Phoenix of the United States Navy. After
World War II the ship was transferred to Argentina in 1951 and was
ultimately renamed the General Belgrano. General Belgrano was sunk
during the Falklands War in 1982 by the British nuclear-powered
submarine HMS Conqueror. She was the first (and so far only) ship to
have been sunk in combat by a nuclear-powered submarine during
She was laid down on 15 April 1935 by the New York Shipbuilding
Corporation, Camden, New Jersey; launched on 13 March 1938;
sponsored by Mrs. Dorothea Kays Moonan; and commissioned at
Philadelphia Navy Yard on 3 October 1938, Captain John W. Rankin in
command. Her name was in honor of the capital city of the state of
World War II
Phoenix then operated off the West Coast and was later based at
Pearl Harbor where the fateful morning of 7 December 1941 found her
anchored southeast of Ford Island near Solace. Observers on board
Phoenix sighted the rising sun of Japan on strange planes coming in
low over Ford Island and a few seconds later the ship's guns took
them under fire. Phoenix escaped the disaster unharmed and shortly
after noon was underway to join St. Louis, Detroit and several
destroyers in an impromptu task force searching, unsuccessfully, for
the enemy aircraft carriers.
Phoenix next escorted the first convoy to the United States from
Pearl Harbor after the attack and returned at once with another
convoy. After a month of convoy duty between the United States and
Hawaii, she departed San Francisco with a force bound for Melbourne,
Australia. For some time the cruiser operated in Australian waters
escorting troop ships, once steaming as far north as Java. While
Phoenix was steaming toward Ceylon in February 1942 with a convoy
which included Langley and HMS Seawitch, these ships were ordered to
leave the convoy and proceed at top speed to Java with precious
airplanes needed to stem the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands
East Indies. Langley was attacked and sunk by Japanese planes on 27
February, and Seawitch escaped the same fate only by being too slow
to keep up with the carrier. During the following months, Phoenix
patrolled in the Indian Ocean, escorted a convoy to Bombay, and was
present at the evacuation of Java.
Phoenix passing West Virginia and Arizona at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Under the command of Captain Joseph R. Redman, Phoenix was a part of
Task Force 44 in late 1942. With her accompanying destroyers USS
Helm (DD-388), USS Mugford (DD-389) and USS Patterson (DD-392), she
participated in Operation Lilliput, alternating with the Australian
light cruiser HMAS Hobart and her accompanying destroyers to cover
the convoys south of New Guinea.
Phoenix departed Brisbane, Queensland, Australia for overhaul in the
Philadelphia Navy Yard in July 1943 before carrying Secretary of
State Cordell Hull to Casablanca. She was then assigned to the 7th
Fleet and sailed for the South Pacific.
On 26 December, in company with Nashville, she bombarded the Cape
Gloucester area of New Britain, smashing shore installations in a
four-hour shelling. Phoenix covered landing forces as they went
ashore and furnished support fire against enemy strong points which
had not been demolished. On the night of 2526 January 1944, the
ship took part in a night raid on Madang and Alexishafen, New
Guinea, shelling shore installations.
Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid (left center) with General Douglas
MacArthur (center) on the flag bridge of USS Phoenix during the
pre-invasion bombardment of Los Negros Island.
Phoenix then moved to the Admiralty Islands to support the 1st
Cavalry Division in a reconnaissance-in-force on Los Negros Island
on 29 February. When the troops went ashore after the prelanding
bombardment, enemy resistance was so weak that a withdrawal was not
necessary and the island was occupied. General Douglas MacArthur was
on board during the course of the operations.
On 4 March and 7 March, Phoenix, Nashville, and HMAS Shropshire
bombarded Hauwei Island of the Admiralty Group. Enemy guns on this
island had threatened Allied positions in the Admiralties,
particularly on Manus Island; and, although return fire from the
beach was heavy, enemy batteries ceased firing when shells from the
cruisers burst in their vicinity.
Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura), New Guinea, was next to
fall to the mounting amphibious offensive. This largest assault till
then undertaken by American forces, was launched by 200 ships.
Phoenix shelled the shore in the Humboldt Bay-Hollandia area as the
troops went ashore on 22 April, and supported them as they
consolidated their gains and prepared for further attacks along the
northwest coast of the big island. Phoenix shelled airfields and
plane dispersal areas at Wakde and Sawar on the night of 2930 April
to neutralize the danger of air attack on newly-won Allied positions
on New Guinea.
General Douglas MacArthur's troops next landed at Arare on 17 May to
secure airfields to support further operations in the Netherlands
New Guinea area. This beachhead was later extended to include Wakde
Island by a shore to shore movement of troops. Phoenix bombarded the
Toem area and escorted the troops to the landing beach.
An amphibious assault on Biak Island, Geelvink Bay, followed. There,
MacArthur planned to establish a forward base for heavy bombers.
With Nashville and Boise, Phoenix sortied from Humboldt Bay on 25
May and two days later supported the landing. Resistance was
stubborn. While the task force fired on shore installations, two of
the escorting destroyers were hit by shells from shore batteries.
Phoenix wiped out the gun emplacement with two salvos from her 5 in
(130 mm)/25 cal batteries.
On 4 June, off the northwest coast of New Guinea, eight Japanese
fighter bombers attacked Phoenix's task force. Two confined their
attention to Phoenix. Although the ship's gunfire did not hit the
planes, it diverted their bomb runs. Both planes dropped bombs, one
of which burst in the water close to Phoenix, killing one man and
wounding four others with fragments. The ship also suffered some
underwater leakage and damage to her propellers. The following
night, aircraft again attacked Phoenix. This time, low-flying
torpedo bombers struck as she proceeded through Japan Strait,
between Biak Island and New Guinea, but her gunfire and evasive
tactics prevented damage.
Phoenix and her task force frustrated an enemy attempt to reinforce
their garrisons on the night of 89 June. When they contacted the
American ships, the Japanese destroyers turned and fled at such high
speed that only one US destroyer division was able to get within
firing range. After a running fight of three hours at long range,
Phoenix and her sisters broke off action.
With Boise and ten destroyers, Phoenix sortied from Seeadler Harbor
in the Admiralties and bombarded shore defenses before American
forces landed on Noemfoor Island on 2 July. After the battle, many
dead Japanese and wrecked planes were found in the target area
assigned to Phoenix.
Boise, Nashville, Shropshire, Phoenix and HMAS Australia joined for
the occupation of Morotai in the Molucca Islands on 15 September.
The cruisers shelled nearby Halmahera Island to cover the landing
and protect the assault forces as they went ashore against
continuing light opposition.
The long-awaited re-conquest of the Philippines began with the
landing on Leyte. Phoenix, attached to the Close Covering Group,
heavily bombarded the beaches before the highly successful landing
on 20 October. Her batteries silenced an enemy strong point holding
up the advance of a battalion of the 19th Infantry Regiment and
continued to furnish effective callfire.
In the battle of Leyte Gulf, Phoenix was a unit of Rear Admiral
Jesse Oldendorf's group which annihilated the Japanese Southern
Force in the battle of Surigao Strait. Phoenix fired four spotting
salvoes, and when the fourth hit, opened up with all of her 6"
(152mm) batteries. The target later proved to be Yamashiro, which
sank after 27 minutes of concentrated fire from the American fleet.
The Japanese also lost Fusō and three destroyers in the battle, and
American planes sank Mogami the next day.
Phoenix then patrolled the mouth of Leyte Gulf to protect Allied
positions on shore. On the morning of 1 November 1944, ten enemy
torpedo-bombers attacked her and accompanying ships. At 0945,
Phoenix opened fire and five minutes later, Claxton was hit by a
kamikaze. Almost at the same instant, hits from Phoenix's 5 in (130
mm) guns set another plane afire but could not prevent it from
diving into the starboard bow of Ammen. At 0957, a plane making a
torpedo run on Phoenix was shot down by the ship's machine-gun fire,
but in a few minutes a bomber hit Killen.
After a lull of two and a half hours, more kamikazes arrived and, at
1340, scored a hit on Abner Read. Japanese aircraft attacked the
other destroyers as they stood by the sinking ship, but Phoenix shot
down one of the raiders.
Phoenix was attacked again by enemy planes on 5 December and was
credited with assisting in the destruction of two attackers. Five
days later, a kamikaze attempted to crash into the ship but was
brought down by 40mm fire when only 100 yd (100 m) away.
USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) Commanding Officer and fellow officers pay
homage to a memorial dedicated to the Argentinean ship ARA General
Belgrano during a 25th anniversary remembrance service
While proceeding to the assault area off Mindoro on 13 December, the
ship was constantly under air attack by single kamikazes. That day,
a lone kamikaze hit Nashville. On 15 December, a 5" (127mm)shell
from Phoenix brought down a circling plane at 8,500 yd (7.8 km). The
ship then furnished her usual fire support and covered the landing
forces. This gave the Allies a base from which to strike at Japan's
shipping lanes through the South China Sea and to soften up Luzon
for forthcoming landings.
En route to Lingayen Gulf for the invasion of Luzon, lookouts on
board Phoenix sighted the conning tower of a diving submarine in the
Mindanao Sea off Siquijor. The submarine submerged and fired two
torpedoes which Phoenix dodged. Taylor blew the midget sub to the
surface and rammed her.
Next came Bataan and Corregidor, taken from 1328 February 1945.
Phoenix covered minesweeping operations at Balikpapan, Borneo, from
29 June to 7 July. Resistance from coastal guns was unusually heavy.
Mines and shellfire sank or damaged 11 minesweepers. Phoenix
furnished supporting fire and the assault waves landed.
Phoenix was en route to Pearl Harbor for overhaul when Japan
capitulated. She headed home and, upon reaching the Panama Canal on
6 September, joined the Atlantic Fleet. Her status was reduced to in
commission, in reserve, at Philadelphia on 28 February 1946.
She was decommissioned on 3 July 1946, and remained at Philadelphia
until sold to Argentina on 9 April 1951. She was commissioned in the
Argentine Navy as Diecisiete de Octubre (C-4) on 17 October 1951,
renamed ARA General Belgrano in 1956, and sunk during the Falklands
War on 2 May 1982 by the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror.