USS Phoenix CL-46 was built in Camden, New Jersey. A light cruiser, it was a Brooklyn-class vessel that weighed 9,575 tons. Commissioned in October 1938 to cruise the Atlantic Coast of South America, the naval vessel was deployed to the Pacific in 1939.
Action in World War II
When the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941, the USS Phoenix CL-46 was anchored in Pearl Harbor. After the attack, she was among the naval vessels sent to search for enemy task forces. The ship then spent the first month of the war sailing between Hawaii and the west coast, performing convoy duty. Based in Australia from 1942 through 1943, USS Phoenix covered an Allied retreat through the East Indies, protected shipping in the Indian Ocean and in the South Pacific, and operated near New Guinea with a fleet of United States and Australian warships.
In December 1943, after an overhaul in the United States, the naval vessel was redeployed to the South Pacific. Combat duties involved the participation in landings at Cape Gloucester on New Britain. USS Phoenix CL-46 served with the Seventh Fleet for the remainder of World War II, participating in seizures, convoys, invasion task forces, and bombardments.
On June 8 and 9, 1944, USS Phoenix assisted with the pursuit of Japanese destroyers when they attempted to deliver reinforcements to the Island of Biak. In October 1944, USS Phoenix CL-46 defeated a counter attack by the Japanese Navy during the Battle of Surigao Strait. Deployed to the Philippines in December 1944, USS Phoenix CL-46 fought off suicide planes, shelled enemy targets, and provided support against enemy attacks. The cruiser also served in the Lingayen Gulf in January 1945. In February 1945, she served in Manila Bay and the Southern Islands, covering a series of landings on Borneo from May until July 1945.
After the war
The Pacific War ended in August 1945 when USS Phoenix CL-46 was being returned to the United States for a second overhaul. Taken to a naval shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USS Phoenix CL-46 was put on Reserve in early 1946 and decommissioned in July 1946.
The USS Phoenix CL-46 was recommissioned in October 1951 as the 17 de Octubre, serving with the Argentine Navy for three decades. In 1970, the 17 de Octubre was reclassified General Belgrano. While engaged in war combat with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands, General Belgrano was hit with two torpedoes by Conqueror, a nuclear powered submarine. General Belgrano, formerly USS Phoenix CL-46, sank on May 2, 1982.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, naval cruisers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.