USS Phoenix (CL-46)
USS Phoenix in the early 1940s.
|Career (United States)|
|Builder:||New York Shipbuilding Corporation|
|Laid down:||15 April 1935|
|Launched:||13 March 1938|
|Commissioned:||3 October 1938|
|Decommissioned:||3 July 1946|
|Fate:||Sold to Argentina, 9 April 1951,
sunk in battle 1982 by HMS Conqueror during the Falklands War
|Class and type:||Brooklyn-class cruiser|
|Displacement:||10,000 long tons (10,200 metric tons)|
|Length:||608 ft 4 in (185.42 m)|
|Beam:||61 ft 9 in (18.82 m)|
|Draft:||19 ft 5 in (5.92 m)|
|Speed:||33.6 kn (38.7 mph; 62.2 km/h)|
|Complement:||868 officers and enlisted|
|Aircraft carried:||4 × floatplanes|
|Aviation facilities:||2 × catapults|
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 General Belgrano in 1956. General Belgrano was sunk during the Falklands War in 1982 by the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror, the only ship to have been sunk in combat by a nuclear-powered submarine during wartime.
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 Arizona.
Shakedown took her to Port of Spain, Trinidad. She continued to Santos, Brazil, then to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Montevideo, Uruguay, and finally to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The new cruiser returned to Philadelphia in January 1939.
World War II
Phoenix then operated off the West Coast and was later based at Pearl Harbor. On 7 December 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor she was anchored southeast of Ford Island near Solace. Observers on board Phoenix sighted the rising sun of Japan on 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.
On 12 January 1942 Phoenix with two destroyers departed San Francisco escorting the "Australian — Suva" convoy composed of the troopships SS Mariposa, SS President Coolidge for Melbourne and President Monroe (destined for Suva) in the first large convoy to Australia after Pearl Harbor. Of particular significance this convoy were the troops, fifty crated P-40 fighters intended for the Philippines and Java, munitions, supplies and the officers selected by the War Department to form the core of what was to become MacArthur's headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area Command being formed in Australia as United States Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), known as the "Remember Pearl Harbor" Group. For some time the cruiser operated in Australian waters escorting troop ships, once steaming as far north as Java.
Phoenix escorted the United States Army Transport Willard A. Holbrook and the Australian transports Duntroon and Katoomba, which had been substituted for the withdrawn Mariposa, as convoy MS.5 leaving Melbourne 12 February for Fremantle and ultimately bound for Colombo, Ceylon with troops and supplies destined for India. At Fremantle the aircraft carrier Langley and merchant vessel Sea Witch joined the convoy with a 22 February departure for Colombo. Of particular note in the cargo of the convoy and specifically that of Langley and Sea Witch were P-40 aircraft, originally intended for the Philippines, that had been delivered to Australia earlier by Mariposa and President Coolidge in the convoy escorted by Phoenix from San Francisco. The plan had been that on relief of Phoenix by a British cruiser in the vicinity of Cocos Island she would escort Langley and Sea Witch to Java. Instead Langley and Sea Witch were destined to break with the convoy for Tjilatjap, Java under orders from Admiral Helfrich received the day after departure from Fremantle and proceed independently to deliver their aircraft. Langley was attacked and sunk on 27 February. Sea Witch successfully made delivery on 28 February just as the results of the Battle of the Java Sea had sealed the fate of the islands. The crated planes delivered were destroyed before assembly to deny them to the enemy. Phoenix turned over escort of the Colombo bound ships about 300 miles west of Cocos Island to HMS Enterprise on 28 February and returned to Fremantle on 5 March 1942.
Under the command of Captain Joseph R. Redman, Phoenix was a part of Task Force 44 in late 1942. With her accompanying destroyers Helm, Mugford and Patterson, 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 25–26 January 1944, the ship took part in a night raid on Madang and Alexishafen, New Guinea, shelling shore installations.
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 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 29–30 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 8–9 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-inch (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. It was at this time the Phoenix suffered her only wartime fatality. 
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 13–28 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 British attack submarine HMS Conqueror with the loss of 323 lives.
In addition to the nine battle stars for the Asiatic Pacific ribbon, she earned two more for the Philippine liberation ribbon. It seems these two are always left off her history.
- Fahey 1941 p. 9
- Nimitz & volume 1: 7 December 1941–1 September 1942 p. 155 Entries 12 January 1942.
- Mayo 1968, pp. 40–41.
- Gill 1957, pp. 601—602.
- Matloff 1953-59, p. 132.
- Craven & Cate 1948, pp. 397—398.
- Morison 1947-62, p. 359.
- Bruce T. Swain, A Chronology of Australian Armed Forces at War, 1939–45 (Allan & Unwin, 2001): 215
- Benge, Janet and Benge, Geoff (2005). Douglas MacArthur: what greater honor. YWAM Publishing, p. 134. ISBN 1-932096-15-9
- Craven, Wesley Frank; Cate, James Lea (1948). Plans and early operations, January 1939 to August 1942. The Army Air Forces In World War II One. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 091279903X. LCCN 83017288.
- Gill, G. Hermon (1957). Royal Australian Navy 1939-1942. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 2 – Navy 1. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. LCCN 58037940.
- Naval History And Heritage Command. "Phoenix". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History And Heritage Command. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- Matloff, Maurice; Snell, Edwin M. (1953–59). The War Department: Strategic Planning For Coalition Warfare 1941-1942. United States Army In World War II. Washington, DC: Center Of Military History, United States Army. LCCN 53-61477.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot (1947–62), "XIX", The Rising Sun in the Pacific, History of United States naval operations in World War II 3, Little, Brown, LCCN 47001571
- Fahey, James C. (1941). The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, Two-Ocean Fleet Edition. Ships and Aircraft.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to USS Phoenix (CL-46).|
- Navy photographs of Phoenix
- USS Phoenix (CL-46) at NavSource Online: Cruiser Photo Archive
- Wayback Machine: Like Swatting Bees in a Telephone Booth by Commander Ted Hechler, Jr., U. S. Navy (Retired)