Reply To: The Loss of the Argentine Submarine ARA "San Juan", 15 November 2017

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Geoffrey Brooks


    The naval Plan was scheduled to be of one month’s duration. It had been organized by Rear-Admiral Mazzeo, Admiral in charge of Recruitment and Training, an officer who appeared to most observers to be the natural successor to his superior, Admiral Srur. The mysterious disappearance of the submarine San Juan gave rise to murmurings from a cadre opposing the elevation of Rear-Admiral Mazzeo. This lobby of dissent was recognized high up in the Defence Ministry and crushed.

    In the midst of the institutional crisis caused by the loss of the submarine, Admiral Srur initiated a summary internal action against Mazzeo, accusing him of responsibility for the deaths of the forty-four crew members of the submarine. Mazzeo took the matter to law and the Defence Minister, taken aback by the accusation, demanded the resignation of Admiral Srur.

    An interesting question occurs to this writer which was not touched upon in the newspaper report. If, as we are now asked to believe, the loss of the submarine San Juan was occasioned by chlorine gas, why did Admiral Srur think at once that Rear Admiral Mazzeo’s Plan was responsible?

    According to the documentation, the submarine had set out for ports at the tip of Patagonia and there joined the remainder of the fleet. Her orders were: “Sail with effect from 27 October, carry out naval training activities integrated into anti-submarine, anti-surface ship and amphibious defensive exercises during operations to reconnoitre the maritime litoral, visiting the port of (USU) – Ushuaia – from 6 to 9 November and (DRY) – unknown – from 20 to 22 November and afterwards be involved in tactical skirmishing at Puerto Belgrano (Mar del Plata) as from 25 November.”

    The newspaper Clarin stated that according to naval and Ministry of Defence sources, at a point in her voyage the submarine San Juan had “navigated keeping a distance of five miles from the Falklands limit ‘set by the Crown’ although the much amended Government document shown to Congress stated that the submarine had entered the zone – “habría entrado en las 200 millas náuticas que de acuerdo al Reino Unido son los límites perimetrales de las Islas Malvinas”. Also unofficially, Government sources admitted that the submarine had a mission to keep an eye on Argentine waters watching out in particular for a repetition of already proven intrusions into Argentine waters to engage in illegal fishing by British flag vessels.

    As confirmed in the judicial files opened by Judge Martha Yañez into the disappearance of the submarine, on a previous patrol in the South Atlantic a difficulty had occurred involving foreign-flag vessels, some alleged to be British. As a result, the commander of the San Juan had been ordered to keep watch and attempt to obtain audiovisual proof of such illegal intrusions into the waters of Argentine jurisdiction.

    At page 4 of the “confidential” Navy document entitled “Final Stage of Specific Integrated training” great importance was attached to the involvement of the submarine: “During the development of the operation as a whole, the concept of consciousness of maritime dominion associated with permanent vigilance over, and control of, the maritime sectors of our jurisdiction is emphasized.

    So far no shred of wreckage of the submarine San Juan has been found nor even the locality where disaster struck identified.