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ARA Rivadavia
Rivadavia Battleship LOC 14781u
ARA Rivadavia
Career Flag of Argentina.svg Argentine Navy
Name: ARA Rivadavia
Namesake: Bernardino Rivadavia
Builder: Fore River Shipbuilding Company
Laid down: 25 May 1910
Launched: 26 August 1911
Commissioned: 27 August 1914
Decommissioned: 1952
Fate: Sold to Italy for scrapping in 1957, scrapped later
General characteristics
Type: Rivadavia-class battleship
  • 27,500 long tons (27,900 t) standard,
  • 30,100 long tons (30,600 t) full load[1]
  • 594 ft 9 in (181.28 m) oa,
  • 585 ft (178 m) pp[1]
Beam: 98 ft 4.5 in (29.985 m)[1]
Draft: 27 ft 8.5 in (8.446 m)[1]
  • 3-shaft, Curtis geared turbines,
  • 18 Babcock & Wilcox boilers;
  • 40,000 shp (29,828 kW)[1]
Speed: 22.5 knots (25.9 mph; 41.7 km/h)[1]
  • 7,000 nautical miles (8,100 mi; 13,000 km) at 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h)[1]
  • 11,000 nautical miles (13,000 mi; 20,000 km) at 11 knots (13 mph; 20 km/h)[1]
  • 12 × 12-inch (305 mm) guns[1]
  • 12 × 6-inch (152 mm) guns[1]
  • 16 × 4-inch (102 mm) guns[1]
  • 2 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes[1]
  • Belt: 12–10 inches (300–250 mm)[1]
  • Turrets: 12 inches (305 mm)[1]
  • Casemates: 91/3–61/5 inches (238–159 mm)[1]
  • Conning tower: 12 inches (300 mm)[1]

ARA Rivadavia[upper-alpha 1] was a battleship of the Argentine Navy. Named after the first Argentine president, Bernardino Rivadavia,[2] she was the lead ship of her class and the third dreadnought built during the South American dreadnought race. ARA Moreno was Rivadavia's only sister ship.

In 1907, Brazil placed an order for two of the powerful new "dreadnought" warships as part of a larger naval building program. Argentina quickly responded, as Brazil's ships outclassed anything in the Argentine fleet. After an extended bidding process, contracts to design and build Rivadavia and Moreno were given to the American Fore River Shipbuilding Company. During their construction, there were rumors that Argentina might sell them to a country engaged in the First World War, but the ships were not sold. Rivadavia was commissioned on 27 August 1914 but saw no combat in the war, as Argentina remained neutral. She underwent extensive refits in the United States in 1924 and 1925. She saw no active duty during the Second World War; Argentina remained neutral until March 1945 when the country declared war on the Axis powers, and Rivadavia did not become involved in the soon-to-end conflict. Stricken from the naval register in 1957, Rivadavia was sold later that year and was broken up for scrap in 1959.


Rivadavia's genesis can be traced to the naval arms races between Chile and Argentina which were spawned by territorial disputes over their mutual borders in Patagonia and Puna de Atacama, along with control of the Beagle Channel. These arms races flared up in the 1890s and again in 1902; the latter was eventually stopped through British mediation. Provisions in the dispute-ending treaty imposed restrictions on both countries' navies. The United Kingdom's Royal Navy bought the two Constitución-class pre-dreadnought battleships that were being built for Chile, and Argentina sold its two Rivadavia-class armored cruisers under construction in Italy to Japan.[3][4]

After HMS Dreadnought was commissioned by the United Kingdom, Brazil decided in early 1907 to halt the construction of three obsolescent pre-dreadnoughts and begin work on two dreadnoughts (the Minas Geraes class).[5] These ships, which were designed to carry the heaviest battleship armament in the world at the time,[6] came as a shock to the navies of South America,[5] and Argentina and Chile quickly canceled the 1902 armament-limiting pact.[7] Argentina in particular was alarmed at the possible power of the ships. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Manuel Augusto Montes de Oca, remarked that even one Minas Geraes-class ship could destroy the entire Argentine and Chilean fleets.[8] While this may have been hyperbole, either one was much more powerful than any single vessel in the Argentinian fleet.[9] Debates raged in Argentina over whether to spend more than two million pounds sterling to acquire dreadnoughts. With further border disputes, particularly with Brazil near the Río de la Plata (River Plate), Argentina made plans to contract for their own dreadnoughts. After an extended bidding process, Rivadavia and Moreno were ordered from the Fore River Shipbuilding Company in the United States.[1][10]

Construction and trialsEdit

Laid down on 25 May 1910, Rivadavia was launched and christened on 26 August 1911 by Isabel, the wife of the Argentine Minister to the United States Rómulo Sebastián Naón. Thousands of people were present to witness the event,[1][11] including representatives from the Argentine Navy and the country's legation in Washington. The United States sent the assistant chief of the Latin American Division in the State Department, Henry L. James, to be its official representative. Two United States Navy bureau chiefs also attended.[11]

In mid-September 1913, Rivadavia conducted trials off Rockland, Maine, after a two-week delay due to turbine malfunctions. During speed trials on the 16th,[12] the dreadnought was able to obtain a maximum speed of 22.567 knots (25.970 mph; 41.794 km/h).[13] On a 30-hour endurance trial starting the next day, Rivadavia damaged one of her turbines and had to put in at President Roads, one of Boston Harbor's deep-water anchorages.[12] The turbines were still a problem as late as August 1914. One was dropped by a crane in July and had to be removed for repairs in August.[14]

Attempted saleEdit

Over the course of their construction, Rivadavia and Moreno had been the subject of rumors that Argentina would accept the ships and then sell them to Japan, a fast-growing military rival to the United States, or to a European country.[15] The rumors were partially true; some in the government were looking to get rid of the battleships and devote the proceeds to opening more schools,[16] and The New York Times reported in late 1913 that the country had received several offers from interested parties.[13] This angered the American government, which did not want its warship technology offered to the highest bidder. Neither did they want to exercise a contract-specified option that gave the United States first choice if the Argentines decided to sell, as naval technology had already progressed past the Rivadavia class, particularly in the adoption of the "all-or-nothing" armor scheme. Instead, the United States and its State Department and Navy Department put diplomatic pressure on the Argentine government.[17]

After socialist gains in the legislature, the Argentine government introduced several bills in May 1914 which would have put the battleships up for sale, but the bills were all defeated by late June. Following the commencement of the First World War, the German and British ambassadors to the United States both complained to the US State Department; the former believed that the British were going to be given the ships as soon as the ships reached Argentina, and the latter considered it the responsibility of the United States to ensure that the ships never left Argentina's possession. International armament companies attempted to get Argentina to sell to one of the smaller Balkan countries and expected that the ships would then find their way into the war.[upper-alpha 2][18]


Rivadavia was commissioned into the Armada de la República Argentina on 27 August 1914 at the Charlestown Navy Yard,[19][20] although she was not fully completed until December.[1] On 23 December 1914, Rivadavia left the United States for Argentina. She arrived in its capital, Buenos Aires, on 19 February 1915. Over 47,000 people came out to see the new ship over the next three days, including the President Victorino de la Plaza. In April 1915, Rivadavia was put into the training division of the Navy; she remained there until 1917, when she was moved into the First Division. In 1917, the ship sailed to Comodoro Rivadavia when communist oil workers went on strike.[19]

Later in 1917, Rivadavia's activities were sharply curtailed because of a fuel shortage. In 1918, she voyaged to the United States with the Argentine Ambassador; he disembarked at Hampton Roads, Virginia.[19] Rivadavia then took on a load of gold bullion and brought it back to Argentina, docking in Puerto Belgrano on 23 September 1918.[19][21] In December 1920, Rivadavia participated in ceremonies that marked the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Strait of Magellan. On the 2nd, the ship called on Valparaíso in Chile; 25 days later, she took part in an international naval review. Two years later, Rivadavia was berthed in Puerto Belgrano and placed into reserve.[19]

In 1923, the Navy decided to send Rivadavia to the United States for a full modernization. It took a year before the ship departed on 6 August 1924, and she reached Boston on the 30th. The refit took two years. Rivadavia was converted to use fuel oil instead of coal and had "a general machinery overhaul".[22] A new fire-control system was fitted with rangefinders on the fore and aft superfiring turrets, and the aft mast was replaced by a tripod. A funnel cap was installed so that smoke from the funnels did not interfere with accurate rangefinding of enemy ships. The 6-inch secondary armament was retained, but the smaller 4-inch guns were taken off in favor of four 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns and four 3-pounders.[23][24]

After sailing back to Argentina in March and April 1926,[25] Rivadavia spent the remainder of the year undergoing sea trials. The dreadnought joined the training division once again in 1927. After Rivadavia made four training cruises, the division was disbanded. As a result, the ship remained docked in Puerto Belgrano for the entire year; it was not until 1929 that she moved again. Although she was active in both 1929 and 1930, Rivadavia was placed in reserve again on 19 December 1930. Activated shortly thereafter in 1931, she was designated as the fleet's flagship for exercises held that year, and put into reserve once more in 1932. Activated yet again in January 1933, Rivadavia remained in full commission for most of the rest of the decade as part of the Battleship Division, along with her sister Moreno.[19]

ARA Rivadavia speed trials 2

Rivadavia on her speed trials

In January 1937, the ship called on Valparaíso and Callao in Peru. In company with Moreno, Rivadavia left Puerto Belgrano on 6 April and set course for Europe. She visited the French port of Brest and was joined by her sister there after Moreno had taken part in the Coronation Review in Spithead. The two ships then put in at the German port of Wilhelmshaven for a goodwill visit. When the two dreadnoughts departed, they split up once more; Rivadavia visited Hamburg and Moreno visited Bremen. They returned to Argentina on 29 June.[19]

Rivadavia made an official visit to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1939. Argentina remained neutral for the majority of the Second World War, and Rivadavia saw no active service.[19] Her next cruise was from 29 October to 22 December 1946, after the close of the war; she called on countries in the Caribbean and northern South America, including Trinidad, Venezuela, and Colombia. This was the last time the ship would be in service under her own power, as she was moored in Puerto Belgrano from 1948 on, was rendered inoperable in 1951, and was cannibalized over many years for useful arms and equipment. On 18 October 1956, the ship was listed for disposal, and she was stricken from the Navy on 1 February 1957. Three months later on 30 May, Rivadavia was sold to an Italian ship breaking company for US$2,280,000. Beginning on 3 April 1959, the ship was towed by two tugboats to Savona, Italy, where they arrived on 23 May. She was thereafter broken up in Genoa.[19]


  1. "ARA" is an acronym for Armada de la República Argentina.
  2. The specific example given in Livermore, footnote 106, is that a "group of French bankers, on behalf of the Russian government, were offering in gold twice the contract price of the ships, which were to be turned over to Greece."[18] Turning over the ships was likely meant as a way around the United States' neutrality rules.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Scheina, "Argentina," 401.
  2. Whitley, Battleships, 19.
  3. Scheina, Naval History, 45–52.
  4. Garrett, "Beagle Channel Dispute," 86–88.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Whitley, Battleships, 24.
  6. "Germany may buy English warships," The New York Times, 1 August 1908, C8.
  7. Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 32.
  8. Martins Filho, "Colossos do mares," 76.
  9. Scheina, "Argentina," 400.
  10. Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 33.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Launch Rivadavia, Biggest Battleship," The New York Times, 27 August 1911, 7.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Accident to Rivadavia," The New York Times, 19 September 1913, 1.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Argentine Warship Makes 22.56 Knots," The New York Times, 17 September 1917, 2.
  14. "The Rivadavia Delayed," The New York Times, 24 August 1914, 7.
  15. "Germany Will Buy Two Battleships," Toronto World, 10 August 1914, 12.
  16. Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 45.
  17. Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 45–46.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 46–47.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 19.8 Whitley, Battleships, 21.
  20. "Argentina's Ship Ready," The New York Times, 28 August 1914, 7.
  21. "Orders the Rivadavia to Bring Gold," The New York Times, 7 October 1918, 12.
  22. Scheina, "Argentina," 402.
  23. Whitley, Battleships, 21–22.
  24. Burzaco and Ortíz, Acorazados y Cruceros, 94.
  25. "Rivadavia Off For Home," The New York Times, 15 March 1926, 12.


Burzaco, Ricardo and Patricio Ortíz. Acorazados y Cruceros de la Armada Argentina, 1881–1992. Buenos Aires: Eugenio B. Ediciones, 1997. ISBN 987-96764-0-8. OCLC 39297360.
Martins, João Roberto, Filho. "Colossos do mares [Colossuses of the Seas]." Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional 3, no. 27 (2007): 74–77. ISSN 1808-4001. OCLC 61697383.
Garrett, James L. "The Beagle Channel Dispute: Confrontation and Negotiation in the Southern Cone." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 27, no. 3 (1985):, 81–109. JSTOR 165601. ISSN 0022-1937. OCLC 2239844.
Livermore, Seward W. "Battleship Diplomacy in South America: 1905–1925." The Journal of Modern History 16, no. 1 (1944):, 31–44. JSTOR 1870986. ISSN 0022-2801. OCLC 62219150.
Scheina, Robert L. "Argentina" in Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921, edited by Robert Gardiner and Randal Gray, 400–402. Annapolis, Maryland, United States: Naval Institute Press, 1984. ISBN 0-87021-907-3. OCLC 12119866.
———. Latin America: A Naval History 1810–1987. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. ISBN 0-87021-295-8. OCLC 15696006.
Whitley, M.J. Battleships of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Annapolis, Maryland, United States: Naval Institute Press, 1998. ISBN 1-55750-184-X. OCLC 40834665.

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