The sinking of the General Belgrano cruiser is possibly the hardest event of the Falklands War. The attack caused the death of 323 of her 1,093 crew members, half of the total casualties that Argentina had during the military conflict. On inflatable rafts, waiting even for days with temperatures below zero, 770 Argentine soldiers managed to survive, one of them was Felipe Santiago Gallo.
This young man from Rosario was able to be rescued by companions who were on one of the ships that escorted the Belgrano, and although he would later die from his serious injuries, he was one of the few whose remains could be buried on the continent. Following a request from the Malvinas Ex-Combatants Center, at the beginning of March, the Municipal Council approved a project so that it can be transferred to the Illustrious Sector of Rosario.
Ferdinand Vitalea member of that group and one of those who participated in Gallo’s rescue, relived that episode, told Via Rosario who was that hero of the Malvinas and how they managed to locate the family a long time later, to give him due recognition.
“Gallo was a crew member of the Belgrano, he had the rank of first corporal, he was an electrician and a native of the Rosario neighborhood of Fisherton”, began by saying and added that on May 2, 1982, he was on the Piedrabuena, one of the two destroyers that were escorting the aforementioned cruiser at the time they attacked it. The other was the Bouchard. “They had given us the order to return to Malvinaswe thought that for an attack, but something happened that caused the meeting with the English fleet to be suspended and then we undertook the return to the continent”, he stressed.
It was on this route that the Belgrano received two hits from the English navy, while the Bouchard was also hit, but without exploding. The shots came from a nuclear submarine. “It didn’t touch us, perhaps because they missed it or they didn’t see us, but we began to make evasive maneuvers and it was then that we received the SOS from Belgrano”, he recalled. When they reached the place where the cruiser should be, it had disappeared. Possible survivors were also not visible to the naked eye.
“It was 6 or 8 hours of desperate search, and we had no news until the next day at mid-morning”Vitale said. Then an Argentine plane spotted some rafts very far from where the boat had sunk. The great storm had dragged them about 100 kilometers, and upon seeing them, the rescue task began. “We were prepared for war, not to save lives. In fact, our boat was more than 100 meters long and old, it was not ideal for this job, but we still undertook the task”, he stated.
Unfortunately, many of the soldiers were found dead as a result of injuries caused by the attack, while others had died of hypothermia. “In those icy waters a person does not survive more than one or two minutes, and some had to swim to the rafts, knowing that they might not make it alive,” said the former combatant. Among the rescued was Gallo, whom Vitale – despite being from Rosario and an electrician like him – just met in the infirmary. “The doctors from our ship treated him, but since he was badly injured with burns, they transferred him by helicopter to the hospital ship”recounted and added that when witnessing the scene, someone told him “that’s Gallo, el rosarino”, a phrase that was saved forever.
Time passed, and four years ago, the Provincial Senate decided to pay homage to the families of the fallen Santafesinos in Malvinas with the delivery of a diploma. From the Center for Ex-Combatants they began a search for relatives or relatives, but no one appeared for Gallo. “There I remembered that name, and I assumed it as a personal search”, Vitale said. Through social networks he got the information of a nephew of his. Finding him on Facebook, he discovered that he played rugby for UNI, a club Vitale is a member of. Through his DT she was able to contact him, tell him the story and establish a link. It was the son of the former soldier’s sister, that is, his nephew. With his death, Gallo had left an 18-year-old widow and a small son, who left Rosario after the unfortunate event.
So the only relatives present were his brothers. They were given the diploma and with them arranged a visit to the El Salvador cemetery, where the remains of the former corporal are. Discovering that he was in a common niche, without any distinction that made him visible, they began to work to reconnoitre him. “There are very few soldiers whose remains were buried on the continent, and being the only one from Rosario, it seemed to us that it should be valued”commented.
After raising the issue with the Secretary of Culture, Dante Taparelli, they managed to have the remains transferred to the illustrious area of the cemetery, where the most distinguished personalities of the city are found. With the approval of the Council, advances will be made in the cremation for its final disposition in the most distinguished area, in an act that will take place precisely on May 2 of this year, on the 40th anniversary of the war and the sinking of the Belgrano . “The people of Rosario will now be able to remember him with the hierarchy he deserves,” he closed.