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USS Salish (ATA-187) (previously ATR-114 was a Sotoyomo-class rescue tug US Navy ship, her hull was laid down on 29 August 1944. She left US service on 10 February 1972 and was recommissioned in the Argentine Navy on the same day as the ARA Alferez Sobral.

US Navy service

ATA-187 (ex-ATR-114) was laid down on 29 August 1944 by the Levingston Shipbuilding Co., Orange, Texasmarker; launched on 29 September 1944; and commissioned on 7 December 1944, Lieutenant Thomas G. Lewis in command.

World War II

Designated for duty with Service Division 101 in the Pacific, ATA-187 completed shakedown early in January 1945, and departed New Orleansmarker for Hawaiimarker on the 18th with APL-10 in tow. She reached Pearl Harbormarker on 4 March; exchanged the barracks ship for two lighters; and continued across the Pacific. At Guammarker, she changed tows again and sailed for the Ryukyusmarker pulling two floating derricks. On 22 April, she delivered her charges to the Hagushimarker anchorage, Okinawamarker; then, retraced her route back to Guam, whence she made a second run, with a power barge and a yard ferry, to Okinawa. She completed that run at Buckner Baymarker on 22 May; assisted in downing an enemy bomber the next day; and, at the end of the month, departed for Ulithimarker and the Philippinesmarker. From the former, she towed an oil barge and two lighters to the latter, arriving in San Pedro Baymarker, Leytemarker, on 27 June.

Then ordered east, the ocean-going, auxiliary tug cleared San Pedro Bay in mid-July and entered San Francisco Baymarker on 17 August, two days after the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific. Overhaul took her into September; and, on the 12th, she resumed towing activities with a run from Astoria, Oregonmarker, to Pearl Harbor. During October, she delivered barracks ships to Eniwetok. In November, she commenced target towing services for surface and aviation units training in Hawaiian waters.

ATA-187 received one battle star for her World War II service.

Post war

In April 1946, she completed a run between Hawaii and California; then returned to Hawaii to prepare for Operation Crossroadsmarker, the atomic bomb test series scheduled for the summer at Bikinimarker. In May, the ATA joined Joint Task Force I and moved into the Marshalls, where, into the fall, she provided towing services. On 26 November 1946, the tug received final radiological clearance and headed for New Orleans, her new home port.

On 20 January 1947, the ATA, arrived at New Orleans, her base for the next 14 years. On 16 July 1948, the ship was named Salish in honor of the Salish tribe. During that period, towing activities, for the active and reserve fleets, took her between Gulf, east coast, and Caribbeanmarker ports. Support operations saw her off the Texasmarker coast for radio experiments run by the University of Texasmarker between July and September 1947; off the Virginia capes and in the British West Indies for survey and cable laying operations from June to December 1956 and from October to December 1959; in the Bahamasmarker for mooring operations in May and June 1959; and in the Bermuda Islandsmarker for cable laying operations from June to September 1960.

In July 1961, Salish was transferred to the east coast and, for the next ten years, was homeported at Mayport, Floridamarker. From there, she continued her diverse towing operations; but, was assigned, more frequently than before, to support experimental projects, including the MONOB I and R/P FLIP projects, and to cable-laying and mooring operations off the Floridamarker coast, in the Bermudamarker area, and in the Caribbean.

Ready for rescue and assistance operations throughout her career, she was herself the recipient of aid in October 1963 when she was damaged by Hurricane Ginny while towing a destroyer escort. Relieved of her tow by a Coast Guard tug, she underwent repairs and, in November, resumed her services to the fleet. Two of her most notable salvage missions came in April 1966 and in January 1971. During the first, she assisted fire-fighting and salvage operations for MV Viking Princess which was located, on fire and drifting, in the Windward Passagemarker. The second involved the storm damaged Brazilianmarker freighter, Amazonia, loaded with lye, malt, raw plastics, bulk newsprint, and heavy mining equipment. For the latter operation, conducted off Bermuda, she was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

In November 1971, Salish returned to Mayport from three weeks duty providing services to Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Baymarker, Cubamarker, and prepared for transfer to the Argentine Navy. She was decommissioned on 10 February 1972; transferred the same day; and recommissioned in the Argentine Navy as ARA Alferez Sobral (A9).

Argentine Navy service

The ship was named after Antarctic explorer Alférez José María Sobral (1880–1961).

Falklands War

In the early hours of the morning on 3 May 1982, the ship was hit by three BAe Dynamics Sea Skua anti-ship missiles fired by British Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2/3 helicopters.

At the time the ship was approximately 70 statute miles (110 km) north of the Falkland Islandsmarker searching for the crew of a downed English Electric Canberra (B-110) bomber that had been shot down two days earlier by a AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM fired from a British BAe Sea Harrier FRS.Mk.1 (XZ451). The Sobral was initially spotted by a Westland Sea King helicopter. When the helicopter approached to investigate it was shot at by a 20 mm cannon. The helicopter immediately retreated and called for assistance.

Sobral's bridge after being struck by two Sea Skua missiles

In response and launched their Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2/3 helicopters. Coventry Lynx (XZ242) attacked first, firing two Sea Skua (air-to-surface) anti-ship missiles. One of the missiles narrowly missed the bridge, the second hit Sobral fibreglass motorboat, injuring the crew of a 20 mm cannon and knocking out the radio aerials.

Twenty minutes later Glasgow Lynx (XZ247) launched two more missiles. One or perhaps both of these missiles struck the bridge, causing extensive damage. In total the attack killed 8 of the crew — including the ship's captain, Lieutenant Commander Sergio Gómez Roca — and injuring 8. It was escorted back to its home base of Puerto Deseado two days later on 5 May. The attack had occurred at position 49 º 50 'S / 58 º 37' W.

The ship's badly damaged bridge is currently on display at the Naval Museum in the city of Tigre, Argentina. The ship however survived the conflict and is still in service with the Argentine Navy.

The name of Argentina's final {[sclass|Espora|frigate]] was renamed to honour her captain.


  • The Fight for the Malvinas, Martin Middlebrook, ISBN 0-14-010767-3

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