USS Salish (ATA-187)

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Photograph by Ignacio Amendolara
ARA Alférez Sobral shortly after joining the Argentine Navy in the 1970s.
Career (United States)
Name: ATA-187
Laid down: 29 August 1944
Launched: 29 September 1944
Commissioned: 7 December 1944
Renamed: Salish, 16 July 1948
Decommissioned: 10 February 1972
Fate: transferred to Argentine Navy, 10 February 1972
Struck: 1 February 1975
Career (Argentina) 100x35px
Name: ARA Alférez Sobral (A-9)
Acquired: 10 February 1972
Status: currently in the service of the Argentine Navy as of 2010
General characteristics
Displacement: 835 tons (848 t) (full)
Length: 143 feet (43.6 m)
Beam:   33 ft 10 in (10.3 m)
Draft:   13 ft 2 in (4.0 m)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric engines,
1,500 shp single screw
Speed: 13 knots (24 km/h)
Complement: 45–49
Armament: as Salish
• 1 × single 3 inch/50 guns,
• 2 × twin 40 mm AA guns
as Alférez Sobral
• 1 × 40 mm /60 Bofors gun,
• 2 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

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 Alférez Sobral.

US Navy service

ATA-187 (ex-ATR-114) was laid down on 29 August 1944 by the Levingston Shipbuilding Co., Orange, Texas; 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 Orleans for Hawaii on the 18th with APL-10 in tow. She reached Pearl Harbor on 4 March; exchanged the barracks ship for two lighters; and continued across the Pacific. At Guam, she changed tows again and sailed for the Ryukyus pulling two floating derricks. On 22 April, she delivered her charges to the Hagushi anchorage, Okinawa; 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 Bay on 22 May; assisted in downing an enemy bomber the next day; and, at the end of the month, departed for Ulithi and the Philippines. From the former, she towed an oil barge and two lighters to the latter, arriving in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 27 June.

Then ordered east, the ocean-going, auxiliary tug cleared San Pedro Bay in mid-July and entered San Francisco Bay 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, Oregon, 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 Crossroads, the atomic bomb test series scheduled for the summer at Bikini. 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 Caribbean ports. Support operations saw her off the Texas coast for radio experiments run by the University of Texas 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 Bahamas for mooring operations in May and June 1959; and in the Bermuda Islands 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, Florida. 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 Florida coast, in the Bermuda 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 Passage. The second involved the storm damaged Brazilian 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 Bay, Cuba, 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 Alférez Sobral (A9).[1]

Argentine Navy service

File:ARA Alférez Sobral (A-9).jpg
ARA Alférez Sobral in Ushuaia 2008

The ship was named after Antarctic explorer Alférez José María Sobral (1880–1961). She was acquired 10 February 1972 departing with her sister-ship ARA Comodoro Somellera from Mayport, Florida on 6 March 1972 and arriving Puerto Belgrano on April 18.

Falklands War

In the early hours of the morning on 3 May 1982, the ship was hit by three BAe Dynamics Sea Skua (air-to-surface) 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)[2][3] north of the Falkland Islands searching for the crew of a downed Canberra (B-110) bomber that had been shot down two days earlier by a AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM (air-to-air missile) 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 the vessel's 20 mm fore cannon. The helicopter immediately retreated and called for assistance.

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

In response HMS Coventry and HMS Glasgow launched their Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2/3 helicopters. Coventry's 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's fibreglass motorboat, injuring the crew of a 20 mm cannon and knocking out the radio aerials.

Twenty minutes later Glasgow's 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. The Sobral lost all her electrical power, radio, radar and compass. The only guide of the crew was the direction of the waves at the time of the attack. She was escorted back to its home base of Puerto Deseado two days later on 5 May. She was assisted by the civilian trawler María Alejandra. The attack had occurred at the approximated position 49°50′00″S 58°37′00″W / 49.8333333°S 58.6166667°W / -49.8333333; -58.6166667.

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. From February 2010 has new home port at Mar del Plata after serving the last 17 years at Ushuaia switching places with ARA Gurruchaga. [4]

The name of Argentina's final Espora class corvette was renamed ARA Gómez Roca (P-46) to honour her captain. Goméz Roca was the first commander of the Argentine Navy to be killed in the bridge of his ship.[5]


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