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Operation Corporate   >   Battles   >   Alférez Sobral

   
 

Alférez Sobral


The ARA Alférez Sobral was a Sotoyomo class rescue tug, that had been originally been commissioned in the US Navy in 1944 as the USS Salish, but was transfered to the Argentine Navy in 1972. In Argentine service, the ship was renamed in honour of Alférez de Navío José María Sobral, an Argentine military scientist and Antartic explorer.

On May 3rd, 1982, the ARA Alférez Sobral was approximately 70 miles (110 kilometres) North of the Falkland Islands searching for the crew of an Argentine Canberra bomber which had been shot down two days earlier by a Sidewinder missile fired from a Royal Navy Sea Harrier.

The Alférez Sobral was spotted by a British Sea King helicopter, and fired on the Sea King using its 20mm cannon. The Sea King then retreated, and Lynx helicopters from HMS Coventry and HMS Glasgow were launched. Both Lynxes attacked the ship with two Sea Skua missiles each, with the HMS Coventry's Lynx firing first. All four missiles hit the ship, with at least two striking the bridge, killing eight of the ship's crew (including the ship's captain Lieutenant Commander Sergio Gómez Roca) and injuring a further eight.

In early editions on Tuesday May 4th, 1982, Britain's Sun newspaper led with the infamous headline "GOTCHA", apparently mixing up the reports about the Alférez Sobral with other reports about the General Belgrano in both the subheadline ("Our lads sink gunboat and hole cruiser") and in the story text (which specifically, but incorrectly said that the Belgrano "was not sunk", but was merely "crippled").

Although badly damaged, the Alférez Sobral did survive the war, and in fact is still in service today with the Argentine Navy. However, the badly damaged bridge of the ship is on display at the Naval Museum in Tigre, Argentina.


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