Falklands war: Medals for Galician sailors forcibly turned into the crew of a spy vessel monitoring UK Task Force
The Argentine consulate in Vigo, Spain held a ceremony to acknowledge the valor and dedication of two Galician sailors from Vigo and Cangas who were forcibly recruited into the Falklands conflict, 41 years ago, by the Argentine navy when they were about to begin their fishing season in the South Atlantic on board the vessel Usurbil.
Argentine General Consul Horacio Doval and Rear Admiral Marcelo Tarapow awarded Alejandro Martínez Rodriguez, from Vigo, and Juan Casas Rodríguez from Cangas two Congressional medals each, in recognition as war veterans, plus the acknowledgement of the Argentine navy, which seized their fishing vessel for 28 days. Usurbil was flying the Spanish flag, although she belonged to a Galicia/Argentine joint venture company. Also present at the ceremony was Fernando Otero, the first and only Spanish citizen who has been recognized as a hero of the Malvinas war by Argentina. Actually Otero has been lobbying for decades to have the two Galician sailors honored for their part played during the 1982 war.
The Usurbil which was catching hake was boarded near Bahía Blanca by a small party of naval intelligence, and their job was to follow and monitor the Task Force as it approached the Falkland Islands. The Argentine navy turned the Usurbil into a spy vessel to track British vessels, identify them, their defensive systems and positions, pointed out Rear Admiral Tarapow. The British did not suspect, it was another vessel on fishing operations.
However Martinez believes they were lucky recalling what happened to two other fishing vessels, Maria Luisa and Narwal, finally sunk by the British Task Force. We realized we were going to trouble when instead of sailing north we headed south, We travelled closely to the British fleet, they had their lights on us, we thought it was going to be the end, we were really scared and praying…
Otero the war veteran since 2017, and also a crew member recalls the Argentine intelligence officer told them not to be scared, a missile is worth a million dollars and the English are not going to spend one on a fishing vessel. He added the fact was we were serving the Argentine navy in the Malvinas war, but once involved we complied with our duties, Spaniards and Argentines shared the same fear when enemy helicopters overflew us…
You complied with a very serious and committed mission in the middle of a real conflict, that is what we are distinguishing today, said Consul Doval, who nevertheless vindicated the recovery of the Islands through peaceful means, pointing out Argentina will never cease in its sovereignty claim over the Malvinas, and demanded a quick resumption of negotiations with UK for that purpose.