Falklands War

HMS Conqueror returning from the war
Military history of Argentina
Military history of the United Kingdom
ConflictFalklands War
DateMarch 19 - June 14 1982
PlaceFalkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
ResultUnited Kingdom regains possession of the islands.
Flag of Argentina
United Kingdom
Flag of the UK
Geographical advantage Tactical and experience advantage
About 700 killed, 1,100 wounded, 11,313 prisoners 236 killed, 746 wounded

The Falklands War or the Malvinas War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas), was an armed conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands, also known in Spanish as the Islas Malvinas, between March and June of 1982. The Falklands consist of two large and many small islands in the South Atlantic Ocean east of Argentina, whose ownership had long been disputed. (See History of the Falkland Islands for the background of that dispute.)

Argentina was in the midst of a devastating economic crisis and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that was governing Argentina in the period leading up to the war. The government, headed by President General Leopoldo Galtieri, decided to play off long-festering nationalistic sentiment by launching what it thought would be a quick and easy war to reclaim the Falkland Islands. The ongoing tension between the two countries over the islands increased on 19 March when 50 Argentines landed on the British dependency of South Georgia and raised their flag, an act that is seen as the first offensive action in the war. On 2 April, Galtieri ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands, triggering the Falklands War.

Though initially surprised by the Argentine attack on the South Atlantic islands, Britain launched a naval task force to engage the Argentine navy and air force, and deployed Royal Marines on the ground. After heavy combat, the British eventually prevailed and the islands remained under British control, although as of 2005, Argentina has still not relinquished its claim to the Falkland Islands. The political effects of the war were strong in both countries. The Argentine loss prompted even larger protests against the military government, which prompted its downfall, while a wave of patriotic sentiment swept through the United Kingdom, bolstering the government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The war has played an important part of the culture of both countries, and has been the subject of several books, movies, and songs, although due to the low number of casualties on both sides it is not seen as a truly major event in the individual history of either country.


Lead up to the war


Leopoldo Galtieri, President of Argentina during the Falklands War
Leopoldo Galtieri, President of Argentina during the Falklands War

Galtieri, who was the leader of the military government of Argentina at the time, aimed to counterbalance public concern over economic and human rights issues with a speedy nationalist victory over the Falklands. Argentina exerted pressure in the United Nations by raising subtle hints of a possible invasion, but the British either missed or ignored this threat and did not react. The Argentines interpreted the lack of British reaction as disengagement from the Falklands, and assumed that the British would not use force if the islands were invaded. This viewpoint was encouraged by the planned withdrawal of the last of the Royal Navy in 1981, which would have been included in a general downsizing of the fleet throughout British territory, and the British Nationality Act of 1981, which stripped Falkland Islanders of full citizenship rights.

The passionately anti-British head of the Argentine navy, Admiral Jorge Anaya, developed the plan to invade the Falklands. Following the failure of further diplomatic talks in January of 1982, the invasion plans were finalised and scheduled for April of the same year. The invasion of the populated areas of the Falkland Islands was preceded by the invasion of South Georgia, located 1,390 kilometres east of the Falklands. The invasion was carried out on 19 March 1982 by a group of Argentine civilians who posed as scrap metal merchants in order to establish a camp on South Georgia and raise the Argentine flag. The Royal Navy Antarctic patrol vessel HMS Endurance was dispatched to remove the camp on 25 March, but was prevented from doing so by three Argentine warships, forcing it to retreat. However, despite further evidence that the Argentine Navy had begun to land troops in Puerto Belgrano, the UK Joint Intelligence Committee's Latin American group stated on 30 March that "invasion was not imminent".

Failed diplomacy

Ever since formal diplomatic relations were ended between the United Kingdom and Argentina, separate nations represented each nation's diplomatic interests. Peru was the representative of Argentina in the United Kingdom, while Switzerland represented the United Kingdom in Argentina. By this arrangement, Argentine diplomats in London were credentialed as Peruvian diplomants of Argentine nationality, while United Kingdom diplomats in Buenos Aires were credentialed as Swiss diplomats of British nationality. The then-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Javier Prez de Cullar, announced that his efforts in favour of peace were futile. Although Peru and Switzerland exerted great diplomatic pressure to avoid war, they were both unable to head off the conflict, and a peace plan proposed by Peruvian president Fernando Belaunde Terry was rejected by both sides.


Main article: Invasion of the Falkland Islands

The British Government warned Rex Hunt, the then Governor of the Falkland Islands, of a possible Argentine invasion on 31 March. Hunt then organised a defence, and gave military command to Major Mike Norman RM who managed to muster a small force of marines. The Argentine Lieutenant-Commander in charge of the invasion, Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots, landed his squadron of special forces at Mullet Creek. He proceeded to attack the Moody Brook Barracks, the Government House, and Port Stanley, until the British Falkland Islands government located at the Government House surrendered on 4 April.

Life under the occupation

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The streets of Port Stanley painted with arrows directing cars to drive on the right.

Argentina attempted to make several unwelcome changes to the culture of the Falkland Islands, in spite of earlier assurances that the Islanders' way of life and cultural identity would be maintained. Argentina changed Port Stanley's name to "Puerto Argentino", made Spanish the official language of the Falkland Islands, and commanded traffic to drive on the right by painting arrows on the road indicating the direction of traffic and changing the location of street and traffic signs. Despite the arrows, islanders defiantly continued to drive on the left, demonstrating their determination to remain British.

Task force

The British were quick to organise diplomatic pressure against Argentina and because of the long distance between the Falklands and United Kingdom, the British were reliant on a naval task force, centred around the aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and the newly-commissioned HMS Invincible and commanded by Rear Admiral John Woodward (commonly known as Sandy Woodward). This task force would have to be self-reliant and able to project its force across the littoral area of the Islands. A second component was the amphibious assault shipping, commanded by Commodore M.C. Clapp RN. Contrary to common belief, Admiral Woodward did not command Commodore Clapp's ships. The embarked force comprised 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, (including units from the Parachute Regiment) under the command of Brigadier J. Thompson RM to bring it up to its wartime strength. Most of this force was aboard the hastily commandeered cruise liner Canberra. Both Clapp and Woodward reported directly to the Commander in Chief Fleet (CINCFLEET), Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, in Britain, who was the overall commander of the operation. In order to keep neutral shipping out of the way during the war, the UK declared a 'total exclusion zone' of 200 nautical miles (370 km) around the Falklands before commencing operations.

HRH The Duke of York served as a helicopter pilot in HMS Invincible during the war, although he did not take part in any direct war action.

The British called their counter-invasion Operation Corporate. When this task force sailed from Britain, with The Queen seeing the armada off, the American news magazine Newsweek cover headline proclaimed "The Empire Strikes Back!"

Although the public mood in the UK was in support of an attempt to reclaim the islands, international opinion was much more divided. To some, Britain was a former colonial power, seeking to reclaim a colony from a local power, and this was a message that the Argentines initially used to garner support. To others, Britain was seen as the stable democracy that had had its territory invaded by a military dictatorship. British diplomacy centred on arguing that the Falkland Islanders were entitled to use the UN principle of self-determination and an apparent willingness to compromise. The UN Secretary-General said that he was amazed at the compromise that the UK had offered. Nevertheless, Argentina rejected it, basing their arguments on rights to territory based on actions before 1945 and the creation of the UN. Many UN members realised that if territorial claims this old could be resurrected, and invasions of territory allowed unchallenged, then their own borders were not safe. So on April 3 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 502, calling for the withdrawal of Argentine troops from the islands and the cessation of hostilities. On April 10 the EEC approved trade sanctions against Argentina. In spite of this, President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. administration remained (officially) neutral.

Shuttle diplomacy and US involvement

Legally, the United States had military treaty obligations to both parties in the war, bound to the UK by NATO and to Argentina by the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (the "Rio Pact"). In March, Secretary of State Alexander Haig directed the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Nicholas Henderson, to warn the Argentine government away from any invasion. President Ronald Reagan requested assurances from Galtieri against an invasion and offered the services of his Vice President, George H. W. Bush, as mediator, but was refused.

In fact, the Reagan Administration was sharply divided on the issue. Meeting on 5 April, Haig and Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs Lawrence Eagleburger favored decisive backing of Britain, concerned that equivocation would undermine the NATO alliance. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Thomas Enders, however, feared that supporting Britain would undermine U.S. anti-communist efforts in Latin America. He received the firm backing of U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Haig's nominal subordinate and political rival.

The White House continued its neutrality; Reagan famously declared at the time that he could not understand why two allies were arguing over "That little ice-cold bunch of land down there". But he assented to Haig and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger's position. Haig briefly (April 8April 30) headed a "shuttle diplomacy" mission between London and Buenos Aires, but at the end of the month Reagan blamed Argentina for the failure of the mediation, declared U.S. support for Britain, and announced the imposition of economic sanctions against Argentina.

In an infamous episode in June, Kirkpatrick cast a second veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire, then announced minutes later that she had received instructions to abstain. The situation was blamed on a delay in communications, but perceived by many as part of an ongoing power struggle between Haig and Kirkpatrick.

Galtieri likely did not think that the UK would react; otherwise, it is doubtful that Argentina would have launched the attack. Of course, this would have been astounding to British people at the time, already familiar with Margaret Thatcher's controversial uncompromising style of government. In as many words, she declared that the Crown and the Empire had been assaulted, and would not surrender the Falkland Islands to the Argentine jackboot. This stance was aided, at least domestically, by the staunchly conservative British press, especially The Sun, which ran such headlines as 'GOTCHA' (following the sinking of the General Belgrano). The Mirror, on the other hand, vehemently opposed the war, and went so far as to say that reading The Sun would damage your mind.

A US preoccupation with the Soviet Union and communism and the thought Britain could handle the matter on her own may have factored into this view as well, although assessments of this theory vary. In the broader sense of the Cold War, with the performance of UK forces watched closely by the Soviet Union, it was worthwhile for the UK to handle without assistance a conflict minor in scale compared to an all-out NATO vs. Warsaw Pact war. Regardless, American non-interference was vital to the U.S.-British relationship. Ascension Island, a UK possession, was on lease to the Americans and the British needed to resume its use as a relay point and air base. The main and decisive American contribution was AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles of the latest L model (these missiles were much more deadly than older models of the Sidewinder), spy satellites and intelligence information.

There were also rumours, later expanded upon by Weinberger, which spoke of lending an aircraft carrier, although this was not public knowledge at the time. It is worth noting that both Weinberger and Reagan would go on to receive honorary knighthoods, the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, from Queen Elizabeth II. American critics of the U.S. role claimed that, by failing to side with Argentina, the U.S. violated its own Monroe Doctrine (even though an American nation, Argentina, attacked the possession of an existing European power, Britain, that predated the Doctrine).

In September 2001, Mexican president Vicente Fox would cite the conflict as proof of the failure of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.


By mid-April the Royal Air Force had set-up an airbase at Wideawake on the mid-Atlantic island of Ascension, including a sizable force of Vulcan bombers, Victor refuelling aircraft, and F-4 Phantom fighters to protect them. Meanwhile the main British naval task force arrived at Ascension to prepare for war. However a small force had already been sent south to re-capture South Georgia.

Recapture of South Georgia

The South Georgia force, Operation Paraquet, under the command of Major Guy Sheridan RM, consisted of marines from 42 Commando, a troop of Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) troops who were intended to land reconnaissance forces for an invasion by the Royal Marines embarked on RFA Tidespring. First to arrive was the Churchill class submarine HMS Conqueror on the 19th, and the island was over-flown by a radar-mapping Handley Page Victor on the 20th. The first landings of SAS troops took place on the 21st, but the weather was so bad that their landings and others made the next day were all withdrawn after several helicopters crashed in fog on Fortuna Glacier.

On the 23rd a submarine alert was sounded and operations were halted, with the Tidespring being withdrawn to deeper water to avoid interception. On the 24th the British forces regrouped and headed in to attack the submarine, the ARA Santa Fe, locating it on the 25th and damaging it enough that the crew decided to abandon it. With the Tidespring now far out to sea and an additional defending force of the submarine's crew now landed, Major Sheridan decided to gather the 75 men he had and make a direct assault that day. After a short forced march the Argentine forces surrendered, making it official the next day. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, broke the news to the media telling them to "Just rejoice at that news!"1

The Black Buck Raids

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An Avro Vulcan, as used for the Black Buck raids

On May 1st, operations against the Falklands opened with the Black Buck 1 attack by RAF Avro Vulcan V bombers on the airfield at Port Stanley. The Vulcan had originally been designed for medium-range stand-off nuclear missions in Europe and did not have the range to fly to the Falklands, requiring several in-flight refuelling missions. The RAF's tanker planes were mostly converted Victors with similar range, so they too had to be refuelled in the air. Thus, a total force of 11 tankers were required for only two Vulcans, a massive logistical effort. In the end only a single bomb hit the runway at Port Stanley, but the Argentine Air Force (FAA) realized that the British were likewise capable of hitting targets on the mainland, and immediately recalled all jet fighters in order to protect against this possibility. The attack was therefore a strategic success, hampering Argentine efforts at close air support, reducing the effective loiter time of incoming Argentine aircraft, and compelling them to overfly British forces in any attempt to attack the islands.

Nonetheless, whilst Argentine fighters were no longer stationed at the airfield, it was never down and remained strongly used by continuous Hercules C-130 flights until the end of the conflict. The transports continued to fly into Port Stanley by night, bringing in supplies, weapons, vehicles, and fuel into the Falklands and airlifting out the wounded. Argentine air transports continued to slip past the British through the last night of the war.

Only minutes after Black Buck, nine Sea Harriers from the Hermes followed up the raid by dropping cluster bombs on Port Stanley and the smaller grass airstrip at Goose Green. Both missions scored aircraft kills on the ground, as well as causing some damage to the airfield infrastructure. The aircraft had taken off from the deck of HMS Invincible, and although attached BBC reporter Brian Hanrahan was forbidden to divulge the number of planes involved, he came up with the memorable phrase "I counted them all out and I counted them all back".

Meanwhile the FAA had already launched an attack of their own with Grupo 6 (flying IAI Dagger Aircraft), on information that landings had already taken place. Four of these planes were lost to Sea Harriers operating from Invincible, while combat broke out between other Harriers and Mirage fighters of Grupo 8. Both sides refused to fight at the other's best altitude, until the Mirages finally descended to engage. One was shot down, and another was damaged and made for Port Stanley, where it fell victim to friendly fire from the Argentine defenders.

Sinking of the Belgrano

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Gotcha headline
HMS Conqueror returning to port flying the
HMS Conqueror returning to port flying the Jolly Roger

On May 2 the World War II-vintage Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano — a survivor of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks — was sunk by Conqueror, using WWII vintage torpedoes as they were considered more reliable than the more modern Tigerfish torpedo. 321 lives were lost, although initial casualty reports were confused. The British newspaper The Sun famously greeted the sinking with the headline GOTCHA, albeit that the accompanying story carried no news of Argentine deaths. The nuclear-powered Conqueror was captained by Commander Christopher Wreford-Brown and was the third and final ship of the Churchill class of boats. The loss of General Belgrano hardened the stance of the Argentine government and also became a cause celebre for anti-war campaigners (such as Labour MP Tam Dalyell), who declared that the ship had been sailing away from the Falklands at the time. The vessel was inarguably outside the exclusion zone, and sailing away from the area of conflict. However, during war, under international law, the heading of a belligerent naval vessel has no bearing on its status.

Regardless of controversies over the sinking, it had an important strategic effect. After the loss of General Belgrano, the entire Argentine fleet returned to port and did not leave again for the duration of hostilities. The two destroyers supporting General Belgrano and the task force built around the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo both withdrew from the area, ending the direct threat to the British fleet that their pincer movement had represented. The attack on General Belgrano was the second time since the end of World War II that a submarine had fired torpedoes in wartime and the only time that a nuclear powered submarine has done so.

Sinking of HMS Sheffield

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HMS Sheffield on fire
Two days after the General Belgrano sinking, on May 4, the British lost the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield to fire following an Exocet missile strike. Sheffield had been ordered forward with two other Type 42s in order to provide a radar and missile "picket" far from the British carriers. After the ships were detected by an Argentine Navy (ARA) P-2 Neptune patrol aircraft, two ARA Dassault Super Etendards were launched, each armed with a single Exocet. Refuelled by a C-130 Hercules shortly after launch, they went in at low altitude, popped up for a radar check and released the missiles from 20 to 30 miles (30 to 50 km) away. One missed HMS Yarmouth, due to her deployment of chaff, but the other hit Sheffield. The weapon struck with devastating effect, hitting the centre of the ship and starting raging fires which quickly spread, killing 22 sailors and severely injuring 24 others.

Whilst fighting the fire, Yarmouth reacted to a possible attack from an Argentine submarine, firing anti-submarine weaponry. Sheffield was abandoned several hours later, gutted and deformed by her still-burning fires which lingered on for six more days. She finally sank outside the Exclusion Zone on May 10, whilst under tow from the Yarmouth, becoming an official war grave. Meanwhile the other Type 42s were withdrawn from their precarious position, leaving the British task force open to attack.

The tempo of operations increased throughout the second half of May. UN attempts to mediate a peace were rejected by the British who felt that any delay would make a campaign impractical in the South Atlantic storms. The destruction of Sheffield had a profound impact on the British public, bringing home the fact that the "Falklands Crisis", as the BBC News put it, was now an actual shooting war.

Landing at Port San Carlos

San Carlos landing sites
San Carlos landing sites
Context of landings in the Falklands
Context of landings in the Falklands

During the night of May 21 the British made an amphibious landing on beaches near San Carlos Water, on the northern coast of East Falkland, putting the 4000 men of 3 Commando Brigade, including 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Parachute Regiment (2 and 3 Para), ashore from the amphibious ships and the liner Canberra: 2 Para and 40 Commando landing at San Carlos beach; 45 Commando at Ajax bay; 3 Para at Port San Carlos. By dawn the next day they had established a secure bridgehead from which to conduct offensive operations. From there Brigadier Thompson's plan was to capture Darwin and Goose Green before turning towards Port Stanley.

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Stricken HMS Ardent
At sea the paucity of British ships' anti-aircraft defences was demonstrated in the sinking of HMS Ardent on the 21st, HMS Antelope on the 23rd, and MV Atlantic Conveyor, with a vital cargo of helicopters, runway building equipment and tents on the 25th. The loss of all but one of the Chinook Helicopters being carried by the Atlantic Conveyor was a severe blow from a logistics perspective; the sole surviving Chinook was called Bravo November. Also lost on this day was HMS Coventry, a sister to HMS Sheffield, whilst in company with HMS Broadsword. HMS Argonaut and HMS Brilliant were badly damaged. The Argentines lost over thirty aircraft in these attacks, including several Pucars. The only neighboring country that aided Argentina during the war was Peru, which provided number of Mirage 5P fighter planes from the Peruvian Air Force, ships, and medical teams. This was after Peruvian president Belaunde announced that his country was "ready to support Argentina with all the resources it needed." Neighboring Chile, under Pinochet's regime, became the only South American country to aid Britain by providing important logistical support during the war.

Goose Green

Starting early on May 27 and through May 28, 2 Para approached and attacked Darwin and Goose Green which was held by the Argentine 12th Inf Regt. After a tough struggle which lasted all night and into the next day; seventeen British and 47 Argentine soldiers had been killed and 1050 Argentine troops taken prisoner. Due to a gaffe by the BBC the taking of Goose Green was announced on the BBC World Service before it actually happened. It was during this attack that Lt Col H. Jones, the CO of 2 Para was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. See also Battle of Goose Green.

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East Falkland showing San Carlos bridgehead, Teal Inlet, Mt. Kent and Mt Challenger

With the sizeable Argentine force at Goose Green out of the way, British forces were now able to break out of the San Carlos bridgehead. From 27 May men of 45 Cdo and 3 Para started walking across East Falkland towards the coastal settlement of Teal Inlet.

Meanwhile 42 Cdo and the SAS moved by helicopter to within sight of Stanley where they seized Mt Kent and Mt Challenger. The SAS had several clashes with Argentine Commandos in the Mount Kent area, and although four SAS were wounded, the Argentines who were members of the 602nd Commando Company, had the worst of the clashes. They had two men killed and one captured in an SAS ambush at Bluff Cove Peak in an action on 30 May. First Lieutenant Ruben Eduardo Marquez and Sergeant Oscar Humberto Blas were posthumously decorated for their part in this action.

A larger fight took place on 31 May. Argentine Commandos were observed moving to Top Malo House. Nineteen Royal Marines were helicoptered there in daylight and attacked the house. One group with 66mm rockets, grenades and rifles were to provide covering fire as the assault teams moved close to the house. These men followed a sheep fence to keep them on line for the house which was hidden beyond a hillock. The covering team doubled out to the right to come out of cover a few hundred metres from the house. First Lieutenant Ernesto Emilio Espinosa at one upper window, saw them and gave the alarm, but the Royal Marines pressed home the attack with anti-tank rockets which set it ablaze within seconds. Reserves of ammunition on the ground floor 'cooked off' and the building peeled open in a ball of flame. Even so, the assault teams were met by steady fire that wounded three of them as they advanced towards the front door, from which Sergeant Mateo Domingo Sbert was firing while others leapt from windows and withdrew down a small valley. One Royal Marine sergeant, against orders, made a dash into the open, drawing Argentine fire long enough for his 'oppos' to find the direction of the enemy, before he fell, hit in the left shoulder. His move gave the Marines the momentary sighting that was all they needed to follow their quarry; and all thirteen Argentine Commandos were killed or captured after what had been forty minutes of sharp action.

By June 1, with the arrival of a further 5000 British troops of 5 Inf Brigade landed at San Carlos from Canberra, Norland and Stromness having transferred from the liner QE2 at South Georgia, new British divisional commander, Major General JJ Moore RM, had sufficient force to start planning an offensive against Port Stanley.

During this build-up the Argentine air assaults on the British naval forces continued, killing 48, including 32 Welsh Guardsmen on the RFA Sir Galahad and the RFA Sir Tristram on June 8. Many others suffered serious burns (including, famously, Simon Weston). These troops were still on the ships because of the loss of the helicopters on the Atlantic Conveyor. This meant that they had had to be transferred around the islands by ship. Unfortunately, and tragically, the commanders of the landing force ignored the advice of naval commanders to disembark at the earliest opportunity.

Battle for Port Stanley

On the night of 11 June, after several days of painstaking reconnaissance and logistic build-up, British forces launched a brigade-sized night attack against the heavily defended ring of high ground surrounding Port Stanley. Units of 3 Commando Brigade, supported by naval gunfire from several Royal Navy ships, simultaneously assaulted Mount Harriet, Two Sisters, and Mount Longdon. During this battle thirteen were killed when HMS Glamorgan, which was providing naval gunfire support, was struck by an Exocet fired from the back of a truck, further displaying the vulnerability of ships to anti-ship missiles. On this day Sgt Ian McKay of 4 Platoon, B Company, 3 Para died in a grenade attack on an Argentine bunker which was to earn him a posthumous Victoria Cross. After a night of fierce fighting all objectives were secured.

On the night of June 13 the second phase of attacks started in which the momentum of the initial assault was maintained. 2 Para captured Wireless Ridge and the 2nd battalion, Scots Guards captured Mount Tumbledown. As the fighting was coming to a close the Falklands Islanders on the eastern edge of Port Stanley were in imminent danger of being shot at by a platoon of a 3rd Infantry Regiment company as the conscripts and regulars steeled themselves for the final house-to-house battle near Government House. This is revealed in the book The Battle For The Falklands by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins. Brigadier-General Oscar Jofre, Commander of the elite 10th Argentine Mechanized Infantry Brigade, has admitted that the abrupt end of the ground fighting was hastened by fear of war crimes against the civilians.

On June 14 the commander of the Argentine garrison in Port Stanley, Mario Menendez, surrendered to Major General JJ Moore Royal Marines. 9800 Argentine troops were made POWs and were repatriated to Argentina on the liner Canberra. On June 20 the British retook the South Sandwich Islands, (which involved accepting the surrender of the Southern Thule Garrison at the Corbeta Uruguay base) and declared the hostilities were at an end.

The war lasted 72 days, with 236 British and around 700 Argentine soldiers, sailors, and airmen, killed.



Militarily, the Falklands War was important for a number of reasons.

It was one of the few major naval battles so far to have occurred after the end of World War II. As such this conflict illustrated the vulnerability of surface ships to anti-ship missiles and reaffirmed the effectiveness of aircraft in naval warfare. The viability of stealth (in the form of submarines) again proved its usefulness, much as it did during World War II and the Cold War.

Neither side achieved total air supremacy, but the power of air forces during a conflict like this proved invaluable, due to the isolated, rough landscape of the Falklands. Air strikes were staged against ground, sea and air targets on both sides and often with clear results. All of the UK losses at sea were achieved by the FAA. The French Exocet missile proved its lethality in air-to-surface operations.

It vindicated the UK decision to develop the VTOL Harrier aircraft, that showed its capability of operating from forward bases with no runways. At sea it demonstrated the domination of airpower in major engagements and the usefulness of carriers.

The logistic capability of the UK armed forces was stretched to the absolute limit in order to mount an amphibious operation so far from a home-base, onto mountainous islands which have few roads. After the war much work was done to improve both the logistic and amphibious capability of the Royal Navy.

The role of special forces units, which destroyed many Argentine aircraft, and carried out intelligence gathering operations, was reaffirmed.

The usefulness of helicopters in combat, logistic, and casevac operations was reaffirmed.

At sea, some shortcomings of warship design were made apparent, particularly the danger of using aluminium in ships (although it did not catch fire, it melted in the heat). Nylon was shown to be a poor choice of fabric in uniforms, as it is more flammable than cotton and also melts with heat, sticking the incendiary fabric to the skin and causing avoidable casualties.


The Falklands War illustrates the role of political miscalculation and miscommunication in creating war. Both sides seriously underestimated the importance of the Falklands to the other. The Falklands War illustrates the role of chance in determining what happens in a war. Some commentators believe that the war could have ended in an Argentine victory if one of the Exocets had hit an aircraft carrier, or if the frequent unexploded bombs had detonated on striking some of the ships (75% of the British task force was damaged or sunk), or if Argentina had attacked the British artillery, using the three paratroop regiments already deployed at Comodoro Rivadavia. Equally, if the Argentines had made better preparations to hold the islands, they might have been able to do so, but they did not expect that the British would attempt to carry out a war 6000 miles (10,000 km) from home. Either way, an Argentine victory may have been an unacceptable show of weakness on the part of the UK during an intense period of the Cold War, and as a result some have doubted that such an outcome would have been allowed to remain for long. With the UK being an integral US ally and important part of NATO, to permit a loss would have been a signal to the USSR that the NATO alliance was militarily and politically weak.

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

The war cost the UK 255 men, six ships (10 others were very badly damaged), thirty-four aircraft, and more than 1.6 billion pounds, but the campaign was considered a great victory for the United Kingdom. The war provided a substantial boost to the popularity of Margaret Thatcher and played a role in ensuring her re-election in 1983. Several members of her government resigned, including the former Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington. It has also been said by diplomats that following the British victory there was an increase in international respect for Britain, formerly regarded as a fading colonial power. As mentioned earlier, the victory was not overlooked by the USSR and was an important junction in the Cold War.

However, it is believed that with the renewed confidence gained from the victory, Margaret Thatcher suggested in her 1983 China visit an extension of the British rule of the New Territories in Hong Kong, which was to legally end in 1997 with the expiration of the 99-year lease (Beijing never actually recognized any of the 19th century treaties over Hong Kong). She was famously rebuffed during a meeting with then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping with comments such as "China is no Argentina" and "We can order troops into Hong Kong this afternoon". Formal discussions of British withdrawal from the territory started after this Beijing visit and Hong Kong was returned to China on July 1, 1997.

On the other hand, the Argentine military government was ousted after mounting protests by human rights and war veterans groups. Galtieri was forced to resign, paving the way for the restoration of democracy. Elections were held on October 30, 1983 and Ral Alfonsn, the Radical Civic Union (UCR) party candidate, took office on December 10, 1983. Alfonsn defeated Italo Luder, the candidate for the Justicialist Party (Peronist movement).


During the operations, several wounded British soldiers had to spend hours in the cold before receiving medical aid; famously, no British soldiers evacuated to medical aid stations died. Many recovered beyond what medicine of the time thought possible, and subsequent theories have suggested that this was due to the extreme cold (similar apocryphal tales had originated during the bitter winter fighting of the Korean War).

Cultural impact in the UK

The war provided a wealth of material for writers, and many dozens of books came from it; in the UK the definitive account became Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins' The Battle for the Falklands. Other titles focussed on the Sea Harrier (Sharkey Ward's Sea Harrier over the Falklands), the land battles leading up to the Argentine capitulation (Christian Jennings and Adrian Weale's Green Eyed Boys), and the general experience of battle (Ken Lukowiak's A Soldier's Song). Jack Higgins' thriller Exocet dealt with one of the war's most famous 'buzz-words'; for many years afterwards, 'exocet' became synonymous with 'rocket' in the UK ('Yomp' and 'Task Force' also entered the language).

Very few films emerged from the conflict, one such being the 1989 BBC drama Tumbledown, which starred Colin Firth in an early role. It told the tale of a soldier in the Scots Guards, brain-damaged by a sniper's bullet, adjusting to disabled life after the war. In 1992 the BBC produced An Ungentlemanly Act, relating the story of the initial defence of the Islands during the Argentine Invasion, with Bob Peck as Mike Norman and Ian Richardson as Rex Hunt. Ian Curteis' The Falklands Play was commissioned by the BBC in 1986, but was not filmed until 2004; the BBC claimed that it would have been broadcast too close to the 1987 General Election. Curteis maintained that the generally sympathetic portrayal of Margaret Thatcher refuted a perceived BBC anti-government bias. On a lighter note, the character of Grant Mitchell from the popular, gritty soap opera Eastenders was written as a traumatised Falklands veteran, although this characterisation was swiftly abandoned.

Tottenham Hotspur's popular Argentine midfielder Ossie Ardiles had helped beat Leicester City one day after the invasion, to no ill effect, although he subsequently left the UK for a year of his own volition. The war also created heightened passions between Argentina and England in the 1986, 1998, and 2002 FIFA World Cups, featuring memorable, and sometimes infamous, performances by Diego Maradona, Peter Shilton, and David Beckham.

Although the war did not have a direct impact on British civilians, it nonetheless had impacts on British pop culture. Popular music referencing the war included Elvis Costello's song "Shipbuilding," Pink Floyd's songs "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert", "The Fletcher Memorial Home", and "Not Now John" from the album The Final Cut, Billy Bragg's song "Island of No Return" and The Bluebells' song "South Atlantic Way". Joe Jackson's 1986 song "Tango Atlantico" deals with a description of the end of the war and the aftermath. Much material produced around this time by the anarchist punk band Crass was extremely critical of the war, in particular the singles "How Does it Feel to be the Mother of 1000 Dead" and "Sheep Farming in the Falklands" and the album Yes Sir, I Will. Crass were also responsible for Thatchergate, a hoax tape, originally attributed to the Soviet KGB, during which the spliced voice of Margartet Thatcher appears to imply that the HMS Sheffield was deliberately sacrificed in order to escalate the conflict.

The popular computer games Harrier Attack and Yomp presented unofficial portraits of the fighting.

The aforementioned Simon Weston, a Welsh Guard who had suffered serious burns during the conflict, became a popular figure due to British media coverage. A series of television documentaries followed his progress and eventual recovery from his injuries (Simon's War being the first).

Falklands War Veterans afflictions

The British Ministry of Defence was accused several times of a systematic failure to prepare service personnel for the horrors of war and provide adequate care for them afterwards.

There are strong allegations that the Ministry of Defence has tried to ignore the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which left many sufferers emotionally scarred and unable to work, inmersed in social dislocation, alcoholism, and depression. Most veterans have suffered prolonged personality disorders, flashbacks and anxiety levels sometimes reaching pathological levels.

It was revealed that more veterans have committed suicide since the Falklands conflict ended than the number of Servicemen killed in action.

SAMA - the South Atlantic Medal Association, which represents and helps Falklands veterans - believe some 264 veterans have now taken their own lives, a number that contrasts with the 255 who died on active service.

A similar situation afflicts the veterans on the Argentine side, many of whom have similarly suffered psychiatric disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and social turmoil.

See also


External links

IssueNumber=49134&pageNumber=1&PageDuplicate=x0 Victoria Cross and other citations] published in the London Gazette, 11 October 1982

Related content
Military Forces Falklands War Ground Forces - Falklands War Air Forces - Falklands War Naval Forces
External Links Article on the Conflict 1 (http://www.loyno.edu/history/journal/1998-9/Haney.htm#1) - Chronology of Events (http://www.yendor.com/vanished/falklands-war.html) - Article on the Conflict 2 (http://guest.xinet.com/ignacio/polsi342/falklands.html) - Reagan Q&A Transcript (http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/resource/speeches/1982/43082b.htm) - About high-speed torpedoes (http://www.onr.navy.mil/sci_tech/engineering/333_mechanics/usea_counter.asp) - many articles (http://www.britains-smallwars.com/Falklands/index.html)
General Related History - Military history - British military history -- War
Falklands War-related History of the Falkland Islands - South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

de:Falklandkrieg es:Guerra de las Malvinas fr:Guerre des Malouines hr:Falklandski rat he:מלחמת פוקלנד nl:Falklandoorlog ja:フォークランド戦争 no:Falklandskrigen pl:Wojna o Falklandy-Malwiny pt:Guerra das Malvinas fi:Falklandin sota sv:Falklandskriget zh:马岛战争


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