The Falklands War: When the British defeated the Argentine junta

FFor the contemporary peace movement, this struggle was one of the most absurd of all. A country that hated the idea that it no longer had half the world had to prove that it was still little more than a territorial power with a few islands in the South Atlantic: this is roughly how this camp read it.

It is now clear how unwise it was to heed pacifist advice in war, but in 1982 pacifists weren’t the only ones who advised against going to battle for the Falkland Islands. With all due respect to the rare herbs that grew there – despite the oil reserves, they hardly made any economic contribution, and could be neglected in geopolitical terms.

Falkland Islands

Source: Infographic World

Thus the war between Argentina and the United Kingdom, which had not been officially declared, became a matter of national identity for the British in particular. It is not by chance that the debate is closely connected with the name of Margaret Thatcher to this day. Since becoming prime minister a little more than two years ago, she has set out to eradicate the island’s legacy of the idea that democratic socialism is possible.

Leading the people exerting their influence around the planet when facing the challenge was just as important as shattering the power of the guilds. Battles away from home also entered the history of journalism – for the first time, the island’s tabloid, “The Sun”, followed a nationalist path without any inhibitions.

Gurkhas are flown from Goose Green in the Falkland Islands.  Date: 1982 (Mary Evans Picture Library) ||  Editorial use only

Aid from the air: Nepalese soldiers serving the British ran towards a helicopter

Source: picture-alliance / Mary Evans Pi

Thatcher did not anticipate conflict. Since 1833 Great Britain has claimed the archipelago located in the South Atlantic, as has Argentina. In the 1970s, the Falklands affair was a constant source of bitter disputes between governments, with a military junta ruling the South American country since 1976, in which state terrorism cost some 30,000 Argentines their lives.

So it was not the fault of the British that they sometimes required all the diplomatic skills to prevent an armed conflict. The situation had deteriorated under Thatcher, but officials in 10 Downing Street did not take into account the fact that the junta was really going to get serious.

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But in the early hours of April 2, 1982, the government in Buenos Aires led by Roberto Eduardo Viola created facts. Hundreds of Argentine soldiers occupied the archipelago and its main city, Stanley. The British had stationed a total of 68 soldiers there, encountering fierce resistance, but had to surrender at 9:30 AM. A day later, the Argentines also captured South Georgia, 1,400 kilometers to the east.

The South Americans took their victory for granted, and the junta under no circumstances depended on a military response from London. The opposing armed forces were too far away, the islands too insignificant – and above all there was the arrogance of a regime that did not allow criticism and had an unrealistic picture of its power.

It soon became clear how wrong the rulers of South America had been. Not only did the world public notice well what he was about to do, Margaret Thatcher also explained why she was considered the “Iron Lady”: in contrast to all the efforts her government had made to find a solution at the negotiating table acceptable to her. , insisted not to accept the cast. Their motto was for the United Kingdom to take back militarily what was taken from it.

Falkland Islands: Gurkha GR on red alert for air raid with GPMG (AA) on MV Norland.  Date: 1982 (Mary Evans Picture Library) ||  Editorial use only

The British are still masters of the seas, and soon they had the upper hand at sea

Source: picture-alliance / Mary Evans Pi

First, the British had some diplomatic successes. France suspended arms exports to Argentina on April 3, and six days later the European Community imposed wide-ranging economic sanctions. Then the United States sided with Great Britain. Washington promised logistical support so that the British could use the US base in the British Boarding Islands – a feature that would be critical in providing a reliable basis for operational planning.

Militarily, the Argentines were superior, especially in the air. They had 120 combat aircraft, including 60 fighter-bombers. Some of them are equipped with the latest AM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. There were about 80 cars on the southern coast of the Argentine mainland, and the airports on the islands could not use all the planes.

Three naval battle groups formed the second line of defense, the aircraft carrier ARA “Veinticinco de Mayo” with its A-4 “Skyhawk” bombers, the cruiser ARA “General Belgrano” and two destroyers with anti-ship missiles were found. There was also a ground force of about 13,000 soldiers directly on the islands. However, Buenos Aires wanted to prevent the enemy from landing by deploying air and naval forces in front of the archipelago at sea.

“On we go!”

The British responded to this with almost all the forces that were available for the mission in the South Atlantic. HMS Hermes aircraft carrier It didn’t turn off as planned, but it turned on On April 5 with the new carrier HMS “Invincible” towards ascent. Three submarines and troop carriers followed suit. The British stationed bombers, fighters and transport aircraft in Ascension. On the ground, three battalions of Royal Marines spearheaded the attack. They were reinforced with paratroopers, anti-aircraft and special forces of the Special Air Service.

In London, The Sun and the Daily Mirror stirred the mood like never before. Publisher Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun wrote about the war as best it could; The competition, as a workers’ newspaper, was still on the road to peace. Murdoch’s newspaper made headlines that commented: “We go!” The headline “The Sun” is in huge letters when the first wave of attacks erupted at the end of April – three clips that many journalists still consider the latest news because of the laconic brevity.

It didn’t stop there. On May 2, the British submarine HMS Conqueror sank the cruiser General Belgrano, sinking 323 Argentines. Kelvin Mackenzie, editor-in-chief of The Sun, settled on the following short headline: “Gotta get you!” Shouted from the first page. Publisher Murdoch was personally present in the editorial office and did not interfere. Only in the latest version the front page was softened and the number of victims was requested.

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Only a few days later, Kelvin McKenzie followed up and reported the destruction of enemy military equipment as the football score: “Britain 6, Argentina zero.” In the face of such innovations, the Daily Mirror was left only with an editorial saying, “The sun of today is what Dr. Joseph Goebbels does for the truth.” A society like Britain, which has always prided itself on its ability to reach consensus, had to learn how to Dealing with such harsh tones.

“The Sun” itself was not mistaken even with “Gotta!”. The sinking of the cruiser had such a devastating effect on the morale of the Argentine army that they left the sea almost entirely for the British. So it was only a matter of time before their forces could take control of the land. However, the fighting lasted for a month and a half. The Argentines defended themselves primarily from the air, so that the British were only able to conquer the strategic point of Goose Green at the end of May, and took control of the main town of Stanley on June 14.

633 Argentines lost their lives in this war, and the British had to mourn 258 dead. Military experts attribute the British victory to three main reasons: First, American support – having a superpower behind you was a huge boost to soldiers’ morale. Secondly, the Argentine troops had problems with the cold climate on the islands, they were accustomed to the heat. And luck was real in London: the weather often helped when you needed it.

Gus Green, June 1982: After the Argentine surrender, the helmets of soldiers fall on the battlefield

After the surrender of Argentina, the helmets of soldiers are located on the battlefield in Goose Green on June 14

Source: Photo Alliance / d

But the British did not want to know much about the last two points in particular. Needless to say, the sun rained down victory with every pity imaginable. The paper has remained roughly correct with that line ever since—at least before the vote on whether the British should remain in the European Union, the editors did everything they could to present the union of nations as a threatening institution for the British.

In 1982, the mood of “ We are back! ”All over the UK it was worn by Margaret Thatcher for a long time. In Argentina, on the other hand, the defeat had a clear positive effect: the junta years ended and the country developed into a democracy.

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