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Falklands War

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The Falklands War (in Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas, or the Malvinas War) was a conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands between March and June 1982. Though surprised by an Argentinian attack on the islands, Britain eventually prevailed and the islands remained in British hands, in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants. In Argentina, the conclusion of the war led to the downfall of the military junta and the restoration of a system of democracy.

Background

Ownership of the islands had long been disputed. In the 18th Century, the French were first to establish a claim by right of occupation, only to be expelled by Spain, which then ceded the Falklands to England. The islands remained unoccupied, however, and the English claim lapsed.

Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1816 and moved to occupy the Falklands (Islas Malvinas) in 1820, but that settlement did not endure and the Argentinian claim similarly fell into abeyance. Finally, in 1833 the islands were settled by the British. Argentina nevertheless continued to argue that the 'Malvinas' were Argentine territory. (For more details on the origin of the dispute see History of the Falkland Islands.)

With the late 20th century absorption of the British Colonial Office into the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, successive British governments had come to see the dispute with Argentina as a minor problem which they would have been happy to relieve themselves of. Despite this, the 1,800 or so inhabitants of British origin steadfastly refused to become part of Argentina, citing Article 73 of the United Nations charter to support their position. In 1965, under UN Resolution 2065, Britain and Argentina started negotiations on the islands' future, but seventeen years later little had changed.

Argentina had become a military dictatorship in 1976, and faced severe economic problems and civil disunity, in particular from leftist guerrillas (the Montoneros). A bloody victory over the guerrillas was achieved in 1981 but the economy was in an appalling state with inflation running at 140% when General Galtieri came to power in December 1981.

The Royal Navy maintained a military presence in the area in the form of a small group of forty Royal Marines known as Naval Party 8901.

Build Up

Galtieri aimed to counterbalance public concern over economic and human rights issues with a speedy nationalist 'win' over the Falklands. Pressure was exerted in the UN with a subtle hint of invasion raised: the British missed this threat and continued to waste time (it is worth noting, British positions are not expressed centrally and monolithically but rather emerge from the operations of special interests and departments without always being uniform and consistent; this has often misled outside observers). The Argentines interpreted the British position as disengagement, being willing to step away if the islands were invaded - a viewpoint encouraged by the planned withdrawal of the last Royal Navy presence in 1981 (together with a general down-sizing of the fleet) and the British Nationality Bill of 1981 which withdrew full citizenship rights from the Falkland Islanders. The British also helped by being unwilling to believe that the Argentinians would invade.

The invasion plan was developed by Admiral Jorge Anaya, the passionately anti-British head of the Argentine navy. Following the failure of further talks in January 1982, the plans were finalised and the invasion set for April. The attack was pre-empted by the 'invasion' of the island of South Georgia (1,390 km east of the Falklands) on March 19, 1982 by a group of patriotic Argentinian civilians posing as scrap metal merchants. The Royal Navy's Antarctic patrol vessel HMS Endurance was ordered to remove the civilians on March 25, but was blocked by three Argentine warships and wisely retreated. However on March 30 despite the further evidence of the Argentinian navy loading troops in Puerto Belgrano the UK Joint Intelligence Committee's Latin American group stated that "invasion was not imminent".

Failed diplomacy

From the time of the breaking of formal diplomatic relations, Peru represented Argentine diplomatic interests in the UK and Switzerland represented UK interests in Argentina. Argentine diplomats in London were credentialed as Peruvian diplomats of Argentine nationality and the UK diplomats in Buenos Aires were credentialed as Swiss diplomats of British nationality. Despite this civility, and although Peru and Switzerland exerted great diplomatic effort to avoid war, they were unable to head off the conflict.

Invasion

Falkland Islands Governor Rex Hunt was informed by the British Government of a possible Argentine invasion on the 31 March. The Governor summoned the two senior Royal Marines officers of Naval Party 8901 to Government House to discuss the options for defending the Falklands.

He said during the meeting, "Sounds like the buggers mean it", still remaining composed despite the seriousness of the situation that the islands faced.

Major Mike Norman RM was given overall command of the Marines due to his seniority, while Major Gary Noott RM became the military advisor to Governor Hunt. The total strength was 67 Marines, which was higher than would have been due because the garrison was in the process of changing. Both the replacement and the troop preparing to leave were in the Falklands at the time of the invasion. This was decreased to 55 when twelve Royal Marines embarked aboard the Antarctic patrol ship Endurance to observe Argentinian soldiers based at South Georgia. The force was increased by 23 part-timers of the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF). They were then dispersed to key locations in East Falkland, with Moody Brook Barracks itself being abandoned.

On April 2 the destroyer Santisima Trinidad halted 500 metres off Mullet Creek and lowered 21 Argentine Gemini assault craft into the water, containing 92 troops of the Argentine Amphibious Commando who then soon landed. At 5:45am the Argentine Marines had reached their primary objective, Moody Brook Barracks. The Commandos then launched a chaotic and heavy attack on the barracks, using heavy weapons and phosphorus grenades. It was soon halted when it became apparent that the barracks had been abandoned.

The Argentine Commandos, after achieving the capture of their first objective, proceeded to join another group of Commandos and were now both heading for Government House. The noise of the assault had actually alerted Major Norman of the presence of Argentines on the island, and he thus drove back to Government house. Realising that the attack was coming from numerous directions, he ordered all troop sections to converge on the house to enable the defence to be centralised. Lieutenant-Commander Giachino, who commanded the sixteen soldiers sent to attack the house, entered the servants' annex of Government House, believing it to be the back door. Giachino, with four of his men, kicked down the door of the annex. Three Royal Marines were placed to cover the annex. Giachino was hit instantly as he burst through the door, while another Argentine was hit in the leg. The remaining three fled to the maid's quarters. Giachino was not dead, but very badly wounded. An Argentine medic attempted to get to him but was wounded by a grenade. Giachino had been shot whilst carrying a live hand grenade. The Royal Marines had attempted to persuade the officer to get rid of the grenade so that they could give him medical treatment, but Giachino refused. After the surrender of the British forces at Government House, Giachino died from heavy loss of blood.

Another skirmish had begun almost simultaneously with the assault on Government House. Numerous Argentine assault vehicles had been landed by ex-US amphibious assault craft and were being watched by a section of Royal Marines under the command of Lieutenant Bill Trollope. The order to attack was given and Marine Gibbs aimed at the lead Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and opened fire with his LAW anti-tank rocket launcher, missing the vehicle by a narrow margin. Marine Brown who had the far more effective Carl Gustav anti-tank rocket launcher, hit the APC. The Argentines inside were unhurt in the blast and immediately rushed out of the vehicle. The shocked Argentines soon opened up with a devastating barrage of gunfire from machine guns mounted aboard the APCs. Lieutenant Trollope soon ordered a withdrawal of his section back to Government House.

At Government House, Major Norman received a radio report from Corporal York's section, which was positioned at Stanley Harbour, observing any possible Argentinian ship movement. The Corporal proceeded to report of three potential targets in sight and of which he should engage first. "What are the targets?" the Major enquired. The response must have been rather shocking to hear. "Target number one is an aircraft carrier, target number two is a cruiser...", the line as soon as he had reached cruiser, went dead.

Corporal York decided to withdraw his section and proceeded to booby trap their Carl Gustav launcher, before paddling their Gemini assault boat and heading north across Port William. As he did so, an Argentine destroyer began pursuing them. His initiative led to the Gemini reaching an anchored Polish fishing vessel, hiding the small assault boat in its shadow. They patiently waited for a chance, before paddling to the shore and then landing on a small beach.

Back at Government House, another incident occurred, when the three Argentinian survivors of the skirmish at the House inadvertently alerted Major Noot to their presence, while they had been preparing to leave their hiding place. The Major fired shots into the maids room ceiling. The startled Argentines tumbled down the stairs and surrendered to the Major, becoming the first POWs of the Falklands War.

On the morning of 3 April, Rex Hunt and Major Norman, now besieged inside Government House, decided to surrender to now overwhelming Argentine forces but Corporal York's section remained uncaptured. On the 4th of April, his section reached a secluded shepherd's hut owned by a woman called Mrs. Watson. He had no radio, and due to worries about possible civilian deaths, chose to surrender to Argentine forces. They radioed their position to the Argentines using a local islander's radio and subsequently ordered his men to destroy and then bury their weapons.

After the surrender, the Royal Marines and members of FIDF were then herded to the playing fields. Pictures were taken of the British prisoners, which galvanised the British public when seen. Soon afterwards, the Royal Marines were then moved to a C-130 transport aircraft, which would take them to Uruguay and on to Britain. Rex Hunt was allowed to make a farewell address on local radio, and even wore his Governor's ceremonial uniform, attracting ridicule from Argentines, before changing back into civilian clothes. One Marine as he headed up the ramp, gave an Argentine guard a parting shot that would come true in 72 days time. "Don't make yourself too comfy mate, we'll be back."

In Buenos Aires huge flag-waving crowds flooded the Plaza de Mayo on hearing the news. In London the government was in more of a state of shock on what became known as "Black Friday". The next day Argentine forces seized the island chain of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, 1500 km to the east of the Falklands.

Life under the Occupation

In spite of earlier assurances that the Islanders' way of life and cultural identity would be maintained, Argentina made changes that were unwelcome, such as the changing of Port Stanley's name to 'Puerto Argentino', the adoption of Spanish as an official language, and commanding traffic to drive on the right. In spite of arrows being painted on the roads by the occupying forces, Islanders defiantly continued to drive on the left.

Image:galtier.jpg
Argentine President Galtieri

Task Force

The British were quick to organise diplomatic pressure against Argentina and to assemble a task force to dispatch to the islands, centred around the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes. 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; however to others Britain was seen as the stable democracy that had had its territory invaded by a military dictatorship. The British won the diplomacy game by arguing that the Falkland Islanders were entitled to use the UN principle of self-determination and by appearing to be ready to compromise. The UN Secretary-General said that he was amazed at the compromise that the UK had offered but Argentina rejected it, and based 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 then invasions of territory allowed unchallenged, that their own borders were not safe and so on April 3 the UN passed a resolution 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 Ronald Reagan and the U.S. administration remained neutral.

Shuttle Diplomacy and US Involvement

Alexander Haig, the United States Secretary of State, briefly (April 8-April 30) headed a "shuttle diplomacy" mission before President Ronald Reagan declared US support for Britain and instituted sanctions against Argentina. Support of the USA was initially equivocal, and is reported to be the result of urging by Caspar Weinberger, who advised the President to support the UK. 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". Reagan sympathised with Galtieri because Galtieri clamped down on leftists in South America. He had received a reportedly warm reception when he visited the US. Galtieri likely didn't think that the UK would react, otherwise it is doubtful Argentina would have launched the attack. A US preoccupation with the USSR and communism and the thought Britain could handle the matter on her own may have factored into this view as well, though the validity of this idea vary. Certainly less respect would have resulted had there been a lot of assistance and would not been out of line of the US passive condonation of Galtieri's earlier actions. 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: 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 American contribution was AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles of the latest L model. These missiles were much more deadly then older models of the Sidewinder. There were also rumours, later expanded upon by Weinberger, that spoke of lending an aircraft carrier, although this was not public knowledge at the time. Use of US spy satellites and intelligence sharing is reported by some sources. 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.

Preparing for War

Because of the long distance between the Falklands and United Kingdom, the British were reliant on a naval task force. This task force would have to be self-reliant and able to project its force across the littoral area of the Islands. The taskforce centred on the two small aircraft carriers, commanded by Rear Admiral John Woodward (commonly known as Sandy Woodward). 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,(with attached units from the Parachute Regiment)under the command of Brigadier J. Thompson RM. 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 'war exclusion zone' of 200 nautical miles (370 km) around the Falklands before commencing operations.

Britain's Prince Andrew served as a helicopter pilot off the Invincible during the war.

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 was "The Empire Strikes Back!"

War

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 Paraquat, 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 as reconnaissance forces for an invasion by the Royal Marines embarked on the RFA Tidespring. First to arrive was the Churchill-class submarine HMS Conqueror on the 19th, and the island was overflown by a radar-mapping Handley-Page Victor on the 20th. The first landings of SAS troops took place on the 21st, but weather was so bad that their landings and others made the next day were all withdrawn after several helicopters crashed in fog.

On the 23rd a submarine alert was sounded and operations were halted, with the Tidespring being turned about to deep sea 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 "Rejoice! Rejoice!".

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 was designed for medium-range missions in Europe and did not have the range to fly to the South Atlantic, requiring several in-flight refuelling missions. However the RAF's refuelling planes were mostly converted Victors with similar range, so they too had to be refuelled in air. A force of 11 refuelling planes was 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 to the mainland to protect against this possibility. Thus the attack was a failure in a tactical sense, but a huge success strategically, denying any close support and requiring Argentinian aircraft to overfly British forces in any attempt to attack the islands.

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 airfield at Goose Green. Both missions scored aircraft kills on the ground, as well as causing some damage to the airfield infrastructure. Meanwhile the FAA had already launched an attack of their own with Grupo 6, on information that landings had already taken place. Four of these planes were lost to Sea Harriers operating from the Invincible, while combat broke out between other Harriers and Mirage fighters of Grupo 8, both sides refusing 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 the now twitchy Argentine defenders immediately shot it down.

Sinking of the Belgrano

On May 2 the World War II-vintage Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano was sunk by the Conqueror (using WWII vintage torpedoes) outside the exclusion zone, with the loss of 321 lives (the British newspaper The Sun initially greeted this with the headline GOTCHA!). This loss hardened the stance of the Argentine government. The loss of the Belgrano also became a cause celebre to anti-war campaigners (such as Tam Dalyell), who declared that the ship had been sailing away from the Falklands at the time. However, under international law, the direction that a naval vessel of a belligerent in a war is headed has no bearing on its status. The naval vessels of a belligerent power are liable to be sunk anywhere in international waters and within the territorial waters of the belligerents in the conflict.

Regardless of controversies over the sinking, it had a very important strategic effect. After the loss of the Belgrano, the entire Argentine fleet returned to port and did not leave again for the duration of hostilities. Therefore, the two destroyers supporting the 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.

Exocet

Two days after the Belgrano sinking, on May 4, the British lost the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield to fire following an Exocet missile strike. The Sheffield had been ordered forward with two other Type 42s in order to provide some sort of radar and missile "picket" far from the British carriers. After the ships were detected by an Argentinian Navy Air Force (CANA) P-2 Neptune patrol aircraft, two CANA 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 the Sheffield and set her on fire, killing 22 sailors onboard.

Whilst fighting the fire, Yarmouth came under attack from a GUPPY class, Argentinian submarine, who subsequently fired 9 torpedoes at her. None of the 9 made contact due to reactions of her Helicopter crew and Mortar crew. HMS Sheffield was abandoned several hours later and sank on the 10th May, whilst under tow from the Yarmouth. 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.

Landing at Port San Carlos

San Carlos landing sitesEnlarge

San Carlos landing sites

Context of landings in the FalklandsEnlarge

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, supported by 2 Para 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.

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 the MV Atlantic Conveyor, with a vital cargo of helicopters, runway building equipment and tents on the 25th. Also lost on this day was Coventry, a sister to HMS Sheffield, whilst in company with HMS Broadsword. Argonaut and Brilliant were badly damaged. The Argentines lost over thirty aircraft in these assaults. Reports after the war indicated that many British lives had been saved by SAS/SBS teams destroying aircraft on the ground.

Goose Green

Starting early 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 200 Argentine soldiers were killed and 1400 Argentinian troops were taken prisoner. Due to a gaffe by the BBC the invasion 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.

Falkland east island showing San Carlos bridgehead, Teal Inlet, Mt. Kent and Mt. ChallengerEnlarge

Falkland east island 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 breakout of the San Carlos bridgehead. From May 27th men of 45 Cdo and 3 Para started walking east across the Falklands towards the coastal settlement of Teal Inlet. Meanwhile 42 Cdo and the SAS moved by helicopter to within sight of Stanley when they seized Mt Kent and Mt Challenger.

By June 1, with the arrival of a further 5000 British troops of 5 Inf Brigade landed at San Carlos from the liner QE2, 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 continued with 48 killed, including 32 Welsh Guards on the RFA Sir Galahad and the RFA Sir Tristram on June 8. Many others suffered serious burns, but they were only on the ships because the loss of the helicopters on the Atlantic Conveyor meant that they had had to be brought around by sea. Unfortunately, and tragically, the commanders on-board ignored the advice of the troops on the ground to get ashore as soon as possible.

Battle for Port Stanley

On the night of June 11, 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 later 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 Scots Guards captured Mount Tumbledown.

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 and declared the hostilities were at an end.

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

Analysis

Military

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.

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 Argentinian aircraft, and carried out intelligence gathering operations, were reaffirmed.

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

At sea, some shortcomings of warship design were apparent - the danger of using aluminium in ships, although it did not catch fire it melted in the heat, and the use of nylon in uniforms, as it can melt to the skin and catch fire resulting in needless deaths and injuries compared to cotton clothing.

On land, questions were subsequently raised about the quality of personal equipment. The issue boots were criticised and also the lamentable radios.

Political

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 had one of the Exocets hit an aircraft carrier, or if Argentina had waited a year or two before seizing the islands, by which time several carriers would have been decommissioned. Equally, if the Argentinians 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 would have been an unacceptable show of weakness on the part of the UK during a intense period of the Cold War, and as result it's highly doubtful such an outcome would have been allowed to remain for long. With the UK being a integral US ally and important part of NATO, to permit a loss would have been signal to the USSR that the NATO alliance was militarily and politically weak.

The war was a massive boost to the popularity of Margaret Thatcher and played a role in ensuring her re-election in 1983, although 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 important junction in the Cold War. Argentina's loss forced President Galtieri to resign, paving the way for the restoration of democracy.

See also

Related content
Military Forces Falklands War Ground Forces - Falklands War Air Forces - Falklands War Naval Forces
External Links Article on the Conflict 1 - Chronology of Events - Article on the Conflict 2 - Reagan Q&A Transcript - About high-speed torpedoes - many articles
General Related History -- Military history -- British military history -- War
Falklands War Related History of the Falkland Islands - South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands