Falkland Islands War Of 1982

The Falklands Islands War of 1982 was an undeclared war where Argentina suffered heavy military losses and the military junta was discredited.

The Falkland Islands are a group of islands 300 miles east of Argentina. The two main islands are East Falkland and West Falkland. There are about 200 smaller islands that together form a total land area of approximately 4,700 square miles. The capital is Port Stanley. The Falkland Islands include the British territories of South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, and the Shag and Clerke rocks. The population of the islands in 1991 was about 2,100.

Argentina has claimed that the islands belong to them since the early 1800's, but Britain has occupied and governed there since 1833. Argentina's own history claims that Esteban Gómez of Magellan's Spanish expedition in 1522 was the first to see the islands. According the Encyclopedia Britannica the English sailor John Davis might have been the first to identify the Falklands in 1592. The Dutch explorer Sebald de Weerdt sighted the islands around 1600. England's John Strong made the first recorded landing in the Falklands in 1690. The British laid claim to the islands and named the sound between the two main islands after Viscount Falkland.

In 1764 the French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville began the first permanent settlement on East Falkland. Natives of St. Malo populated a French fishery there, which is why the Argentines call the islands "Islas Malvinas". The following year the British settled on West Falkland Island. The Spanish bought the French settlement in 1767 and considered the islands part of their empire. In 1770 a Spanish fleet arrived and asked the British to evacuate, which they refused to do. This was the first sign of conflict between Britain and Spain over the Islands. The Spanish returned with a larger force and convinced the British forces to leave on July 14, 1770. The British threatened to go to war over the island in 1771 and reoccupied West Falkland, then left the island in 1774.

Argentina gained its independence from Spain in 1816 and in 1820 claimed sovereignty over the Falklands. The first recorded settlement by Argentines took place in 1828. In reprisal for an Argentine arrest of three U.S. sealing ships in 1831, the USS Lexington destroyed the Argentine settlement. The British returned in 1833 and sent the Argentine residents' back to the mainland. By 1885 there was a British community of about 1,800 people on the islands.

A United Nations committee debated the status of The Falklands in 1964 during discussions on de-colonization. Argentina claimed that a papal bull of 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas had divided the New World between Spain and Portugal and that the Falklands were part of the Spanish domain and therefore belonged to Argentina. Britain claimed continuous possession and occupation of the islands since 1833. It insisted that Falklanders should be allowed to determine their own fate. Discussions continued from 1965 until February 1982.

On March 19, 1982 Argentine military personnel accompanied a group of Argentine merchants working on the South Georgia Island. Britain asked that Argentina remove its military presence, but got no response. On April 2nd the Argentine Navy landed on the Falklands. The small detachment of Royal Marines put up a futile resistance until Governor Rex Hunt ordered them to surrender. The next day, Argentine troops seized the islands of South Georgia and the South Sandwich group after a short battle in which one Argentine helicopter was downed and 4 Argentine soldiers were killed. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Argentine troops and the cessation of hostilities.

British air force transports were sent to Ascension Island as Argentina assembled 10,000 troops in the Falklands. Efforts at mediation by US secretary of State, Alexander Haig, were unsuccessful and the EEC imposed trade sanctions against Argentina. Britain advised her citizens to leave Argentina on April23rd. A small British commando force re-took Georgia Island on April 25th and the Argentine submarine ``Santa Fe'' was attacked and disabled. The main British force was on its way and on May 1st British Harrier and Vulcan aircraft attacked the Port Stanley airfield and three Argentine aircraft were shot down. The British submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano outside the war zone on May 2 and almost 400 crewmen died. In retaliation Argentine fighter planes sank the British destroyer HMS Sheffield on May 4 with twenty men on board.

In the following days the islands were bombarded and two Harriers sank the Argentine trawler Narwal. An Argentine supply ship was sunk by the HMS Alacrity and three Argentine Skyhawks were shot down. Special British forces undertook a night raid on Pebble Island and 11 Argentine aircraft were destroyed on the ground. On May 21st the British made an amphibious landing near Port San Carlos, on the northern coast of East Falkland. From the beach the British infantry advanced on Darwin and Goose Green before turning towards Port Stanley. The HMS Ardent was sunk by Argentine aircraft as nine Argentine aircraft were shot down. The British continued to destroy Argentine air power.

On May 25th the HMS Coventry was hit by 3 bombs dropped from Argentine Skyhawks as 19 Britons died. The MV Atlantic Conveyor was struck by an Exocet missile and sank 3 days later killing 12 more British. The longest battle of the campaign took place on May 28th with air raids on Port Stanley as the British 2nd battalion took Darwin and Goose Green. 17 British soldiers and about 200 Argentine soldiers were killed during this battle. 1,400 Argentineans surrendered and were taken prisoner. Naval ships and Harriers continued to bombard the Argentine positions as British troops continued to advance. By May 31 the British had surrounded the capital of Port Stanley. There is more fighting with losses of men and machinery on land and sea.

Finally, on June 14th the Argentine garrison in Port Stanley is defeated. The Argentine commander, Mario Menendez, agreed to a cease-fire and surrendered as 9800 Argentine troops put down their weapons. On June 20th the British formally declared an end to hostilities and established a Falkland Islands Protection Zone of 150 miles. This undeclared war lasted 72 days and claimed nearly 1000 casualties. The British took about 10,000 Argentine prisoners during the undeclared war while Argentina lost 655 men who were killed while Britain lost 236. Argentina's defeat discredited the military government and led to the return of democracy in Argentina in 1983.

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