Skip to comments.How the Falklands War was won
Posted on 03/27/2007 5:46:57 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
How the Falklands War was won By Michael Novak Last Updated: 1:03pm BST 27/03/2007
The opening phases of the Falklands Conflict began in December 1981 when more than 40 Argentine "scrap metal workers" landed on the island of South Georgia, pointedly refusing to report to the British base at Grytviken to have their entry visas stamped.
Project Alpha was a deliberate operation designed by the new military junta of Gen Leopoldo Galtieri to test British will ahead of Project Azul, a full-scale invasion of the Falkland Islands.
The Argentinians eventually left but returned on March 19, 1982 - this time raising the Argentinian flag - and the Royal Navy survey ship Endurance was dispatched to South Georgia with a small detachment of Royal Marines to eject them.
UK media reports of Royal Navy nuclear submarines on their way to the Falklands panicked the junta into ordering a modified invasion force to depart on March 28. It was not in fact until a day later that three British submarines left Gibraltar for the south Atlantic.
The limited Argentine force, which included only 900 ground troops, was bound to be too strong for the 68 Royal Marines stationed in the Falklands capital Port Stanley.
The Argentinians landed on the morning of April 2 and swiftly overcame the British commandos, a situation mirrored in South Georgia, which fell a day later.
The initial feeling among Margaret Thatcher's advisers was that diplomacy was the only way out, sending an expeditionary force 8,000 miles south was a perilous business and one to be avoided at all costs.
But senior figures within the armed forces disagreed. Sir Henry Leach, the First Sea Lord, told Mrs Thatcher that failure to retake the islands would leave the UK impotent on the world stage and she needed little persuasion that he was right.
The popular mood was firmly behind the British prime minister. It seemed to most people that a set of tin-pot south American dictators renowned for their willingness to resort to torture were lording it over British citizens and territory and that something must be done.
Mrs Thatcher announced the dispatch of a task force to the Falklands, with the initial elements, including the aircraft carriers Hermes and Invincible, departing Portsmouth almost immediately.
The speed with which the Task Force got underway was astonishing. By April 8, the rapidly refitted cruise liner Canberra departed Southampton with 2,000 paratroopers and commandos on board, the docksides crowded with well-wishers waving the Union Flag.
Then, as now, the navy was facing extensive cuts and the assault ship Intrepid had to be brought back into commission rapidly to take part in the race south.
With the British task force heading towards the Falklands, there was a flurry of feverish but ultimately pointless diplomatic negotiations led by Alexander Haig, the US Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, British commandos and special forces retook South Georgia; the UK declared a 200-nautical mile exclusion zone around the islands; and President Ronald Reagan threw US military support behind the British.
On May 1, British special forces landed on West and East Falkland to recce landing sites while the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm attacked Port Stanley airfield, destroying four Argentinian aircraft but failing to shut down the runway.
A day later the Royal Navy submarine Conqueror sank the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano, with the loss of 323 lives, leading Admiral Jorge Anaya to order his ships back to port.
The decision to sink the Belgrano - famously welcomed by the Sun with the headline Gotcha - caused much controversy. But there was little doubt her Exocet missiles were a threat to the British task force much of which was already in the region.
The threat from the Exocets was confirmed two days later on May 4, when the British destroyer Sheffield was hit in "bomb alley" south-east of the Falklands with the loss of 20 lives.
She was the first Royal Navy ship lost in action since 1945 and in London the successful Argentinian attack briefly rocked the war cabinet but with little choice it held firm.
Early on May 21, troops from 2 and 3 Bns of the Parachute Regiment, plus marines from 40, 42 and 45 Royal Marine Commandos landed virtually unopposed to form the main bridgehead at San Carlos on the western coast of East Falkland.
Three days later and the Argentinians enjoyed another short-lived success when the destroyer Coventry was hit by three bombs, capsized and sank with the loss of 19 of her crew while the roll-on roll-off ferry the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk by an Exocet, killing 12.
On May 26, 2 Para set off to the south to mount a surprise attack on Darwin and Goose Green and the next day 3 Para and 45 Commando headed east towards Port Stanley.
There was much attention focused back in Britain on the fact that the commandos called their forced march a "yomp" while the paras were "tabbing", making a "tactical advance to battle".
With the BBC World service announcing that a British parachute battalion was poised to take Goose Green, Lt-Col "H" Jones, the CO of 2 Para, realized all hope of a surprise attack was lost and ordered his men to attack that night.
Despite being outnumbered three to one, they won the battle but Jones was killed and was subsequently awarded a posthumous VC.
The last Argentinian success of the conflict came on June 8 when the landing ships Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram were attacked by Argentine aircraft at Bluff Cove, killing 48, mainly members of the Welsh Guards who were being landed to join the battle for Stanley.
With the Scots and Welsh Guards now joining the force, having been ferried down on the requisitioned QE2, a substantial British force of 8,000 men was now lined up against the Argentinians.
The first phase of the assault on Stanley began on June 11, with 45 Commando attacking Two Sisters, screaming the company war cry Zulu, Zulu and forcing the Argentinians to flee with the loss of only four British marines.
Meanwhile 42 Commando lost only one man in capturing Mt Harriet and Goat Fudge. The fiercest fighting came in 3 Para's assault on Mt Longdon just five miles west of the Falklands capital. The young Argentinian soldiers stood and fought.
The paras lost 18 men in the battle and when they eventually reached the top of the mountain they found one of their own Sgt Ian McKay surrounded by dead Argentinians. He was the second British soldier to be awarded a posthumous VC for his part in the conflict.
The second phase of the assault followed on June 14 with the Gurkhas taking Mount William and 2 Para attacking Wireless Ridge backed up by heavy shelling from their own artillery and naval guns. They lost only three men and found more than 100 Argentinian bodies.
But the fiercest hand to hand fighting came on Tumbledown, taken by the Scots Guards with the loss of seven men to around 30 Argentinians killed.
With the British troops now poised to take Stanley itself, the Argentinian commander Brig-Gen Mario Menendez surrendered, thoroughly vindicating Mrs Thatcher's courageous decision to ignore her advisers and retake the Falklands.
I wonder if the British could have fought that war with today's 24/7 media.
I wonder if Brits could win a real/life war, like enemz that have carriers some 1,000 tanks, subs and 500 fighter jets...
I doubt it.
Blair should take a copy of these articles with him for morning re-reading.
I noticed the bit about the press and the subs and the forcing of the night attack.
I think the press is glad the enemy reads their stories.
Blair is no Margaret Thatcher and his Labour Party has its full share of anti-war and appeasement types. Blair may talk tough, but has neither the military power nor more importantly the political will to get anything done. Sadly the same thing is happening to the US particularly with the political will part.
Not without us.
Thought that was real-life.
Anyway which enemy do you suggest?
I was too young when that war was fought to remember it. How much coverage did our media give it?
As I recall first time the general public became aware of the Harrier "jump-jet"..which was already in the U.S.Marines' arsenal.
Sad but true.
And the Iranians know it.
Then, as now, the MSM works diligently to aid the enemy.
Since the British were repelling an invasion from a dictatorship nobody particularly liked, there was little controversial about the Falklands war.
I remember being glued to my TV watching CNN's reports from British TV. So the Falklands war was perhaps the first one covered by 24x7 media, and I think we can say today's media wouldn't have covered it any differently.
You mean those opinionated editorials with high gloss pictures and shock effect that claim to be news?
It got good coverage...after all it was a bizarre situation in the post Vietnam era to see two western nations going at each other .
"Blair is no Margaret Thatcher".
Maybe not, but I think he is Maggie's equal and just as determined.
I was working with a bunch of folks from the UK when the Iraq war began. They told me they were thrilled they didn't have to get the war coverage from the BBC (a lot of them were ex military).
I recently spent 2 weeks in the U.K. (sadly) on business.
It was incredible to me just how many of the English people have zero pride
in their own nation - I mean zero.
It's almost as if they emulate the dark dreary weather they live in every day.
I was really surprised at how little energy the nation has, how little muchizmo there was in the men alone.
It can turn around - but it's going to take a rock solid leader with rock solid strength to do it.
I'm sure George Lucas did as well.
I suggest any enemy that is not latin-american dictatorship armed with WWII US relic cruiser and with more than 7 Antiship missiles.
Argentinians did several stupidities:
1. failed to extend runway on Falklands so that it could lounch Mirage and Super Etendar and Skyhawk Jets
2. get more Exocet missiles
3. Organise circular perimeter defence on Falklands.
Wrong usage of Airforce
1. Mirages were used from minladn thus fighting on max range of jets, having 30 minutes of combat time.
2. Attacking Destroyers and friggates (with succes) instead of landing ships, troop carriers and carriers themselves.
3. Absence of heawy artillery on falklans.
4. absece of significant fortifications
5. usage of recruits on Falklands that were one month in service instead of veteran soldiers.
Britts have luck to fight morones.
Anyway, British fleet hade problems. Just as how many propellers were in usage on their carriers? carriers hade propulsion problem.
Barring their nukes.
True. Iran would kick Britts asses.
What assauld fleet UK have?
Gulf is so narrow that Iran dont need to use AS missiles, just regular mavericks or simmilar...
And in fleet-to-fleet clash, ....wawes would rule Brittania...
Cripes. They're our enemies best source of intel.
I think some British admiral told Thatcher that,if the carrier Invincible was damaged or sunk,things would be become very difficult.If the Hermes was hit,it would be all over.
So know one was buying the Argentinian claim that they were just liberating the islands from European imperialism?
They have 2 carriers, I believe they are STOVL carriers though. And I think within a decade or 2 they will be down to 1. They are about to mothball some 200 naval vessels, so I dont know how much longer Britian will even be able to project force in the european theater let alone in far off lands.
Why would they fight Iran?
Londonistan is Mecca for Islamists anyhows...
I sugest that USA bomb london. If you level London, it would destroy islamism in Europe.
Than bomb Paris...
I wouldn't sell the British short.
I'm sure I read somewhere that Britain went halfway around the world - a couple of hundred miles away from a another nation and won.
If you would have wanted the dictatorship to win then fine - it's a free country.
As for Iran, you are right, Britain could not go to Iran and win conventionally. As Vietnam or lebanon showed even if you are better regiment to regiment other factors mean you fail.
But then you are presuming Britain would have to go to Iran. Could Iran come to the UK and win - erm no.
There are enough Islamist in Iran, they dont need Londonista ones...
I have just joined so no-one would listen, but I find that very offensive.
As well as Israel and Australia, there is no other nation on God's Earth that puts it's young people alongside Americans to die if necessary for what it believes in.
CNN was in its infancy then but I remember waking up early every morning to watch live reports from a CNN reporter on board a British ship. Once, the ship lauched Sea Sparrows unexpectedly at incoming aircraft and I know he filled his shorts.
"Wrong usage of Airforce "
Right on. Had it not been for the phenominal bravery of the Argy A-4 drivers, there would have been no war at all.
Those guys deserve credit for how they executed in the face of all stupidity by their superiors.
Many of them knew that they were at the extreme limit of their range, but stayed focused and on mission, in spite of the problems.
US training in the spotlight.
What?!? Was Novak born yesterday? I followed that little war closely and the talk at the time was how slow and deliberate the Brits were taking things, in order to give diplomacy time to work. It took forever for the fleet to arrive at the Falklands once it left England. The Argentines were given every opportunity to reconsider.
Did they have any correspondents in Argentina?
I remember when the Faulkland war was fought. A British "Vulcan" bomber had been in a local aircraft museum for a long time (I remember seeing it for as long as I can remember). Some British technicians flew in and spent a couple of weeks getting it ready to fly. Then it flew out of here to augment the warplanes being used in the Faulkland war.
I understand that they used something like 8 bombers for each mission of one or two that actually dropped bombs. They would use the others as tankers, carrying no bombs, but carrying as much fuel as possible. They would leave from England and some would refuel the others then turn around and head for home. Only the last one or two would make it all the way.
What a way to fight a war.
They have 2 active light carriers,with one mothballed.The problem is that these have little real airdefence capability after having retired their SeaHarrier fleet.
I recently saw a show about the war on the military channel. I was just as impressed with the logistical aspect of it as I was with the actual combat.
Argentinians were extremly brave pilots, one even tried to attack carrier with Pucara.
A-4s could do much serious damege if they hade Maverick missiles or even older Bullpup missiles.
With 20-30 Exocets Etendars could sink carriers. and if based on Falklands Brits wouldnt even get near falklands.
I don't remember any but I expect Spanish language TV had one or two in BA.
The reason the Brits won in the Falklands was because when push comes to shove, Tommy can fight.
The British soldier can be one of the most stubborn stalwarts when the chips are down.
The UK politicos and civie heathen may be weak and feckless, but Tommy can fight.
You almost get the impression that the Argentinians had no military plans beyond taking the islands.
I ask because I was just wondering how the MSM dealt with the Argentinian propaganda.