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).