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The Falkland Islands War: Winning With Infantry
GlobalSecurity ^ | 1991 | Major Vincent R. Leone, Jr., USMC

Posted on 11/20/2002 6:18:42 PM PST by Sparta


I. INTRODUCTION: The Falkland Islands War was the first amphibious and naval air war conducted in the missile age. Both sides were equipped with similar high-tech weapons which produced significant ship and aircraft loses. However, in an age of high performance aircraft, missiles, and nuclear submarines, the decisive battles were determined, not by modern weapons, but by infantry closing with and destroying the enemy with rifle and bayonet.

II. GENERAL: On 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, located 300 miles off the mainland. The claim to the islands has been in dispute for 150 years. The islands were easily seized since the defense force numbered only 79 British Royal Marines. The British responded by putting together an amphibious task force and landed at Port San Carlos, on 21 May 1982. Lacking air superiority, and helicopter assets, most of the landing force had to go on foot to attack the key mountains to the west of the main Argentinian force in Stanley. After several successful night attacks, through tough terrain and mine fields, the British captured the approaches to Stanley. The Argentinians saw that they could not match the fighting spirit of the British infantry and surrendered on 14 June 1982.

III. CONCLUSION: Old lessons were relearned in the Falkland Islands War. It showed that good training is the best weapon of the infantryman and that supporting arms can be the decisive factor in allowing infantry to accomplish its mission. It is significant that in this age of increased mobility, the ability to move over land by foot became the tactical advantage of the war.



Thesis Statement: In an age of electronic warfare, missiles, high performance aircraft, and nuclear submarines, the decisive battles of the Falkland Islands war were determined, not by modern technology, but by infantry closing with and destroying the enemy with rifle and bayonet.

I. Falkland Islands War

A. Historical Background

B. Reasons for War

II. Falkland Islands Orientation

A. Population

B. Terrain

C. Weather

III. Military Situation

A. Britain

B. Argentina

IV. Military Operations

A. Pebble Island

B. Goose Green

C. Stanley

V. Lessons Learned


The Falkland Islands War was the first amphibious and

naval air war conducted in the missile age. Both sides were

equipped with similar high-tech weapons which produced

significant ship and aircraft loses. However, the weapons

used most looked very familiar from World War II. Rifles,

machine guns, mortars, artillery, and even bayonets were the

weapons of the day. Even modern main battle tanks had no

place in this conflict. The decisive battles of the Falkland

Islands War were determined, not by modern technology, but by

infantry closing with and destroying the enemy with rifle and


The Falkland Islands have a long record of settlement and

disputed claims. They were first discovered by the English

navigator, John Davis, in 1592, and have been occupied at

various times by England, France, Spain, and, Argentina. In

1764, French settlers landed in East Falkland, while in 1765,

Captain John Byron claimed the islands for Great Britain and

left a small party in West Falkland In 1766, the French

settlers under pressure from Spain withdrew. In 1771, Spain

accepted the British claim. The British abandoned the islands

three years latter, but reoccupied them in 1833.

Argentine claims stem from rights inherited from Spain

which asserts to have discovered the islands known to them as

the Islas Malvinas in 1520. They state that the British

withdrawal in 1774 fulfilled a secret oral agreement to

concede Spanish sovereignty over the islands. The Spanish

built houses and fortifications on the islands, but abandoned

them in 1829.

In 1829, the new Republic of Buenos Aires, later to

become Argentina, sent Louis Vernet to the islands to develop

a colony in its name. Two years latter, Vernet seized three

United States sealing vessels which were operating off the

coast of the Falklands. This brought down the corvette USS

Lexington, which bombarded the settlement forcing its


The British however, never renounced their claim and

resumed official occupation in 1833. The colony was

established under naval military rule until 1841, when a

civil administrator was appointed by the British government.

This has been the situation ever since.

The modern dispute goes back to 1965 when the United

Nations General Assembly asked the British and Argentinians

to hold talks to find a peaceful solution to their claims on

the islands. Talks were held every year without success. In

1976, the Argentinians illegally established a scientific

research station on South Thule Island, 900 miles to the east

of the Falklands and part of the Falkland Island Dependency

under British rule. The British made several protests and

both countries recalled their ambassadors. The dispute lapsed

and ties were reestablished in 1980.

The Argentinians however, never forgot about the

Falklands. In a long article in a leading Buenos Aires

newspaper in January 1982, Argentine President Galtieri told

how he promised to possess the Malvinas before 3 January

1983, the 150th anniversary of the British settlement.[3:11]

The British Foreign Office considered the threat as limited.

They felt that the Argentinians had been complaining about

the Falklands for over a century and had never done anything

about it. The theory was that the Argentinians had enough

problems at home with internal dissent and runaway inflation.

War was the last thing they needed. In fact, President

Galtieri felt that he needed a diversion from the problems at

home and an invasion of the Malvinas to enforce their claim

could unite the country. [5:36]

Events leading up to the Argentinian invasion started on

18 March 1982. Constantine Davidoff, a Greek, Argentine scrap

metal merchant, landed on South Georgia Island, located 800

miles east of the Falklands, with a contract to dismember the

old whaling station. They set up camp and raised the

Argentinian flag. The British Antarctic Service scientists on

the island informed the Argentinians that they would have to

leave until permission was granted from the British Base

Commander to land. The scrap metal party departed but left

behind twelve workmen.

When a diplomatic protest was made to the Argentine

Government on 22 March,it was met with indifference. On 24

March, twenty-two Royal Marines were landed to remove the

workers. President Galtieri now felt that he had an incident

which would suffice for invading the Falklands.[5:40]

On the morning of 2 April 1982, the 1060 people of the

Falkland Island's capitol of Stanley were awaken by the sound

of gunfire. An invasion had begun that had been feared

intermittently for 149 years. The first noises came from

Argentinian commandoes who seized an empty marine barracks

under the cover of darkness. At the same time, other

commandoes surrounded Government House where the main marine

defenses were set in.

At dawn, the landing force came ashore. Opposing the

invasion force were seventy-nine Royal Marines. Although

surprised at first, the tough Marines fought back for three

hours killing some Argentinians without loosing a man. In a

hopeless position and fearing a massacre, the Governor

ordered the Marines to surrender. The next day on 3 April,

another Argentinian invasion force appeared at South Georgia

Island. Twenty-two Royal Marines waged a seven-hour battle

killing three Argentinians before surrendering.[3:3]

The Falkland Islands are a British Crown colony which lie

strategically about 300 miles from the entrance to the Strait

of Magellan in the South Atlantic Ocean. The group of islands

include two large islands, East Falkland and West Falkland,

and about 200 other smaller islands. The total area these

islands comprise is 4618 square miles. The capital is Stanley

on the eastern tip of East Falkland.

The population of 1800 is composed mainly of descendents

of early Irish and Scottish settlers, most of which live in

Stanley. The principle occupation of the islanders is sheep

herding conducted by large company owned ranches operated by

resident managers. Almost all food, clothing, and wood is


The terrain of the islands is rolling and treeless

covered with scanty grasses and scattered large peat bogs.

Camouflage and concealment is difficult. The ground during

the winter is sodden, alternated by tufts of grass and

covered with brackish water. Movement for heavily weighted

down infantrymen is slow and exhausting, especially at night.

On higher ground, the slopes are slippery and rock-runs on

the crests extend for miles, also impeding movement. Some

extremely rugged mountains rise up through the bog. The

highest on East Falkland is Mount Osborne at 2000 feet.

The water table lies a few inches below the surface of

the ground and digging a fighting hole results in a water

filled ditch. Some streams provide drinkable water. The

coastline is jagged and made up of deep fiords of glacial

origin. Movement around the islands by boat is easy. The road

network is poor, with no roads existing beyond Stanley.

Trails connecting the outlying settlements are only passable

in the winter by tracked vehicles. Visibility is outstanding

during good weather due to the lack of air pollution.

The South Atlantic climate during the winter is

challenging. The Falkland has a chilly, damp climate with

temperatures averaging 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Light, drizzly

rains are frequent and occur two out of every three days, all

year. Winds blow continuously and change direction and

intensity. Periods of rain, snow, fog, and sun change

rapidly. The warmth of an out break of sunshine is limited,

giving few opportunities for troops to warm up and dry out.

The British amphibious task force set sail from

Portsmouth Harbor, England on 5 April 1982, three days after

the Argentinian invasion. With the carriers Invincible and

Hermes in the lead, it headed for Ascension Island, located

3340 miles from the Falklands. There the task force would

combat load the hastily embarked gear. The landing force

consisted of 4800 troops made up of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal

Marines. Units included the 40, 42, 45, Commando; Second and

Third Battalions, The Parachute Regiment; detachments of the

Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS)

eight light Scorpion and Scimitar tanks; and eighteen 105mm

light artillery guns. Sea Harrier jets and Sea King, Wessex,

and Chinook helicopters would be in support.

Once in the Atlantic, the carriers were joined by

destroyers, frigates, and support vessels until the fleet

numbered nearly 30 ships. This force would ultimately rise to

over one-hundred ships, forming the largest British armada

since World War II. In addition to war ships, the Navy was

relying heavily on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service. The

education ship Uganda was taken over and rapidly turned into

a 1000 bed hospital ship. The 1600 passenger cruise ship

Canberra became a troop and supply ship. This transition

included erecting two helicopter landing spots over a

swimming pool and one on top of the ward room.

Many desirable assets were omitted due to lack of space.

The most significant of these were Remote Piloted Vehicles

(RPV) and 155mm howitzers. The RPV's would have given a real

time aerial reconnaissance ability. The 155mm guns would have

been useful with their longer range and greater punch.

However, the logistical support to use these guns would have

been unattainable.

Argentina had deployed 9000-11000 troops to the Flaklands

and had almost two months to construct the defenses of the

island. The defenses were oriented around Stanley with the

Argentinians figuring it was the best place for an amphibious

assault. Many Argentinians were conscripts and evidence shows

that although weapons and equipment were plentiful, troops

were poorly trained in using and maintaining it. Fire support

consisted of 155mm and lO5mm howitzers, 105mm recoilless

rifles, and 50 caliber machine guns.

Reports that the Argentinians were ill fed were wrong.

The Argentinians spent considerable time building up

logistics bases using C-130 transports and civilian

airliners. Nightly C-130 logistic flights to Stanley airfield

continued throughout the war.

The Argentinian Air Force was the most professional of

the services. Their bravery was witnessed time and time again

as they made low level passes to bomb amphibious shipping.

Their pilots were trained by the United States and Israel,

and flew A-4 Skyhawks, Pucaras, and the Mirage III.

Several advance force operations were conducted in

preparation for the British amphibious landing. Most of these

missions were enemy reconnaissance and beach surveys

conducted by SAS and SBS teams. There was great concern for

the Argentine ability to oppose the amphibious assault by air

attack due to lack of British air superiority. A substantial

number of planes were believed to be operating from the

airfield on Pebble Island in West Falkland. An eight man SAS

team inserted by canoe verified the presence of several

aircraft and at least one-hundred men. On the night of 14

May, two Sea King helicopters carrying forty-five SAS troops

conducted a raid on the airfield. With the support of naval

gunfire, the SAS troops blew up eleven aircraft and made a

hasty withdrawal without loosing a man.

The landing site chosen for the amphibious assault was at

Port San Carlos, located on the northwestern coast of East

Falkland. The assault started on the morning of 21 May and

initially was unopposed. At approximately 1000, Argentine

aircraft attacked and began to target the destroyers and

frigates, leaving the troop transports and supply ships

untouched. By the end of 22 May, the landing force was ashore

and the force beach head was secure.

The first major offensive action of the war took place on

28 May with 2nd Para's move south from San Carlos to take the

enemy garrison at Goose Green. Due to the sinking of the

Atlantic Conveyor and the loss of three out of four CH-47

Chinook helicopters, 3 Commando Brigade had just enough

helicopter assets for general off-load, which due to air

attack was progressing at a slow rate. 2nd Para would have to

Click here to view image

walk the eighteen miles to Goose Green.

Since artillery batteries of lO5mm guns had no prime

movers, they would also have to rely on the short helicopter

assets to displace guns and ammunition. Three lO5mm guns with

320 rounds each would be lifted to a fire base.[2:237] Naval

gunfire support was to come from a frigate and the battalion

was forced to carry two of eight organic 81mm mortars. The

ammunition would be carried by every man. The battalion

requested support from the eight Scorpion and Scimitar light

tanks but was denied figuring that the tanks would be bogged

down in the maze of rivers and streams. As it turned out,

this was a wrong decision because later exploits showed that

tanks could move about the island.

Company size, battalion objectives were set up and all

attacks were to be non-illuminated supported night attacks.

The battalion crossed the line of departure at 0300. As day

broke, four companies were conducting frontal assaults at

Darwin. During the attack, heavy resistance was met and close

air support [CAS] was urgently requested but the harriers

located at sea, could not take off because of bad weather.

The mortar platoon ran out of ammunition and at 0430 the fire

support ship had to return to the safety of the air umbrella

at San Carlos.

At 0930 the momentum of the attack had been lost. The

Battalion Commander felt it was time to lead from the front.

While personally leading an attack on an enemy trench, he was

hit by fire and fell mortally wounded. He was posthumously

awarded the Victorian Cross, Britain's highest decoration.

Six hours after the battle for Darwin was over, the

battalion started its assault on the final objective of Goose

Green. With little cover, the advancing companies started

taking devastating artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire.

While one company was advancing, a white flag was raised at

an enemy position. When one platoon commander went forward

with a squad, they were fired upon, killing the officer and

two men. The platoon then overran the position, killing all

the enemy.

Artillery was the only fire support that was left but

they were very short of ammunition with only 83 rounds per

gun. Finally at 1500, two harriers arrived on station and

took out the enemy artillery with cluster bombs.[2:24]

As night fell, the battalion had surrounded Goose Green.

It was decided to send two enemy prisoners back to Goose

Green to ask for a surrender or be destroyed by air attack.

The Argentinians agreed and surrendered the next morning. At

a cost of 17 men killed and 35 wounded, 2 Para killed 250

Argentinians and took over 1200 prisoners.[2:251]

With Goose Green secured, 3 Commando Brigade turned its

attention to moving forces toward Stanley where the majority

of the Argentine forces were. A series of mountains lie to

the west of Stanley and were to be assigned as intermediate

objectives for the main attack. Since there still were no

helicopter assets to move the battalions east, the movement

would have to be made on foot.

45 Commando and 3 Para started what was to be known as

the big "yomp" across East Falkland. They marched forty miles

in three days carrying all their personal equipment with

packs weighing up to 110 pounds. This route took them up and

down hills along rocky valleys and through stone runs that

ran for miles. The Para's hiked for 24 hours straight

stopping occasionally. They secured Douglas Settlement and

Teal Inlet to the northwest of Stanley.

While 3 Para and 45 Commando were moving on foot across

East Falkland, a company of 42 Commando used the limited

helicopter assets to fly to Mount Kent, a mountain that

dominated the intermediate objective line of mountains. The

next day, on 1 June, the remainder of 42 Commando was

airlifted to Mount Challenger which also dominated the

approaches to Stanley.

On 29 May, the 5th Infantry Brigade consisting of the 2nd

Battalion Scots Guards, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and 1st

Gurka Rifles arrived at San Carlos. This brought the number

of ground forces up to 8000 troops. On 4 June, the commander

of 5 Brigade used a private phone to call from Goose Green to

the farm manager at Fitzroy, 36 miles away, to ascertain the

enemy strength there. When it was found out that the

Argentinians departed he hastily flew a company to secure a

forward position.

On 8 June, it was decided to bring 5 Brigade up to Bluff

Cove. Unfortunately, the ships were caught in daylight during

the ship to shore movement and were attacked by aircraft

leaving the British with 51 killed and 46 injured.[2:281]

With the landing of 5 Brigade, the British now had two

brigades abreast in a line 10 miles west of Stanley.

The plan to attack Stanley was to have 2 Commando Brigade

seize the intermediate objectives of Mount Langdon, Two

Sisters and Mount Harriet. On the night of 11 June, 3 Para

attacked Mount Langdon, 45 Commando attacked Two Sisters and

42 Commando attacked Mount Harriet. The attacks were

conducted at night along routes that had been discovered by

extensive patrolling through the many scattered mine fields.

The Argentinians were in prepared positions with heavy

machine guns and night vision devices. Attacks were conducted

with fixed bayonets and the British infantry routed the enemy

from their positions.

On the night of 13 June, 5 Brigade started their attack

on Mount Tumbledown and Mount William with the Scots Guards.

They too met an entrenched enemy in bunkers dug under the

huge boulders that surrounded the area. The enemy was

supported with mortars and heavy machine guns. At the same

time the Scots were fighting bunker to bunker, 2 Para

attacked Wireless Ridge. With the help of artillery and naval

gunfire fire they attacked and defeated two enemy regiments.

To the south, the Welsh Guards supported by Gurkas advanced

on Mount William. They met little resistance and easily took

their objectives.

With the capture of the all of the high ground to the

west, the British now looked down upon Stanley, their next

objective. However, there was no need to plan the attack for

white flags sprang up around Stanley. The next day, the

British accepted the surrender of over 6000 Argentinians. The

war was over!

Old lessons were relearned in the Falkland Islands War.

It showed that good training is the best weapon of the

infantryman and that supporting arms can be the decisive

factor in allowing infantry to accomplish its mission. It

demonstrated that a well trained army with good morale can

overcome numerically superior forces with poor leadership,

morale, and training. It proved once again that airplanes,

missiles, and ships cannot occupy and control land.

It is significant that in this age of troop movement by

helicopter, armored personnel carrier, and truck, the ability

to move over land by foot became the tactical advantage of

the war. Troops walked to war with a hundred pound pack and

carrying a mortar round. This was an element that the

Argentinians never expected and part of their reasoning for

not attacking the force beachhead. Air superiority was never

achieved by either side and infantry using conventional

tactics won the war. Technology in the shape of computers,

lasers and lock on missiles could not replace the courage of

the infantryman. Victory was achieved by men going in on foot

and prepared to fight.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: argentina; britishempire; falklands; infantry
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If you want on or off the Western Civilization Military History ping list,please let me know.
1 posted on 11/20/2002 6:18:43 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Sparta
2 posted on 11/20/2002 6:25:20 PM PST by Rebelbase
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To: sphinx; Toirdhealbheach Beucail; curmudgeonII; roderick; Notforprophet; river rat; csvset; ...
3 posted on 11/20/2002 6:26:51 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Sparta
bump for later read
4 posted on 11/20/2002 6:27:17 PM PST by Cacique
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To: MadIvan
British Empire bump!
5 posted on 11/20/2002 6:28:24 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Sparta
put me on the list.

6 posted on 11/20/2002 6:34:30 PM PST by spetznaz
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To: Sparta
7 posted on 11/20/2002 6:44:30 PM PST by STD
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To: Sparta
Thanks for keeping me on the ping list after I ranted about Franco. Anyone who kicks the crap out of communists despite overwhelming odds and squelchies the leftist afterwards has a soft spot in my heart.

Sorry again.

8 posted on 11/20/2002 6:46:26 PM PST by MattinNJ
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To: Sparta
British Empire bump!

You mean, European Union outpost bump, didn't you? :)

9 posted on 11/20/2002 6:46:41 PM PST by Frohickey
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To: Frohickey; MadIvan
I think MadIvan might disagree with you about that.
10 posted on 11/20/2002 6:49:42 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Sparta
I would like to be put on your list also. Thank you.
11 posted on 11/20/2002 6:52:10 PM PST by JMJ333
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To: Sparta
I want on the ping list please.
12 posted on 11/20/2002 6:53:41 PM PST by Rodney King
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To: Sparta
please put me on the list.
13 posted on 11/20/2002 6:54:59 PM PST by Semaphore Heathcliffe
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To: Sparta
Interesting small arms side note - this is one of the relatively few wars in history where both sides were armed with the same rifle. The British carried the LAR, which is an inch pattern FAL (Fusil Automatique Leger, by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium. The FAL was "The Right Arm of the Free World", used by over 80 countries at one time or another). The Argies carried a straight-up metric FAL, domestically produced under license from FN.
14 posted on 11/20/2002 6:55:26 PM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: Sparta
Random thoughts about the Falklands War from a stateside armchair general,

- British historians tend to overestimate British military achievements.

- The British Paras are however an awesome fighting force deserving all the credit they can get. The SAS -is- legendary.

- The British Harrier VTOL fighter was overated. Only a rush shipment of US AIM-9 Sidewinder All Aspect infrared missiles allowed the Brits to suceed against the Argentine high performance Mirage fighters which had to often break off due to limited range over the British fleet.

- British warships did not have an equivalent of the US Navy Close In Weapons System (radar guided 20MM rotary cannon) and suffered losses accordingly.

- Argentine bombs had fuse problems which resulted in many perforated but otherwise undamaged British ships. This was a very tightly held secret during that war.

Good to have our British friends around for Gulf War II. Opening soon at a theater near you on December 8.

Hoo Ya!

15 posted on 11/20/2002 6:57:12 PM PST by Milwaukee_Guy
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To: Rebelbase
Info on the Falklands, History, Weapons, Battles. . .
16 posted on 11/20/2002 7:07:37 PM PST by spitz
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To: FreedomPoster
L1A1 SLR - Self Loading Rifle

Calibre: 7.62mm
Length (m): 1.143
Length of barrel (m): 0.5334
Weight empty (kg): 4.337
Weight loaded (kg): 5.074 with 20 round magazine
Muzzle velocity (m/s): 838
Magazine capacity: 20 or 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 40
Maximum effective range: (m) 600+
17 posted on 11/20/2002 7:14:55 PM PST by spitz
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To: Sparta
Sorry, have been offline with a sick computer.
The Argies did pretty well with their A-4s and Exocets
but not good enough.
Some Gurkas in on that action too.

Was going to try and put together a post about
the 49th anniversery of the Marine landings on Betio island
in the Tarawa Atoll which took place this tuesday last.
3000 marines were killed in three days of heavy fighting.
A toll that shook the country when it was reported.
As a marine sergeant lamented, "If the Marines could stand the dying, you'd think the public could stand to read about it."

Archer Vandegrift stated, "No one regrets the losses more than the Marine Corps itself. No one realizes more than the
Marine Corps that there is no royal road to Tokyo."
Quoting Joseph C. Grew, the nation's former ambassador to Japan, the general said," The Japanese will not crack.
They will not crack morally or psycologically or economically even when eventual defeat stares them in the face. Only by utter physical destruction or utter exhaustion of their men and materials can they be defeated.
The American people must be steeled to the realities of the

Lewis Hayward the actor was part of the combat photographic
team that went in with the Marines and footage was used to make an Oscar award winning twenty minute documentary," With the Marines at Tarawa."
After making it's rounds of the nations theaters, Robert
Sherrod the correspondent, asked Brigadier General Robert Denig, chief of Marine Corps public relations, what kind of effect the film had on the Corps itself.
"A strong one," Denig replied, "Enlistments are down Thirty
five percent."

Semper Fi Marines.

We must steel ourselves for what is coming.
18 posted on 11/20/2002 7:15:38 PM PST by tet68
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To: Sparta
Falkland Islands

19 posted on 11/20/2002 7:15:55 PM PST by Consort
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To: spitz
The 30 round mags are unreliable and therefore useless. No one with any sense uses the 30's, which were really for the Bren Gun, which was top-feed, which gave the mag a "gravity assist".

And given that there are zillions of 7.62 cartridge types out there, it's worthwhile specifying that this is, of course, 7.62x51 NATO. As opposed to 7.62x39R, 7.62x54R, 7.62x25 Tokarev, 7.62 Nagant, . . . .
20 posted on 11/20/2002 7:31:14 PM PST by FreedomPoster
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