Chronicle of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
History & the Falklands War of 1982
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Introduction

The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) are a group of islands in the south Atlantic. The two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, lie 300 miles [480 km] east of the Argentina coast. About 200 smaller islands form a total land area of approximately 4,700 square miles (12,200 square km). The capital and only town is (Port) Stanley.

The government of the Falkland Islands administers the British dependent territories of South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, and the Shag and Clerke rocks, lying from 700 to 2,000 miles (1,100 to 3,200 km) to the east and southeast of the Falklands. The total population of the islands was estimated at 2100 (in 1991) and 2967 in July 2003.

The battle for the falklands book
Argentina has claimed the islands since 1820. Britain had occupied and administered the islands since 1833 and had consistently rejected Argentina's claims.

The Falklands War, chronicled below, started after Argentina invaded and took control of the islands in April, 1982.

War casualties in the 1982 conflict totalled 655 Argentine soldiers, and 236 British soldiers. The British captured about 10,000 Argentine prisoners, all of whom were released shortly after the war. Argentina's defeat in the war severely discredited the military dictatorship who started the war, and led to the restoration of democratic, civilian rule in Argentina in 1983.


Chronicle of the Falkland islands

1522, 1592

Argentine versions state that various Spanish and Portuguese seamen, were first to see the islands. The most documented case is that of Esteban Gómez on the ship San Antonio of the famous Spanish expedition headed by Magellan, who discovers the isles while returning to Spain in 1522. Argentine historian Maria Laura San Martino de Dromi lists maps dated 1522 through 1561 showing the Malvinas off the mainland coast.

According the Encyclopedia Britannica (an American source probably leaning toward the English), the English navigator John Davis on the Desire (1592) may (note emphasis) have been the first person to sight the Falklands.

Circa 1600

The Dutchman Sebald de Weerdt makes the first undisputed sighting of the islands.

1690

The English captain John Strong heading a British expedition made the first recorded landing in the Falklands, in 1690. The British claim the islands for the crown and named the sound between the two main islands after Viscount Falkland, a British naval official. The name was later applied to the whole island group.

1764

French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville founds the islands' first permanent settlement, on East Falkland.

During subsequent years, a French fishery is manned by people from St. Malo (hence "Iles Malouines" from which the Argentine name "Islas Malvinas" is derived).

1765

The British are the first to settle in the West Falkland island.

1767

The Spanish buy out the French settlement (Port Louis) in the East Falkland island. For Spain, this implies a French recognition of the Spanish rights to the land.

1770

A Spanish flotilla arrives at the islands asking the British to leave. When first asked to leave, the British officer in charge of the garrison, a Captain Hunt, replied:
``I have received your letters by the officer, acquainting me that these islands and coasts thereof belong to the King of Spain, your Master. In return I am to acquaint you that the said islands belong to his Brittanic Majesty, My Master, by right of discovery as well as settlement and that the subjects of no other power whatever can have any right to be settled in the said islands without leave from His Brittanic Majesty or taking oaths of allegiance and submitting themselves to His Majesty's Government as subjects of the Crown of Great Britain.''

This is the first documented sign we could find of the conflict between Britain and Spain regarding the Islands.

Shortly thereafter, the Spanish revisited with a much superior force ``convincing'' the British garrison to leave on 14th July 1770.

[Source: 'An account of of the last expedition to Port Egmont in the Falkland Islands' , by Bernard Penrose published in the Universal Magazine, April 1775.]

1771

The British outpost on West Falkland is restored after threat of war.

1774

The British withdraw from the island (for economic reasons according to British sources). Spain maintains the settlement on East Falkland (which it called Soledad Island) until 1811, when Spain is about to lose control of its colonies in America.

1816

Independent Argentina first appears on the historical scene.

1820

The Buenos Aires government, which had declared its independence from Spain in 1816, first proclaims its sovereignty over the Falklands.

1828

Argentine warlord (Caudillo), and later governor of Buenos Aires Juan Manuel de Rosas sent a governor, Mr. Vernet, together with a garrison and settlers for menial work to the islands. The first recorded Argentine settlement in the islands.

1831

The American warship USS Lexington destroys the Argentine settlement on East Falkland in reprisal for the arrest of three U.S. ships that had been hunting seals in the area.

1833

Afraid that the Americans seized the islands, the British remember the expedition of the 17th century, re-invade the islands, forcefully depose Vernet and send the Argentines back to the mainland albeit without having to fire a shot.

1885

A British community of some 1,800 people on the islands is self-supporting.

1892

Colonial status is granted to the Falklands.

1933 and on

According to David Rock: ``After the Roca-Runciman treaty [A bilateral trade agreement signed in 1933 between Britain and Argentina, benefiting Britain and exploiting Argentina's natural resources -- Ed.], a profusion of new nationalist writers and factions began to appear. For a time the nationalist movement was largely dominated by historians who sought to fuel the campaign against the British. These historical ``revisionists'' began to reexamine the 19th century and to catalogue Britain's imperialist encroachments: the British invasions of 1806-1807, Britain's role in the foundation of Uruguay in the late 1820s, its seizure of the Falkland Islands in 1833, the blockades under Rosas ... A cult now enveloped the figure of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who was depicted as a symbol of national resistance to foreign dominations [In fact, he was a strong handed dictator who killed countless opponents, benefited greatly from trade with Britain, sized 800,000 acres of estate land for himself only etc. -- Ed]... Propaganda of this kind made a deepening imprint on public opinion and helped sustain nationalist sentiments in the Army...''

1964

The islands' position was debated by the UN committee on de-colonization. Argentina based its claim to the Falklands on papal bulls of 1493 modified by the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), by which Spain and Portugal had divided the New World between themselves; on succession from Spain; on the islands' proximity to South America; and on the need to end a colonial situation. Britain based its claim on its "open, continuous, effective possession, occupation, and administration" of the islands since 1833 and its determination to grant the Falklanders self-determination as recognized in the United Nations Charter. Britain asserted that, far from ending a colonial situation, Argentine rule and control of the lives of the Falklanders against their will would, in fact, create one.

1965

The UN General Assembly approved a resolution inviting Britain and Argentina to hold discussions to find a peaceful solution to the dispute. These protracted discussions were still proceeding in February 1982 shortly before the Falkland war started.

My memories from the 60's

As a primary school student in Buenos Aires, I remember the indoctrination we were subjected to in geography lessons. We were asked to color the Argentina map in which the Falklands (Las Islas Malvinas) were drawn as a part of Argentina in a disproportionate large size east of the Argentine coast. The fact that the islands are 100% populated by English speaking "Kelpers" (about 1800 of them then, and over 2300 today), who preferred to remain under British rule according to the Falkland Islands government official statements, was never mentioned to us. Virtually every child in Argentina, to this very day, is made to believe that the islands are Argentine, the people living on the islands are virtually non-existent (and if they do exist, they are not considered a party in the conflict) and that the so called "imperialistic injustice" ought to be settled. Considering this, it is of no surprise that the conflict becomes harder to resolve with time, especially after the tragic events caused by the 1982 war.

Book Cover Interestingly: recent British governments had often appeared willing to hand over the islands to Argentina if the islanders would consent to the change of sovereignty. Despite British prodding, this consent never materialized [Rock: p 377-378] As a result, Argentina's several attempts to negotiate sovereignty on the islands with Britain lead nowhere.

Paradoxically, commercial and trade ties have long existed between the islands and the Argentine mainland and these keep expanding with time as long as politics are kept aside.

March 19, 1982

A group of Argentine scrap metal merchants working in the South Georgia island is escorted by some military personnel. Britain calls Argentina to remove the military personnel without response.

March 26, 1982

The Argentine military junta decides to invade the islands.

Background: Argentina is in deep economic trouble; Throughout 1981, inflation sky-rockets to over 600%, GDP is down 11.4%, manufacturing output is down 22.9%, and real wages by 19.2% [Rock: p 375-378]. In addition, Mass disappearances of people in the hands of the military juntas causes significant unrest.

The third dictatorship president since the 1976 coup, General Leopoldo Galtieri launches a military invasion of the islands, code named Operación Rosario. The invasion is planned by the commander of the Navy Admiral Jorge Anaya to be launched on one of the most important national celebrations (The revolution anniversary on May 25th or Independence day on July 9th). Its main purpose is to divert public attention from the distressing internal problems and restore the long lost popularity and prestige of the dictatorship.

Due to the mounting pressures on the government, and mass union demonstrations in late March, the date of the invasion is moved earlier to April 2nd in an act of desperation.

April 2, 1982

The Argentine Navy with thousands of troops lands on the Falklands. A small detachment of Royal Marines on the islands put up a futile resistance before Governor Rex Hunt ordered them to lay down their arms facing an overwhelmingly larger force. The British marine forces are flown to Montevideo along with the British governor.

April 3, 1982

Argentine troops seize the associated islands of South Georgia and the South Sandwich group (1,000 miles [1,600 km] east of the Falklands) following a short battle in which an Argentine helicopter is forced down and 4 Argentine troops are killed. General Mario Menendez is proclaimed military governor of the islands. As Galtieri has predicted, the move proves to be extremely popular: In Buenos Aires, where the unions had a week earlier demonstrated against the government, there are massive outbursts of solidarity in the streets.

The United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 502 calling for the withdrawal of Argentine troops from the islands and the immediate cessation of hostilities. First Royal air force transport aircraft deploy to Ascension Island.

Late March to early April 1982

Thousands of Argentine conscripts lacking basic training are drafted in a hurry and sent to the islands. Argentina accumulates more than 10,000 troops on the Falklands.

April 8, 1982

The US secretary of State, Alexander Haig, arrives in London to begin shuttle mediation.

April 10, 1982

EEC approves trade sanctions against Argentina. Haig flies to Buenos Aires for talks with the Junta.

April 17, 1982

Haig meets again with the Argentine junta. After a breakdown in the mediation talks, he returns to Washington April 19.

April 23, 1982

British Foreign Office advises British nationals in Argentina to leave.

April 25, 1982

A small British commando force re-takes the Georgia Island. The Argentine submarine ``Santa Fe'' is attacked and disabled. The commander of the Argentine forces on the island, Captain Largos, signs an unconditional surrender document on board the British HMS Antrim. The notorious Alfredo Astiz, who is at the time, a Lieutenant Commander in charge of a small party based in Stromness surrenders with his company and signs an unconditional surrender document on board the British HMS Plymouth without firing a single shot violating the military code's article 751:

"A soldier will be condemned to prison for three to five years if, in combat with a foreign enemy, he surrenders without having exhausted his supply of ammunition or without having lost two thirds of the men under his command."

Meanwhile, the main British task force is on its 8,000 miles (13,000 km) way to the war zone via the British-held Ascension Island.
Alfredo Astiz signing the surrender document
Alfredo Astiz signing the surrender document
on board the British HMS Plymouth

Apr 30, 1982

Alexander Haig's mission is officially terminated. President Ronald Reagan declares US support for Britain and economic sanctions against Argentina. The British war exclusion zone comes into effect.

May 1st, 1982

Harrier and Vulcan British planes attack the Port Stanley (Named ``Puerto Argentino'' by Argentina) airfield. Three Argentine aircraft are shot down.

May 2, 1982

Belaunde Terry, President of Peru, presents a peace proposal to Argentine President Leopoldo Galtieri, who gives a preliminary acceptance with some proposed modifications. Before the Argentine junta ratifies the acceptance, British submarine HMS Conqueror sinks the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano outside the war zone and while sailing away from the islands. Almost 400 crewmen die. At this point the junta rejects the proposal.

May 4, 1982

Argentine air attacks from Super Etendard fighter planes using Exocet air to surface missiles sink the British destroyer HMS Sheffield with twenty men on board. One British Harrier plane is shot down.

May 7, 1982

UN enters peace negotiations.

May 9, 1982

The islands are bombarded from sea and air. Two sea Harriers sink the Argentine trawler Narwal.

May 11, 1982

Argentine supply ship Isla de los Estados is sunk by the British HMS Alacrity.

May 14, 1982

Three Argentine Skyhawks are shot down. Prime Minister Thatcher warns that peaceful settlement may not be possible. Special British forces night raid on Pebble Island; 11 Argentine aircraft destroyed on the ground.

May 18, 1982

A peace proposal presented by the United Nations Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar, is rejected by Britain.

May 21, 1982

The British manage to make an amphibious landing near Port San Carlos, on the northern coast of East Falkland. From this beachhead the British infantry advances southward to capture the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green before turning towards port Stanley.

The British HMS Ardent is sunk by an Argentine air attack. Nine Argentine aircraft shot down.

May 23, 1982

The British HMS Antelope is attacked and sinks after unexploded bomb detonates. Ten Argentine aircraft destroyed.

May 24, 1982

Seven Argentine Aircraft destroyed.

May 25, 1982

HMS Coventry is hit by 3 1000 lb air bombs dropped from Argentine Skyhawks; 19 British dead. The MV Atlantic Conveyor is hit by an Exocet missile and sinks 3 days later, 12 more British dead.

May 28, 1982

More air-raids on Port Stanley.

British 2nd battalion, Parachute Regiment (2-Para), take Darwin and Goose Green in what was arguably the longest and toughest battle of the War. According to the book Goose Green: a battle is fought to be won by Mark Adkin: Though outnumbered (2 to 1: 600 vs. over 1400), low on ammunition, lacking adequate fire support, fighting over open ground, and in daylight against prepared positions, the 2-para emerges as the winner in this first big and critical land battle. British 2-Para Lt. Col. Herbert "H" Jones dies in this battle and later awarded a Victoria Cross.

In all, 17 2-Para soldiers, and about 200 Argentine soldiers were killed during this battle. About 1,400 Argentine surrendered and were taken prisoners. According to Argentine sources only 400 of the over 1400 recruits were in condition to fight and the British report as presented by Mark Adkin is way overrated.

May 29, 1982

Warships and Harriers bombard Argentine positions.

May 30, 1982

Shelling continues as British troops advance. The British 45 Commando secures Douglas settlement; 3-Para recaptures Teal Inlet.

May 31, 1982

Mount Kent is taken by British troops. The Falklands' capital of Port Stanley is surrounded.

June 1, 1982

Britain repeats its cease-fire terms.

June 4, 1982

Britain vetoes Panamanian-Spanish cease-fire resolution in the UN Security Council.

June 6, 1982

Versailles summit supports British position on Falklands.

June 8, 1982

An Argentine air attack on British landing craft Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram at Port Pleasant south of Bluff Cove. 53 British die.

June 12, 1982

The British 3-Para mounts an assault on Mount Longdon. The battle on this heavily defended position, which was supposed to last until dawn, proves much tougher and longer than expected. Mount Longdon and its surroundings are finally taken after hand to hand and bayonet fighting with the Argentine troops position by position. The British casualties mount to 23 men, one of which, Sergeant Ian John McKay of 3-Para is later awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, 47 more British are wounded. The Argentine forces suffer over 50 dead and many more injured. 6 more British die shortly afterwards.

British 45 Commando takes Two Sisters and 42 Commando takes Mount Harriet with support by the guns of 29th Commando regiment and naval gunfire from a number of Royal Navy frigates.

The 2nd Battalion Scots Guards seize Mount Tumbledown with mortar detachments from 42 Commando, Royal Marines and the 1/7th Gurkha Rifles with support from a troop of the Blues and Royals. In this bloody battle. 9 British and about 40 Argentine die. Another 34 Argentine soldiers surrender and taken prisoners. 32 British are wounded. [Source: Tactics of Modern Warfare by Mark Lloyd].

Shortly after, the 1/7th Gurkha Rifles take Mt William, south of Mount Tumbledown.

The cruiser HMS Glamorgan is hit by an Exocet missile as it was bombarding on shore Argentine positions. 13 British die.

June 14, 1982

The large Argentine garrison in Port Stanley is defeated, effectively ending the conflict. The Argentine commander Mario Menendez, agrees to "an non-negotiated cease fire ... with no other condition than the deletion of the word unconditional" from the surrender document which he signs. 9800 Argentine troops put down their weapons.

June 20, 1982

The British re-occupy the South Sandwich Islands. Britain formally declares an end to hostilities, and the two-hundred mile exclusion zone established around the islands during the war is replaced by a Falkland Islands Protection Zone (FIPZ) of 150 miles.

From start to finish, this undeclared war lasted 72 days, claimed nearly 1000 casualties (236 British and 655 Argentine), many of them conscripts that were drafted by the Argentine junta. The war had a cost of at least 2 billion dollars. From a political point of view, the war helped the reelection of Margaret Thatcher (who was losing popularity before the conflict started) and accelerated the demise of the Argentine dictatorship. Argentine President Leopoldo Galtieri who led the war effort, was quick to resign afterwards, paving the road to the restoration of democracy in Argentina.


Sources:

Editor's notes:

This page, which is secondary in importance to the issue of the disappeared, is nevertheless one of the most popular in this site. I keep it here only to round-up and complete the information.

Unfortunately, this page seems to touch nerve with a small and bitter group of Argentine readers so I regularly get hate email about it. Very rarely, I get some Supportive / Love mail to partly balance the hate mail portion.

For the record, I love Argentina and its friendly people very much and I do not see the dictatorship of the 70's as a representative of the country as a whole. Hate email is normally ignored. If you find anything factually inaccurate, please let me know as I'm very willing to correct and improve the information. Please be sure to state your sources. I'm afraid I cannot accept strong opinions (or revisionist web pages) as facts. Even if what you say is correct, please make sure to state written, verifiable, sources if you want me to fix this page.

Another big source of emails are British war veterans claiming that their unit deserves more credit than another unit mentioned here; again, an emotionally driven audience. I would like to request to check facts carefully (preferably in more than one source) and send me only substantiated fact corrections rather than additions. Those interested in the long stories and the complete list of small details can find them in the bibliography.

For the record, I think Hastings and Jenkins' The Battle for the Falklands is a good overall summary of the war from a British perspective. A more eclectic source written by many authors representing multiple perspectives, politicians, soldiers, islanders and others is Memories of the Falklands

Argentine readers who feel strongly about this subject would probably prefer the pretty biased Argentine perspective as presented by Commodore Ruben O. Moro of the Argentine Air Force. [To understand why I say biased, please read the well thought of reviews of this book on Amazon.]

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