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The Falklands War

The Falkland Islands / Malvinas War - Chronicle of the Falklands / Malvinas history and war.

Argentina: The Vanished Gallery - The darkest period in Argentine history. Under the military dictatorship 1976-1983 20 to 30 thousand people have disappeared. This web site tells their story. Also includes data on the Falkland Islands and war which was started at the same period by the same dictatorship.

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) War (1982) - Links collection by Canadian Forces College

The Falkland Islands / Malvinas War - Chronicle of the Falklands / Malvinas history and war.

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) War (1982) - Links collection by Canadian Forces College.

The Falklands Campaign - A map from the US Military Academy.

The Falklands War - Memories and images of the Falklands War from an engineer who served aboard the SS Canberra.

Falklands War 1982 - Online version of the webmaster's book Battles of the Falklands War.

Great Events: Falklands War 1982 - Brief account of events for use in schools. Reading list, comprehension questions and research topics included.

HMS Broadsword Falklands 82 - The Falklands war seen from the crew members of HMS Broadsword.

Honour Regained: The Falklands War 1982 - Well laid out site that covers the war on land, sea and air largely from the British perspective. Includes a message board for veterans.

The South Atlantic Medal Association - Organization for British veterans on the war. Site includes a chronology and Falklands links

Map of the Falkland Islands - Small map, 1997.

Map of the Falkland Islands - Shaded Relief (177K).

 

Chronicle of the Falkland islands history and war

Introduction

The Falkland Islands 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 at 1991 was estimated at 2100.

Argentina has claimed the islands since the early 19th century. 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 the islands in April 1982.

During the war cronicled below, the British captured about 10,000 Argentine prisoners, all of whom were afterward released. Argentina sustained over 700 men killed, while Britain lost about 250. Argentina's ignominious defeat severely discredited the military government and led to the restoration of civilian rule in that country in 1983.

Chronicle of the Falkland islands

1592

The English navigator John Davis on the Desire may have been the first person to sight the Falklands. The Argentine version states that "Spanish seamen" were the first without giving further details (names, dates etc.) Also, some claims say that Ferdinand Magellan was the first to see the islands on his voyage around the world. This is false since Magellan's route is clearly documented in historical charts to go along the South American east coast, close to the shore, until he hit the Magellan straits. (rather than over 1000 Km into the Atlantic). Another claim is based on one of Magellan's ships deserting the expedition and going back to Spain. While it is true that there was such a ship, there are no original documents claiming the actual sighting of the islands except for much later speculations.

 

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 in the East Falkland island.

 

1770

The British are driven off the West Falkland settlement by the French.

 

1771

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

 

1774

The British withdraw from the island for economic reasons, without renouncing their claim to the Falklands. 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 at this point. During Argentina early years Argentines are busy at war against Spain first (independence), Brazil then (inherited struggle between Spain and Portugal for what is now Uruguay) and few internal quarrels. Consequently the Falklands, a distant and relatively unimportant group of islands were not in their focus despite their gaining independence from Spain.

 

1820

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

 

1828

Argentine General and philantropist Rosas sent a governor, Mr. Vernet, together with a garrison and settlers for menial work to settle in the islands. This is the first recorded Argentine settlement in the islands.

 

1831

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

 

1833

Afraid that the Americans seized the islands, the British remembered the expedition of the 17th century, re-invaded the islands, deposed Vernet and sent the Argentines back to the mainland without firing a shot. [I saw reports on killing Vernet's forces on the net. None of them can be confirmed by any reliable source.]

 

1885

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

 

1892

Colonial status is granted to the Falklands.

 

1964

The islands' position was debated by the UN committee on decolonization. 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 apply to the Falklanders the principle of 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 wishes 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), who prefered to remain under British rule notwithstanding, virtually every child in Argentina was made to believe that the islands are Argentine, and that this "imperialistic injustice" ought to be reversed.

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 As a result, Argentina's several attempts to negotiate sovereignity on the islands with Britain lead nowhere.

 

April 2, 1982

Argentina is ruled by a military junta, headed at this point by the third Junta president, General Leopoldo Galtieri and the commander of the navy is Admiral Jorge Anaya

Argentina is in deep economic trouble; Throughout 1981, inflation skyrocketted over 600%, GDP is down 11.4%, manufacturing output is down 22.9%, and real wages by 19.2%. Mass disappearance of people in the hands of the juntas causes significant unrest. Galtieri launches a military invasion of the islands, code named Operación Rosario and planned by Anaya, to divert public attention from the internal problems.

The Argentine navy easily overcomes the small garrison of British marines on the Falkland islands. The 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). General Mario Menendez is proclaimed military governor of the islands, and as Galtieri 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 RAF Transport Aircraft deploy to Ascension Island.

April 3 to Late April, 1982

Argentina acummulates more than 10,000 troops on the Falklands.

 

Lord Carrington resigns as Foreign Secretary on April 5. In response to the invasion, the British government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declares a war zone for 200 miles (320 km) around the Falklands, assembles a naval task force with which to retake the islands, and launches long range air attacks from the mid-Atlantic Ascencion island on the airfield in Port Stanley to disrupt the flow of supplies to the Argentine forces.

 

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 in Buenos Aires for talks with the Junta.

April 17, 1982

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

April 23, 1982

British Foreign Office advises British nationals in Argentina to leave.

Alfredo Astiz signing the surrender document
on board the British HMS Plymouth
Alfredo Astiz signing the surrender document

April 25, 1982

A small British comando force retakes the Georgia Island. Argentine Submarine Santa Fe attacked and disabled. The commander of the Argentine forces on the island, Alfredo Astiz, 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.

 

Apr 30, 1982

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

May 1st, 1982

Harrier and Vulcan British planes attack the Port Stanley (Puerto Argentino) airfield. Three Argentine aircraft 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. Almost 400 crewmen die. 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 5, 1982

Peru drafts peace plan.

May 7, 1982

UN enters peace negotiations.

May 9, 1982

Islands bombarded from sea and air. Two sea Harriers sink Argentine trawler Narwal.

May 11, 1982

Argentine supply ship Cabo de los Estados sunk by HMS Alacrity.

May 14, 1982

Three Argentine Skyhawks shot down. Prime Minister Thatcher warns that peaceful settlement may not be possible. Special 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. HMS Ardent sunk by Argentine air attack. Nine Argentine aircraft shot down.

May 22, 1982

Consolidation day at bridgehead.

May 23, 1982

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

May 24, 1982

Seven Argentine Aircraft destroyed.

May 25, 1982

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

May 28, 1982

Second battalion, Parachute Regiment, take Darwin and Goose Green. British Lt. Col. H Jones dies. More air-raids on Port Stanley.

May 29, 1982

Warships and Harriers bombard Argentine positions: 250 Argentines killed, 1400 captured; 17 British killed.

May 30, 1982

Shelling continues as British troops advance. 45 Commando secure Douglas settlement; 3 Para recapture Teal Inlet.

May 31, 1982

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

 

June 1, 1982

Britain repeats 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

Argentine air attack on British landing craft Sir Galahad and Sir Tristam at Bluff Cove. 50 British die.

June 12, 1982

British infantry forces seize Mount Tumbledown in a bloody battle. Causalties: 9 British and about 40 Argentine dead. Another 34 Argentine soldiers surrendered and taken prisoners. 32 British wounded. (Source: Tactics of Modern Warfare by Mark Lloyd)

June 14, 1982

The large Argentine garrison in Port Stanley is defeated, effectively ending the conflict. The Argentine commander Mario Menendez, agrees to "an unnegotiated 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 reoccupy 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 Falklands Protection Zone (FIPZ) of 150 miles.

From start to finish, this strange undeclared war lasted 72 days, claimed about 1000 casualties, and had a cost of at least 2 billion dollars. From a political point of view, it secured the reelection of Margaret Thatcher and brought down Leopoldo Galtieri who was quick to resign afterwards, paving the road to the restoration of democracy in Argentina.

 

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, www.falklands-malvinas.com, David Rock: Argentina 1516-1987, Margaret Thatcher: The Downing Street Years.

Editor's note: 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, it seems to touch some nerve with some Argentine readers so I regularily get hate mail about it. Hate mail 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 as facts.