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Posts Tagged ‘Falklands War’

The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas/Guerra del Atlántico Sur), also called the Falklands Conflict/Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Falkland Islands consist of two large and many small islands in the South Atlantic Ocean east of Argentina, and their name and ownership have long been disputed. (See Sovereignty of the Falkland Islands for the background to the latter dispute.)

The war was triggered by the occupation of South Georgia by Argentina on 19 March 1982 followed by the occupation of the Falklands, and ended when Argentina surrendered on 14 June 1982. War was not actually declared by either side. The initial invasion was considered by Argentina as the re-occupation of its own territory, and by Britain as an invasion of a British overseas territory, and the most recent invasion of British territory by a foreign power.

In the period leading up to the war, Argentina was in the midst of a devastating economic crisis and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that had been governing the country since 1976. The Argentine military government, headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri, sought to maintain power by diverting public attention playing off long-standing feelings of the Argentines towards the islands, although they never thought that the United Kingdom would respond militarily. The ongoing tension between the two countries over the islands increased on 19 March when a group of hired Argentinian scrap metal merchants raised their flag at South Georgia, an act that would later be seen as the first offensive action in the war. The Argentine Military Junta, suspecting that the UK would reinforce its South Atlantic Forces, ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to 2 April.

Word of the invasion first reached Britain via ham radio. Britain was initially taken by surprise by the Argentine attack on the South Atlantic islands, despite repeated warnings by Royal Navy captain Nicholas Barker and others. Barker believed that the intention expressed in Defence Secretary John Nott’s 1981 review to withdraw his ship HMS Endurance, Britain’s only naval presence in the South Atlantic, sent a signal to the Argentinians that Britain was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend her territories and subjects in the Falklands. Britain launched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force, and retake the islands by amphibious assault. After combat resulting in 258 British and 649 Argentine deaths, the British eventually prevailed and the islands remained under British control. However, as of 2007 and as it has since the 19th century, Argentina shows no sign of relinquishing its claim. Indeed, the claim remains in the Argentine constitution after its reformation in 1994.

The political effects of the war were strong in both countries. A wave of patriotic sentiment swept through both: the Argentine loss prompted even larger protests against the military government, which hastened its downfall; in the United Kingdom, the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was bolstered. It helped Thatcher’s government to victory in the 1983 general election, which prior to the war was seen as by no means certain. The war has played an important role in the culture of both countries, and has been the subject of several books, films, and songs. However, it is not seen as a truly major event of either military or 20th century history because of the low number of casualties on both sides and the small size and limited economic importance of the disputed areas. The cultural and political weight of the conflict has had less effect on the British public than on that of Argentina, where the war is still a topic of discussion.

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