02 April 2012

Anniversary: Falklands Invasion

30 years ago, the Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands.

The Guardian has an excellent microsite covering the war, including this very nice interactive video.

Want to see what the Financial Times of London printed that day? Here's the PDF.

On April 1, 1982, the Washington Post ran this article.

Argentine Navy Faces British in Islands Dispute
BYLINE: By Leonard Downie Jr., Washington Post Foreign Service
SECTION: First Section; A21
LENGTH: 594 words
DATELINE: LONDON, March 31, 1982

Britain and Argentina are sending warships to the disputed Falkland Islands after their long-simmering feud over control of the sparsely populated territory erupted earlier this month into what the foreign ministers of both countries have described as a serious confrontation.
Without detailing the British naval force being sent to the islands, in the southern Atlantic off the tip of South America, Defense Secretary John Nott said today it would be adequate to defend British interests.
Nott said Britain still seeks a diplomatic solution but other officials said the crisis is being taken very seriously here. The confrontation has been called "potentially dangerous" by Britain's foreign secretary, Lord Carrington, and "grave and serious" by Argentine Foreign Minister Nicanor Costa Mendez.
Britain reportedly has ordered a nuclear-powered submarine and other vessels to join a Royal Navy ice patrol ship facing several Argentine warships in the vicinity of the Falklands. Argentina also is reportedly sending its only aircraft carrier. British destroyers and frigates in the Caribbean and at Gibraltar have been put on alert.
The current troubles began 11 days ago when a group of Argentine scrap metal dealers landed on remote South Georgia island, 800 miles east of the rest of the Falklands to dismantle an unused whaling station.
The Argentinians had a contract with the British owner of the whaling station and notified British officials in the Falklands of their intentions. But because they did not obtain advance immigration clearance and raised an Argentine flag after landing, according to the British, they were asked to leave.
All but 12 of the original 50 left, according to British officials and representatives here of the 1,800 residents of the Falklands, which have been occupied continuously by British settlers and their descendants since 1833.
The Argentine Foreign Ministry said Britain has no right to order the men off what it considers Argentine territory. Citing a brief occupation of the islands by Spain during the 18th century, Argentina has long claimed sovereignty over the Falklands, which they call the Malvinas.
The British ice-patrol ship Endurance, with some of the 36 Marines normally stationed in the Falklands, was sent to the whaling station to back up the British demand that the rest of the Argentinians leave.
Argentina responded with three warships and was reported yesterday to be sending more. Although British officials refuse to comment, it has been made known here that at least one British submarine capable of sinking surface warships is on its way to the Falklands, to be followed if necessary by large surface warships.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government has been accused by members of Parliament here of responding slowly to Argentina's military moves and crippling British preparedness for such emergencies by reducing the Navy's surface fleet.
Carrington said yesterday that intensive secret negotiations with Argentina had so far failed to resolve the dispute.
U.N.-sponsored negotiations begun in 1965 have made slow progress on competing British and Argentine claims, although agreements have been reached on trade, communications, educational and medical facilities and customs regulations for Falkland island residents.
Britain and Argentina have otherwise enjoyed close trade and other ties in the past. One of the Argentine destroyers deployed for the current confrontation is British-made and the Argentine aircraft carrier was bought from the British Navy.

The next day, as Argentina invaded, the New York Times led with this one.

BYLINE: By WILLIAM BORDERS, Special to the New York Times
SECTION: Section 1; Page 1, Column 5; Foreign Desk
LENGTH: 1006 words

Reacting with dismay and indignation to the invasion of the Falkland Islands, Britain broke off diplomatic relations with Argentina today and warned that it was taking appropriate military measures to assert ''our rights under international law.''
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher summoned the Cabinet into an early morning crisis session, with defense chiefs present, and they met again for an hour this evening. Tonight some warships were en route to the Falklands, and a naval task force was put on immediate readiness for operations, the Government said. An emergency Commons debate was scheduled for Saturday morning, the first weekend session of Parliament since the Suez crisis of 1956.

Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary, said, ''Her Majesty's Government totally condemns this unprovoked aggression, which is in flagrant disregard of the appeal by the Secretary General of the United Nations and the president of the Security Council.''

Amusement Turns to Anger
The wry amusement with which the whole Falklands affair had been viewed here during its two weeks in the public notice was suddenly overtaken by anger at the abrupt Argentine action, coupled with a nostalgic yearning for the proud old days of empire.
But it was unclear tonight just what the British could do about the invasion, or how serious any military response would be. That, presumably, was the central question at the two emergency Cabinet meetings today, as it will be in the parliamentary debate Saturday.
The 1,800 Falkland Islanders, most of them British, are in danger of the humiliation of surrender to the Argentinian dictatorship, one Member of Parliament declared during the tumultuous debate this afternoon. Another, criticizing the Government's reaction as weak, said, ''Our words should match our deeds and be forthright in the extreme.''
But officials admitted privately that, short of war, there was little that they could do to reassert sovereignty over the islands, which Britain and Argentina have disputed for about 150 years. And even the military options were limited by the fact that the Falklands are 8,000 miles away - at least a week's sailing distance from the closest British ships. The islands are only a few hundred miles off the coast of Argentina.
Military sources here also said that there was a small group of three or four frigates and destroyers in the South Atlantic, but it was not clear how far away from the Falklands they were or whether the British would order them into action. There were also reports that airborne troops were being readied here, but those reports could not be confirmed, and in any case it was not clear where the troops would land.
Defense Secretary John Nott said tonight that a ''substantial number of Royal Navy ships'' were ordered to the Falklands several days ago, but he declined to say when they would arrive. He said the naval task force being prepared in British waters was substantial, but he declined to be more specific. He said it had not been given orders to sail. There were unconfirmed reports that two aircraft carriers, the Hermes and the Invincible, were preparing to put out to sea from Portsmouth, and that the sailors' Easter leave had been canceled.
On the advice of the Government, British Caledonian Airways suspended its commercial flights to Argentina. Another measure of the intensity of feeling was that Argentine diplomats here were given only until next Thursday to leave the country.

Argentine Action Condemned
In Brussels, foreign ministers of the 10 Common Market countries condemned the Argentine action, calling for an immediate withdrawal from the islands, and the council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization expressed deep concern. Diplomats said that an attack on the Falklands would not involve NATO militarily, because the islands lie beyond the Tropic of Cancer, which is the geographical limit of the treaty area.
In the Commons debate this morning, the Government was roundly criticized for not having begun its military build-up two weeks ago, when the crisis began. The total British military strength in the islands is a contingent of about 80 Royal Marines, commanded by a major, stationed at Stanley.
Asked at a news conference today whether those men had been given orders to surrender, the Defense Secretary replied: ''The British never give orders to anyone to surrender. I would have assumed no member of the British armed services surrenders.''

Gunbattles Reported
Asked if he meant by that that the marines had engaged in combat, he said he did not know, since the Government here had not been in contact with Stanley since early this morning.
Broadcasts from two amateur radio operators in the Falklands, monitored by other so-called hams in Britain, reported that there had been gunbattles around Stanley at about dawn. According to one of them, the Argentine invading party consisted of an aircraft carrier and four other ships.
One of the amateur broadcasters said that the Argentines had taken over the Cable and Wireless station, preventing normal communications, and that they were now broadcasting in Spanish on the local radio. He said that the capital was fairly calm this afternoon but that helicopters were hovering overhead and troops were searching houses, presumably looking for radio sets.
The residents of the Falklands, most of whom are sheep farmers, voted in a referendum last year to stay British. They speak with British accents, and drink and play darts in pubs that would look right at home here. Their present plight touches a very sensitive nerve in a nation still growing accustomed to its newly lessened role in the world.

Oh yeah, and the Argentinians are opening a Falklands museum.

By: Brant

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