Falklands War

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The Falklands War was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The United Kingdom had held the Falklands since 1831, but in support of a long-standing territorial claim, Argentinian president Leopoldo Galtieri ordered an invasion on 2 April. The British government of Margaret Thatcher despatched a naval task force which succeeded in taking back control of the islands on 14 June; 649 Argentine and 258 British forces were killed in the war, along with three Falkland Island civilians.


With Christian faith I pray for our men deployed to the southern seas, for your children, husbands, fathers, soldiers, NCOs and officers, who make up the front lines of an Argentine effort that will not stop until final victory is achieved. - Leopoldo Galtieri
  • The war was improvised. The junta wanted the invasion to distract people from resistance to the regime. We were cannon fodder in a war we couldn’t win.
  • The Falklands thing was a fight between two bald men over a comb.
  • I am convinced the English wanted the conflict to happen. They had realised they were going to have to negotiate (under the aegis of the United Nations). So what did they do? They made Argentina look like an aggressor.
  • With Christian faith I pray that those who are today our adversaries may understand their error in time and may deeply reflect before persisting in a stance which is rejected by all the free peoples in the world and by all those who had their territory mutiliated and endured colonialism and exploitation. With Christian faith I pray for our men deployed to the southern seas, for your children, husbands, fathers, soldiers, NCOs and officers, who make up the front lines of an Argentine effort that will not stop until final victory is achieved. Invoking the protection of God and His Holy Mother, let us all commit ourselves to complying with our duty, as did the generations of the past century, who did not mind harsh weather, long distances, disease or poverty when it came to defending freedom.
  • Gould: Mrs Thatcher, why, when the Belgrano, the Argentinian battleship, was outside the exclusion zone and actually sailing away from the Falklands, why did you give the orders to sink it?
    Thatcher: But it was not sailing away from the Falklands — It was in an area which was a danger to our ships, and to our people on them.
    Lawley: Outside the exclusion zone, though.
    Thatcher: It was in an area which we had warned, at the end of April, we had given warnings that all ships in those areas, if they represented a danger to our ships, were vulnerable. When it was sunk, that ship which we had found, was a danger to our ships. My duty was to look after our troops, our ships, our Navy, and my goodness me, I live with many, many anxious days and nights.
    Gould: But Mrs Thatcher, you started your answer by saying it was not sailing away from the Falklands. It was on a bearing of 280 and it was already west of the Falklands, so I'm sorry, but I cannot see how you can say it was not sailing away from the Falklands.
    Thatcher: When it was sunk ..
    Gould: When it was sunk.
    Thatcher: .. it was a danger to our ships.
    Gould: No, but you have just said at the beginning of your answer that it was not sailing away from the Falklands, and I am asking you to correct that statement.
    Thatcher: But it's within an area outside the exclusion zone, which I think is what you are saying is sailing away ..
    Gould: No, I am not, Mrs Thatcher.
    Sue Lawley: I think we are not arguing about which way it was facing at the time.
    Gould: Mrs Thatcher, I am saying that it was on a bearing 280, which is a bearing just North of West. It was already west of the Falklands, and therefore nobody with any imagination can put it sailing other than away from the Falklands.
    Thatcher: Mrs - I'm sorry, I forgot your name.
    Lawley: Mrs Gould.
    Thatcher: Mrs Gould, when the orders were given to sink it, when it was sunk, it was in an area which was a danger to our ships. Now, you accept that, do you?
    Gould: No, I don't.
    Thatcher: I am sorry, it was. You must accept ..
    Gould: No, Mrs Thatcher.
    Thatcher: .. that when we gave the order, when we changed the rules which enabled them to sink the Belgrano, the change of rules had been notified at the end of April. It was all published, that any ships that were are a danger to ours within a certain zone wider than the Falklands were likely to be sunk, and again, I do say to you, my duty, and I am very proud that we put it this way and adhered to it, was to protect the lives of the people in our ships, and the enormous numbers of troops that we had down there waiting for landings. I put that duty first. When the Belgrano was sunk, when the Belgrano was sunk, and I ask you to accept this, she was in a position which was a danger to our Navy.
    Lawley: Let me ask you this, Mrs Gould. What motive are you seeking to attach to Mrs Thatcher and her government in this? Is it inefficiency, lack of communication, or is it a desire for action, a desire for war?
    Gould: It is a desire for action, and a lack of communications because, on giving those orders to sink the Belgrano when it was actually sailing away from our fleet and away from the Falklands, was in effect sabotaging any possibility of any peace plan succeeding, and Mrs Thatcher had 14 hours in which to consider the Peruvian peace plan that was being put forward to her. In which those fourteen hours those orders could have been rescinded.
    Thatcher: One day, all of the facts, in about 30 years time, will be published.
    Gould: That is not good enough, Mrs Thatcher. We need ..
    Thatcher: Would you please let me answer? I lived with the responsibility for a very long time. I answered the question giving the facts, not anyone's opinions, but the facts. Those Peruvian peace proposals, which were only in outline, did not reach London until after the attack on the Belgrano—that is fact. I am sorry, that is fact, and I am going to finish—did not reach London until after the attack on the Belgrano. Moreover, we went on negotiating for another fortnight after that attack. I think it could only be in Britain that a Prime Minister was accused of sinking an enemy ship that was a danger to our Navy, when my main motive was to protect the boys in our Navy. That was my main motive, and I am very proud of it. One day all the facts will be revealed, and they will indicate as I have said.
    Lawley: Mrs Gould, have you got a new point to make, otherwise I must move on?
    Gould: Just one point. I understood that the Peruvian peace plans, on a Nationwide programme, were discussed on midnight, May 1st. If that outline did not reach London for another fourteen hours, ..
    Lawley: Mrs Thatcher has said that it didn't.
    Gould: .. I think there must be something very seriously wrong with our communications, and we are living in a nuclear age when we are going to have minutes to make decisions, not hours.
    Thatcher: I have indicated what the facts are, and would you accept that I am in a position to know exactly when they reached London? Exactly when the attack was made. I repeat, the job of the Prime Minister is to protect the lives of our boys, on our ships, and that's what I did.
  • I'm not allowed to say how many planes joined the raid, but I counted them all out, and I counted them all back. Their pilots were unhurt, tearful and jubilant, giving thumbs up signs.
    • Brian Hanrahan, BBC News, 1 May 1982.
    • Reporting from on board HMS Hermes aircraft carrier on an air raid on Goose Green.
  • In the course of its duties within the Total Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands, HMS Sheffield, a type 42 destroyer, was attacked and hit late this afternoon by an Argentine missile. The ship caught fire, which spread out of control. When there was no longer any hope of saving the ship, the ship's company abandoned ship. All who abandoned her were picked up.
    • Ian McDonald, statement at an MOD press conference John Witherow, "Argentine missile destroys HMS Sheffield", The Times, 5 May 1982, p. 1. This was the first British ship to be sunk; 20 sailors were killed. McDonald's slow and deliberate delivery was noted.
  • The Empire Strikes Back.
    • Newsweek front page (19 April 1982) in reference to the British Empire.
  • What really thrilled me, having spent so much of my lifetime in Parliament, and talking about things like inflation, Social Security benefits, housing problems, environmental problems and so on, is that when it really came to the test, what's thrilled people wasn't those things, what thrilled people was once again being able to serve a great cause, the cause of liberty.
  • What an unlikely pair of antagonists! The British have always fought, to be sure. No nation on Earth can be taken seriously in historical circles unless it has had at least one war with the British; it's like not having an American Express card. And yet the very idea of Britain in a contemporary war is a shock. Britain, one feels, fights in history books and not on TV.
    • Gene Wolfe, "A Few Points About Knife Throwing", Fantasy Newsletter (1983), as reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Castle of Days (1992)

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