Argentina invades Falklands

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Argentina invades Falklands

The 2nd of April 1982 AD

On April 2nd 1982, a British territory in the South Atlantic that hardly anyone had heard of suddenly became the focus of jingoistic fury and frenzied military preparation. Argentina had seized the Falkland Islands with an invasion force.

The Falkland Islands, about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina, have a long and complicated history. It is uncertain when they were first sighted: there are claims for Spaniard Esteban Gomez sailing in Magellan’s fleet in 1522; for Englishman John Davis in 1592; and Dutchman Sebald de Weerdt at the start of the 17th century.

The first recorded landing was British, John Strong claiming the islands for the crown and naming them for naval official Viscount Falkland in 1690. The first permanent settlement was French, fishermen from St Malo using them from 1764 for a base (hence the Argentinean appellation of Las Malvinas, from the French Isles Malouines). The English settled another island the following year.

The next seventy years saw Spanish purchase of French rights, American bombardment of the Spanish settlers, British claims to sovereignty, a small Argentinean settlement, and most importantly in 1833 the British return, having left in 1774, ejecting the Argentines.

Negotiations between Britain and Argentina dragged on from 1965 to 1982. The British government seemed willing to cede the lands if the British colony’s 1800 inhabitants (fishermen, sheep farmers and seaweed processors) agreed, a stance perceived as a signal of indifference by the Argentine dictator General Galtieri. The dictatorship tested the water with a landing on the linked territory of South Georgia , scrap metal merchants accompanied by military personnel: the British seemed merely vexed and requested the military leave.

Galtieri was in a desperate situation. Raging inflation, economic collapse, and widespread unrest about the “disappearances” of thousands of government opponents. An invasion was planned for May or July to coincide with major Argentine public holidays celebrating important historical events.

As the crisis in Buenos Aires deepened the invasion was pulled forward: preparations were hurried and botched, many raw conscripted troops sent with poor equipment. But by the end of April 2nd the invasion force that had landed near Port Stanley was 3,000 strong. The 80 Royal Marines stationed in Stanley put up a brief defence, killing one invader and having one of their own troops badly wounded. The resistance was doomed, and they were ordered to surrender by Governor Rex Hunt. Later that day they and he were flown to Montevideo in Uruguay. Argentina controlled the Falklands.

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