Useful Notes: The Falklands War
The 1982 war between Argentina and the UK over a bunch of British-owned islands in the South Atlantic
The Argentine military junta
launched an invasion of the islands it called the Malvinas, thinking that the British military wouldn't be able to respond effectively (if they'd left it a year later, they wouldn't have been able to). Margaret Thatcher
dispatched a Royal Navy task force, which arrived in May.
Diplomatic efforts failed, as neither side was willing to back down. It's also possible that war was what both sides truly wanted, since it actually helped both sides politically-speaking. "The military junta" and Margaret Thatcher
needed to regain their popularity, and fighting a war helps to boost a leader's popularity.note
The British Task Force retook the islands after an intense land, sea and air battle, which introduced the world to Exocet anti-shipping missiles and saw the Harrier dominate against Argentine Skyhawks. Fast Roping
also made its debut here.
Resulted in 255 British and 649 Argentine deaths, as well as those of three civilians. The British lost several ships, including three Type 42 Destroyers. The most notable Argentine loss was of the cruiser General Belgrano
(which had survived
the attack on Pearl Harbor
as the American USS Phoenix
) outside the pre-arranged war-zone to a British submarine - their navy played little part in the war after that.
A useful and comprehensive website about the war can be found here
Tropes involved in this war include:
- Ace Pilot: A lot of the pilots on both sides, the British pilots on the one hand were the only ones to actually make air-to-air kills; while in the other hand the Argentine pilots managed to get great kills while running on very little fuel and also could only afford to drop their bombs and run. The war was one of the few occasions after World War II when anyone even had a chance at earning the title of this trope. Highest scoring pilot, David Morgan, scored 3.5 kills.
- Argentines with Armored Vehicles: Quite literally (see the Tank Goodness entry).
- Badass Army: The British Army. The Argentinian Armed Forces completely averted this.
- Badass Normal: Patrick Watts, the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Service radio announcer, who stayed on the air throughout the night of the invasion giving updates, even when the station was seized by Argentine troops. The transmission went on, and he was ordered to broadcast a message to the people from the Argentinian military. His response? "Yes, alright, but I'm not speaking with a gun in my back. Put the gun down, please. And I don't allow smoking in my studio!"
- Banana Republic: No matter what one's opinion on the sovereignty issue is, Argentina under the National Reorganization Process counted. One of the reasons for the war was because the Junta sought something to placate domestic discontent at home.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Argentina learnt the hard way that pissing off the British army is not a good idea.
- Moreover, Admiral Anaya who was the mastermind in charge of planning and carrying out the invasion despised democracy and Britain in particular, having spent several years there as a Naval Attache and been decidedly unimpressed at the lack of the insane militarisation and authoritarianism, viewing them as weak and corrupt pushovers who would be easily humiliated by Argentina.
- Brits with Battleships And Jump Jets: As awesome as it sounds.
- Body Horror: This guy was on board RFA Sir Galahad when it was bombed. He survived with 46% of his body burned. Some time after the war, he met and became friends with the pilot who bombed him.
- Bullying The Dragon: Yeah, let's invade land belonging to one of the most modern and well equipped armies with our young and untrained men. What can possibly go wrong?.
- Cool Plane:
- On the British side, there's the Sea Harrier, which was deployed in a warzone for the first time in its operational history. To a lesser extent, so were the Avro Vulcan strategic jet bombers - though this would be the the first, last and only time they were used in a shooting war, in the course of which they set the record for the longest bombing missions ever undertaken. Not bad for a design conceived in the 1940s, first flown in 1952 and ready to be phased out around the time the war started... You could say the war gave them a final blaze of glory before heading into retirement.
- The Argentinian Pucará ground attack planes may have been helpless against Sea Harriers and SAS operatives with grenade launchers, but the British found them hard to take down. In addition to them, they had trusty French Dassault Mirage fighters and Dassault Super Etendard naval fighter-bombers (able to carry the infamous EXOCET missiles).
- Conscription: The Argentinian way on assembling the army. The soldiers themselves referred themselves as colimbas: correr ("run"), limpiar ("cleanse") and barrer ("sweep") as their military training often left leeway for desiring better.
- Crazy Enough to Work: The Avro Vulcan bomber raids on Stanley Airport were a series of five aerial operations on a scale that was never even tested before, let alone attempted in a war. Despite all the odds, the single Vulcan bomber and its crew deployed in each mission still pulled it off ! One plane and crew did have a close shave when they nearly couldn't refuel in mid-air on time during the return flight, but they eventually made it and landed safely back on Ascension Island, 7500 kilometres from the Falklands. During the entire mission, they didn't land once and endured a flight totalling 15 000 kms.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- The Battle of Goose Green, in which the British units defeated fortified Argentine forces three times their size, despite losing a few men themselves, particularly in the end phase of the battle (the siege of the Goose Green settlement itself - the entrenchments around the airfield and the schoolhouse, to be precise).
- The war in general. Argentinian army was mostly made of young untrained soldiers that were forced to participate. Their equipment was more advanced than what you'd see the average Qurac or Banana Republic using, but still were not first rate. Britain had one of the best armies in the world. Despite having to travel extremely long distances, the British ended up completely crushing the Argies on their home turf, inflicted a three to one casualty ratio, and taking over ten thousand prisoners.
- The Dreaded: The BAe Sea Harrier. And the Gurkhas.
- The Empire: The war was billed as the return of The British Empire, with some newspaper headlines even reading "The Empire Strikes Back", and argentine propaganda heralded the war as a heroic fight against "British Imperialism" to its people and internationally. Subverted in the fact Britain wasn't (and isn't) an empire; it was a liberal democracy fighting to defeat a military dictatorship led by a genocidal fascist junta who had invaded British land and were holding thousands of British people hostage. More straightly, what the Argentine military wanted to create at the expense of Britain, Chile, and Uruguay. Unfortunately for them, they chose to fight the British first rather than the two neighboring Banana Republics, with... predictable results.
- Everybody Lives: The Ajax Bay field hospital ("The Red and Green Life Machine") commanded by Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly RN had a near perfect record of keeping patients alive "...despite dust, dirt, poor lighting & the presence of two unexploded bombs...".
- Fast Roping
- The Generalissimo: Galtieri and the rest of the Junta are textbook examples.
- Genghis Gambit / Despair Gambit : What the war was to the increasingly unpopular Galtieri government. Arguably, it backfired as the outrage from the defeat led directly to its' overthrow soon after the war.
- Glorious Leader: Galtieri and the rest of the Argentine Junta are casebook examples. Maggie Thatcher and Pinochet also displayed at least some shades of it.
- Good Guns, Bad Guns: Averted. Due to the fact that Argentina was formerly a NATO ally, almost all of their military equipment was American or French surplus, which put them a cut above most non-NATO / non-Warsaw Pact nations at the time. In fact, both sides carried the same rifle (more or less. The British version of the FAL used Imperial dimensions, as opposed to metric and was semi-auto only).
- Gunboat Diplomacy: A failure of this on both sides — a report that British submarines were being sent to the Falklands (which had deterred a previous attempt to take the Islands) actually spurred the invasion to take place before they arrived. And the failed invasion has made a peaceful settlement of the Falklands issue virtually impossible.
- Heroic BSOD: A lot of veterans on both sides committed suicide after the war was over. More British soldiers killed themselves after the war than died during the war.
- Hoist by His Own Petard / Karmic Death / Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: : On a governmental level, the National Reorganization Process - the totalitarian junta that was ruling Argentina with an iron fist since the mid-1970s - suffered this due to the civilian backlash from the complete failure of its PR-raising imperial adventure. The Argentine Junta sought to use the war as a rallying point to keep power and redirect popular discontent outwards. And if they're lucky, maybe form an Empire doing so. The defeat and capitulation led the war to be used as a rallying point against the Junta and its handling of it, almost directly leading to the Junta's overthrow. After Argentina lost the war, the junta limped on for a while, but soon came crashing down and democracy in the country was restored, after decades of wild regime changes. Despite some economic problems bugging it since the 90s, Argentina has been a stable democracy ever since the junta fell in the early 80s. This means that the country has so far endured the longest period in its turbulent history in which it has been politically stable and without infighting between various factions. So, the Falklands War, despite the senseless waste of lives, has actually helped Argentina itself in the long run.
- Honor Before Reason: It was about the conflicting honor of the respective states. The Falklands don't have any material benefits and if there were the populations of the respective countries, as opposed to the governments would not have been particularly more supportive.
- HSQ: Pretty damn high despite the relatively moderate body count.
- Idiot Ball: If the invasion has been postponed for three months, impending British naval cutbacks would have made it impossible to retake the Islands.
- I Will Fight Some More Forever: Inverted. Similarly to the later Gulf War, Argentinian soldiers surrendered by the thousands, in some cases just because they heard that the British might be attacking the area they were tasked to guard.
- Occupiers Out Of Our Territory: Depending on who you ask, either side. Objectively though, the British had legally acquired the islands over a hundred years beforehand, a fact that Argentina had previously recognized and accepted, and they were forcibly occupied in a military assault by Argentina (whom at this time was led by a military junta responsible for a nightmarish campaign of extermination against dissidents), who have about as much legal right to them as the United States (who like Argentina, also briefly "held" the Falklands in the early 1800s). The Falklanders themselves have stated several times that they want to remain part of the United Kingdom.
- Iron Lady / Mama Bear: Margaret Thatcher, as one would expect. You do not want to mess with her, even if its over a few sparsely-inhabited subarctic islands.
- La Résistance: Most of the islanders didn't try armed resistance against the invading Argentines, but they often worked on undermining the occupation and ceding secretly gathered military intelligence to the British fleet after its arrival. Some of the resistance stories are rather humourous, including the memoirs of one local who took secret snapshots of Argentine camps and installations with a camera concealed within a drainpipe.
- Les Collaborateurs: Alexander Betts is probably the only example of this during the war. He was already a notorious trouble maker and wildly unpopular on the islands and whole heartedly latched on to the invasion forces (and according to the Rattenbach Report actively tried to aid them) seemingly out of pure spite for his neighbours despite having been a vocal opponent of Argentina's aims to annex the islands beforehand. He immigrated to argentina shortly after the defeat and has since used the tale of his "persecution" at the hands of the islanders to help the Argentine government "prove" how undeserving of human rights they are.
- More Dakka: Averted most of the time. Both sides were equipped with variants of the FN FAL battle rifle, but the ones used by the British were limited to semi-automatic. Played straight with actual stationary and light machine guns, that came in handy during the Battle of Goose Green.
- British soldiers often exchanged their semi-automatic British-made FN FAL rifles with the Argentine's full-auto capable FAL's for exactly this reason, even though battle rifles like the FAL are notoriously difficult to handle in fully-automatic.
- Naïve Newcomer: When many of the Argentinian Red Shirts were captured, it became increasingly common to learn that they were force-fed a lot of cunning propaganda by the junta's official Propaganda Machine within the armed forces. A combination of appeals to nationalist and Christian iconography were among the commonest, trying to give the conscripts feelings that they are just rightfully reclaiming what belongs to Argentina and should consider themselves righteous heroes.
- Nepali With Nasty Knives: The British Ghurkas also served on the battlefield and won at least one battle without firing a shot: Argentine soldiers who were told they were being attacked by Gurkhas turned tail and ran.
- Point Defenseless: The Argentinians managed to score hits on a number of British ships, sometimes with unguided "dumb" bombs, exposing the limitations of said ships' point defence systems.
- Propaganda Machine: The Argentine press became notorious for it's handling of the war, with massively inflated (if not entirely made up) British casualties being reported, dozens of British ships being supposedly sunk (repeatedly), and utterly fictional tales of heroism and glory (most notably the claim that a single Argentine pilot sunk the HMS Invincible aircraft carrier, which inexplicably continues to be held as truth by the Argentine government and military despite the same ship being very obviously undamaged and unsunk at the end of the war and for the next few decades). One common story which encapsulates this was the fact that many Argentine PO Ws were transported home on the Canberra, with the conscripts learning only when on board that the claims of it being sunk were just another lie.
- Red Shirt Army: The Argentine military was this in general, although it wasn't completely one-sided in the UK's favour. Notably, the Argentine Air Force was seen as a Worthy Opponent, at least on a technical stage (though still somewhat disadvantaged), which was ironic considering the Air force was the most opposed to war out of the three branches of the Argentine military.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Prince Andrew served as co-pilot of a Sea King helicopter, flying electronic decoy missions off the carrier HMS Invincible, to trick the Argentine missiles to follow him instead of hitting the ship. Even more impressive since the Cabinet wanted to keep him out of the fighting, but his mum insisted that he be allowed to serve, if he wished.
- Shrouded in Myth:
- The British deliberately announced that the Gurkhas were assigned to the campaign in public to make absolutely sure that the Argentines knew. Rumor began to spread about the "hideous things" Gurkhas did to their prisoners. As a result, once when they arrived on a ridge no Argentines were there.
- On one returning transport ship there was written in graffiti that the Gurkhas were taking several hundred Argentine heads with them. All that of course is legend. The Gurkhas behaved in a civilized and disciplined fashion. But it is funny and shows how far a reputation can go.
- The myths about the Gurkhas also crossed national boundaries and grew almost comically insane, to the point where Colombian journalist Gabriel García Márquez wrote of the Gurkhas' purported atrocities, including lurid descriptions of them murdering surrendering Argentines, the mass gang rape by the Gurkhas of prisoners, and the "fact" they were so animalistic and insane that they had to be tied up and restrained like animals by the British because they were so uncontrollably berserk. Unfortunate Implications abound needless to say, given both the utter lack of anything even resembling fact, and the very blatant racism at work in such tales. (Ironically, both the British and the Gurkhas actually treated their prisoners better than the Junta treated their soldiers.)
- Stiff Upper Lip: On one of the sinking ships, British sailors waiting on deck to be rescued passed the time by singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".
- Upon discussing the impending invasion with the commander of the island's small force of Marines and sailors, the governor stated very calmly, "Sounds like the buggers mean it."
- Take a Third Option: The war placed the United States in an awkward position: while the Monroe Doctrine required the U.S. to react against any European attacks on the American hemisphere, it was also obligated to assist its oldest and most powerful ally. After Argentina rejected attempts at brokering a peace by the United States, America discontinued selling arms to Argentina and supplied material support to Britain's forces (missiles, the USS Iwo Jima, etc). Further, Congress voted to approve these actions that favored Britain.
- The Falklands were also always a possession of a European power, except for a period when it was abandoned and then claimed by Argentina for a decade or so. It is very much a British property and there is no reason to intervene against the UK over them trying to defend something which is rightfully theirs.
- More practically, the U.S. was afraid that its involvement might prompt the Soviets to start bankrolling Argentina, thus turning the conflict into yet another Cold War proxy war.
- As a direct result, the Falkland Islands Conflict bears the distinction of being the last war in which the United States declared itself officially neutral.
- Tank Goodness: Double subverted. The Argentinians deployed French Panhard AML armoured cars and American LVTP7◊amphibious APCs instead of tanks. They didn't do much before being withdrawn from the islands or blown up with Milan anti-tank missiles. The trope was played straight a bit more by the British, who deployed Scorpion and Scimitar light tanks, which were used in several engagements.
- The Woobie: The often badly-trained, confused and exhausted Argentine conscripts were generally seen as this, even by the Brits themselves. Their Redshirt Army reputation was only exacerbated when they started their mass desertions and voluntarily gave up to the advancing British forces in droves. Sadly, while they were all treated well and taken back home after the end of the hostilities, hundreds of them were so traumatised by their experiences in the war that they committed suicide. This only added to the already high death toll on the Argentinian side. And as already mentioned, despite being on the winning side, many of the scarred British soldiers did the same after the war...
- Underestimating Badassery: The Junta honestly believed it's own propaganda that Britain, like all liberal democracies in the Junta's mind, was pathetically weak, decadent, and impotent, and would never respond to the invasion out of fear for a "rising power" like Argentina. This despite the fact that Britain was not only one of the most powerful and advanced military nations on the planet which was in the middle of fighting a cold war, but was also helmed by a decidedly pro-miltary and aggressive leader.
- What really made them bold was Britain moving its fleet away from the Falklands and they believe they won't be able to respond in time when they invade the islands. When Argentina did invade the British responded quickly and sends its ships to the offensive.
- War for Fun and Profit: The invasion was meant to be a PR boost for the ruling Argentine military junta. It backfired. Badly.
- Warrior Prince / Royals Who Actually Do Something: Prince Andrew flew an ASW helicopter personally. In order to decoy missiles from his ship, no less. The cabinet wasn't quite easy with him going but his mum insisted he be allowed to fight.
- Weapons Kitchen Sink/Selective Historical Armoury: Noticeable with some of the standard issue firearms used in the war. While most of the small arms were reasonably contemporary models (e. g. the FN FALs and the various grenade and rocket launchers), the troops were still using some trusty World War II era arms as well: The Brits used Sterling SMGs for close combat and updated Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles for sniping duty, while the Argentines had the American M3 "Grease Gun" SMGs and German WWII and WWI Mauser rifles as equivalents. In the case of the Argentines, it was more out of necessity than anything else, since their army equipment was generally more outdated than the British one (though, surprisingly, the Argentine soldiers had more effective night vision devices).
- Ye Goode Olde Days/Anachronism Stew: Admittedly for some noncombatants it felt a bit like deja vu as this seemed like something out of the days of Rudyard Kipling when "War Was Glorious" and the sun never set on The British Empire. OK, war is only glorious to those who don't have to crawl in the mud, not even in the days of Rudyard Kipling. But it looks different in the news.
- You Can't Thwart Stage One: Averted. Out of at least Britain, Pinochet's Chile, and Uruguay, the Argentine Junta chose the British as the stage one targets of their wider plans for expansion. Ooops. Played straighter by the successful occupation of the barely-defended islands and the surrender of the skeleton garrison.
The Falklands War in fiction:
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- Bloom County did a plot-arc set on the islands during the war, with the resident penguins offering perplexed comments on the fighting, "You're fighting for rocks? They're such plain... rocks." Opus' mother seemingly perished in the Falklands War. However, she survived with amnesia and was taken by a cosmetics company. (Despite this, Opus was originally from Antarctica, not the Falklands.)
- Steve Bell's very left-wing Guardian cartoon strip If... was born during the Falklands War and still runs today; its first and most enduring plot-arc is of the mutinous sailor Kipling who serves in the War and brings back a Falklands penguin, who returns to London with him and becomes the series' acid commentator on the idiocies and dogmatic lunacies of Thatcher's Britain and a consistently subversive comment on right-wing mentality and government in general.
- A story arc in the comic strip Doonesbury featured the characters Duke and Honey attempting to run a charter boat down to the Falklands for people to watch the war.
- Billy Butcher of The Boys served in the Falklands, and apparently did not come back entirely sane - after his return, he is shown starting fights with strangers, or even his own friends, for absolutely no reason; one of his assaults gets him court-martialled. On the other hand, just how sane he was before he went to war is at best questionable.
- The Falklands War plays a role in the first arc of Batman Inc - the British Government sent a patriotic team there to stop the supervillain Doctor Daedalus. Memories of the war also cause tension between the Hood (who's British) and El Gaucho (Argentinean).
- The Iron Maiden song "Como Estais Amigos" is an somber expression of solidarity with the Argentinian people (Maiden is, of course, British) and discusses the conflict.
- The war, as well as the terrible conditions of the UK in the early in 1980s, form the backdrop for the Pink Floyd album, The Final Cut. Several of its songs, like "Southampton Dock" and "The Gunner's Dream", are written from the point of view of the schoolteacher from The Wall, a shellshocked World War II veteran, who watches young soldiers go off to fight in the Falklands for no reason, and expresses dismay that no one has learned from history and that England failed to fulfill the post-war promise to promote peace instead of fighting and bloodshed. "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert" and "The Fletcher Memorial Home" directly blast both sides of the war and various world leaders in general, condemning Galtieri and Thatcher (and Reagan, and Begin, and Brezhnev, and so on) as "colonial wasters of life and limb" who make War for Fun and Profit with an inhuman disregard for people's lives.
- The Sabaton song "Back In Control" is about the war from the perspective of the British military.
- The most famous protest song in response to the war, however, is "Shipbuilding", written and first recorded by Elvis Costello, but best known in the version by Robert Wyatt.
- Anarcho-punk band Crass viciously criticised the war with the singles "How Does It Feel to Be the Mother of a Thousand Dead?", "Sheep Farming in the Falklands" and their last album Yes Sir, I Will.
Live Action TV
- The Falklands Play
- Tumbledown (1988) - A teleplay starring Colin Firth in one of his first lead roles, portraying Robert Lawrence MC, who survived a sniper shot to the head. The film was controversial due to the portrayal of the government allegedly neglecting Falklands vets.
- An Ungentlemanly Act (1992), filmed on the islands and at Ealing Studios, written and directed by Stuart Urban. Ian Richardson portrayed the 1982 governor Rex Hunt and Bob Peck played Major Mike Norman, the commander of the Royal Marines based at Stanley. The film was closely based on the historical record, and all of the major incidents portrayed were drawn from contemporary accounts by those who took part. It won the 1993 BAFTA TV Award for Best Single Drama.
- Mentioned in Ashes to Ashes, where Shaz objects to Ray's cheering the sinking of General Belgrano pointing out that the Argentine sailors are only conscripts. When HMS Sheffield is lost later in the episode, Ray points out that they're clearly not all conscripts.
- On Yes, Minister in the episode "The Bed of Nails", Jim Hacker opines that, if he takes on the traffic problem in Britain, "...if I succeed, this could be my Falkland Islands" — to which Sir Humphrey replies, "And you could be General Galtieri."
- In the final episode of The New Statesman, Alan B'Stard arranges to have a porn director stage a fake French invasion of the Falklands in order to trigger a war that will a) drive the value of his shares through the roof, b) secure an election victory for his new party, and c) let him declare himself Lord High Protector and effectively take over Britain for life.
- The British documentary series Line of Fire had an episode dedicated to the Battle of Goose Green (complete with bits of battle reenactment).
- The British TV documentary film Falklands' Most Daring Raid tells the story of the crew of an Avro Vulcan bomber (XM 607) during Operation Black Buck.
- A number of Jack Higgins's thrillers after 1982 mention this war, most of all Exocet.
- The Falklands War is mentioned and often discussed in the early Adrian Mole books. Adrian's father panics after hearing the news about the outbreak of war... until Adrian reassures him that the Falklands are located by the shore of South America and not Scotland.
- The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman by Raymond Briggs retells the war as a children's picture book.
- Harpoon has a entire book for its fourth edition on scenarios related to the war, entitled South Atlantic War.
- Unsurprisingly, various British computer games of the 1980s took their inspiration from the war, including the flight sim Harrier Attack! and the (darkly hilarious) Frogger clone Yomp, in which you guide a paratrooper across a dirt road with speeding army trucks and then across a minefield.
- The Falklands War from the indie war Simulation Game studio Shrapnel Games. Besides recreating actual missions and battles from the war, it also offers several Alternate History takes on various engagements, including greater use of armed vehicles on the islands.
- Another upcoming indie war simulation about the Falklands conflict is Jet Thunder, a combat flight sim. Besides featuring all planes and engagements flown in the war, it will also have a dynamic singleplayer campaign, where the player's achievements can influence the war into Alternate History directions.
- Project Reality, a mod of Battlefield2, has an expansion that focuses on this conflict, with players able to play both the British and Argentine Army factions.
- The enviroments (islands with a subarctic climate and overall atmosphere) and the time frame in which Operation Flashpoint takes place are inspired by various aspects of this war, even though the plot is quite different (a small-scale NATO and Soviet showdown threatening to erupt into World War III). The game had several Falklands-themed Game Mods over the years, directly featuring both militaries and various battles of the war. If you own the Game of the Year edition of OFP, you can grab the Falklands War total conversion here (mod) and here (update/patch) and run it from a custom mod folder. Sadly, the Development Hell it had gone through prevented its creators from making a proper campaign, so you'll have to play one of the three available missions or make your own in the game's editor. An archived version of the project's website can be seen here.
- The Cold War campaign in the Thrones and Patriots expansion of Rise of Nations has the US or Soviet Union (whomever the player picked) become much more involved in the Argentina police action.
- The war usually gets a scenario or two's worth of coverage in the modern-era Steel Panthers games.