History tells us that Britain has ruled the Falklands more or less uninterrupted since 1833, and its claims to it remained somewhat undisputed until the early 1940s, when a succession of unpopular governments in Argentina, finally began to push their claims for the Falklands. Central to their argument was the proximity of the two islands, off the coast of South America and the fact they inherited control of the islands from Spain upon independence in 1816. This argument would remain sporadically a source of tension for decades between Argentina and British during the mid twentieth century. In 1965, the UN General Assembly even had to call for peace on the dispute over the islands. Interestingly, in the years that followed, the United Kingdom apparently even began secret talks to hand over the Falklands to Argentina, but backed out at the last moment.
But in 1982, Leopoldo Galtieri, the head of Argentina’s military junta, in an attempt to win over popular support in Argentina, decided it was time to put to rest the useless round of negotiations, over the sovereignty of the islands, by taking charge of the situation. In a surprise attack, Galtieri launched an invasion of the islands on April 2, overrunning a small garrison of British marines stationed in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. The next day, Argentine forces also extended their reach across to the British controlled island of South Georgia.
As expected, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reacted swiftly by deploying a British task force. By late April, the crisis had escalated into a full-scale war, with the British taking back South Georgia island en route to re-establishing control over the Falkland Islands.
After ten weeks of conflict, the British claimed victory on June 14. In total, the Falklands War saw 255 Brits, 649 Argentinians and three native Falklanders killed. In its aftermath, Galitieri’s government collapsed ending the military junta in Argentina, while Margaret Thatcher would enjoy a resurgence in popularity upon winning the 1983 general election. The two countries would also sever ties until 1989.
Photo credit: The image of HMS Cardiff anchored outside Port Stanley in 1982 is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. The image of the Argentine military cemetery, on East Falkland Island, is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
I remember all that happening back in the early 80’s. I was in middle school or just starting high school and I remember discussing it in history class.
I recently viewed a few videos about the hospital ship involved in the Falklands War and learned more than I ever knew about it. Great post as well, Robert,.
Thank you so much for the blog post. I remember when this happened, but I didn’t know the history of the Falklands and I appreciate your letting us in on it. Thanks for all the research you do!
I believe the islands should be part of Argentina, just as I believe Northern Ireland should be reunited with Ireland. Guess I’m an anarchist…