British Triumph On East Falkland
SUBJECT AREA History
WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR
British Triumph on East Falkland
Major Timothy J. Hannigan, USMC
2 April 1984
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Development and Education Command
Quantico, Virginia 22134
Author: Hannigan, Timothy J., Major, USMC
Title: British Triumph on East Falkland
Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Date: 1 April 1984
The United Kingdom won a brilliant victory in the 1982 Falkland Islands
War. Responding quickly to an unexpected Argentine invasion of the Falklands
in April 1982, the British government quickly sent a task force to the South
Atlantic to recover the islands. Within 74 days the task force defeated the
large Argentine occupation force, captured 11,400 prisoners, and returned the
Falklands to British control. How the British won the war's land campaign
forms the focal point of this paper.
Following a brief introductory chapter, Chapters Two and Three describe
the organization and operations of the British land forces from initial
mobilization through the Argentine surrender. The narrative covers the task
force's movement to the South Atlantic, the Royal Navy's effort to create the
conditions for a successful amphibious operation, the surprise landing at San
Carlos, and the landing force' s bold thrust across East Falkland to seize Port
Stanley. Ten maps help depict what took place.
The next three chapters analyze the problems and solutions Britain
experienced in waging the land campaign. First, an analysis of the British
amphibious operation. Before the landing at San Carlos, six British sub-
marines forced all Argentine surface ships to return to their mainland ports
for the remainder of the war. But the submarines and surface ships, including
two carriers, failed to (1) eliminate the Argentine submarine threat, and
(2) gain air superiority in the area. The amphibious group sailed dangerously
exposed to air and submarine attacks for a day and a half before making a
surprise landing at San Carlos. Even then, British air-defense inadequacies
nearly allowed Argentine aircraft to thwart the landing during five days of
heavy air counterattacks. Unexploded bombs helped the British to survive the
air attacks. In ultimately securing a beachhead on East Falkland, Britain
illustrated the value of amphibious forces that can strike when and where they
Chapters Five and Six evaluate British land operations in the war and
the landing force's use of weapons. Essentially, Britain's strong, profes-
sional landing force overwhelmed Argentina's weak, conscript army. It marched
extraordinary distances to out-maneuver the Argentines. It patrolled aggres-
sively and executed well-planned night attacks. It used artillery, naval
gunfire, and anti-armor weapons effectively to support attacks. It called
upon combat engineers to breach minefields. The British ground units showed
exceptionally high standards of tactical skill, physical fitness, teamwork,
leadership, and morale in striking the crushing, victorious blow.
Despite serious power-projection deficiencies, Britain soundly defeated
Argentina in the Falklands War. Although the British profited from their
opponents' mistakes and shortcomings, aggressiveness and competence, not luck,
gained them a triumph on East Falkland Island.
The paper draws material from (1) personal interviews with a former
Argentine destroyer captain and Royal Marine officers, some of whom commanded
at brigade and commando levels during the Falklands War; (2) Max Hastings and
Simon Jenkins' comprehensive study of the war, entitled The Battle for the
Falklands; and (3) many journal and magazine articles.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION 1
2. ARGENTINA'S INVASION--BRITAIN'S RESPONSE 5
ARGENTINE INVASION 5
Invasion Plan 5
Seizure of Port Stanley 6
Seizure of South Georgia 8
BRITISH MOBILIZATION 8
Initial Political-Military Responses 8
Task-Force Mission and Composition 10
ASCENSION ISLAND 12
Task-Force Use 12
Soviet Surveillance 13
WAR STRATEGY 14
NAVAL SUPPORTING OPERATIONS 14
Submarine Operations 15
Air Operations 17
Surface-Ship Operations 18
SUBSIDIARY LANDING IN SOUTH GEORGIA 19
Plan of Attack 19
Improvised Assault 20
PREASSAULT OPERATIONS 22
Pre-D-Day Reconnaissance 22
Pebble Island Raid 23
Fanning Head Raid 23
3. THE BRITISH LAND CAMPAIGN 28
SAN CARLOS LANDING 28
Final Preparations 28
Amphibious Landing 29
Ground Defense 31
Air Defense 31
SAN CARLOS BREAKOUT 33
Breakout Plan 33
Battle of Darwin-Goose Green 34
3 Parachute Battalion's Movement to Mts.
Estancia and Vernet 36
45 Commando's Movement to Mount Kent 37
42 Commando's Movement to Mts. Kent and Challenger 38
Displacement of Brigade Headquarters 39
40 Commando's Defense of Beachhead 39
THE SOUTHERN AXIS 40
Landing of Landing-Force HQ and 5 Infantry Brigade 40
Movement to Fitzroy-Bluff Cove 41
Fitzroy Tragedy 43
BATTLE OF PORT STANLEY 45
Attack Preparations 45
Phase-One Attack 47
Phase-Two Attack 50
ARGENTINE SURRENDER 52
Casualty and POW Totals 53
4. AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS 58
Landing-Site Options and Proposals 58
Choice of San Carlos 59
Landing Plan 60
Time Shortage 60
Shortage of Ships 61
Cross-Decking at Ascension Island 61
MOVEMENT TO THE OBJECTIVE 63
Organzing for Combat 64
Ship Transfers 64
Movement Thru the TEZ 64
SUPPORTING AND PREASSAULT OPERATIONS 66
Value of Nuclear-Powered Submarines 66
Power-Projection Deficiencies 66
Reconnaissance/Sabotage Successes 67
AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT 68
Tactical Surprise 68
Ship-to-Shore Transport 69
Lack of Air Superiority 70
Beachhead Defense 72
5 INFANTRY BRIGADE'S LANDINGS 73
San Carlos Landing 73
Fitzroy-Bluff Cove Landing 74
5. LAND OPERATIONS 77
CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS 77
Principal Attributes 77
General Scheme of Maneuver 79
Port Stanley Attack 80
Designation and Use of Reserve 81
NIGHT OPERATIONS 82
Night Opportunities 82
British Training 82
Friendly Casualties 83
Preparation for the Port Stanley Attack 84
COMPETENCE AND FITNESS OF GROUND FORCES 85
Sine Qua Non 85
Quality of Individual Soldier 86
Unit Cohesion 87
Physical Fitness 92
COMBAT-ENGINEER CONTRIBUTIONS 93
Minefield Reconnaissance and Breaching 93
Other Tasks 93
6. WEAPONS AND THEIR USES 96
Artillery Use in the Battle of Port Stanley 97
Most Effective Supporting Arm 98
NAVAL GUNFIRE 98
Capabilities and Control 98
OFFENSIVE AIR SUPPORT 100
Shortage of Air Power 100
Supporting Operations 101
Support of Land Operations 102
AIR-DEFENSE SYSTEMS 104
Air Threat 104
Mix of Air-Defense Systems 105
Royal Navy's Air-Defense Support 106
Landing-Force's Air-Defense Effort 107
Air Defense at San Carlos 109
Control of Air Defense 110
Air-Defense Inadequacies 111
INFANTRY WEAPONS 112
Anti-Air Weapons 112
7. CONCLUSON 118
MISSION: RECOVER THE FALKLANDS 118
ARGENTINE SURPRISE 118
NAVAL SUPPORTING OPERATIONS 119
SAN CARLA LANDING 121
LAND OPERATIONS 122
WHY THE BRITISH WON 123
APPENDIX A - Geographical Location of the Falkland Islands 125
APPENDIX B - Falkland Islands 126
APPENDIX C - Composition of the British Landing Force 127
APPENDIX D - Argentine Forces on the Falklands 129
APPENDIX E - South Georgia Island 130
APPENDIX F - Amphibious Landing at San Carlos 131
APPENDIX G - Beachhead Defense at San Carlos 132
APPENDIX H - Battle of Darwin - Goose Green 133
APPENDIX I - San Carlos to Port Stanley 134
APPENDIX J - Battle of Port Stanley: Phase One 135
APPENDIX K - Battle of Port Stanley: Phase Two 136
APPENDIX L - Command Relations of British Task Force 137
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 139
Many people helped me research and write this paper. Most notably, a
variety of Royal Marine officers generously shared their time and views.
Major-General J.H.A. Thompson CBE, OBE, prepared a 60-minute cassette in
response to my questions. Colonels A. F. Whitehead DSO and N. F. Vaux DSO
discussed the war at length in interviews they granted me. Likewise,
Lieutenant-Colonels P.A.C. Howgill and J. R. Hensman, the Royal Marine
representatives to the U.S. Marine Corps' Education Center, offered invaluable
assistance in patiently explaining British Army and Royal Marine customs and
procedures. Major Christopher J.E. McDowall and Captain Toby Hunter provided
further background information about the British effort in the Falklands. To
all of them I extend my sincere thanks.
Captain Jose Ferrer, the Argentine Navy's representative to the
Inter-American Defense Board, also kindly granted me a long interview.
Because I focused in this paper on British war operations and faced strict
length limits, I regret that I couldn't use much of the interesting material
he provided about Argentine operations. He broadened my understanding of the
war. I warmly appreciate his candor and willingness to help.
Many thanks also to Lieutenant Colonel Donald F. Bittner, USMC, for his
overall guidance in the War Since 1945 Seminar; Lieutenant Colonel Timothy E.
Kline for his detailed editing; Major Ronald R. Cruz for arranging the
interview with Captain Ferrer; Mr. David Brown for his library help; and Mrs.
Marge Kruzinski for her superb typing.
My most heartfelt thanks goes to my wife, Mary, who cheerfully and
patiently carried out her duties as a spouse, mother, and pinch-hitting father
while I wrestled with this project.
The Falkland islands lie in the South Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles east
of Argentina, 780 miles west of the island of South Georgia, and 1,500 miles
north of Antarctica.1 Although 200 islands form the Falklands, two main
islands, East and West Falkland, constitute over 98% of the island group's
total land area of 4,697 square miles.2 The narrow, 5-to-10 mile-wide
Falkland Sound separates these two islands.3 (See Appendixes A and B for
general and detailed maps of the Falklands.)
The relatively barren terrain on the islands consists of low hills;
large, rocky outcrops; and wet, spongy peat bog.4 Shrubs and wild grass
make up the sparse vegetation able to prosper on such terrain and in the cold
and windy climate. High ground reaches elevations ranging from 1,300 to 1,800
feet above sea level in the northern half of the two main islands.5
Of the 1,800 people who live in the Falklands, most are British
citizens.6 Slightly over half reside in Port Stanley, the island's capital
situated on the east coast of East Falkland. The rest dwell in a dozen or so
widely scattered hamlets,7 the two largest of which - Goose Green and Darwin
- have estimated populations between 80 and 140.8 The islands contain no
more than 30 miles of paved roads, located mostly in and around Port
Stanley.9 Dirt tracks which connect the various hamlets allow Land Rovers
and tractors to traffic between settlements only with great difficulty.10
With most hamlets having a grass landing strip, residents rely on air
transportation to travel within the islands. Over 30 such strips exist along
with the 4,100-foot paved strip at the small International Airport six miles
south of Port Stanley.11
Although based years ago on the whaling industry, the island's economy
today rests almost solely on sheep-raising and wool-processing. Over 600,000
sheep roam the open countryside.12 The British Falkland Islands Company
owns half of the Falklands land and employs half of the work force. The
British crown is the second biggest land-owner.13 Those few Argentine
citizens allowed to immigrate to the Falklands must seek special permission
from local authorities to buy land. A governor appointed by the Queen and a
locally elected council administer these and all other governmental affairs as
Great Britain's governing body on the islands.14
Potentially, the Falkland Islands could contribute more than wool to a
nation that controls them. Within striking distance of the Cape Horn-shipping
route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the islands could serve as a
base for protecting or disrupting shipping traffic along this important
maritime route. Also, since one of the world' s largest unexplored sedimentary
basins lies in the ocean east of the Falklands, the islands could provide
access to vast amounts of oil and natural gas. The Falklands could thus prove
to be strategically valuable in the future.
During the period April-June 1982, the remote, rural, and tradition-
ally peaceful Falkland Islands hosted the savagery and horror of a modern war
involving tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians from the United Kingdom
and Argentina. How these men fought the war's land campaign forms the focal
point of this paper. More specifically, I aim to explain how and why the
United Kingdom won the land battle so decisively.
To lay the basis for such an explanation, I will first describe in
Chapters Two and Three the major military developments of the land war.
Having established who-did-what-to-whom, I will devote the next three
chapters to an analysis of the problems and solutions that Britain experienced
in waging the Falklands land campaign. Length restrictions on this paper
permit me only to examine British amphibious operations, land operatons, and
use of weapons. I have excluded any detailed analysis of the political
developments that led to the war; Argentina's military activities during the
war; and British command-and-control, intelligence, and combat-service-support
1U.S., Department of the Navy, Lessons of the Falklands: Summary
Report, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1983), D-1. (In
subsequent notes, DON refers to Department of the Navy.)
2William Chaze, "At the Heart of Battle for the Falklands," U.S. News
and World Report, 7 June 1982, p. 32.
3"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7," NAVY
International, July 1982, p. 1162.
4Edgar O'Ballance, "The San Carlos Landing," Marine Corps Gazette,
October 1982, p. 36.
5DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. D-1.
6Chaze, p. 32.
7O'Ballance, p. 36.
8New York Times, 31 May 1982, p. A-4, cols. 1-2.
9DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. D-1.
10O'Ballance, p. 36.
11O'Ballance, p. 36; "The Falklands: the Air War and Missile
Conflict," Armed Forces Journal International, September 1982, p. 33; DON,
Lessons of the Falklands, p. D-1.
12Chaze, p. 32.
13Chaze, p. 32.
14Chaze, p. 32.
ARGENTINA'S INVASION -- BRITAIN'S RESPONSE
Invasion Plan. Argentina has claimed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands
since the early 19th Century. Frustrated with the delays in negotiating a
settlement of the dispute with the British, Captain Jorge Anaya of the
Argentine Navy first developed a plan for invading the Falkland Islands in the
late 1960's. Since that time,Anaya had moved up through the ranks and assumed
the Navy's top position in the fall of 1981. During the mid-1970's, Anaya and
Admiral Emilio Massera, then head of the navy, refined the plan they named
Plan Goa. The plan called for the Argentine Navy and Marines to make a
surprise landing on the Falklands and to remove the Falklanders to
Montevideo. Argentines would then resettle the islands. Admiral Massera
proposed the implementation of the plan a couple of times during the 1970's,
but the Jorge Videla junta feared British submarine power and rejected it.1
When Admiral Anaya assumed his position in the junta and General Leopoldo
Galtieri became president of Argentina in December 1981, the junta developed
an increasingly stronger interest in using military force to seize the
Falklands. The Argentine leaders knew that the use of limited naval force in
various places of the world during the 1970's had caused a change in rule on
five islands (or parts of them).2 Feeling they too could pull off such a
successful naval operation, the junta members renewed their interest in the
The junta initially planned to invade some time between July and October
1983. By then, the British would have withdrawn the ice-patrol ship ENDURANCE
from the South Atlantic. If Britain chose to fight to retake the islands, its
forces would have to fight in almost prohibitive conditions. On the ARgentine
side, the Navy would have received new French Super Entendard airplanes and
airborne EXOCET missiles, and new Argentine conscripts would have completed
their training. The Foreign Minister would have had time to develop some
legitimate grievances against the British.3 But Britain (1) projected an air
of indifference about the Falklands through 1981 legislation that denied
British citizenship to third and fourth generation Falklanders, and (2)
advertised a plan to withdraw ENDURANCE, its only naval presence in the South
Atlantic. This apparent "window of opportunity" enticed the Argentines to
change the timing of the invasion and thereby sacrifice the advantages for a
fall 1982 campaign.
Seizure of Port Stanley. At some point during the last couple of days in
March, the Argentine junta decided to invade the Falklands on 2 April. On 31
March the Argentine fleet was moving towards the Falklands. On 1 April
Argentine radio stations reported the junta had said "'by tomorrow the
Malvinas will be ours.'"4 Having monitored closely the rising tensions and
the bellicose Argentine statements of 1 April, Falklands Governor Rex Hunt
broadcast a warning to the islanders on that same day and deployed an enlarged
Naval Party 8901, the Royal Marine garrison, to secure the Port Stanley
airfield, the main road leading into Port Stanley, and the Government House.
The Royal Marine force of approximately 70 men contained two detachments: one
had just arrived for deployed duty in the Falklands, and another was about to
return to the U.K. Governor Hunt also summoned his 120-man territorial
defense force, but only 23 men reported for duty.5 Neither Hunt nor the
British Ministry of Defense had developed contingency plans to defend the
The invasion took place on schedule. Declaring a state of emergency at
0425 on that day, Governor Hunt ordered the Marines to resist the expected
invasion and, if necesary, to retreat for a final stand at the Government
House in Port Stanley. At 0430 a force of 150 Argentine Marine commandos
landed at Mullet Creek about three miles south of Port Stanley. Ninety
minutes later, part of the black-uniformed commandos attacked Moody Brook, the
Royal Marine barracks just outside Port Stanley. Since the Royal Marines had
already deployed elsewhere in the area, the phosphorous grenades and automatic
rifle fire used in the attack caused no casualties.7
The commandos then reinforced the other part of its force which had moved
directly on foot from Mullet Creek to attack the Government House. This force
had already engaged the Royal Marines dug in and around the Government House.
At 0800 the main Argentine landing force arrived at Port Stanley Harbor.8
The force involved most units of the Argentine Navy, including the aircraft
carrier VINCIENTINO DE MAYO and at least one Type 42 destroyer. Argentina's
Second Fleet Marine Force (FMF) - consisting of the First and Second Marine
Infantry Battalions, First Amphibian Vehicle Battalion, First Marine Field
Artillery Battalion, heavy mortar company, anti-tank missile company, and
engineer company - made the amphibious landing. A-4 Skyhawk aircraft from the
DE MAYO supported the landing.9
As amphibious assault vehicles and heavy guns arrived ashore, Governor
Hunt realized that his small force of Marines could not stop the overwhelming
attack expected to ensue shortly. At 0830 Hunt surrendered. The British
suffered no casualties during the battle. For the purpose of publicizing the
British humiliation, the Argentines photographed the captured Royal Marines
lying face down. As planned, Argentine C-130 Hercules aircraft flew Hunt, the
Royal Marines, and any islander wishing to leave the Falklands to Montevideo
shortly after the surrender.10 By 5 April the Royal Marines had returned to
the United Kingdom.11
The junta appointed General Mario Benjamin Menendez, the 52 year-old
commander of the First Army Corps, to be the new governor of the
Falklands.12 See Appendix D for the locations of the Argentine units sent
to the Falklands. On the mainland, Argentines set aside their political
differences and economic frustrations to unite in celebrating the historic
victory. As intended, the invasion had successfully rallied popular support
for the junta.
Seizure of South Georgia. One day after the seizure of Port Stanley, an
Argentine force already deployed at South Georgia demanded the surrender of
the British base at Grytviken. But sometime before the invasion, Lieutenant
Keith Mills and his 23-man Royal Marine detachment had debarked the ENDURANCE
and had set up a tactical defense of the port settlement. Under orders not to
surrender, Mills' detachment bravely battled a much larger Argentine force for
over two hours. Using all of their available weapons, including 84mm Carl
Gustav anti-tank rockets, they hit a Puma troop-carrying helicopter and the
corvette GUERICO. But with such a small force, Mills had no chance of
successfully repelling the attack. He surrendered, having suffered one
British NCO badly wounded in the arm. His men killed four Argentines.13
Initial Political-Military Responses. As the organization within the Minstry
of Defence responsible for defense of the Falklands, the Royal Navy started
organizing contingency plans for South Atlantic operations during the last
couple of weeks in March. The Royal Navy decided on 28 March to send three
nuclear submarines to the troubled area and sent an RFA ship on 29 March to
support the ENDURANCE. Also on 29 March First Sea Lord Sir Henry Leach met
with his senior staff at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall to organize a
naval task force for possible use in the South Alantic. The group decided to
include all available resources - aircraft carriers, surface escorts,
submarines, and amphibious ships - in the planned task force. The First
Flotilla, under the command of Bear Admiral John "Sandy" Woodward, would form
the core of the task force.14
On 30 March the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, Sir John Fieldhouse, met
Woodward aboard a ship at sea to discuss the plan.15 Woodward's task group
was, at the time, participating in Exercise Spring Train, a training operation
in the mid-Atlantic. Putting the fleet on the highest state of alert on 1
April, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered Leach to have Woodward
consolidate his task group and prepare to steam south covertly.16
At 1800 on 2 April, Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington and Defense
Minister John Nott confirmed the surrender of the Falklands at a joint press
conference in London. The Thatcher government knew that the political and
military setback would trigger widespread demands throughout Britain for an
effective response. That evening prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her
Cabinet met and decided to send a naval task force to the Falklands. At the
meeting the British service chiefs pointed out the great logistical problems
that a task force would have to overcome to operate in the South Atlantic.
But Leach confidently asserted that the Royal Navy could carry out such an
operation. Two considerations probably induced the Cabinet to send the task
force: (1) the necessity to maintain the momentum of military preparations
already begun, and (2) the need to show Parliament that the government could
and would react firmly to the aggression. The Cabinet did not declare war on
Argentina. The Cabinet recognized that the sending of ships, although a
military response, meant no immediate hostilities and gave it breathing space
to negotiate a peaceful settlement.17
As the Cabinet had anticipated, the House of Commons on 3 April strongly
criticized what it felt was a shameful defeat that Britain and, more
specifically, the Thatcher government had suffered. Both Foreign Minister
Carrington and Defense Minister Nott offered their resignations to Mrs.
Thatcher. She resisted them initially, but Carrington refused to reconsider.
On 5 April Mrs. Thatcher accepted his resignation and appointed Francis Pym to
be the new Foreign Secretary.18
Task Force Mission and Composition. The general mission of the naval task
force ordered to the South Atlantic was to effect a withdrawal of Argentine
forces from the Falklands with a minimun loss of life and to re-establish
British rule of the islands.19 To carry out this mission, the task force
had to prepare itself to carry out three possible courses of action. They
included (1) a naval blockade of the Falklands, (2) the sinking of Argentine
ships and/or aircraft as a signal that the task force meant business, and (3)
a counter-invasion to regain control of the Falklands.20
See Appendix L for a diagram of the command relations within the task
Five categories of shipping constituted the sea element of the task
force. The carrier-task group initially included two small carriers; three
Type-42 destroyers armed with Sea Dart air-defense missiles; two Type-22
frigates armed with Sea Wolf air-defense missiles; and various other
destroyers, frigates, and support ships. The amphibious task group consisted
of seven ships: a dock-landing ship (LPD) and six logistic landing ships
(LSLs). A second LPD later joined the group.21 Ships in the other three
categories sailed at different times during the war. The submarine group
eventually numbered six submarines. Twenty-two Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA)
ships, government-owned and civilian manned, provided logistical support to
the task force.22 Finally, the sea force included merchant ships which the
government chartered or requisitioned to provide logistical and transport
support. Fifty-nine of these ships taken up from trade (STUFT) supported the
task force during the course of the war.23
Initially, 20 Sea Harriers deployed on the two carriers as the air
element of the task force.24 Eight more Sea Harriers and 14 Royal Air Force
GR3 Harriers later reinforced the task force. Almost 200 helicopters
participated in the war. They included seven types: Sea King, Wessex, Lynx,
Gazelle, Wasp, Scout, and Chinook.25
The ground element of the task force at first consisted of the Royal
Marines' 3 Commando Brigade, the 3rd Parachute Battalion, and elements of the
22nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment all under the command of Brigadier-
General Julian Thompson, the Commander of 3 Commando Brigade. The 2nd
Parachute Battalion joined Thompson's brigade while the latter visited
Ascension Island on its way to the Falklands. After 3 Commando Brigade seized
a beachhead on the Falklands, 5 Infantry Brigade landed there and doubled the
size of the landing force. The 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards; 1st Battalion,
Welsh Guards; and the 1st Battalion, 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles
made up this brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Anthony Wilson. Major-
General Jeremy Moore, RM, assumed overall command of the two-brigade landing
force. (See. Appendix C for a detailed listing of the landing-force units.)
First alerted about the Falklands crisis on 31 March, Brigadier Thompson
met with his staff at Plymouth on 2 April to start planning for a possible
operation in the Falklands. On 4 April he hosted a major meeting of his staff
and subordinate commanders at Hamoaze House to discuss arrangements for an
immediate deployment to the South Atlantic.26 Over the course of the next
week, the various units of the landing force quickly embarked personnel and
equipment on both ships and aircraft. On 5 April the SAS's D Squadron flew to
Ascension Island, a British island in the Atlantic about half way to the
Falklands. The next day the 3rd Commando Brigade staff sailed from Britain
aboard the LPD FEARLESS. Three companies of the brigade flew to Ascension
island, while the remainder of the landing forces sailed on the LSLs, the USS
CANBERRA, and the carrier HMS HERMES. CANBERRA, a 45,000-ton-civilian-
passenger ship, carried 650 men when it sailed on 9 April.27
Within a week of Argentina's invasion of the Falklands, Britain had
launched a major sea, air, and land force tasked to recover the islands. The
task force's first stop was Ascension Island.
Description. British-owned Ascension Island lies off the west coast of
Africa, 4,225 miles by sea from the U.K. and 3,750 miles from the Falklands.
(See Appendix A for the island's approximate position in the Atlantic.)
Thirty-four square miles in size, it has no native inhabitants. Its climate
is hot and arid, and most of its lava soil supports no vegetation. The united
States leases the island from Britain for the purpose of operating a civilian-
manned, tracking station.28 Under normal circumstances, aircraft
periodically resupply the Americans through use of the island's Wideawake
Task-Force Use. Located halfway between the U.K. and the Falklands, Ascension
Island gave the British a logistical base from which to operate in the South
Atlantic. Upon leaving the U.K. early in April, the various elements of the
British task force sailed or flew to Ascension to make final plans and
preparations for the Falklands-recovery operation.
While there, the task force accomplished many tasks. The senior
commanders - Sir John Fieldhouse (CINCFLEET), Admiral John Woodward
(Commander, Carriers), Commodore Michael Clapp (Commander, Amphibious
Warfare), and Brigadier-General Julian Thompson (Commander, Land Force)-met
to plan the upcoming naval and land campaign.29 In a major cross-decking
operation, the landing force restowed weapons, equipment, ammunition, and
stores aboard the ships it planned to use in an amphibious assault on the
Falklands. During the hasty embarkation of ships in the U.K., embarkation
officers and cargo handlers had jammed the gear on the ships as expeditiously
as possible. In the Ascension Island restow, Commando Logistics Regiment
arranged the gear on the ships based on the order of tactical off-load in the
amphibious objective area.30
Also at Ascension, the brigade managed to accomplish some training, to
include weapons-firing, amphibious assault drills, equipment checks, and
physical fitness workouts.31
Soviet Surveillance. The Soviet Union showed its first noticeable interest in
the task force during the reorganization of Ascension. A Soviet Bear aircraft
flying below 1,000 feet surveyed British activities.32 Soviet Bears later
periodically shadowed the task force as it steamed to the Falklands. The
Argentines have yet to reveal how much information the Soviets provided them
on British military operations.
Departures. Woodward's carrier task group sailed from Ascension on 18 April.
In moving ahead of the rest of the task force, it sought to win the antici-
pated sea and air battle before the amphibious task force arrived to begin the
land battle. The amphibious task group moved at different times. The slow-
moving LSLs, carrying parts of the landing force, departed Ascension on
30 April. On 8 May the remainder of the force, including CANBERRA and command
ship FEARLESS, ventured south. Just before leaving, the task group had
received valuable reinforcements in the form of another LPD, HMS INTREPID; a
container ship, ATLANTIC CONVEYOR; and the 2nd Parachute Battalion.33 With
the addition of 2 PARA, 3 Commando Brigade numbered over 4,000 men.
The task force's strategy envisioned three phases for the Falklands
campaign. In the first phase, Woodward's carrier-battle group would prepare
the Falklands area for the planned amphibious assault. The mission required
the accomplishment of three main tasks: (1) a naval and air blockade of the
islands, (2) the defeat of Argentine naval forces, and (3) the securing of
British air superiority in the area. Phase two called for the amphibious task
force to make a landing and to establish a beachhead on the Falklands.
Finally, in phase three, the landing force, supported by naval forces, would
defeat the enemy's ground forces.34
NAVAL SUPPORTING OPERATIONS
Blockade. To accomplish the air and naval blockade required to isolate the
amphibious objective area, the British government announced clear rules of
engagement for its naval forces to honor and enforce. Many of these rules
notified forces on both sides where the British would and would not engage
Argentine forces. In imposing a 200-mile Maritime Exclusion Zone (MEZ) around
the Falklands on 12 April, the British declared that its task force would
attack any Argentine naval ships within that zone.35 British submarines
patrolled the zone to enforce the restriction.
Over the next few weeks as the task force began operating in the area,
the guidelines regulating a task-force attack became increasingly permissive.
On 23 April the British government warned the Argentines that any "threat to
interfere with the mission of British forces in the South Atlantic would be
dealt with appropriately."36 Tightening the blockade even further, the
British changed the MEZ to a Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) on 30 April. The TEZ
covered the same 200 miles around the Falklands, but it restricted both ships
and aircraft, either military or civilian, from moving through the zone.37
On 7 May the British government declared that its task force would treat as
hostile all Argentine naval ships and military aircraft that moved beyond 12
miles of the Argentine coast. On 11 May Arentina retaliated by designating a
vast war zone that imposed similar restrictions against British forces.38
At this point, the British task force had gained the authority to attack
Argentine forces practically everywhere except on the Argentine mainland.
Concerned about the political and military risks of escalating the war, the
British government prohibited any types of attacks on the mainland. Such
attacks might well have undermined world support of the British campaign and
assuredly would have increased Latin American support for Argentina. Since
Argentina probably would have enjoyed overwhelming air superiority over its
air bases on the mainland, the task force might have suffered prohibitive
losses if it had tried such attacks. In any case, the British decision to
refrain from attacks on the mainland provided Argentine air forces a sanctuary
from which to strike at the task force.39
Submarine Operations. Six British submarines, five nuclear and one conven-
tional, deployed to the South Atlantic.40 Along with enforcing Argentine
compliance with the exclusion zone, the submarines tried to accomplish two
main tasks. They sought to monitor the movements of Argentina's surface ships
and attempted to destroy its two 209 submarines.41
In dealing with the surface ships, the submarines produced invaluable
successes. Since they could steam faster than any of the Argentine ships,
track vessels at long distances, and kill without detection, they posed a
serious threat to the small Argentine Navy. HMS CONQUEROR proved the
lethality of thin threat on 2 May, when it torpedoed the GENERAL BELGRANO, a
13,645-ton cruiser, some 35 miles southwest of the TEZ. The British War
Cabinet had authorized the strike outside the TEZ, even though it would
escalate the conflict. The attack killed 368 sailors, while 800 more survived
the attack by floating in life rafts for 30 hours before escorting Argentine
destroyers returned to rescue them.42 The surprising and deadly strike
dealt a stunning blow to the Argentine Navy. The fleet, including the carrier
DE MAYO, returned to bases on the mainland and remained there for the rest of
the war. British submarines had, in fact, completely neutralized both
Argentina's surface navy and the menacing air power the carrier could have
generated against the task force. Major contributions from the submarines.
The submarines were less effective in carrying out their second main
task. Although aided in their anti-submarine warfare (ASW) by RAF Nimrod
aircraft flying partrols from Ascension island and task-force heli-
copters with ASW equipment, the submarines failed to destroy the enemy's
submarines.43 One Argentine submarine, the SAN LUIS, operated in the main
areas of the British task force during a 36-day patrol. Because the
fire-control panel for its main torpedo malfunctioned, the SAN LUIS fired all
of its torpedoes on incorrect bearings.44 Very obviously, Britain's
ineffective ASW operations could have led to major, even prohibitive, setbacks
for the task force.
British submarines made one more contribution to the war. After the
Argentine Navy withdrew, some of the submarines patrolled off the coast near
Argentina's air bases. They used their electronic, sonar, and communications
equipnent to detect and report the take-off of aircraft sorties towards the
Air Operations. During the pre-assault supporting operations, British
aircraft carried out both offensive air and anti-air missions. RAF Vulcan
bombers attacked the Port Stanley airfield on 1 and 4 May. Refueling 17 times
during the round trip on 1 May, one bomber dropped twenty-one 1,000 lb. bombs
from 10,000 feet over the airfield. The bombers caused limited cratering
damage to the runway.46 To complement the Vulcans during the first couple
of weeks in May, Sea Harriers from the task force's carriers regularly
attacked both Port Stanley and Goose Green, whenever the weather permitted air
operations. Task-force helicopters and Harriers also attacked any of the few
Argentine ships steaming at sea. On 3 May Lynx helicopters fired Sea Skua
air-to-surface guided missiles to sink one patrol craft and damage
another.47 On 9 May a Harrier sank the NARWHAL, an intelligence-gathering
ship.48 Although the Harriers suffered no losses from enemy fire, three
Harriers crashed into the ocean during flight operations.49
In executing their primary mission of providing longe-range air defense
for the task force, the Sea Harriers flew extensive combat air patrol (CAP)
sorties. They turned away an Argentine Boeing 707 trying to gather intelli-
gence and helped to turn back most of the relatively few enemy-air attacks on
the task force.50 Except for the first day of the air battle, the Argentine
A-4 Skyhawks and Mirages chose to try to out-run the Harriers rather than dog-
fight with them.51 On 4 May two Argentine Super Entendards carrying EXOCET
sea-skimming, guided missiles did penetrate the protective screen of the
Harriers and shipboard air-defense systems. One EXOCET missile hit the HMS
SHEFFIELD, a Type-42 destroyer on radar-picket duty west of the Falklands.
Although the missile failed to explode, its ignited fuel caused extensive fire
damage. Twenty-one men died, and all others abandoned the ship. Six days
later, the ship sank while in tow to South Georgia.52
The sinking of the SHEFFIELD jolted the British government and public and
caused the task force to change air tactics. Concerned that the Harriers and
shipboard systems could not guarantee protection against the threat of
low-flying aircraft with stand-off missiles, Admiral Woodward decided to keep
his carriers 100 miles east of the Falklands beyond the range of enemy
aircraft.53 The change in the operating area meant that the Sea Harriers
would have longer sorties to the islands and reduced time over their targets
and at their CAP stations. The move doomed to failure the task force's effort
to gain air superiority in the amphibious objective area.
Surface-Ship Operations. Surface-ship operations during this phase of the war
included carrier-escort duty, anti-air warfare, and shore bombardment. Once
the Argentine fleet returned to port, the surface ships had only to contend
with submarine and air threats to the task force. They fired on many
suspected submarine contacts but scored no hits. Except for the SHEFFIELD
disaster and bomb damage to Type-42 destroyer HMS GLASGOW, they managed to
protect the task force from the air threat. The destroyers and frigates even
went so far as to patrol near the East Falkland coast to ambush enemy aircraft
with their Sea Dart and Sea Wolf weapons. The tactic destroyed at least six
The British surface ships bombarded East and West Falkland with naval
gunfire periodically during phase one of the war. The bombardments sought to
prevent the build-up of Argentine strength on the islands, disrupt enemy
communications, and to alarm and tire out the Argentine conscripts. The night
before the amphibious landing, the naval-gunfire ships struck at various
places on East and West Falkland to divert Argentine attention away from the
actual landing site.55
Failure. In the pre-assault supporting operations, Woodward's carrier group
succeeded in achieving only two of its three objectives. It did impose a
reasonably effective blockade and did eliminate the threat of Argentina's
naval forces. But in failing to eliminate the submarine threat and to gain
air superiority, the carrier group failed to create the conditions necessary
for a successful amphibious landing. If the British were to make an
amphibious landing on the Falklands, they would have to do it under the
intimidating threat of submarine and strong, land-based air attacks. A risky
proposition! Call it an amphibious gamble. Briefed by the service chiefs
about the amphibious force's vulnerability to enemy air, the War Cabinet on 8
May made the crucial decision of the war to send the landing force into the
South Atlantic despite the lack of air superiority.56
SUBSIDIARY LANDING IN SOUTH GEORGIA
Plan of Attack. With the British public anxious for a military victory and
the Foreign Office looking to reinforce its diplomacy with a show of resolve,
the War Cabinet decided in early April to make a landing to recover South
Georgia. Intelligence reports indicated the British would meet little
resistance on the island. Planning for the operation started on 6 April.
Major Guy Sheridan, the second-in-command of 42 Commando, took charge of a
team that included M Company of 42 Commando, elements of SAS's D Squadron, and
a Special Boat Squadron (SBS) party. At Ascension Island the team embarked
aboard HMS PLYMOUTH, HMS ANTRIM, and RFA tanker TIDESPRING for movement to
South Georgia.57 Sheridan's plan called for the SAS detachment to land on
Fortuna Glacier north of Leith and to proceed via Husik and Stromness to
Leigh. Meanwhile, two SBS teams would land by boat or helicopter in Hound Bay
southeast of Grytviken and make their way to Grytviken via Moraine Fjord.
M Company would serve as a quick reaction force that could land wherever
required.58 (See Appendix E for maps of South Georgia.)
Improvised Assault. On 14 April the small squadron of ships rendezvoused with
HMS ENDURANCE 1,000 miles north of South Georgia. After transferring to
ENDURANCE, the SAS detachment landed by helicopter on Fortuna Glacier as
planned on 21 April. But in the deep snow and severe weather, the SAS found
they could not move across the terrain and asked to withdraw on 22 April. It
took three helicopters to execute the withdrawal. The first two experienced
whiteouts and crashed on the glacier. Almost miraculously, the crashes caused
no casualties. A third Wessex helicopter finally managed to lift out the SAS
troop and returned it to the ANTRIM.59 The SAS had narrowly avoided a
Shortly after midnight on 23 April, the British tried again to penetrate
the island. Two SBS sections landed in helicopters at the northern end df
Sorling Valley, while five SAS teams tried to land on Grass Island in Gemini
inflatable boats. Only three of the boats reached the shore; two drifted away
into the night. A Wessex helicopter rescued one of the boats the next
morning. Because of the ice and snow, neither the SBS nor the SAS could move
very well to carry out its reconnaissance missions.60 The next day heli-
copters moved the SBS sections from Sorling Valley to Moraine Fjord.
But the main event of 24 April was the British discovery of an Argentine
submarine operating in the area. Faced with such a deadly threat, the British
ships had to disperse. The RFA TIDESPRING with M Company embarked on it with-
drew some 200 miles to the north.61 Prospects for effective reconnaissance
of South Georgia and an amphibious landing seemed a long way off.
British fortunes changed on 25 April. Early in the morning, a Wessex
helicopter sighted the Argentine submarine SANTA FE near the surface of the
bay five miles from Grytviken. Three Wasp and a Lynx helicopter attacked the
submarine with machine guns and an AS-12 missile. The attack forced the
submarine to beach at Grytviken.62 Heartened by the successful attack,
British officers aboard the ANTRIM decided to press the attack, even though
their main assault forces were still 200 miles away. Major Sheridan formed a
75-man composite company from the various Royal Marine detachment, SAS, SBS,
mortar, and reconnaissance troops embarked aboard the ANTRIM. Two naval
gunfire support parties also worked with the company.63
At approximately 1345 Major Sheridan issued his order for the operation
scheduled to start at 1445. At 1415 naval gun fire spotters in a Wasp heli-
copter started calling in naval gunfire to support the landing. The composite
company landed in helicopters near Hestlesletten and moved across Brown
Mountain still under the cover of naval gunfire. In all, the ships fired 235
rounds of naval gunfire. Within 1,000 meters of King Edward's Point, Major
Sheridan ordered the landing of more troops and requested that the ships make
a demonstration of their strength in Cumberland Bay East. Before either could
take place, the Argentines surrendered at King Edward's Point.64 Major
Sheridan accepted the surrender of the Argentine-garrison commander in
Grytviken at 1715. The next day more forces surrendered at Leith.65
Casualties were light for both sides. The Argentines suffered one WIA
and one non-battlefield death. Since a helo recovered the lost Gemini landing
craft on 26 April, the British amazingly escaped from many near-catastrophes
with no KIAs.66 They took 156 military and 38 civilian prisoners - no small
feat for a composite company that attacked on one-hour notice.67
The victory of South Georgia aided the British cause in two ways. First,
the securing of South Georgia gave the Royal Navy a limited anchorage in
the South Atlantic. Secondly, the win dealt a psychological blow to the
Argentines.68 The British had handily won round one of the land battle. In
so doing, Britain demonstrated that it would, and could, use force
Pre-D-Day Reconnaissance. SAS and SBS reconnaissance teams provided the only
effective reconnaissance of enemy activities on the Falklands before D-Day.
In early May the teams landed by helicopters and inflatable boats at night to
assess the enemy's strength, condition, and deployment of forces. They also
scouted landing sites, removed mines, and made small-unit sabotage and
diversionary raids. The raids helped to confuse and disorganize the Argentine
The six SBS teams concentrated on reconnoitering coastal landing sites,
including the site eventually used at San Carlos. The patrols reported no
evidence of mines in San Carlos Water or on its beaches. They also pointed
out how the surrounding high ground would protect ships anchored in San Carlos
Water from low-flying EXOCET missiles. The eight 4-man SAS patrols operated
further inland. Three worked on West Falkland, one each at Darwin and Bluff
Cove, and three around Port Stanley. The SAS used their portable satellite-
communication radios to transmit their findings to the officers planning the
Aside from the SAS and SBS efforts, practically no other reconnaissance
took place. Because the U.S. had no reconnaissance satellites flying near the
Falklands, the British received no satellite photographs of the battle-
field.71 Aircraft offered no better reconnaissance. The task force con-
tained no dedicated aerial reconnaissance aircraft, and the Harriers had no
high altitude cameras.72 in this high technology era, preassault recon-
naissance depended on the daring and skill of foot patrols.
Pebble Island Raid. Elements of the landing force carried out one major raid
in the amphibious objective area during preassault operations. On 14 May a
53-man SAS patrol raided an enemy airfield on Pebble Island, located off the
northern coast of West Falkland. (See Appendix B for the location.) In the
raid, the SAS patrol sought to destroy some enemy aircraft based at the
airfield and some small, mobile radar stations that could direct Argentine air
attacks on the task force.73
On the night of 11 May, an 8-man SAS reconnaissance patrol landed by
helicopter on West Falkland and later paddled canoes to Pebble Island to
confirm the target. Three nights later, the rest of the SAS raiding party
under the command of Major Cedric Delves, heli-lifted to the island to carry
out the raid. A naval gunfire spotter with the patrol directed over 100 naval
gunfire rounds onto the airfield in 30 minutes. The SAS used hand-emplaced
demolition charges to blow the aircraft. After a brief Argentine
counterattack, the SAS patrol withdrew back to the ships having suffered only
two wounded men. In destroying 11 Pucarra turbo-prop aircraft and the mobile
radar stations, the SAS patrol eliminated a part of Argentina's imposing
land-based air threat.74
Fanning Head Raid. The night before 3 Commando Brigade landed at San Carlos,
a 32-man SBS patrol heli-lifted to Fanning Head, at the northern entrance to
San Carlos Water, to destroy an Argentine garrison guarding the entrance. A
Wessex III helicopter using a thermal imager had located the garrison of 20 or
so earlier in the evening. The SBS landed at 2300 and used naval gunfire and
machine-guns to disperse the Argentines. They took nine prisoners at dawn the
next morning.75 Another successful and helpful pre-assault operation.
These successes helped pave the way for the successful main landing at San
Carlos on 21 May.
1Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands (New
York: W.W. Norton, 1983), p. 21.
2James Cable, "The Falklands: Causes and Consequences," NAVY
International, August 1982, p. 1229.
3Hastings and Jenkins, p. 48.
4Hastings and Jenkins, p. 73.
5Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 72-73; "The Falkland Islands," NAVY
International, May 1982, p. 1035.
6Stewart W.B. Menaul, "The Falklands Campaign: A War of Yesterday?"
Strategic Review, X, No. 4 (1982), 82 and 85.
7Hastings and Jenkins, p. 73.
8Hastings and Jenkins, p. 74.
9Adrian English, "Argentina's Military Potential," NAVY
International, May 1982, pp. 1046-47.
10Hastings and Jenkins, p. 74.
11Hastings and Jenkins, p. 94.
12Hastings and Jenkins, p. 75.
13Hastings and Jenkins, p. 74.
14Hastings and Jenkins, p. 62.
15Hastings and Jenkins, p. 63.
16Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 70-71.
17Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 76-78.
18Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 78-80.
19Lawrence Freedman, "The War of the Falkland Islands, 1982,"
Foreign Affairs, 61, No. 1 (1982), 203.
20"The Falkland Islands," p. 1032.
21DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 40.
22Neville Trotter, "The Falklands Campaign Command and Logistics,"
Armed Forces Journal International, June 1983, p. 34.
23A. D. Baker III, "Sealift, British Style," Proceedings, June 1983,
24Hastings and Jenkins, p. 88.
25U.K., Secretary of State for Defence, The Falklands Campaign: The
Lessons (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1982), pp. 19-20. (In
subsequent notes, SSD refers to Secretary of State for Defense.)
26Hastings and Jenkins, p. 87.
27Hastings and Jenkins, p. 97; "The Falkland Islands, p. 1039.
28Trotter, p. 40.
29Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 121-122.
30Hastings and Jenkins, p. 180; Commando Logistic Regiment. "Miracle
or Nightmare," The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982, p. 254.
31Hastings and Jenkins, p. 182; D. V. Nicholls, "Amphibious Victory,"
The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982, p. 220.
32"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After April 13,"
NAVY International, June 1982, p. 1095.
33Nicholls, p. 221.
34David Drysdale, "The War at Sea," The Globe and Laurel, July/August
1982, pp. 228-30.
35Hastings and Jenkins, p. 116.
36SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 5.
37"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and progress After April 13,"
38"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7,"
pp. 1158 and 1160.
39Hastings and Jenkins, 162; Freedman, p. 204; Jeffrey Record,
"The Falkland War," The Washington Quarterly, 5, No. 4 (1982), 44; English,
40DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 8.
41Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 146-147.
42Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 147-150; "The Falkland Crisis: Operations
and Progress After April 13," p. 1098.
43"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 25,"
NAVY International, August 1982, p. 1223.
44DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 8; Personal interview with
Jose Ferrer, 22 February 1984.
45Hastings and Jenkins, p. 157.
46Hastings and Jenkisn, pp. 143-44.
47Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 150-51.
48Hastings and Jenkins, p. 158.
49Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 156-57.
50"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After April 13,"
p. 1097; Menaul, p. 83.
51DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 5.
52Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 150-55; "The Falkland Crisis: Operations
and Progress After April 13," p. 1099; Ezio Bonsignore, "Hard Lessons From the
South Atlantic," Military Technology, VI, Issue 6 (1982), 34.
53Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 156 and 193; Drysdale, p. 229.
54Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 157-59.
55"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7,"
pp. 1158-59; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 196.
56Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 163, 169, and 317.
57Hastings and Jenkins, p. 119.
58"Retaking of South Georgia," The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982,
59Hastings and Jenkins pp. 126-28.
60"Retaking of South Georgia," p. 234; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 128.
61Hastings and Jenkins, p. 128.
62"Retaking of South Georgia," p. 235; Hastings and Jenkins, 129.
63Hastings and Jenkins, p. 129.
64Retaking of South Georgia," p. 235.
65Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 129-30.
66Hastings and Jenkins, p. 130.
67"Argentina: Malvinas Yes, Army No," The Economist, 1 May 1982,
68SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 5.
69Hastings and Jenkins, p. 176; Nicholls, p. 220; Gary L. Guertner,
"The 74-Day War: New Technology and Old Tactics," Military Review, LXII,
No. 11 (1982), p. 67.
70Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 177, 184, and 186.
71Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 58, 90 and 290; "Battle Order: The
Balance of Forces," The Economist, 24 April 1982, p. 28.
72Hastings and Jenkisn, p. 290; SSD, The Falklands Campaign:
The Lessons, p. 24; J.H.A. Thompson, cassette (np.: n.p., February 1984).
73"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7,"
p. 1160; "The Falkland Crisis:" Operations and Progress After May 25,"
p. 1222; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 186.
74Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 186-87; O'Ballance, p. 37.
75Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 196-97; Nicholls, pp. 222-23.
THE BRITISH LAND CAMPAIGN
SAN CARLOS LANDING
Final Preparations. Towards the end of the pre-landing supporting operations,
the amphibious task group rendezvoused with the carrier group and readied
itself for an amphibious assault. On 19 May, two days before the scheduled
landing, 3 Commando Brigade carried out a major cross-decking operation in the
open seas. To facilitate the off-load of troops at the landing site, the 3rd
Parachute Battalion and 40 Commando moved from the passenger ship, CANBERRA,
to LPDs INTREPID and FEARLESS. Fortunately for the amphibious task group, an
unusually calm day allowed the pre-D-Day transfers to take place. At the end
of the operation, the following ships hosted 3 Commando Brigade's main combat
Click here to view image
Taking up space throughout the ship, including the Wardroom, 1,500 men
billeted aboard FEARLESS.1
The transfers produced one tragic episode. A Sea King helicopter moving
a SAS party to INTREPID struck an albatross and crashed into the sea. Twenty-
two men died, including 20 from the SAS.2 A wretched loss for the elite
At last light on 19 May the amphibious task group crossed into the TEZ on
its way to the San Carlos landing site. In retrospect, this 36-hour transit
exposed the landing force to the greatest hazard it would face in the entire
war. Steaming within range of Argentine land-based aircraft without having
gained local air superiority, the task group bared itself to potentially
devastating strikes from enemy air. Likewise, the not-yet-eliminated
submarine threat made the task group vulnerable to sub-surface attacks. Some
well-placed bombs or torpedoes against FEERLESS could have killed 1,500 men of
the landing force quite quickly. But with fog on 20 May helping to hide the
ships and making flight operations difficult, the Argentines missed their best
opportunity to strike a decisive blow at the clustered and very vulnerable
Amphibious Landing. At 0300 on 21 May, FEARLESS docked in the San Carlos
area. (See Appendix F for a diagram of the landing site.) San Carlos Water
extends southeasterly into East Falkland from the northeast corner of Falkland
Sound. A couple of miles inland, the water forks. The smaller, northern
fork, called Port San Carlos, leads to a 30-person hamlet, also called Port
San Carlos, on the northern shore. Two good beaches for landing - Green 1
and 2 - exist on this nothern shore. The terrain around Port San Carlos is
soft and hilly. The southern fork, which retains the name San Carlos Water,
leads to San Carlos, another hamlet of about 30 people on the eastern shore.
Two good beaches - Blue 1 and 2 - also exist near this settlement. On the
western shore of San Carlos Water lies Ajax Bay, site of an abandoned
refrigeration plant originally built to market sheep carcasses. One beach -
Red - exists near Ajax Bay. Below San Carlos Water, the Sussex Mountains
protrude as an obstacle for movements to the south.4
Under a bright moon and amidst calm seas, the rest of the amphibious
ships anchored in San Carlos Water and started off-loading 3 Commando
Brigade's assault units. During phase one of the assault, 40 Commando and 2
Para moved in landing craft (LCUs) through San Carlos Water to Blue Beaches 1
and 2 near San Carlos. At about 0340 2 Para waded ashore unopposed at Blue
Beach 2 and quickly headed south to secure the Sussex Mountains. 40 Commando
landed to the north moments later and advanced to clear San Carlos. Meeting
no resistance, the Royal Marines raised the Union Jack above San Carlos at
In phase two, 45 Commando and 3 Para landed. At dawn 45 Commando
departed INTREPID and STROMNESS in four LCUs and sailed to Red Beach in
daylight. After making an unopposed landing, the Commando's companies seized
Ajax Bay and moved into defensive positions on the high ground. To the north,
3 Para fell behind schedule but managed to move ashore at Green Beach 1 by
0700.6 A SBS team met 3 para on the beach and reported no enemy activity in
the area. Shortly thereafter, 3 Para's lead company observed an Argentine
platoon moving eastwards out of Port San Carlos. The company engaged the
enemy with mortars and machine-guns but inflicted no casualties. With
small-arms fire only, the Argentines downed two British Gazelle helicopters
that prematurely strayed into the Port 5an Carlos area. Three of the four
pilots died in the crashes. 3 Para then cleared Port San Carlos and organized
Having established four battalions ashore against practically no opposi-
tion, the amphibious group achieved complete tactical surprise in the San
Carlos landing early on the morning of 21 May. The landing force never once
had to request the air and naval gunfire on-call fires planned for use if
needed. Casualties were minimal.
Ground Defense. After completing their assaults, the four battalions started
organizing a defense of the San Carlos area. Artillery and air-defense
weapons landed during phase three of the amphibious operation. On the
afternoon of21 May, 42 Commando moved ashore to help 3 Para at Port San
Carlos. At 2030 that evening, the Brigade's tactical headquarters landed and
set up near 40 Commando's position at San Carlos.9 Within 36 hours of the
initial landing, the brigade had organized the tactical defense of a
10-square-mile beachhead.10 (See the diagram in Appendix G.) SAS, SBS, and
units of the battalions patrolled forward of friendly lines. All troops lived
in, and prepared to fight from, fighting holes. Since the high water table
filled many of the fighting holes, many Marines and soldiers built sangars,
rock breastworks built and camouflaged above ground.11
3 Commando Brigade remained static in this defensive position for six
days. Brigadier Thompson knew he had to continue the attack but wanted to
build up his logistical support before moving from the beachhead. So
3 Commando Brigade carried out a massive supply build-up ashore to sustain
itself on land. The build-up became even more critically important when
menacing Argentine air forces threatened to drive the support ships away from
the beach. After D+1 the support ships left San Carlos Water during daylight
hours and unloaded only at night.12 Because of this limitation and the lack
of port facilities in the San Carlos area, the supply build-up moved slowly.
Thompson's brigade occupied and defended the beachhead for an agonizing six
days. But theArgentine Army and Marines made no effort to mount a ground
attack against the beachhead.
Air Defense. Conversely, the Argentine Air Force and Navy launched massive
air attacks against the British sea and landing forces. The attacks started
shortly after dawn on D-Day. Four Pucara ground-attack aircraft bombed
2 Para as it moved up the Sussex Mountains but inflicted no casualties. An
SAS team shot down one of the Pucara with an American-made Stinger
ground-to-air missile. It was the only aircraft downed by a Stinger
throughout the war. A little later, two Aeromacchi aircraft attacked the RFA
ship, FORT AUSTIN, and the frigate, ARGONAUT, anchored in San Carlos Water.
The FORT AUSTIN escaped damage, but the ARGONAUT incurred a hole in its
surveillance radar and some wounded crew members.13
The attacks on the ships began what turned out to be a five-day air
assault on the ships supporting the landing force. Starting at 1030,
Argentine Mirages and Skyhawks made 12 separate, low-level attacks from the
east on D-Day. With six aircraft making up each attack wave, the Argentines
sent a total of 72 aircraft to attack the British force.14 The destroyers
and frigates screening the amphibious and support ships constituted the main
target for the air attackers.15 The Argentines sank the Type 21 frigate
ARDENT, crippled the frigate ARGONAUT, and struck the frigates BRILLIANT and
BROADSW0RD with cannon fire. The troop and supply ships, including the
CANBERRA, drew some fire but escaped the full weight of the attacks.16
The attacks practically ignored the landing force.
To protect itself, the amphibious task group set up a layered defense
consisting of: (1) Harriers at combat air patrol (CAP) stations, (2) missile-
firing destroyers and frigates, (3) ships firing anti-aircraft guns on the
"gunline", and (4) troop and supply ships firing small calibre weapons. The
landing force also contributed its Rapier and Blowpipe missile defense systems
to the air-defense effort.17 On 21 May the British force shot down 15 of
the 72 attacking aircraft.18
Probably because of bad weather over their bases, the Argentine aircraft
did not attack on D+1 (22 May). But, again concentrating on the British
escort ships, they resumed their powerful attacks on 23 and 24 May. They
managed to sink ANTELOPE, another Type 21 frigate, while the British destroyed
10 of the attacking aircraft on the 23rd and 18 on the 24th.19 To help
honor Argentina's National Day on 25 May, the Argentines attacked with fury on
that day. They sank COVENTRY, another Type 42 destroyer, and ATLANTIC
CONVEYOR, a container ship carrying critically important helicopters and
supplies.20 The British shot down another eight aircraft.21
25 May marked the turning point in the battle of San Carlos and maybe
even the whole war. Two significant developments occurred. First, Admiral
Woodward elected to withdraw the carriers further from the Falklands in the
face of the Argentine air threat. The decision had the effect of shortening
the times the Harriers could remain on station, a step that weakened the
amphibious task group's air defenses. But, second, the Argentines took heed
of the more than 50 aircraft losses they had suffered in five days and chose
to cut back their own attacks. In so doing, the Argentines acknowledged their
inability to dislodge the British from the beachhead.22 The British had won
the Battle of San Carlos.
SAN CARLOS BREAKOUT
Breakout Plan. Brigadier General Thompson's original plan for the breakout
from the San Carlos beachhead called for his battalions to leapfrog across
East Falkland using helicopters. But the loss of three huge Chinook trans-
port helicopters in the sinking of ATLANTIC CONVEYOR on 25 May gave him
insufficent helicopter assets to lift the troops, equipment, ammunition, and
supplies for such a helicopterborne move. Especially adamant about the need
need to provide artillery support to his advancing infantry, Thompson
recognized that he would have to employ most of his helicopters for equipment
and supply transport, not for troop movement. Under strong pressure from
military and political authorities in London to maintain the momentum of the
attack, Thompson formed a plan for his brigade to continue the attack towards
Port Stanley on foot.23
Battle of Darwin-Goose Green. As early as 23 May Thompson had ordered 2 Para
to make a battalion raid on a supposedly weak Argentine battalion occupying
the small settlement of Goose Green, approximately 13 miles south of San
Carlos. But poor weather that prevented the helicopter movement of artillery
forced 2 Para to cancel the attack shortly after it started on 24 May. Two
days later, at the direction of impatient London authorities, Brigadier
Thompson ordered 2 Para to make a full-scale attack on both Goose Green and
Darwin, another small hamlet of 80 people 2.5 miles north of Goose Green.
Thompson felt the two hamlets were strategically irrelevant for the prose-
cution of the land campaign but had to comply with political authorities
preoccupied with both public demands for action and possible U.N. efforts to
arrange a premature ceasefire.24
During the night of 26-27 May, Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Jones marched
2nd Parachute Battalion halfway to Goose Green and rested his men in a
sheltered harbor position at Camilla Creek House. (See Appendix H for a
diagram of the attack.) At 1600 on 27 May, while still occupying the harbor
position, Lieutenant-Colonel Jones issued his attack order calling for "a
six-phase night-day, silent-noisy battalion attack to capture Darwin and Goose
Green."25 The plan called for 2 Para's companies to move down both the
eastern and western sides of the isthmus leading to Goose Green. During
darkness 2 Para would seize the outer Argentine defensive positions protecting
Goose Green and Darwin. To minimize civilian casualties, the battalion would
then move on the settlements during daylight.
As 2 Para prepared to attack at Camilla Creek House, Lieutenant Colonel
Jones monitored a BBC World Service news bulletin reporting that
2 Para was attacking and had advanced to a position five miles north of
Darwin. No doubt trying to boost morale at home, a senior official in London
had confirmed to a BBC radio correspondent that 2 Para was moving to attack
Darwin and Goose Green. The Argentines reacted to the public report by moving
a reserve battalion from Mount Kent to Goose Green early on the morning of 28
May. The leak of vital tactical information made 2 Para's task indeed more
On the night of 27 May, C Company secured the start line for 2 Para's
attack, and A and B Companies crossed the start line early on the morning of
the 28th. Naval gunfire supported the attack. As daylight broke, A Company
occupied Coronation Point and B Company engaged the Argentines at Boca House
on the western side of the isthmus. As 2 Para pressed the attack during
daylight, it encountered fierce resistance from a large force deployed,
alerted, and dug in across the narrow isthmus. Supported only by artillery
fire and their own mortars, the British had to advance across open ground
against heavy machine-gun fire. In trying to help A Company advance,
Lieutenant-Colonel Jones fell mortally wounded from rifle fire.27
Major Chris Keeble, the second-in-command, assumed command and continued
to press the attack. As the day wore on, A and C Companies finally seized
Darwin and pushed south along the east coast to the northern outskirts of
Goose Green. B and D Companies moved down the western side and then swung
east to threaten Goose Green from the west and south.28
By nightfall, Keeble's men occupied the hills around Goose Green after a
victorious day on the battlefield. The Argentines landed reinforcements south
of 2 Para but applied no pressure to 2 Para's ring around Goose Green. During
the night Keeble planned a major attack for the following morning, to include
a demonstration of Harrier and artillery firepower. Helicopters and BV202
vehicles resupplied 2 Para with mortars and small-arms ammunition.29
But no further fighting ensued the next day. Keeble sent two Argentine
POWs into Goose Green to arrange possible surrender negotiations. The
Argentine commander, Air Vice-Commodore Wilson Pedroza, met with Keeble and
surrendered. Expecting 80 Argentines to walk out, 2 Para observed with
shocked disbelief as over 150 airmen and 900 soldiers emerged to surrender.
Including those taken during the course of the attack, 2 Para took 1,200
prisoners in the Battle of Darwin-Goose Green. The Argentines suffered 50
dead, while 2 Para had lost 17 killed and 35 wounded.30 As one of the
decisive actions of the war, the battle showed Britain's firm resolve to win
the war. The Argentines, too, had fought hard initially but then had crumbled
quickly, a pattern they repeated in later battles. In victory against great
odds, 2 Para showed leadership, aggressive fighting spirit, maintenance of
momentum, and proper use of terrain and weapons. The whole landing force
enjoyed a boost in morale.31 Probably most importantly, 2 Para's strong
showing established "a psychological ascendancy over the Argentines which our
(British) forces never lost."32
3 Parachute Battalion's Movement to Mts. Estancia and Vernet. At 1300 on 27
May, the day after 2 Para headed out to Goose Green, 3 Para marched almost
due east out of its defensive position enroute to Teal Inlet, a small hamlet
on the Port Salvador Bay about halfway from San Carlos to Port Stanley.
(See Appendix I for a diagram of 3 Para's route of march.) Carrying enormous
loads, 3 Para reached Teal Inlet on the night of 29 May and immediately pushed
on towards Estancia House the next day. The battalion secured the few farm
buildings at Mt. Estancia on 31 May, and moved to Mounts Estancia and Vernet
on 1 June. 3 Para had marched approximately 50 miles in six days and had
encountered no opposition. From 1-11 June, it anchored 3 Commando Brigade's
northern flank as the brigade prepared for its final push on Port Stanley.33
45 Commando's Movement to Mount Kent. 45 Commando also departed the San
Carlos beachhead on 27 May. At dawn, 45 Commando boarded LCUs and sailed,
relatively exposed, from Ajax Bay up San Carlos Water to Port San Carlos.
Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew F. Whitehead, the commanding officer of 45 Commando,
himself can't explain why Brigadier Thompson sent his unit from the southern
flank of the beachhead for a breakout to the north. Possibly because 2 Para
was in the process of securing the southern flank at Goose Green, Thompson
felt the enemy threatened 45 Commando's position less than those of the other
battalions. In any case, 45 Commando set off on foot towards Douglas
Settlement carrying up to 120 pounds per man.34 (See Appendix I for a
diagram of 45 Commando's route of march.)
Marching 13 miles to New House that night, 45 Commando continued the next
day to Douglas Settlement, a small hamlet at the northwest corner of Port
Salvador Bay. During the march, four-man teams of the Reconnaissance Troop
moved a mile ahead of the commando column. The Surveillance Troop guarded the
flanks, and the lead company deployed tactically. The Command Group marched
behind the lead company. With the Marines spread 10 yards apart, the column
stretched out for 2-3 miles. Seven BV202 Volvos - three fitted for radios and
four carrying ammunition - moved with the column. Blowpipe missile launchers
and machine guns were available for emergency air defense as the commando
moved across the exposed terrain.35
45 Commando deployed tactically with two companies up, one back, and
mortars in support to seize Douglas Settlement. But the formation encountered
no resistance as it entered the hamlet in the early morning darkness of the
29th. Lieutenant-Colonel Whitehead immediately deployed Blowpipes on the high
ground surrounding the town. Having moved 25 miles in 36 hours over soggy and
very rough terrain, 45 Commando sustained about 25 injuries, mostly ankle,
knee, blisters, and wet feet problems. Only 5-6 Marines had injuries
requiring evacuation. The others rested at Douglas under a sergeant's
supervision when 45 Commando departed the hamlet, but 15 of them rejoined the
commando within 48 hours.36
On 30 May 45 Commando pushed to Teal Inlet, arriving there that evening
just after 3 Para had departed the town. Islanders' tractors and trailers
helped move some of the Marine packs and equipment during this leg of the
march. After resting for four days in the shelter of Teal Inlet's few trees
and shearing shed, the commando on 3-4 June made its last march ("yomp" as the
Marines dubbed the marching with such heavy loads) to Mount Kent,
approximately 10 miles northwest of Port Stanley. Establishing a patrol base
here, 45 Commando prepared for the assault on Port Stanley.37
42 Commando's Movement to Mts. Kent and Challenger. On 27 May SAS patrols
near Mt. Kent reported that the Argentines were only lightly defending this
key terrain that overlooked Port Stanley only 12 miles away. Probably the
movement of the Argentine reserve from Mt. Kent to Goose Green triggered the
SAS report. Seeing an opportunity to seize the dominant approach to Port
Stanley, Brigadier Thompson directed 42 Commando, the brigade reserve still
deployed near Port San Carlos, to seize Mt. Kent. Lieutenant Colonel Nick
Vaux, the commander of 42 Commando, tried to heli-lift K Company and three
105mm artillery howitzers to Mount Kent just after dark on 30 May. But
blizzard conditions and whiteouts forced the Sea King helicopter pilots to
abort the mission after almost two hours of heliborne terror.
Lieutenant Colonel Vaux tried again the next night, this time success-
fully. He flew to the base of Mt. Kent with 2/3 of K Company. As they
landed, a nearby SAS patrol drove off a small Argentine force.
K Company moved immediately to seize the undefended summit of Mt. Kent. The
next night, Sea Kings flew in the rest of 42 Commando. (See Appendix K for a
diagram of 42 Commando's movement.) L Company secured unoccupied Mt.
Challenger, south of Mt. Kent, and the commando prepared defensive positions,
to include critically important observation posts (OPs), on both hills. For
six days, 42 Commando endured the extreme cold of the mountains, with
temperatures dropping to as low as 11oF at night.38
Displacement of Brigade Headquarters. During the night of 31 May, the Brigade
headquarters displaced from San Carlos to Teal Inlet in BV202 Volvos, two
Scorpion and four Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles, and a Samson recovery
vehicle. On 3 June, the headquarters displaced to Mt. Kent.39
40 Commando's Defense of Beachhead. Throughout the breakout, 40 Commando
remained defending the San Carlos beachhead. As the other battalions left the
area, 40 Commando had to spread across a wider and wider frontage. C Company
moved to defend Ajax Bay, and B Company moved to the Sussex Mountains after 2
Para's departure. 40 Commando assumed the mission of Brigade reserve, and
later became the force reserve after 5 Infantry Brigade landed.40
The only major attack 40 Commando experienced while defending the beach-
head occurred at dusk on 27 May. Two A-4 Skyhawks hit 40 Commando's field
entrenchments with 500-pound bombs. The Commando suffered two dead and three
wounded. A second wave of three Skyhawks with 500 pound-bombs and cannon
attacked the Brigade Maintenance Area (BMA) at Ajax Bay. Luckily for the
British, only 4 of the 12 bombs exploded. Two unexploded bombs landed in a
building housing the Medical Squadron and 100 or so Marines of Commando
Logistics Regiment. The attack killed 6 and wounded 27. Had the bombs
detonated properly, they could have wreaked catastrophic destruction.41
Except for minor skirmishes with Argentine patrols, 40 Commando faced no
more attacks on the San Carlos beachhead. It remained at the beachhead to
provide protection for 5 Infantry Brigade's landing and to guard against a
paratroop attack on the BMA.
THE SOUTHERN AXIS
Landing of Landing-Force HQ and 5 Infantry Brigade. When intelligence sources
reported that Argentine forces on the Falklands greatly exceeded the strength
of 3 Commando Brigade, the British War Cabinet decided to reinforce the
brigade. British military authorities chose 5 Infantry Brigade, Britain's
"out-of-area force", for the mission. Commanded by Brigadier General Anthony
Wilson, the brigade had just formed in January 1982. 2 Parachute Battalion,
3 Parachute Battalion, and the 1st Battalion of the 7th Duke of Edinburgh's
Own Gurkha Rifles constituted the combat units of the brigade. Since 2 Para
and 3 Para had already deployed to the Falklands under the command of
3 Commando Brigade, 5 Infantry Brigade picked up 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
and 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards to replace them.
Because the brigade staff had only participated in one exercise since
forming and had not worked with the two new battalions, Brigadier Wilson sent
his brigade to the Sennybridge training area on 22 April for a two-week
During the exercise, code-named Welsh Falcon, the brigade practiced battalion
attacks, live fire, helicopter movements, and amphibious assaults.42
On 3 May the Ministry of Defense requisitioned the luxury-passenger liner
QUEEN ELIZABETH II (QEII) to take the brigade and the overall landing-force
command group to the Falklands. With the high-level staff and 5 Brigade
hastily embarking the ship, QEII sailed from Southhampton, U.K., on
12 May. Although under the impression that it could restow its gear at
Ascension, the brigade found no chance to accomplish this task. QEII sailed
instead to South Georgia, where 5 Infantry Brigade transferred to the ships
CANBERRA and NORLAND. The British government intentionally avoided putting
the potentially lucrative target close to the Falklands.43
While at South Georgia, Royal Marine Major General Jeremy Moore, the new
overall commander of the two brigades, transferred with his staff and
Brigadier Wilson to the destroyer ANTRIM for immediate passage to San Carlos.
Arriving there on 30 May, he boarded FEARLESS, the amphibious task group's
command ship, and assumed command of all British land forces on the
On 1 June the Gurkhas led 5 infantry Brigade ashore at San Carlos and
marched immediately to Goose Green. With the two Guards battalions landing on
2 June, the British landing force had eight battalions on East Falkland
Movement to Fitzroy-Bluff Cove. Upon taking over command of the land campaign
General Moore faced the immediate decision of how to employ both brigades for
the attack on Port Stanley. You will recall that 3 Commando Brigade at this
time was moving battalions into the hills around Mt. Kent. Brigadier Wilson,
eager to get his brigade into action, urged Moore to open a southern axis of
advance from Goose Green to Fitzroy-Bluff Cove and on to Port Stanley. Moore
agreed to the plan and placed 2 Para, still at Goose Green,under the command
of 5 Infantry Brigade. But because 3 Commando Brigade needed all available
helicopters to build up combat power and supplies at their relatively exposed
position at Mount Kent, Moore denied Brigadier Wilson the use of helicopters
for transporting his brigade along the southern axis.45
Brigadier Wilson rejected no for an answer. On 2 June 2 Para discovered
via a commercial telephone call to a Fitzroy resident that Argentine soldiers
had departed the Fitzroy-Bluff Cove area. Quickly commandeering the force's
one available Chinook helicopter, Brigadier Wilson packed 78 men of A Company
2 Para, into the Chinook and sent it 36 miles up the southern coast to high
ground near Bluff Cove, across the bay from Fitzroy. (See Appendix I for a
diagram of the move.) That evening the Chinook lifted another 78 men from B
Company into the area.46
The improvised troop movement appalled General Moore and his staff,
especially since Brigadier Wilson had sought no authorization to make the
move. General Moore now had a company-size force dangerously close to the
enemy but beyond the range of any artillery fire support. The landing-force
staff and 5 Infantry Brigade had to devote all of their efforts towards
getting help for the exposed unit at Bluff Cove.47
On 3 June the Welsh Guards compounded the problem. The battalion tried
to march from San Carlos to Goose Green but had to turn around after walking
for 12 hours. Fresh from public duties in London and not yet acclimatized to
the cold, the Guardsmen buckled under the physical demands, heavy loads,
rugged terrain, and severe weather.48 So, if 5 Infantry Brigade couldn't
fly or walk to Fitzroy-Bluff Cove, how then could it get there to reinforce 2
Para's exposed companies?
General Moore arranged with the Navy to move the brigade by ship. On
5 June the Scots Guards embarked the LPD INTREPID at San Carlos, sailed over-
night to Port Fitzroy, and landed in LCUs at Bluff Cove the next morning.
(See Appendix I for a diagram of the move.) On 6 June the Welsh Guards tried
to execute the same kind of movement in the LPD FEARLESS. But because foggy
weather prevented the movement of two LCUs from Bluff Cove to FEARLESS, only
half of the Welsh Guards could taxi ashore in FEARLESS'S two LCUs. FEARLESS
returned to San Carlos with 300 Welsh Guardsmen aboard. At this point, the
Commodore Clapp, Admiral Woodward, and Admiral Fieldbouse decided against
further use of the two amphibious assault ships for such transport duty
outside of the range of the main destroyer and frigate screen. Brigadier
Wilson would have to use the 5,700-ton landing ships (LSLs) to move the
remainder of his brigade.49
Fitzroy Tragedy. On 6 June the LSL TRISTRAM, carrying some Welsh Guards-
men and artillery ammunition, arrived unannounced at Fitzroy while FEARLESS
was trying to off-load its welsh Guardsmen. Rather than returning to San
Carlos with FEARLESS, SIR TRISTRAM remained in the Fitzroy Harbor all the next
day. Since the Argentine air threat had seemingly vanished, the urgency to
follow prudent air-defense practices apparently vanished also. The ship lay
anchored in broad daylight with no escort protection. The troop commanders
ashore made no effort to set up their Blowpipe missiles and machine-guns to
protect the ship. To make matters worse, 5 infantry Brigade still hadn't
transported its communication equipment to Fitzroy-Bluff Cove and so couldn't
talk to either SIR TRISTRAM or Landing Force Headquarters at San Carlos.50
At 0700 on 8 June another LSL, SIR GALAHAD, also arrived at Fitzroy
unannounced. Carrying the rest of the Welsh Guardsmen and 16 Field Ambulance
unit, the ship appeared at dawn because the medical teams had delayed
embarkation by four hours. (See Appendix I for a diagram of the
move.) Although SIR GALAHAD's captain wanted to sail the following night so
the ship could off-load in darkness at Fitzroy, Commodore Clapp had directed
the ship to move immediately. This fateful decision led to tragedy.51
An Argentine mobile Westinghouse AN/TPS-43 3-D unjammable radar on Sapper
Hill near Port Stanley detected the landing at Fitzroy.52 At 1310 two
Mirages and two Skyhawks attacked SIR GALAHAD and SIR TRISTRAM with bombs.
Minutes before the attack, the Sea Harrier CAP at Fitzroy had diverted to West
Falkland Island to help the frigate PLYMOUTH fend off an air attack from five
Mirages. The Skyhawks and Mirages had a free ride to the LSLs anchored at
Fitzroy. Bombs hit both ships. One bomb on SIR GALAHAD ignited petroleum
which the brigade intended to use for Rapier generators.53 Although heli-
copter pilots made heroic efforts to save lives, 50 soldiers and seamen died,
and 46 more suffered wounds. The figures include 32 Welsh Guardsmen killed.
SIR GALAHAD sank, and SIR TRISTRAM sustained severe damage.54
Two more waves attacked at Fitzroy that afternoon but inflicted minimal
damage. One wave did go on to sink a British LCU loaded with brigade trucks
as it moved along the southern coast of East Falkland. Six Royal Marines
died in the strike. The Harrier CAP managed to destory four aircraft with-
drawing from Fitzroy.55 To add to the day's gloom, the Mirages badly
damaged PLYMOUTH. Indeed a tragic day for the United Kingdom.
General Moore responded swiftly to the disaster. Not wanting to delay
the impending attack on Port Stanley, he reinforced the decimated Welsh Guards
with A and C Companies from 40 Commando in reserve. He also emphasized to his
subordinates that the landing force would attack Port Stanley on schedule.56
BATTLE OF PORT STANLEY
Attack Preparations. By 4 June 3 Commando Brigade had gained positions west
of Port Stanley from which it could launch an attack on the Falklands
capital. 3 Para occupied Mts. Vernet and Estancia at the northern end of the
brigade area, while 42 Commando held Mts. Kent and Challenger at the southern
end. 45 Commando operated out of a patrol base behind Mt. Kent. 40 Commando,
at San Carlos, had become General Moore's overall reserve force and 2 Para, at
Bluff Cove, was under the control of 5 infantry Brigade. 5 Infantry Brigade
was still in the process of trying to open a southern axis to Port Stanley via
Between General Moore's forces and Port Stanley, a series of well-
prepared defensive positions opposed the British advance. General Menendez
had organized what he thought was an impregnable defense of Port Stanley.
In the outer defense, Argentine forces stretched in an arc from Mt. Longdon in
the north through Two Sisters Hill in the center to Mt. Harriet in the south.
Further to the east, more Argentine units manned a tighter ring around Port
Stanley with defensive positions on Wireless Ridge, Tumbledown Mountain, Mt.
William, and Sapper Hill. Minefields and clear fields of fire protected the
defensive positions; infantry with machine-guns and recoilless rifles occupied
them. Thirty 105mm and four 155mm howitzers supported the defense with
artillery firepower. In such a position of strength, General Menendez felt he
could stalemate the British for months.57
While 3 Commando Brigade waited in the north for 5 Infantry Brigade to
move to Fitzroy-Bluff Cove, Brigadier Thompson had his brigade take advantage
of the time to prepare for the attack. Helicopters lifted 7, 8, and 29
Batteries of 29 Commando Regiment Poyal Artillery with 1,000 rounds per gun
into position near Mt. Kent from which they could support the attack on Port
Stanley.58 Artillery forward observers and naval gunfire spotters called in
harassing strikes on Argentine positions from observation posts established on
the forward slopes of the British-occupied hills. The bombard-
ment also included Harrier air strikes against Argentine artillery positions
and defenses on Two Sisters and Mt. Longdon. For their part, the Argentines
tried to hit 3 Para and 42 Commando with limited artillery fire and air
strikes but inflicted little damage.59
Along with building up supplies and harassing the Argentines with fire, 3
Commando Brigade aggressively patrolled forward of its positions. The patrols
provided security for the brigade and sought to identify the precise location
of Argentine defensive positions and the best routes of advance to them.
The latter mission often required the patrols to reconnoiter and breach
minefields very near the enemy, always a tense and formidable assignment.60
At least two Marines suffered shattered legs from the detonation of
anti-persornel mines. Some patrols operating close to Argentine positions
engaged the enemy. A nine-man patrol from 45 Commando infiltrated the
position on Two Sisters and killed nine soldiers without taking a
casualty.61 Another patrol from 42 Commando killed six in their defensive
positions on Mt. Harriet.62 Led mainly by junior officers or non-
commissioned officers, these patrols gained valuable enemy and terrain
information for staffs to use in planning the attack.
The nine days of wait and preparation did exact a fitness cost on
3 Commando Brigade. Caught in open mountains in continual rain, snow, wind,
and cold, many brigade members found little shelter even in dry fighting
holes. Many suffered from exposure problems of hypo-thermia, diarrhea, and
trench foot. The brigade had to evacuate some to Teal Inlet to recover in
local homes or LSLs anchored there.63
While the troops patrolled and endured the bitter elements, the landing
force commanders and staffs planned the attack. Brigadier Thompson convinced
General Moore that British forces should attack across the entire Argentine
front to open up many resupply and casualty-evacuation routes. General Moore
agreed and decided to make a phased attack. In phase one, he would have 3
Commando Brigade attack the Argentine outer defenses on Mt. Longdon, Two
Sisters, and Mr. Harriet. In phase two, 5 Infantry Brigade would pass through
the Commando Brigade to attack Wireless Ridge, Mt. Tumbledown, and Mt.
William. Moore would continue the brigade leapfrogging until he forced the
Phase-One Attack. On 10 June, Brigadier Thompson issued orders for phase one
of the attack. (See Appendix J for a diagram of the attack.) Calling for a
night attack on 11 June, he directed 3 Para to seize Mt. Longdon, 45 Commando
to seize Two Sisters, and 42 Commando to seize Mt. Harriet. He used the
reinforcements which General Moore assigned to him for the attack to support
the brigade. After it moved by helicopter from Bluff Cove to Mt. Kent on
11 June, 2 Para would support 3 Para's attack on Mt. Longdon. The Welsh
Guards battalion would first secure the start line for 42 Commando's attack
and then assume the misison of brigade reserve. Five artillery batteries and
four ships would provide fire support for the attack.65
At Mount Longdon, 3 Para attacked elements of the Argentine 7th Regiment
from the north. The Argentines engaged the paras with heavy mortar,
recoilless rifle, machine-gun, and sniper fire. Under the support of intense
and accurate artillery fire, 3 Para sections and squads advanced up the hill.
The paras used 84mm, and 66mm rockets and wire-guided Milan missiles to destroy
the enemy's weapons positions. As dawn broke, riflemen of 3 Para with fixed
bayonets captured the top of the hill. In fighting one of the toughest and
bloodiest battles of the campaign against a determined foe, 3 Para suffered
23 killed and 47 wounded, a relatively low price to pay for securing a well-
prepared and defended position.66
To the south of Mt. Longdon, 45 Commando attacked Two Sisters.
X Company skirted the southern end of Mt. Kent to attack the western peak of
Two Sisters frontally. Y and Z Companies moved around the northern side of
Mt. Kent to hit the northern flank of the eastern peak. The plan called for X
Company to attack first, followed by the northern flanking attack. Y and Z
Companies would serve as commando reserve during X Company's attack, and X
Company would assume this role for the two-
company assault. But Lieutenant-Colonel whitehead had to wait 50 minutes at
the start line near Murrel Bridge for X Company to attack. Willing to wait no
longer, he launched Y and Z Companies on the northern flank at 0400, just as X
Company made its frontal assault. In effect, 45 Commando executed a
three-company-no-reserve attack. Relying heavily on artillery, naval gunfire,
and organic rocket fire, the Marines advanced aggressively by fire and
movement. Within 2-1/2 hours and well before dawn, 45 Commando secured Two
For 45 Commando, the casualties were light: 4 killed and 8 wounded.68
But, along with the troop casualties, the British destroyer GLAMORGAN
providing naval gunfire support to 45 Commando, suffered damage. At 0235 an
Argentine ground-launched EXOCET missile struck GLAMORGAN. Although the
missile failed to explode, it killed 13 men and wounded more.69
In part three of 3 Commando Brigade's attack, 42 Commando advanced to
seize Mt. Harriet at the southern edge of the Argentine outer defense. After
a detailed study of the terrain, including analysis of reports from aggressive
patrols, Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Vaux opted for an "extended right hooking"
maneuver. At 2100 K and L Companies started moving through mine-
fields and open terrain around the southern end of Mt. Harriet to a position
in the rear of Mt. Harriet. After a delay caused by difficulties in linking
up with the Reconnaissance Troop of the Welsh Guards, the two companies
crossed the start line and advanced undetected close to the Argentine lines.
Artillery rounds and naval gunfire from three destroyers pounded the
defenders. Over 1,000 shells landed on Mt. Harriet that night.
As K and L crossed the start line, J Company staged a noisy, diversionary
attack on Wall Mountain, a small, undefended hill between Mts. Challenger and
Harriet. The distraction helped K Company to move within 100-200 meters of
Argentine positions before drawing fire. When the shooting started, 42
Commando effectively used mortar-illumination rounds to light up Argentine
machine-gun positions identified in the pre-attack patrols. Milan missiles
and 84mm and 66mm rockets silenced the machine-guns.
Just before dawn, K Company secured the top of the hill, and L Company
maneuvered along its western edge to tie in with 45 Commando on Two Sisters.
Completely surprising what was probably an Argentine battalion, 42 Commando
achieved a brilliant victory on what Brigadier Thompson thought would be the
brigade's most difficult objective.70 For the comparatively low price of 1
dead and 13 wounded, 42 Commando captured the key terrain and 70
Phase-Two Attack. General Moore's original plan called for 5 Infantry Brigade
to press the attack the very next night of 12-13 June. But when helicopters
had not yet arrived at Bluff Cove to move the Scots Guards battalion to its
assembly area behind Mt. Harriet, Brigadier Wilson asked for a 24-hour-delay
in the attack. General Moore approved the request.72 Harriers maintained
some momentun that day by striking enemy positions on Tumbledown Mountain and
Mt. William.73 A Wessex helicopter managed to penetrate into Port Stanley
to fire two rockets at the Argentine command group. Neither missile found its
target, but the helicopter escaped unscathed.74
Argentine forces tried to strike back with supporting fire on the 12th.
A-4 Skyhawks attacked 3 Commando Brigade's headquarters behind Mt. Kent but
missed their target.75 Although troublesome, artillery fire on the
brigade's new forward positions caused little damage.
After dark, 5 Infantry Brigade launched a four-pronged attack. (See
Appendix K for a diagram of the attack.) Once again working for 5 Infantry
Brigade, 2 Para attacked in the north to seize wireless Ridge, east of Mt.
Longdon. At the same time, the Scots Guards went after Tumbledown Mountain
east of Two Sisters. After the seizure of Tumbledown, the Gurkha battalion
intended to pass through the Scots Guards to seize Mt. William to the south.
The Welsh Guards would then push east to Sapper Hill, the last high ground
west of Port Stanley.
In the north, a 60-man combined unit from the SAS and the Royal Marine
Rigid Raider Squadron made a diversionary night attack against the east flank
of Wireless Ridge before 2 Para made its main attack. Overwhelming the small
unit with fire power, the Argentines forced it to withdraw. At 2030 2 Para
attacked from the north under its own overwhelming fire power. Artillery,
naval gunfire, the 76mm guns of the Scorpions and Scimitars, and Rarden cannon
pounded the ridge. The battalion secured the objective relatively easily
before dawn but then had to repel 40 enemy paratroopers in Argentina's only
counterattack of the war. As the paras saw Argentine troops fleeing into Port
Stanley only three miles away, Brigadier Thompson approved their request to
advance towards the capital.76
At Tumbledown, the Scots Guards fought the toughest battle of the night.
At 2030 the battalion's Headquarters Company tried to make a diversionary
attack on an enemy position southeast of Mt. Harriet, but it too had to with-
draw under heavy enemy fire. The main attack opened at 2100. G Company
seized the first summit of the hill complex facing no opposition. Left Flank
company passed through G Company and confronted Argentina's best outfit, the
92 men, 10 machine guns, and mortars of the 5th Marine Battalion. A fierce
fire-fight raged practically all night. At a cost of 7 dead and 21 wounded,
Left Flank Company finally secured Tumbledown's second summit. At 0600, Right
Flank company started a six-hour drive to secure the final summit. In
capturing one of Argentina's most strongly defended positions, the Scots
Guards lost 9 men dead and 43 wounded.77
With Tumbledown secured, the Gurkhas passed through the Scots Guards and
on to Mt. William against only sporadic shelling. The Welsh Guards, two of
whose companies were the replacements from 40 Commando, moved to the road
south of Mt. William. As Argentine troops retreated into Port Stanley, the
Welsh Guards flew by helicopter to Sapper Hill, just outside the town.78
The British dead for the second night of fighting totalled 20.79 General
Moore's forces now controlled all of the high ground surrounding Port
Stanley. Argentine resistance had crumbled.
Negotiations. The Argentine surrender followed quickly. For several days,
Royal Marine Captain Rod Bell and SAS Lieutenant Colonel Mike Rose had
broadcasted appeals in Spanish over the island's medical radio circuit for the
Argentines to surrender. On the afternoon of 14 June, Dr. Alison Bleaney, a
Falklander physician in Port Stanley, urged the Argentine command to heed
these appeals. General Menendez agreed to talk to the British. A Gazelle
helicopter took Bell and use to Port Stanley for talks at the Government
Although General Galtieri in Buenos Aires ordered the Argentine force to
counterattack, General Menendez believed such a step would lead to a senseless
massacre. Menendez instead agreed to surrender all Argentine forces on both
East and West Falkland.81 Using the SAS's portable satellite radio, British
authorities in London monitored Rose's progress. These authorities only
intervened to disapprove the use of Argentine ships to ferry prisoners back to
Argentina.82 After a delay caused by poor flying conditions, General Moore
flew into Port Stanley and signed the surrender document at 2100, 14 June
1982.83 The war had lasted 74 days. Moore radioed to London, "The Falkland
Islands are once more under the government desired by their inhabitants. God
save the Queen."84 At 2215, 14 June, Mrs. Thatcher announced the surrender
to the House of Commons.85
Stunned by the suddenness of victory, British fighting men felt great
relief about not having to fight another battle. They eagerly looked forward
to leaving the Falklands.
Casualty and POW Totals. For the full war, the British suffered 255 killed
and 777 wounded.86 At one point, Argentina announced it had lost 652 men
either dead or missing in action from the war.87 At another time, it
admitted to 1,798 dead or wounded and 3,300 missing in action.88 The
British captured 11,400 prisoners.89
Clean-Up. Following the surrender, British troops faced numerous tasks
throughout the islands. In addition to processing the great number of POWs,
they had to clear minefields, detonate unexploded bombs, restore water and
power to Port Stanley, and find shelter for 7,000 men. They also had to clean
up large messes of food, ammunition, and even human excrement that the
Argentines had left in the Port Stanley area. British military authorities
recognized that the air and sea blockade of the Falklands had been less
successful than what they had previously believed.90
1Nicholls, pp. 221-222; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 190.
2Hastings and Jenkins, p. 191.
3Nicholls, pp. 221-22; Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 192-94.
4O'Ballance, p. 38; "The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress
After May 7," p. 1162; "Sheltered No Longer," Time, 7 June 1982, p. 37.
5DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 11; Nicholls, p. 222; 40 Commando.
"Falklands Diary," The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982, p. 236; Hastings
and Jenkins, pp. 197-98.
6Hastings and Jenkins, p. 198; 45 Commando. "Ajax Bay to Stanley,"
The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982, p. 249.
7"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7,"
p. 1162; Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 202-03.
842 Commando, "Ascension to the Falklands and Back Again," The Globe
and Laurel, July/August 1982, p. 242.
9Nicholls, p. 223; Thompson cassette.
10Menaul, p. 84.
11Personal interview with A.F. Whitehead, 24 January 1984.
12Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 213-14.
13Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 203-04.
14Hastings and Jenkins, p. 208.
15Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 210-11; O'Ballance, p. 39; "Falkland
Islands: The noose round Port Stanley," The Economist, 5 June 1982, p. 19.
16Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 205-06 and 208-09.
17SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 9; Trotter, p. 36;
Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 116-117.
18SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 9.
19Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 215-16; SSD, The Falklands Campaign:
The Lessons, p. 9.
20Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 224-28; "The Falkland Crisis: Operations
and Progress After May 7," p. 1166.
21SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 9.
22Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 228-29; Drysdale, p. 230; Trotter, p. 36.
23Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 229-231 and 262.
24Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 231 and 236-37.
25Hastings and Jenkins, p. 240.
26Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 239 and 255-56.
27Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 240-46; Nicholls, p. 224.
28Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 246-249.
29Hastings and Jenkins, p. 249; Nicholls, p. 225.
30Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 250-251.
31Nicholls, p. 225.
32SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 10.
33Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 232, 264, and 266.
34Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 232.
35Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
36Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984; 45 Commando, p. 250.
37Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 264;
45 Commando, p. 250.
38Nicholls, p. 225; Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 264-66; 42 Commando,
39Nicholls, p. 225; Personal interview with Toby Hunter,
29 March 1984.
4040 Commando, p. 236; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 274.
41Nicholls, p. 224; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 222; Commando Logistic
Regiment, pp. 255-56.
42Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 267-68.
43"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After April 13,"
p. 1098; G.W. Field, "Operation Corporate - The Falkland Islands Campaign,"
The Royal Engineers Journal, 96, No. 4 (1982), 235; Hastings and Jenkins,
44Hastings and Jenkins, p. 270.
45Hastings and Jenkins, p. 271.
46Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 272-73.
47Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 273-74.
48Hastings and Jenkins, p. 274.
49Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 275-76.
50Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 276-77.
51Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 277-80.
52Menaul, p. 85.
53Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 277-282.
54SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 12.
55Hastings and Jenkins, p. 281.
56Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 281-82; 40 Commando, p. 236.
57Hastings and Jenkins, p. 285.
58Nicholls, p. 225.
59Nicholls, p. 226; 45 Commando, p. 251.
60Thompson casette; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 290.
6145 Commando, p. 250.
6242 Commando, p. 245.
63Nicholls, p. 225; 42 Commando, p. 245; N.F. Vaux, "Commando Night
Attack," Marine Corps Gazette, October 1983, p. 41.
64Hastings and Jenkins, p. 291.
65Nicholls, p. 226.
66Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 297-99.
67Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 294-96; 45 Commando, p. 251; Whitehead
interview, 24 January 1984.
68Hastings and Jenkins, p. 299.
69Hastings and Jenkins, p. 296; "The Falkland Crisis: Operations and
Progress After May 25," p. 1227.
70Hastings and Jenkins, p. 294; 42 Commando, pp. 245-46; Vaux,
71Hastings and Jenkins, p. 299.
72Hastings and Jenkins, p. 300.
73Hastings and Jenkins, p. 299; 40 Commando, p. 238.
74Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 299-300.
75Nicholls, p. 227.
76Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 303-307.
77Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 300-303.
78Hastings and Jenkins, p. 307; 40 Commando, p. 237.
79SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 12.
80Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 309-10.
81Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 324-25.
82Hastings and Jenkins, p. 310.
83Hastings and Jenkins, p. 311.
84George Russell, "And Now, to Win the Peace," Time, 28 June 1982,
85Hastings and Jenkins, p. 311.
86SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 27.
87Hastings and Jenkins, p. 317.
88O'Ballance, p. 45.
89SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 28.
9042 Commando, p. 247; Russell, p. 25; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 314.
Pre-embarkation. No contingency plans for a military operation to recover the
Falklands existed at the time of the Argentine invasion on 2 April.1 All
elements of the task force had to start planning for the operation without
benefit of preliminary staff preparations. Brigadier Thompson met with his
commanders on 4 April and offered them some broad guidelines. He felt the
brigade would spend a long time at sea because the amphibious force would do
nothing until the Navy won the sea battle. He indicated that SAS and SBS
teams would reconnoiter the islands before the landing. And he pointed out
that limited assault craft and helicopter assets would rule out any direct
assault on Port Stanley.2 With only this minimal but perceptive guidance, 3
Commando Brigade sailed frcm Britain to make a major amphibious landing 8,000
Landing-Site Options and Proposals. Enroute to Ascension Island, the staffs
of the amphibious task group and 3 Commando Brigade developed three possible
courses of action for the amphibious landing on the Falkland Islands. One
course called for a landing at Steveley Bay on West Falkland, a long distance
from the main Argentine forces at Port Stanley. A second course proposed a
landing at San Carlos, same distance from Port Stanley but on East Falkland.
A third recommended a landing on Berkeley Sound, only a few miles to the north
of Port Stanley's defenses.3 (See Appendix A for the locations of these
potential landing sites.)
In a 17 April meeting at Ascension Island, the landing force, amphibious,
and carrier task groups presented proposed courses of action to Admiral
commander of the task force. Brigadier Thompson preferred the San Carlos
option.4 Admiral Woodward suggested establishing a beachhead in West
Falkland for the purpose of building an airstrip for C-130 Hercules and F-4
Phantom aircraft. Another option he discussed was a landing on Lafonia, a
flat area south of East Falkland and connected to it only by a narrow
isthmus. Admiral Fieldhouse indicated that he wanted to seize quickly East
Falkland's vital objectives, including Port Stanley.5
Choice of San Carlos. The San Carlos landing site offered the amphibious
force many advantages. San Carlos Water would provide sheltered water in
which the ships and landing craft could easily unload the landing force and
its equipment. By closing off relatively narrow Falkland Sound to the north
and south of San Carlos Water, the Navy could defend the amphibious ships
against any enemy surface or sun-surface attacks. Since the site lied 50
miles over very rough terrain from the enemy's main force at Port Stanley, the
Argentinescould probably only attack the British beachhead with a relatively
small helicopterborne force. Finally, the high ground that surrounded San
Carlos Water would prevent Argentine aircraft from using their feared,
sea-skimming EXOCET missiles to attack the ships unloading in San Carlos
Water.6 interestingly, as long ago as the 1930's, a British naval task
force had cited many of these advantages in recommending San Carlos as the
best landing site for any possible operations in the Falklands.7
The San Carlos site also posed a couple of disadvantages. The surround-
ing hills that would help defend against the EXOCETs would also restrict the
acquisition of low-flying air threats until the aircraft emerged over the high
ground. Also, the narrow width of Falkland Sound would give the Navy ships
little room in which to maneuver away from eneny air attacks.8
In late April, Admiral Fieldhouse approved the recommendation by the
amphibious task group and landing force to land at San Carlos. He briefed the
Chief-of-Defence Committee and formally presented the San Carlos plan to the
War Cabinet on 27 April. The task force received a time window of
19 May - 3 June in which to make the landing.9
Landing Plan. On 13 May Brigadier Thompson issued orders for the San Carlos
landing to 60 officers in the wardroom of FEARLESS. At the time, the ship was
900 miles from Port Stanley. Again, the plan directed 40 Commando and 2 Para
to secure San Carlos and Sussex Mountains in phase one. In phase two, 45
Commando and 3 Para would secure Ajax Bay and Port San Carlos settlement.
Artillery and air-defense weapons would move ashore in phase three. 42
Commando would serve as brigade reserve.
Two key points about the plan. Contrary to all doctrine for amphibious
warfare, the plan acknowledged that the Royal Navy would not have air
superiority in the landing area. Since the War Cabinet had decided on 8 May
to make the landing without air superiority, the landing force had no choice
but to execute.10 Second, the plan covered only the landing and defense of
the beachhead. Although Brigadier Thompson and his staff had begun planning
for follow-on land operations, the plan for the amphibious landing on the
Falklands focused solely on the landing.
Time Shortage. The shortage of time available for 3 Commando Brigade to
embark ships in Britain offered a major challenge to the brigade and its
senior headquarters, Headquarters Commando Forces Royal Marines, which
coordinated the embarkation. Because of political requirements to launch an
amphibious task group immediately, the brigade embarked and sailed within
eight days of the Argentine invasion. With practically no preparatory
warning, the brigade's Commando Logistics Regiment loaded two-thirds of itself
and allof the brigade's War Maintenance Reserves over the weekend of 2-4
April.12 Although the brigade had to restow much of the equipment later
at Ascension Island, the rapid embarkation demonstrated 3 Commando Brigade's
exceptional readiness to respond to a crisis. The 3rd Parachute Battalion
demonstrated a similar capability.
Shortage of Ships. Along with time constraints, 3 Commando Brigade faced a
shortage of amphibious ships to use for the operation. The Royal Navy had
only eight amphibious ships: two LPDs and six logistic landing ships (LSLs).
But as part of their preparation for possible operations in Norway, the Royal
Navy and Marines had prepared books listing merchant ships that they might
have to use for troop and equipment transport.13 The services used these
books to charter and requisition merchant ships to support the war effort.
Critical to the Marines at the time of embarkation was Northwood's decision to
requisition CANBERRA, a 45,000-ton cruise liner. The use of this ship solved
the immediate transport problem for the Marines. 3 Commando Brigade could
spread out in a way comfortable enough for it to pursue a needed
physical fitness program aboard the ships.14
Cross-Decking at Ascension Island. Because of the hasty embarkation in the
U.K., the amphibious task group and 3 Commando Brigade had to undertake a
massive restow of the brigade's equipment at Ascension Island. Had the
opportunity for such a restow been unavailable, 3 Commando Brigade could not
have departed Britain anywhere nearly as fast as it did. In the Ascension
restow, both helicopters and landing craft worked for days to complete the
job. Although no major problems developed, the restow did place a strain on
the amphibious task group's small staff which, at the same time, was trying to
plan for the upcoming operation. Also, the extensive use of the helicopters
and landing craft made it almost impossible for the brigade to practice the
The commander of the task force, Admiral Fieldhouse, denied the amphib-
ious group and landing force an opportunity to rehearse their landing plan.
Brigadier Thompson desired to take his whole force to South Georgia to help
recover that island and rehearse the landing. But Fieldhouse dismissed this
notion as too great a diversion from the force's main mission to seize the
Falklands.16 Ascension Island offered Thompson an alternative rehearsal
site, but terrain and surf conditions there plus the transportation demands of
the restow greatly restricted any large-scale rehearsal. The brigade couldn't
use helicopters on Ascension because the island's volcanic dust stirred up by
rotor wash would have damaged the aircraft. High swells at the island's
beaches posed a safety hazard to landing craft and thus prevented the brigade
from practicing anything more than some limited turn-away landings.17 3
Commando Brigade had to content itself with carrying out only limited weapons,
fitness, and equipment training at Ascension.18 The amphibious group and 3
Commando Brigade would have to make Britain's first major amphibious assault
since World War II without rehearsing the landing plan.
MOVEMENT TO THE OBJECTIVE
Training. While sailing the 4,000 miles from Ascension to the Falklands,
3 Commando Brigade continued training for the expected fight on the
Falklands. Since a number of ships moved the brigade, the facilities for
training varied. Commando and battalion commanders prescribed training which
their units needed and the ships could support. The training generally
included classes on first-aid procedures; weapons handling; Argentine weapons,
equipment, and tactics; and radio procedures. The first-aid training
emphasized emergency treatment of wounds, to include the use of the morphine
capsules each Marine and soldier carried around his neck. In the weapons-
handling classes, the units worked on "cross-training" their men - teaching
them how to operate weapons other than their assigned weapon. The Marines
placed special emphasis on reviewing the operation and functioning of the 84mm
Gustav anti-tank weapon which they had recently acquired.
Finally, to counter the atrophying effects of living at sea for a month,
all units concentrated on fitness training. Commanders mapped out running
routes on the decks of the ships and had their men run them with packs on
their backs. Although such training helps to keep men somewhat in shape, it
couldn't simulate the rigorous demands of long marches over rough terrain -
the physical challenge 3 Commando Brigade faced in the Falklands.19
The training and anticipation about upcoming action stimulated high
morale amongst the troops. Said Lieutenant-Colonel Whitehead of 45 Commando,
"I have never known the men so enthusiastic, motivated, and with such high
Organizing for Combat. The brigade had to make one last-minute unit reorgani-
zation as it steamed towards combat. Since M Company had detached from the
brigade to make a landing on South Georgia, 42 Commando found itself short one
rifle company. Lieutenant-Colonel Vaux used men from his Defence and Milan
Troops plus Marines from NP 8901, the former Royal Marine garrison in the
Falklands, to form a new J Company. Having never trained together in the
field, Juliet fought admirably well during its 47-day life.21
Ship Transfers. The ship transfers on 19 May put the landing force on the
ships from which they could most expeditiously execute the ship-to-shore
movement. Neither comfort nor security seemed to dictate the assignments to
shipping. Fifteen hundred men, including all of 3 Commando Brigade's staff,
wedged themselves aboard the amphibious command ship FEARLESS.22 The
day-and-a-half of discomfort hurt no one permanently. But the massing of both
the amphibious group and brigade staffs on one ship offered Argentine aircraft
an excellent opportunity to destroy the force's leadership with an effective
strike on one ship. Belatedly, after completing the transfer, Brigadier
Thompson acknowledged that he should have dispersed his staff.23
Movement Thru the TEZ. In my view, Britain gave Argentina its best chance to
win the war on 20 May. On that day the amphibious task group steamed all day
within the range of Argentina's powerful, land-based air forces. Although
destroyers, frigates, and a Harrier CAP escorted the task group, this
protective screen left open some gaping holes through which Argentine air-
craft could have easily penetrated. Over the next five days, Argentine
aircraft proved how vulnerable was the amphibious group as they pummelled
the British ships in the San Carlos anchorage. Had they attacked on 20 May
with their air superiority, they could have inflicted considerable, if not
mission-ending, damage to the amphibious task group and landing force.
Contrary to the thinking of many amphibious-warfare experts, the ship-
to-shore-movement phase is not the landing force's most vulnerable phase
during an amphibious operation. The landing force exposes itself to the most
risk when it rides clustered on a few platforms near its objective area. At
this time, threats lurk dangerously and latently below the sea, on the sea,
and in the air. The landing force must entrust its security to the capa-
bility of its navy. If the navy allows just one penetration, then the landing
force stands to lose not a fire team, a squad, or a boat-full of troops, but a
whole company or even a battalion. Such a loss could stop the landing force
before it even started to land.
Dependent upon a navy unequipped and unprepared for a power-projection
mission, 3 Commando Brigade exposed itself to such a disaster on 20 May. To
the surprise of the British ship captains and with the aid of friendly fog,
the amphibious group and landing force almost literally weathered the danger
on 20 May. Said reporter Max Hastings:
If the sun had broken through even for an hour, if the
enemy had launched a series of sorties as determined as
those that were to come the following day, something
close to disaster could have overtaken the landing force.24
But the Argentines missed their chance, and the amphibious task force emerged
from the danger unscathed.
SUPPORTING AND PREASSAULT OPERATIONS
Value of Nuclear-Powered Submarines. British nuclear-powered submarines
achieved the Royal Navy's most notable success in the "supporting-operations"
phase of the Falklands amphibious operation. Argentine ships had no means of
defending themselves against the fast, silent, and deadly submarines. By
forcing the Argentine Navy to withdraw from the war, the submarines eliminated
the surface threat to British ships in the South Atlantic. But even more
importantly, by driving the aircraft carrier DE MAYO back to its port, the
submarines greatly reduced the effectiveness of the Argentine air threat.
Restricted to flying from their mainland bases, Argentine aircraft had to
operate at their range limits to attack British sea and ground forces. They
had time only to drop their bombs, not to dog-fight. Since Admiral Woodward
stationed his carriers far to the east of the Falklands, the land-based
aircraft couldn't strike at the source of Britain's aviation power in the
area. Had British submarines not scared off the DE MAYO, Argentine carrier-
based aircraft would have posed a much greater threat to British air, ground,
and sea forces than the notorious land-based aircraft did. The enemy's
carrier air might have stopped the amphibious operation.
Power-Projection Deficiencies. Given the equipment with which it had to
operate, the Royal Navy performed well in the South Atlantic. I agree with
Hastings' statement that, "As an achievement of seamanship, logistics, (and)
ship handling, the British campaign in the South Atlantic was a triumph for
the Royal Navy."25 Nevertheless, the battle-carrier group and submarines
failed to create the conditions necessary for the execution of an amphibious
Unable to gain air superiority in the objective area, the carrier group
couldn't provide adequate air protection for the amphibious task group and
landing force. The cause of this failure lies not with any lack of courage,
leadership, or tactical thinking on the part of the officers and sailors who
fought in the South Atlantic. The failure occurred because British
governments had underfunded Navy ship-development programs since the
mid-1960's. The two small, carriers in the task force couldn't accommodate
anywhere near the numbers and types of combat aircraft necessary to gain air
superiority in the area. HERMES, the largest of the two, carried only 18
Harriers. During their peak operational period, the two carriers together
operated only 30 Harriers. Such a small number of aircraft had no chance to
dominate over 150 land-based aircraft. To make matters worse, the small
carriers had to refuel often and had to stack much ordnance on their flight
decks because their magazines were so small.26 Short of aircraft and
vulnerable to air attack, the small carriers couldn't win air superiority and
had to steam far from East Falkland just to protect themselves.
The submarines and carrier escorts also contributed to the task force's
inability to project power effectively. They couldn't eliminate the deadly
Argentine submarine threat that threatened to devastate the British force.
Underfunded programs had prevented the Navy from developing adequate ASW and
air-defense systems, to include protection against sea-skimming missiles and
multi-aircraft bombing attacks.27 The destroyers and frigates also lacked
the multiple hulls, armor plate, and redundant damage-control systems so
important for ship survivability.28 The submarines and escorts couldn't
fully protect either the carriers or the amphibious task group.
Reconnaissance/Sabotage Successes. SAS and SBS teams enjoyed much success in
reconnoitering enemy positions and landing sites before the landing at San
Carlos. They also carried out very successful raids at Pebble Island and
Fanning Head. In an unusual deviation from standard amphibious-warfare
procedures, 3 Commando Brigade established no Advance Force Commander, per se,
to direct the reconnaissance and sabotage efforts. In consultation with
Commodore Clapp and the SAS and SBS commanding officers, Brigadier Thompson
aboard FEARLESS developed tasks for the teams and signalled them forward to
Admiral Woodward operating in the South Atlantic. Admiral Wdodward, serving
as a modified Advance Force Commander, passed on the instructions to the teams
and units that had to support them.29 Unorthodox and reliant upon satellite
communications, the system still worked.
Tactical Surprise. The British task force succeeded brilliantly at San Carlos
because the landing achieved the most critical objective of any amphibious
operation: surprise. The amphibious group and landing force capitalized on
the greatest strength an amphibious force possesses: the ability to strike
with power when and where they please. Says military-analyst Jeffrey Record
about this capability:
The Falklands War affirmed the inherent value and unique
operational properties of amphibious warfare... The innate
mobility of amphibious forces at sea and their capacity to
remain offshore indefinitely allows them to strike when and
where they please. Defending forces ashore can never be
sure where the blow will fall and, when it does, whether
it is a feint or the real thing. The defender is kept
continually guessing, and is compelled to disperse his
forces among the more likely spots.30
Not by chance did the British achieve tactical surprise in their landing.
First, they chose a landing site a long way from the enemy's main defenses.
They kept SBS-reconnaissance teams near there to report if Argentine forces
moved into the area. Third, the Ministry of Defence convinced the media that
the task-force commander planned to execute one, or a combination, of three
possible courses of action: (1) a massive, head-on assault on Port Stanley,
(2) more nibbling raids, or (3) a tightening of the blockade. The media, of
course, duly reported these bogus intentions to the world, to include gullible
Argentine authorities.31 Fourth, the assault occurred in the dark at 0400,
a time when Argentina's daylight-only aircraft could not observe what was
taking place. The landing force wisely made a silent landing; no air or naval
gunfire bombardment signalled to the Argentines that a large force was making
the main landing. Finally, the British had made raids at South Georgia and
Pebble Island, so that even when they became aware of activity at San Carlos,
the Argentines reacted tentatively and slowly to what they probably thought
was another diversion. Surprise!
Ship-to-Shore Transport. The landing force had to contend with a shortage of
landing craft and helicopters for the ship-to-shore movement. To move
approximately 4,000 men and their equipment and supplies, the landing force
had only (8) LCUs, (6) LCVPs (landing craft vehicle personnel), (3) Mexefloats
(large, flat barges), and (1) rigid raiding craft (rubber boat).32 Unlike
the U.S. Marines, the Royal Marines have no assault amphibious vehicles. They
find them too big, slow, and cumbersome and feel they offer little more
protection than landing craft do.33 So, for the landing and subsequent,
major logistical build-up, the landing force had to recycle continuously these
few available landing craft. No wonder the build-up proceeded slowly!
A shortage of helicopters also plagued the landing force, not only during
the amphibious operation but throughout the campaign. During the landing at
San Carlos, 3 Commando Brigade had available to it only (11) Sea King heli-
copters and (5) Wessex helicopters, each capable of carrying 20 and 10 men
respectively. Four of the Sea Kings had night-vision equipment mounted in
them for use in night-flying, leaving only seven available for use during the
day. Each of the two LPDs permitted only two helicopters at a time to land on
their flight decks; the other amphibian and support ships permitted only one.
With such few helicopters and limited flight-deck space, the brigade could
move only a relatively small amount of men and equipment ashore.34 The
brigade's decision to make a silent landing on the 21st ruled out the use of
helicopters before dawn and limited helicopter use even further.
One other point about helicopters. Four huge Chinook helicopters, each
with a capacity of 8-1/2 tons or over 50 men, were aboard the container ship
ATLANTIC CONVEYOR until an EXOCET sank it on 25 May, four days after the San
Carlos landing. Why didn't the landing force use these helicopters at the
outset to help with the ship-to-shore movement? Brigadier Thompson explains
that the ship was moving to San Carlos when the EXOCET struck.35 But the
ATLANTIC CONVEYOR departed Ascension on 8 May at the same time as the
amphibious ships. Unless the ship had steaming problems that slowed up its
transit to the Falklands, I don't understand why the landing force couldn't,
and didn't, use the valuable Chinooks to help in the ship-to-shore movement.
Lack of Air Superiority. Lack of British air superiority distinguished the
San Carlos landing from textbook cases of historically successful amphibious
landings. The Harriers did not dominate the skies, nor did the British ship
and ground-based missile and gun systems prevent Argentine aircraft from
striking British ships during the landing and subsequent logistical build-up.
Yet the British overcame this potentially crippling disadvantage. How did
they do it? First, they gained a jump on the Argentine air forces by
achieving tactical surprise in the landing. Second, after the second day,
they moved their supply ships out to sea during the day to prevent Argentina's
daylight-only aircraft from striking them. Off-loading at night slowed the
build-up but protected the ships. British commanders made sound decisions in
pursuing both of these courses of actions.
The third and fourth, and maybe most significant, reasons for why the
task force overcame its lack of air superiority had nothing to do with prudent
British decision-making. They reflect Argentine errors. One error was the
Argentine decision, intentional or otherwise, to attack the escort ships in
San Carlos Water and not the amphibious and supply ships.36 All Royal Navy
warships at San Carlos, except the frigate YARMOUTH, suffered some damage.
Bombs sunk both the frigate ARDENT and the destroyer COVENTRY. The majority
of the amphibious group and supply ships emerged unscathed. Had Argentine
aircraft concentrated their attacks on these less protected ships, they might
have destroyed the landing force's ability to sustain itself on land. With
little ammunition, food, and even petroleum, 3 Commando Brigade couldn't have
fought very long nor effectively.
The second major Argentine error was the use of delayed action fuses on
the bombs the aircraft dropped at San Carlos. Argentine pilots flew mostly
low-level attacks to penetrate below the British air-defense radar. Since
their ordnance fuses were for high-level use and pilots didn't "pop up" to
deliver their bombs, many of the bombs failed to detonate when they hit
ships. The British magazine, Economist, and the Washington Post estimated
that 50% of the Argentine bombs failed to explode and that unexploded bombs
could have sunk or crippled six more ships had they detonated.37 The
Pentagon study of the Falklands put this latter figure at nine.38 Proper
fusing of Argentine bombs could have greatly increased the cost the British
task force had to pay for not gaining of air superiority. In fact, proper
fusing could have priced a British victory in the Falklands beyond the British
public's willingness to pay.
But the outcome speaks for itself. The British gambled when they landed
without air superiority at San Carlos. They played smart, they cunningly
achieved surprise, and they bravely fought off massive air attacks. Their
boldness forced a lesser competent enemy to make mistakes. Plenty of
"what-ifs", but the fact remains they seized a beachhead under very difficult
Beachhead Defense. Brigadier Thompson selected as landing-force objectives
the key terrain that dominated San Carlos Water and the three colored beach
areas over which his troops, equipment, and supplies had to move. He aimed to
protect his force and beaches from a counterattack coming from any direction.
In hindsight, beachhead security may not seem all that critically important.
But at the time the brigade expected a counterattack at the beachhead,
probably an airborne or heliborne attack. Thompson put his commandos and
battalions in reverse-slope positions on the key terrain and had them prepare
vigorously for defense.39 (See Appendix G for the beachhead-defense
45 Commando occupied the high ground above Red Beach from Wreck Point
North to Wreck Point South. 2 Para defended in the Sussex Mountains against
penetration from the known enemy position at Goose Green. Thompson feels the
paras could have held off a brigade in these mountains. 40 Commando in the
Verde and Rocky Mountains east of San Carlos protected the Blue beaches and
could have quickly reinforced 2 Para. 3 Para occupied the high ground north
and east of Port San Carlos and guarded the Green beaches from there.40
On D-day the brigade landed the critical equipment and support which the
infantry units would need to defend the beachhead immediately. The first
artillery pieces started arriving ashore just after dawn. All artillery
batteries with enough ammunition for fire missions were ashore by nightfall.
The brigade also moved its 12 Rapier missile launchers ashore on D-Day.
In early afternoon, Brigadier Thompson ferried ashore in a helicopter to lend
the weight of his intellect, experience, and rank to the organization and
supervision of the defensive effort. His command element moved ashore in
landing craft soon after dark.41 By the end of D-Day, 3 Commando Brigade
had (1) units occupying the high ground in reverse slope positions, (2)
artillery and air-defense missiles functioning ashore, (3) small units
patrolling well forward of the main defensive positions, and (4) command
element on land controlling the beachhead. With respect to defending against
a ground attack, the brigade had the situation well in hand.
5 INFANTRY BRIGADE'S LANDINGS
San Carlos Landing. Along with 3 Commando Brigade's main landing at San
Carlos, 5 Infantry Brigade made two landings on East Falkland. The first, at
San Carlos, was an "extremely difficult and frustrating off-load",42
although the Argentines did not contest it. The brigade had to share the
limited landing craft and helicopters with 3 Commando Brigade, already
committed in the Mt. Kent area. The transport shortage greatly slowed the
off-load. The haphazard loading of the ships in Britain caused a second major
problem. Cargo handlers had to sift through equipment and supplies to get
what they wanted. Many of 5 Infantry Brigade's important vehicles and pieces
of equipment never made it ashore until after the surrender because of
Fitzroy-Bluff Cove Landing. The tragic sinking of SIR GALAHAD marked this
series of unit landings. The problem started when the task-force commander at
Northwood denied the Welsh Guard battalion the use of the amphibious assault
ships. Commodore Clapp's order for SIR GALAHAD to proceed to Fitzroy for a
daylight offload set up the tragedy. The lack of ship escort, the poor
ship-to-shore communications, the movement of the Harrier CAP right before the
attack, and the delay in setting up protective Rapier launchers on the high
ground above the cove contributed to the outcome.44 The British inexcusably
left themselves wide open to an attack in this landing. Why? Commented one
Marine spectator at Fitzroy, "'There is an assumption that amphibiosity is a
mystique created by Marines for their own salvation. But amphibious warfare
is not a battle on the north European plain.'"45 As a distinct form of
warfare, "amphibiosity" requires careful study by both naval and landing
forces. Both forces showed little appreciation of the principles of this
warfare form in the Fitzroy-Bluff Cove landing.
1Menaul, pp. 82 and 85.
2Hastings and Jenkins, p. 91.
3Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 178-79.
5Hastings and Jenkins, p. 122.
6Drysdale, p. 230; Freedman, p. 205; SSD, The Falklands Campaign:
The Lessons, p. 7.
7Peter F. Beck, "The Falklands - Had the Argentines Visited Kew:
Some 1930 Insights on the Defence of the Falklands," NAVY International,
October 1982, p. 1390.
8"The Falklands Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7,"
p. 1162; Drysdale, p. 230.
9Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 180 and 184-85.
10Hastings and Jenkins, p. 169; Nicholls, p. 221.
11Hastings and Jenkins, p. 123.
12Commando Logistic Regiment, p. 254.
14P.A.C. Howgill, "Falkland Islands War," Command and Staff College,
MCDEC, Quantico, Virginia, 20 October 1983.
16Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 121 and 125.
18Hastings and Jenkins, p. 182; Nicholls, p. 220; Whitehead interview,
24 January 1984.
19Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
20Hastings and Jenkins, p. 187.
2142 Commando, p. 242.
22Nicholls, p. 222.
23Hastings and Jenkins, p. 193.
24Hastings and Jenkins, p. 194.
25Hastings and Jenkins, p. 160.
26U.S., Department of the Navy, The South Atlantic Conflict: Lessons
Learned, Volume I, Summary of Principal Conclusions and Recommendations,
Report of the Falkland Islands Study Group to the Secretary of the Navy
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1983), EX-4. (In subsequent
notes, DON refers to Department of the Navy.)
27"The Falklands: Power Projection and the War at Sea," Armed Forces
Journal International, September 1982, p. 46.
28DON, Lessons of the Falklands, pp. 3-4.
30Record, p. 49.
31O'Ballance, p. 38.
32Nicholls, p. 225.
33Personal interview with P.A.C. Howgill, October 1983.
36Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 210-211; Drysdale, p. 230.
37"The Falklands: the Air War and Missile Conflict," p. 36.
38DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 3.
42Field, p. 236.
43Field, p. 236.
44Hastings and Jenkins, p. 283.
45Hastings and Jenkins, p. 282.
CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS
Principal Attributes. How did the British manage to move two brigades over 50
miles in a little over three weeks, capture an army larger than its own, and
sustain light casualties in the process? One could cite hundreds of reasons
for how and why this occurred. I will cite briefly those attributes of the
British land operations that contributed most principally to the success of
the land campaign.
Surprise. Just as it did in the San Carlos landing, 3 Commando Brigade
surprised the Argentine Army by moving through the mountains to attack Port
Stanley from the northwest. The Argentines expected an attack from the north
or south and originally thought the movement to the northwest was a feint.
They had to make some hasty defensive adjustments, including some frantic
Mobility. Even though the tough terrain and peat bog limited vehicular
trafficability and a shortage of helicopters existed, the British retained
their mobility, primarily by moving units on foot.2 While the Argentine
Army remained relatively stationary at Port Stanley, 45 Commando and 3 Para
marched, fully loaded for combat, as far as 75 miles to maneuver into
favorable positions for an attack.
Firepower. The British directed a great amount of firepower on the
Argentines both before and during attacks. They meticulously built up large
supplies of ordnance and carefully planned its use. Before the attacks at
Port Stanley they effectively demoralized the Argentine defenders with
harassing artillery and naval gunfire. During the attacks, they massed their
supporting fires with devastating impact. For the last 12 hours of fighting,
over 6,000 rounds of artillery hit the Argentine positions.3
Flexibility. Having no contigency plans available for such an
operation, the British had to improvise a plan quickly in response to the
unexpected Argentine invasion. As the campaign progressed, ship losses, a
lack of air superiority, a shortage of helicopters, and the poor traffic-
ability of the terrain forced them to continue to improvise. The land force
succeeded because it remained flexible. 3 Commando Brigade marched where it
couldn't fly. It formed "porter troops" to move supplies in the hills. It
used anti-tank weapons to destroy fortified positions. The British were
flexible, "prepared to seek and immediate, perhaps unorthodox, alternative
to...(a) well thought-out and lengthily-planned solution to a problem."4
Speed. As they had planned, the British carried out their land operation
relatively quickly. They had no choice. Had they dallied, they would have
faced worsening winter weather, greater difficulties in keeping their ships
operational in the area, and stronger political and diplomatic pressures to
end the war.5 Even with their lengthy supply build-up on the beach, the
landing force met the challenge of these time demands by completing their
difficult mission in only 25 days.
Minimal Casualties. For three reasons, the British made extra efforts to
minimize friendly casualties throughout the campaign. First, the Argentine
Army outnumbered the landing force. An outnumbered attacker can ill afford
excessive casualties. Second, the British had to guard against making the
cost of victory unacceptable to their public.6 As might be the case with
any democratic nation fighting beyond its boundaries, public support for the
recovery of the lowly populated, distant Falklands might have faltered had the
landing force sustained high numbers of casualties. Third, the British ground
units were closely knit, tradition-shrouded organizations whose men in some
cases came from the same region of the country. Leaders at all levels in
these units knew and respected their men and carefully avoided wasting them
Implacable Determination. The British made a commitment to recover the
Falklands and refused to let any obstacles, however formidable, stop them from
achieving their objective. The landing force landed without air superiority;
marched great distances carrying mule-like loads; endured terribly cold,
windy, and rainy weather in the mountains; maneuvered through extensive mine-
fields; and soundly whipped a larger force occupying positions prepared for
over a month. As a combat-engineer officer in the Falklands stated it, "The
message is: once committed there is no room for slackers and no chance of
free-wheeling. Get stuck in and WIN - as soon as you can."8
Night Operations, Patrolling, and Trained Forces. All three were vitally
crucial to British success in the Falklands. Later in the chapter I'll cover
them in detail.
General Scheme of Maneuver. The British planned and executed a sound scheme
of maneuver to seize Port Stanley. In attacking unexpectedly from the
northwest, 3 Commando Brigade maneuvered across terrain that helped prevent
the road-bound Argentine Army from attacking it. Unavoidably, the brigade had
to run the risk of drawing enemy-air strikes while moving across the open
terrain. But 45 Commando and 3 Para minimized the danger by marching much of
the way after dark. 3 Commando Brigade's combined foot-marching and
helicopterborne northern thrust was the bold stroke of the Falklands land
campaign. By forcing the Argentine Army to assume a completely defensive
posture in a relatively small area around Port Stanley, the brigade's northern
thrust greatly restricted Argentina's tactical flexibility.
5 Infantry Brigade's southern axis of advance complemented the commando
move in the north. Recall that General Moore approved the opening of this
second route to Port Stanley, but Brigadier Wilson, the brigade's commander,
rushed the cadence by shoving 2 Para forward to Fitzroy without any fire
support. Wilson allegedly feared that 3 Commando Brigade would try to seize
Port Stanley single-handedly.9 His rash move turned the southern part of
the scheme of maneuver into a series of impromptu, catch-up actions that led
to the SIR GALAHAD debacle. Sound scheme, but poorly executed!
Did 3 Commando Brigade need the active support of 5 infantry Brigade to
seize Port Stanley? Or, more sensibly, should General Moore have used
5 Infantry Brigade as a reserve for the commandos? In hindsight, one could
probably fashion a credible case for the latter course of action. But, as
Brigadier Thompson points out, the British had to attack a larger force,
deviating greatly from the standard rule of thumb that a force should attack
with a 3-to-1 numerical advantage. Thompson feels General Moore correctly
brought 5 Infantry Brigade into the attack. He also points out that his
brigade's wait in the mountains for 5 Infantry Brigade's movement into
position was neither harmful nor unnecessary. His brigade needed the time for
Port Stanley Attack. General Moore's concept of a phased, brigade-leap-
frogging attack on Port Stanley proved to be sound. Initially, his second-
in-command, Brigadier John Waters, had proposed concentrating the attack in
the southern, Mount Harriet-Mount Tumbledown area. But Brigadier Thompson's
advocacy of a broad attack convinced General Moore to strike all the way
across the front.11 In retrospect, the brilliant success of the attack
proved Thompson right. The pressure at many points restricted the Argentines
from shuttling reinforcements to a single, threatened area. The defending
army collapsed quickly from the multi-direction pressure. To be fair,
Brigadier Wilson's scheme might have worked had General Moore tried it.
One final point about the Port Stanley attack. The landing force
unleashed tremendous artillery and naval gunfire bombardments on its
objectives both before and during the attacks on them. Proper and skillful
use of supporting arms figured prominently in the success of the British
attack. More on this in Chapter Six.
Designation and Use of Reserve. British commanders wisely designated, and
used, reserve forces throughout the land campaign. Brigadier Thompson
prudently committed a company from his 42 Commando reserve to support 2 Para's
attack on Goose Green. When he made his northern thrust out of San Carlos
towards Port Stanley, he kept 40 Commando in his rear to protect his Beach
Maintenance Area (BMA). General Moore adopted this reserve as his own
landing-force reserve when he came ashore with 5 Infantry Brigade. He used
two companies of 40 Commando to bolster the Welsh Guards battalion after its
decimation at Fitzroy.12 Finally, both brigades designated quickly usable
reserves in the two-phased attack on Port Stanley. 3 Commando Brigade had 2
Para and the Welsh Guards in reserve during phase one, and the Welsh Guards
again served as reserve for 5 infantry Brigade in the second phase.
Throughout the campaign, the landing force had capable reserve forces
ready to reinforce committed units. Commanders used them sparingly but
soundly - an historically-supported recipe for successful command in combat.
Night Opportunities. After witnessing the Falklands land campaign, British
reporter Max Hastings commented, "One of the overwhelming lessons of the war
both on land and at sea was that, even in the radar age, the night was still
precious to those who were able to make use of it."13 Lieutenant-Colonel
Nick Vaux of 42 Commando agrees with him. He feels that the landing force's
domination of the Argentine Army at night was the key to the British victory
in the land campaign.14 Except for the battle for Goose Green and Darwin,
the two forces fought all major ground battles at night. British commanders
chose to fight at night because they felt that darkness would cover their
movement and reduce their casualties. They believed their trained and skilled
troops could out-perform their inexperienced opponents at night. They did.
Leery of fighting at night, the recently inducted Argentine conscripts
fired their weapons needlessly and ineffectively. By so doing, they gave away
their positions to the observing British and wasted ammunition. Although they
possessed more and newer night-vision devices than did the British, the
Argentine commanders failed to use them to their best advantage.15 A unit
needs to train at night to develop the skill and confidence to operate
effectively under conditions of darkness. Not surprisingly, the trained
British troops totally controlled the numerically superior, but untrained
troops in this war fought almost exclusively at night.
British Training. Brigadier Thompson had complete confidence in the ability
of his brigade to fight at night.16 Every winter 3 Commando Brigade deploys
for training in Norway, where daylight often lasts for no more than four or
five hours. Since the brigade trains almost all the time in darkness while in
Norway, Brigadier Thompson knew he had officers, NCOs, and troops prepared to
fight at night. With such extensive brigade emphasis on night-
time training, Lieutenant-Colonel Whitehead of 45 Commando had full confidence
in his command's night-time abilities even though, because of a deployment to
northern Ireland, the commando had not practiced a night attack for at least a
year. Based on considerable previous training, his subordinate commanders and
men knew what to do at night.17 From work with the parachute battalions and
the British Army, Brigadier Thompson knew they too trained regularly at night
and thus had confidence that all of the landing force's battalions could fight
at night.18 The Port Stanley attacks proved him right.
Friendly Casualties. Reporter Drew Middleton of the New York Times reported
that British troops inflicted some friendly casualties by firing on some of
their own men during night operations on the Falklands.19 I found no
documentation of casualty numbers or the frequency of such incidents. That
one or more of such incidents may have occurred doesn't surprise me. Units
risk the possibility of their own men shooting each other whenever they engage
in battle, both during the day and at night. Well-trained and disciplined
units can reduce the risk but not eliminate it, especially the much larger
night-time risk. Since the British sustained an exceptionally low number of
casualties for the whole campaign, they couldn't have incurred many self-
inflicted ones, if any at all. If regrettably they did experience one or more
during night operations, one must recognize that the risk of heavy daylight-
battle casualties usually outweighs the risk of inflicting friendly casualties
Aggressiveness. The post-war, Ministry-of-Defence report cited aggressive
patrolling, along with night operations, as a decisive contribution to the
land-campaign victory.20 SAS and SBS teams patrolled aggressively to
reconnoiter both East and West Falkland before the San Carlos landing. At San
Carlos, the frontline battalions and commandos joined the effort with extended
security patrols in front of their positions. In moving from San Carlos to
Mt. Kent, 3 Commando Brigade patrolled forward and on its flanks. These
patrols eliminated the units of Argentine special forces sent to monitor the
progress of the brigade's move.21 Finally, before the Port Stanley attack,
3 Commando Brigade patrolled intensely, both to protect itself and to
reconnoiter the enemy's defensive positions. Lieutenant-Colonel Vaux of
42 Commando stressed the value of aggressive patrolling with his post-war
remark, "...those who gain domination of No Man's Land will always hold the
initiative, while poorly trained troops inevitably reveal their position to
resolute reconnaissance at night."22
Preparation for the Port Stanley Attack. Especially since, quite shockingly,
the British had no aerial photos of the Port Stanley defenses available to
them, patrolling emerged as the preeminent activity of all pre-attack
preparations. Brigadier Thompson felt his patrols had to, and did, accomplish
two objectives: (1) detailed reconnaissance of the enemy's defensive
positions, and (2) domination of the ground between the positions of the
opposing forces.23 In the reconnaissance efforts, the patrols pinpointed
the locations of enemy companies, platoons, mortars, machine guns, and
minefields; determined the sightings of the machine guns; and cleared paths
through the minefields.24 Their work served as the basis for planning the
extraordinarily successful main attacks.
Leadership. British patrols succeeded because junior officers and non-
commissioned officers led them well.25 Under demanding and dangerous
conditions, patrol leaders demonstrated strong field skills, sound judgment,
endurance, and bravery. They mastered their men, the weather, the terrain,
the night, and the enemy. More on such combat leadership in the next section.
COMPETENCE AND FITNESS OF GROUND FORCES
Sine Qua Non. The official, post-war Ministry of Defence report said it best:
"The most decisive factors in the land war were the high state of individual
training and fitness of the land forces, together with the leadership and
initiative displayed by junior officers and NCOs."26 Yes, with the notable
exception of the 5th Marine Battalion and some special forces, the Argentine
Army fought poorly. Having not fought against an external enemy since 1870,
the army showed no understanding of strategic and tactical principles,
patrolled ineffectively, defended lackadaisically, and distributed supplies
poorly. Too, some Argentine officers mistreated their men, and avoided
battles by staying in the rear.27 But the worst of armies rolls over only
for a reason; in this case - the British landing force.
Throughout the land campaign, the landing force demonstrated superior
leadership, fitness, training, and morale. Although it faced a less competent
opponent, that opponent outnumbered the British force and had had the
opportunity to prepare its defense for over a month. The landing force also
had to contend with harsh weather, inhospitable and nearly untrafficable
terrain, and an 8,000-mile supply line. Collectively, the enemy, weather,
terrain, and line of communication posed a near staggering challenge to the
British landing force. The force prevailed because it possessed what the
post-war Pentagon study called the "primary determinates" - the sine qua non-
for success on the battlefield: "The quality of men and their training,
leadership, morale, and physical fitness."28
Quality of Individual Soldier. The Ministry of Defence report focused even
more acutely on why the British landing force succeeded so brilliantly:
The most important factor in the success of the task
force was the skill, stamina, and resolution displayed
by individual Servicemen. The value of professional,
volunteer, highly trained and carefully selected Armed
Forces, was amply demonstrated.29
Although British weapons influenced the outcome of the campaign in no small
way, remember that Argentine soldiers used modern weapons also. A "secret
weapon" - the fitness and professionalism of British troops - distinguished
Britain's landing force. Careerists who viewed their work more as a vocation
than an occupation, the Royal Marinesand British soldiers fought with
determination, skill, stamina, nerve, and courage. Under grueling conditions,
they endured casualties and reverses without quitting. "Exhausted men, not
missiles, still cap victory in the 20th Century."31 The British troops
reminded the technological world of an historical truth: on the battlefield
it's not how many show up, but who
shows up, that counts!
Leadership. British combat leadership at all levels followed closely behind
the quality of the individual soldier as a critical contribution to the
victory. Start at the top. From Prime Minister Thatcher to Major-General
Moore, British officials and commanders demonstrated competence, vision, and
resolution. But Brigadier Thompson emerged as the man of the hour. He
deployed the combat units and sent the troops into battle. He built up the
necessary supplies on the beach contrary to the anxious exhortations of higher
authority. He shared the tough living conditions of the troops. He endured
the loneliness of command. The strength of his character and skill dominated
the landing force that dominated the enemy. In folklore terms, Brigadier
Thompson was the hero of the Falklands War.
Leadership thrived throughout the British ranks. The exploits of Major
Chris Keeble inspiring 2 Para at Goose Green, Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew
Whitehead marching 45 Commando 70 miles across East Falkland, and Lieutenant-
Colonel Nick Vaux maneuvering 42 Commando to a stunning win on Mt. Harriet
testify to the quality of the leadership at the battalion level. Within the
battalions and commandos, British leadership at the small-unit level
contributed equally, if not more importantly, to the victory. Junior officers
and NCOs drove on the troops during the long marches. They cared for, and
encouraged, their men in the harsh weather. They led the critically important
and dangerous patrols near the Argentine defenses at Port Stanley. They
controlled the fire and movement - "the pepper-potting" - of the aggressive
assaults against prepared positions. Captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and
corporals - they seized the initiative and did what they had to do.
Small-unit leaders run a close second to Brigadier Thompson as folklore
Unit Cohesion. It's as old as the hills! On the battlefield, men fight not
for national-security objectives and patriotism but for the small group with
whom they share the common danger. The highly reputed British regimental
system of recruiting troops from only one area for a specified unit certainly
helps to mold unit cohesion. The Gurkhas, Welsh Guards, and Scots Guards were
the battalions on the Falklands who benefitted from this practice. The Royal
Marines and paras receive recruits from throughout the United Kingdom, but
their emphasis on traditions and their reputations as elite forces produce the
same cohesion in these units. Lieutenant-Colonel Whitehead of 45 Commando
cited the mutual respect his officers and men shared with each other as the
most important reason for his unit's success. Military analyst Jeffrey Record
said it best when he pointed out that British units "...promote among their
members social and psychological bonds impervious to the shock and horrors of
Training. British units fought efficiently and effectively in the Falklands
because, in peacetime, they had prepared well for combat. For the British,
"it was the peacetime stress laid on basic military skills like physical
conditioning, night operations, combat logistics, seamanship, and weapons
familiarity that paid off."33 The British military attracts quality
volunteers, but equally importantly, it trains them well. Jeff Record cites
the 20th Century successes of the German and Israeli conscript armies to argue
that the training of an army contributes more to its success or failure than
the methods used to raise its men. He summarizes his view, "In short,
volunteer militaries are not all alike; what counts is not how potential
recruits are brought into service, but rather what happens to them once they
don their uniforms."34 Those units that fought in the Falklands land
campaign have historically emphasized realistic combat training at all
levels. Such realistic training instilled in them the physical and mental
toughness which they demonstrated so conspicuously in the Falklands War.
3 Commando Brigade's training probably best prepared its units for the
war. With a 32-week-recruit-training program, the Royal Marines drill their
men to endure the rigors of combat. Marine recruits fire all of the infantry
weapons, practice small-unit tactics, and undergo strenuous physical-fitness
training that aims to develop stamina and self-confidence. Most directly
applicable to conditions they would experience in the Falklands, Marine
recruits complete a 30-mile march through Dartmore, a desolate, wet, boggy
area subjected to unfriendly snow, fog, and rain on a regular basis. Terrain
and weather similar to the Falklands. Groaned most Royal Marines on the
Falklands, "Bloody Dartmore again!"35
Beyond recruit training, the Royal Marines mostly orient themselves to
fighting against the relatively sophisticated forces of the Soviet Union, the
threatening menace to all of Europe. As the operating force for the Royal
Marines, 3 Commando Brigade regularly participates in NATO military exercises
which challenge it to fight under the most developed and demanding warfare
conditions that exist today. The NATO commitment not only readies the brigade
for war against a formidable opponent, but since 1969, it has called for the
brigade to prepare for fighting in Norway. From 1969 to 1975,
45 Commando trained every winter in Norway. Since 1975, practically all of
the brigade has trained there each year.
The Norway deployments especially prepared the Royal Marines to fight
under two difficult conditions: cold weather and darkness. In effect, the
Norway training has made 3 Commando Brigade an arctic commando force, equipped
for, and skilled at, fighting in extremely cold temperatures. The cold
conditions in the Falklands didn't surprise, intimidate, degrade, nor deter
the Royal Marine arctic professionals. They had seen and conquered worst
conditions in Norway.36
Likewise, Norway's long periods of darkness during the winter prepared
the brigade for night operations. Both for shortage-of-daylight and tactical
reasons, the brigade trains mostly at night during deployments to Norway. It
had learned how to use the cover of darkness to support its own efforts and
thwart those of the enemy. Operating efficiently and comfortably at night in
the Falklands, the Marines intimidated, even terrorized, the far less-
experienced Argentine conscripts. In fact, both cold weather and darkness
turned out to be supporting conditions that strongly favored Marine operations
in the Falklands. Said Lieutenant-Colonel Vaux of 42 Commando, one could ask
for "no finer preparation" for the Falklands combat than that gained by the
brigade from the Norway training.37
Two other training experiences helped prepare 3 Commando Brigade for the
war. As Britain's primary amphibious force, the brigade regularly makes
practice landings, including major landing exercises in Norway each winter and
in Scotland or Norway each summer.38 The brigade's veteran amphibians
developed amphibious procedures that greatly facilitated the efficient landing
at San Carlos. Commando units of the brigade also deploy periodically to
Northern Ireland to help control "the troubles" in that area. Many of the
troops had experienced danger and had practiced strict security measures
there. In fact, 45 Commando had spent July-November 1981 in Belfast with the
very commander, staff, and subordinate commanders who later directed
operations in the Falklands during the spring.39 Providing a glimpse of
armed conflict, the Northern Ireland deployments helped to steady the Marines
during the Falklands combat.
The training of the other British forces that fought in the Falklands
certainly prepared them for the war also, although probably not quite as
specifically for cold-weather, night, and amphibious operations as had the
Marine training. As special units, the parachute battalions train in terrain
as tough as Dartmore; manage a centralized NCO promotion system like the Royal
Marines; and take pride in being an elite, fast-moving, light-infantry force.
Their readiness enabled them to fight every bit as effectively as the three
Marine commandos. The Gurkhas, of course, hail from the mountains of Nepal
and thrive on foot-marching with packs in the hills. Also a unit that
traditionally enjoys great esprit, the Gurkha battalion had no problems in
moving and fighting in the Falklands.40
Finally, the two Guards battalions train vigorously, although normally in
environments less hostile than those in which the other units generally
operate. Both enjoy deserved reputations as disciplined, spirited, and
closely-knit units.41 But they suffered the distinct disadvantage of
serving on London ceremonial duty for the period immediately before their
deployment to the Falklands.42 Since they hadn't trained in the field for
some time, the Guards battalions had lost their fitness and field-skills
edge. Along with a lack of arctic-warfare equipment, the dip in training
readiness hampered their ability to fight and move in the Falklands.
Specifically, their inability to march on foot from San Carlos to Goose Green
necessitated the amphibious lift to Fitzroy that led directly to the infamous
SIR GALAHAD tragedy. To be fair, although the Scots Guards may have had
mobility problems, they certainly proved their fighting abilities by
dislodging the tough Argentine Marine battalion from Tumbledown Mountain. A
task quite unlike trooping the colors at the Queen's birthday ceremony!
One last point about training. The British forces continued training for
combat right up until the time they landed to face the enemy. Units that
didn't depart the U.K. immediately after the Argentine invasion organized
field exercises to practice tactics and procedures they expected to use in the
Falklands. 2 Para worked up a battalion field exercise in April.43 All of
5 Infantry Brigade practiced battalion attacks, helicopter movements,
amphibious assaults, mine laying and breaching, and live-firing of weapons for
two weeks in April during Exercise Welsh Falcon at the Sennybridge training
area.44 As I have mentioned, the units of 3 Commando Brigade trained at
Ascension Island during their temporary layover there, and all units trained
intensively aboard the ships during their passage south.
On the whole, exceptionally well-trained British units landed on the
beaches at San Carlos. By the time they reached Port Stanley, they had proved
the merit of their emphasis on peacetime training and readiness.
Physical Fitness. How right was the Duke of Wellington when he said, "Wars
are not fought in grassy meadows on sunny afternoons."45 Rugged terrain and
uncomfortable weather conditions inevitably force men in war to exert
themselves physically just to live in the field. Add to that both the
physical work of marching, crawling, digging, and lifting and the physical
fatigue which a shortage of sleep and an extended field-ration diet generate.
The sum yields the requirement that all men who serve in wars be physically
The British landing force, especially the Royal Marines and the paras,
showed extraordinary physical prowess in the Falklands. The physical fitness
of 45 Commando and 3 Para allowed the two units to march through hills for
70 miles across the island. Physical fitness helped 2 Para press its attack
against a much larger force at Goose Green. Physical fitness enabled
42 Commando to survive ten days of terrible weather conditions at Mt. Kent.
In short, the physical fitness of the British forces gave them mobility,
enhanced their ability to endure fierce conditions, and strengthened their
will to win. The physically fit British defeated the relatively unfit
Argentines. A basic, but time-honored, lesson!
Two combat-engineer squadrons of the Royal Engineers, 59 Independent
Commando Squadron and 9 Parachute Squadron, supported 3 Commando Brigade and
5 Infantry Brigade respectively.
Minefield Reconnaissance and Breaching. Although the combat engineers, or
sappers in British parlance, carried out many tasks during the war, their
extensive minefield reconnaissance, probing, and clearing served as their
greatest contribution to the landing-force cause. They first had to clear
mines after the battle at Goose Green. In the process they acquired some
helpful intelligence about Argentine mines and minelaying procedures.46 In
patrolling with the infantry before the Port Stanley attacks, the sappers
undertook their most demanding and dangerous work. The burden fell on them to
reconnoiter the vast minefields in front of the Argentine positions and to
breach lanes through them. Often they probed with mine detectors or bayonets
within shouting distance of the enemy.47 Their superior work allowed the
infantry to move unharmed through the minefields to assault the various enemy
Other Tasks. The sappers also cleared booby traps in San Carlos buildings and
prepared CP positions at the San Carlos beachhead.48 Along with all these
engineering duties, the sappers lived, marched, and fought as infantrymen.
Just like the infantry, they showed superb physical stamina, bravery under
fire, and a strong will to win.49
1Freedman, p. 206.
2O'Ballance, p. 45; DON, The South Atlantic: Lessons Learned, p. 16.
3Hastings and Jenkins, p. 305.
4C. M. Davies, "Op Corporate - I Had the Privilege," The Royal
Engineers Journal, 96, No. 4 (1982), 244.
5Hastings and Jenkins, p. 285.
6Hastings and Jenkins, p. 184.
7Personal interview with A. F. Whitehead, 16 December 1983.
8Davies, p. 245.
9Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 273-74.
11Hastings and Jenkins, p. 291.
12Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 281-82.
13Hastings and Jenkins, p. 146.
14Personal interview with N. F. Vaux, 16 December 1983.
15DON, The South Atlantic: Lessons Learned, p. 16.
17Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
19Drew Middleton, "War in the Falklands: From Darwin and Goose Green,
a Lesson in Tactics. British Gains Show Mobile Infantry Can Defeat a Larger
Stationary Force," New York Times, 31 May 1982, p. A-4., cols. 1-6.
20SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 17.
21Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
22Vaux, p. 41.
24Vaux, p. 43; Thompson cassette.
25Vaux interview; Thompson cassette.
26SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 17.
27Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 295-96.
28DON, The South Atlantic: Lessons Learned, p. EX-1.
29SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 16.
30DON, The South Atlantic: Lessons Learned, p. 16.
31David J. Kenney, "The Fascinating Falklands Campaign," Proceedings,
June 1983, p. 101.
32Record, p. 47.
33Kenney, p. 101.
34Record, p. 48.
35Personal interview with P.A.C. Howgill, 8 December 1983.
36DON, The South Atlantic: Lessons Learned, p. 16.
38Personal interview with J.R. Hensman, 12 January 1984.
39Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
40Howgill interview, 8 December 1983.
41Howgill interview, 8 December 1983.
42Trotter, p. 38; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 274.
43Hastings and Jenkins, p. 235.
44Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 268-69; Davies, p. 245.
45Davies, p. 244.
46Field, p. 234.
47Field, pp. 236-37; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 290.
48Field, p. 232.
49Field, p. 243.
WEAPONS AND THEIR USES
Of the five batteries from the Royal Artillery with the British landing
force in the Falklands, four supported 3 Commando Brigade, and two supported 5
Infantry Brigade.1 Since each battery contained six 105mm howitzers, a
total of 30 cannon supported the landing force. This number of cannon
adequately covered the landing force's requirements.
Air-Transportability. The air-transportability of the 105mm howitzers proved
to be as vital to the artillery's effectiveness as the number of cannon.
Because the rugged terrain in the Falklands prevented the efficient
displacement of artillery pieces by ground vehicles, the Sea King helicopter
became the prime mover for the howitzers. Helicopters externally lifted the
four batteries supporting 3 Commando Brigade from the ships to the high ground
ashore during the landing at San Carlos. Later in the land campaign,
helicopters lifted (1) a battery of howitzers and their ammunition to support
2 Para's attack on Goose Green, and (2) five batteries with ammunition to the
Mt. Kent area to support the force's attack on Port Stanley.2
Had the British taken larger cannon, say 155mm howitzers, to the
Falklands, they probably couldn't have moved them easily, if at all, to usable
positions. The Falklands War demonstrates how, under some conditions, light
cannon can support light infantry forces better than heavier cannon can.
Force-mission assignments usually call for vehicle-mounted infantry to operate
in terrain that allows vehicle trafficability. Since foot-mobile infantry can
expect to fight in terrain that limits or denies vehicle use, it makes sense
to support those forces with light howitzers which helicopters can easily move
to forward positions. Effective British use of 105mm howitzers in the
Falklands proved the wisdom of this approach.
Artillery Use in the Battle of Port Stanley. Along with moving five batteries
to the Mt. Kent area before attacking Port Stanley, the Sea Kings shuttled
great amounts of artillery ammunition to the battery positions. As the
ammunition built up, artillery forward observers from observation posts called
in harassing artillery fire on the Argentine defensive positions. Although
Marines and soldiers of all ranks had learned how to call for fire, these
forward observers and the battery commanders called in most of the fire
missions. In British artillery-support procedures, a battery commander moves
with the commando or battalion commander he supports. He carefully develops a
fire-support plan to support the unit's scheme of maneuver. Since he demands
fire from his battery rather than having to request it, the British feel their
artillery units respond rapidly to their supported infantry units.3
Artillery support in the Falklands backed this claim.
All five batteries of the landing force supported 3 Commando Brigade's
phase-one attack against Port Stanley's outer defenses.4 Since the three
attacks on Mts. Longdon, Two Sisters, and Harriet started at different times,
the centrally directed batteries could weight each attack with considerable
artillery support. Over 1,000 artillery rounds landed on Mt. Harriet alone
that night.5 On both Mts. Longdon and Harriet forward observers called in
very accurate artillery fire within 100 meters of advancing friendly
The artillery batteries repeated their massive and accurate fire in
support of 5 Infantry Brigade's attack two nights later. In all the 30
howitzers fired nearly 17,500 rounds on the Port Stanley defenses.7 That's
over 1-1/2 rounds per Argentine defender and almost 20 rounds for each
resident of Port Stanley! Some howitzers fired as many as 500 rounds in the
last 24 hours of the battle.9
Most Effective Supporting Arm. Responsive and accurate, the artillery gave
the landing force its most effective supporting fires. British field
commanders praised both the artillery support and the fire-support plarning of
the battery commanders assigned to them.10 The massive artillery barrages
outside Port Stanley caused much destruction and greatly weakened the
willingness of the Argentine conscripts to resist. War correspondent Max
Hastings paid the artillery the highest tribute when he commented, "...indeed,
the (artillery) gunners' contribution to most of the battles of the war was
Capabilities and Control. Seventeen British destroyers and frigates with a
combined total of (21) 4.5-inch naval guns fired approximately 7,900 rounds in
support of the landing force. The guns' small caliber limited their hitting
power and the range of the guns.12 Nevertheless, they did provide valuable
fire support. Naval gunfire spot teams from the British Army's 148 Naval
Gunfire Observation Battery moved with the infantry units and controlled the
naval gunfire through direct radio communications with the ships. These spot
teams regularly practice calling in naval gunfire with Royal Navy ships at
Portland in Great Britain. These "Portland work-ups" help to sharpen the
skills of both the spot teams and the gunners.13
Uses. Naval gunfire supported friendly troops, suppressed enemy fire,
destroyed enemy supplies and aircraft on the ground, and, most importantly,
seriously hurt the morale of the Argentine conscripts.14 The naval gunfire
attacks started on 1 May with a three-ship, daylight bombardment of positions
around Port Stanley. Thereafter, the threat of Argentine air attacks against
the ships caused all bombardments to take place at night.15 Night shellings
alarmed the inexperienced enemy troops and helped wear them down by keeping
them continually on alert.16
Before the San Carlos landing, the landing force used naval gunfire at
Pebble Island and Fanning Head. Naval gunfire ships also fired on Goose Green
and other coastal locations during the main landing to divert Argentine
attention away from San Carlos. Since the landing itself was a "silent" one,
naval gunfire provided no direct support to the assault units at San Carlos.
Fire-support planners had prepared "on-call" missions for naval guns to fire
only if the landing force met resistance on the beach.17
In the land campaign, naval gunfire supported the attacks at Goose Green
and Port Stanley. At Goose Green, the frigate ARROW supported 2 Para's
movement during the night of 27-28 May. But to the distress of the paras, it
had to abandon station during the heavy daylight air attacks to seek
protection in the open seas.18 Since the fighting at Port Stanley occurred
at night, no such problems arose. Four frigates supported the attacks on the
Argentine defenses. Again, their fires greatly helped to devastate the morale
of the Argentine conscripts.
OFFENSIVE AIR SUPPORT
Shortage of Air Power. Beyond the range of one's own land-based aircraft,
shipborne air power is the key to success in a naval campaign, especially if
the naval task force operates within range of the enemy's land-based
aircraft.19 Facing such circumstances in the Falklands, the British had to
rely primarily on their Sea Harriers, based on two carriers, to carry out
three roles: (1) support the amphibious assault, (2) gain absolute air
superiority over the Falklands, and (3) protect the naval task force.20 The
Sea Harriers possessed neither sufficient numbers nor capabilities to
accomplish all of these missions successfully.
Only 20 Sea Harriers sailed from the U.K. with the original task force -
12 on HERMES and 8 on INVINCIBLE. During the second and third weeks of May, 8
more Sea Harriers and 14 Royal Air Force (RAF) GR.3 Harriers arrived in the
Falklands area aboard support shipping.21 A total of 28 Sea Harriers and 14
RAF GR.3 Harriers deployed to the South Atlantic, less than a third of the
total number of land-based aircraft available to the Argentines. A pitifully
small force tasked to accomplish the three demanding missions!
But the force made a good go of it. The Sea Harriers flew 1,100 combat-
air-patrol (CAP) missions and 90 offensive air support missions. The GR.3s
flew another 125 ground-attack and tactical-reconnaissance sorties. The whole
force achieved 95% availability at the start of each day and flew 99% of its
planned missions.22 Destroying many enemy aircraft, the Harriers themselves
lost only nine aircraft.23 Excellent statistics! Still, the relatively few
numbers of aircraft failed to accomplish completely the three missions,
especially that of gaining air superiority over the Falklands.
Along with a shortage of aircraft numbers, the Harrier-only force lacked
the capability to carry out tasks required to accomplish its missions.
Amongst the force's shortcomings, the absence of airborne-early-warning
aircraft, the lack of long-range air-defense fighters, and limited electronic
countermeasures (ECM) capabilities stood out as most significant.24 I will
explain the problems associated with the first two shortcomings in the
air-defense section of this chapter. As for the third, the Harriers lacked
the defense-suppression weapons necessary to attack enemy radars. Although
Vulcan bombers attacking Port Stanley from Ascension island gained some
success in striking radars with Shrike anti-radiation missiles, the Harriers
had no such capability and exposed themselves often to heavy and accurate
Supporting Operations. During supporting operations before the San Carlos
landing, the British used aircraft offensively to attack both sea and ground
targets. In sea attacks, Lynx helicopters carrying Sea Skua air-
to-surface guided missiles scored eight hits with eight firings in destroying
one patrol craft and seriously damaging two others.26 Wasp helicopters also
disabled the surface-riding submarine SANTA FE near Grytviken during the
attack on South Georgia Island.
In ground attacks, Vulcan strategic bombers and Sea Harriers tried to
strike targets on East Falkland. With the aid of multiple refuelings, the
Vulcans flew five single-plane missions from their base 4,000 miles away at
Ascension Island. In two of the missions, the Vulcans struck Argentine radars
with Shrike missiles. In the other three, the single Vulcans attacked the
Port Stanley airfield, each with (21) 1,000-pound bombs.27 Although the
bombings damaged the runway, the airfield remained usable until the end of
the war. Britain lacked the use of the JP-233 advanced airfield-attack weapon
it was developing at the time. The JP-233 scatters small concrete-penetration
bombs in a strip across the runway and plants anti-personnel mines in the
rubble to discourage repair teams.28 The Vulcans might have closed the
airfield had they had the chance to use such ordnance.
The Sea Harriers also attacked the Port Stanley airfield and radars
during pre-landing supporting operations but achieved little success.
Likewise, their strikes against Argentine positons at Goose Green produced
little apparent damage. In general this last assessment applies to all of the
Vulcan and Sea Harrier offensive air-support efforts before the main landing.
The British lacked the aircraft numbers and capabilities required to inflict
significant damage to the Argentine land forces.
Support of Land Operations. The Sea Harriers and RAF GR.3 Harriers flew a
total of 215 offensive air-support missions, most of them in direct support of
land operations.29 The attacks made little impact on the land campaign's
course of events. Delivering less than 200 general-purpose bombs and only
four laser-guided bombs against the enemy, the Harriers caused minimal damage,
especially compared to that which the heavy use of artillery and naval gunfire
Four conditions limited the effectiveness of offensive air-support
operations. First, after subtracting those Harriers required to fly
air-defense missions, the small, overall Harrier force could make available
only limited numbers of aircraft to fly attack missions for the landing
force. Second, the two small carriers from which the Sea Harriers operated
had to protect themselves by steaming beyond the range of the Argentine
land-based aircraft.31 This carrier-protection measure forced the Sea
Harriers to fly a long way to reach the objective area and limited their time
Third, much of the equipment required to build a Harrier forward-
operating-base (FOB) sank aboard the ATLANTIC CONVEYOR on 25 May. Having to
improvise with other surfacing material, British engineers didn't finish
constructing an FOB at Port San Carlos until 5 June. Even then, since runway
panels often buckled from aircraft use, the shortages of material slowed
repair efforts.32 The problems in building and maintaining the FOB limited
the number of Harriers that could ground loiter, or base temporarily, at the
FOB. In turn, this limited the number of aircraft which could respond quickly
to requests for air attacks. Finally, because most of the British ground
attacks occurred at night and the British had no effective means of delivering
ordnance accurately in the darkness, the Harriers could provide little direct
support to the landing force's attacks.
The Harriers used a limited mix of ordnance in making their ground
attacks. The Sea Harriers carried free-fall bombs, cluster bombs, and 30mm
cannon.33 The armament of the RAF GR.3s included either three 1,000 pound
bombs or three BL-755 cluster bombs.34 Late in the campaign, the British
used laser-target-marking equipment to guide four bombs from GR.3 aircraft
precisely on to their targets outside Port Stanley. I'm not sure why the
British used this effective delivery method so little, although the large size
and heavy weight of the laser-target marker may have delayed its airlift
forward to the Mt. Kent area. Brigadier Thompson indicated the British
possessed few laser-guided bombs. In any case, the effective British use of
laser-guided bombs and Argentine use of guided EXOCET missiles in the
Falklands highlighted the advantages of stand-off, guided ordnance over
free-fall bombs and unguided missiles.
Air Threat. Since the Argentine Navy withdrew to port and the Army
fought so poorly, Argentina's air forces posed the greatest threat to the
British task force and inflicted the greatest damage. To appreciate the
British task force's air-defense problems, one must first appreciate the
strengths and weaknesses of the Argentine air threat.
First, about 150 tactical, fixed-wing aircraft made up the combined air
forces which the Argentine Air Force and Navy had available at the start of
the war. The types of tactical aircraft included 68 A-4 Skyhawks, 20 Mirage
III-Es, 6 Super Entendards, 9 Canberras, and 45 Pucaras.35 This force
enjoyed a distinct numerical superiority over the 20 Sea Harriers which the
British first brought to the South Atlantic. The Argentines capitalized on
this superiority by mounting large-wave attacks on British forces, especially
the ships at San Carlos, that saturated the British air defense systems.
Super Entendard aircraft carrying EXOCET guided missiles gave the
Argentine air forces a second major strength. The stand-off weapons system
allowed the Argentines to launch and guide a 364-pound conventional explosive
from a range of 26 miles.36 Since the missile can't guide over hills, it
posed little threat to forces on land, but it terrorized British ships on the
open seas. Two of the five EXOCETs launched from the air struck their
targets, sinking the destroyer SHEFFIELD and the container ship ATLANTIC
CONVEYOR.37 Fortunately for the British, the Argentines possessed only a
small number of air-launched EXOCETs, probably less than 10, and western
embargoes on armament shipments to Argentina during the war prevented the
Argentines from gaining more.
Along with these strengths, the Argentine air forces contained some
serious deficiencies which limited their effectiveness. First, all of the
tactical aircraft, except some of the Pucaras, had to operate from Argentine
air bases.38 Airfields on the Falklands couldn't support them, and
Argentina's one aircraft carrier dared not venture out of its mainland port.
The mainland-basing for the aircraft forced them to operate at the extreme
limits of their ranges when flying missions in the Falklands area. With
limited time on target, the aircraft could make only single passes over their
targets and could not afford to dogfight against the British Sea Harriers. To
compound this range problem, Argentina possessed only two KC-130 Hercules
refueling tankers. Very few tactical aircraft could refuel on their way to,
or from, the Falklands.39 Many Argentine aircraft ran out of fuel returning
to their mainland bases and had to ditch planes in the sea.
Other deficiencies included no airborne-early-warning systems, no fighter
escorts, no all-weather and night-flying capability, and improperly fuzed
bombs. The first two hampered the Argentine pilots in their efforts to
penetrate the Sea Harrier screen. The third gave the British free use of the
night to carry out their business. Since the Falklands enjoyed only eight
hours of daylight at the time of the war, the Argentine air forces could only
threaten the British force for less than one-third of the time it operated in
the Falklands area.
Mix of Air-Defense Systems. The British task force relied on a mix of systems
for protection against the Argentine air threat. These systems included
limited electronic detection systems, fighter aircraft, electronic counter-
measures (ECM), medium-and short-range missiles, medium-caliber guns, and
close-range point-defense systems.40 After the war the British Ministry of
Defence claimed 72 "confirmed" and 14 "probable" aircraft kills for these
Royal Navy's Air-Defense Support. The Royal Navy's air defenses played a
crucial role in protecting the landing force while enroute to the Falklands
and especially during the San Carlos amphibious operation. The 28 Sea
Harriers worked as fighter-interceptors at CAP stations on the outer edge of
the Navy's defenses. The Blue Fox forward-and downward-looking radar of the
Sea Harriers worked well in helping them to spot targets as far away as 40
miles. But it experienced some problems in seeing low-flying targets against
both land and sea backgrounds.42 During their standard 90-minute missions,
the Sea Harriers normally carried two heat-seeking AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles
and two Aden 30mm cannons. A tail-warning radar and both chaff and infrared
dispensers rounded out the Sea Harrier's armament.43
In their fighter-interceptor role the Sea Harriers performed quite well.
They flew over 1,100 CAP missions and maintained an incredible 95% avail-
ability rate. Each Harrier flew up to six 90-minute sorties a day.
Individual pilots flew 3-4 sorties a day.44 Estimates of aircraft kills by
the Sea Harriers vary. The Ministry of Defence report used the figure of 20
kills, 16 by Sidewinder missiles and 4 by 30mm Men cannon.45 Others report
Harriers destroyed 31 aircraft, 24 by Sidewinders and 7 by 30mm Aden
cannon.46 Since the Argentine pilots only actively engaged the Harriers in
serial combat on 1 May, the Sea Harrier force sustained only six losses - four
to accidents, one to small-arms fire, and one to a bland surface-to-air
As fighter-interceptors, the Sea Harriers shot down a lot of aircraft.
But keep in mind that the Argentine planes had to operate at their range
limits and couldn't fight back. For all their success, the low number of Sea
Harriers and their slow speed, short range, and small payload prevented them
from providing complete protection for the task force.48
Missiles and guns formed the Royal Navy's inner air defenses. The Sea
Dart semi-active, radar-homing missile on the Type-42 destroyers provided
high-and-medium-altitude coverage out to 30 miles.49 The missile claimed
eight aircraft kills, but even more importantly, it forced the Argentine
pilots to fly low-level attacks that limited their effectiveness and caused
their unexploded-bombs problem.50 To complement the Sea Dart, the Sea Wolf
GWS 25 point-defense system on the Type-22 frigates provided close-in defense
against low-flying aircraft and sea-skimming missiles. The missile uses pulse
doppler radar and high rates of fire.51 Sea Wolf claimed the destruction of
five aircraft and one air-to-surface missile. The close, inshore ground
clutter around San Carlos hindered the Sea Wolf's tracking radar.52 The
other air-defense systems on the various ships included the Sea Cat and Sea
Slug missiles and 4.5-inch, Bofors, and 20/40mm anti-aircraft guns.53
Landing-Force's Air-Defense Efforts. The landing force used various air-
defense weapons not only to protect itself but some of the task force's
ships. The largest of these, the Rapier missile system, provided coverage up
to 10,000 feet.54 At Brigadier Thompson's insistence, 12 Rapier missile
launchers accompanied 3 Commando Brigade to the Falklands.55 Relatively
light and portable, the missiles performed quite well and, with 14 confirmed
and 6 probable kills, had a major impact on the campaign.56 They protected
not only the landing force's maneuver elements but the Base Maintenance Areas
(BMAs) at San Carlos and Teal Inlet as well. Rapier operators used only the
missile launcher's optical guidance system to engage aircraft because the
Rapier's radar-guidance system interfered with naval identification-friend-
or-foe (IFF) radio transmissions.57
One of 3 Commando Brigade's most urgent tasks on D-Day was to move 12
Rapier missile launchers up onto high ground overlooking San Carlos Water.
Brigadier Thompson wanted to protect his force against air attacks. But, in
an interesting twist to standard procedures for amphibious operations, Admiral
Woodward desired Rapier protection for the ships anchored in San Carlos
Water. The naval and landing forces had practically reversed the anti-air
warfare roles they normally play in amphibious operations. Instead of the
Royal Navy providing air superiority for the landing force, 3 Commando Brigade
had to provide air defense for the ships.58
Some problems with the Rapier launchers occurred on D-Day primarily
because the missile operators hadn't fired live missiles for almost a year.
The threat of an Argentine submarine operating near the task force had caused
the cancellation of a scheduled test-fire earlier at Ascension. The Rapier
operators scored only three hits out of ten missiles launched on D-Day but
improved markedly thereafter.59
The landing force achieved more aircraft kills - 9 confirmed and 2
probables - with the Blowpipe point-defense system.60 Being subsonic, the
Blowpipe missiles can't catch aircraft but can effectively engage head-on and
crossing targets.61 The Blowpipe killings of four Pucara aircraft in the
Goose Green attack probably deterred the Argentines from using these aircraft
very often to attack the British land forces.
The British also used various other weapons for air defense. The SAS
fired six Stinger missiles but scored only one kill on a Pucara. More than
likely the Stinger's poor performance resulted from a lack of training with
the weapon. The SAS's only expert on the Stinger died in the 19 May heli-
copter crash that killed so many SAS men.62 Machine-guns and small-arms
weapons also fired frequently at enemy aircraft. I have no statistics on how
successful they were, but a couple of observers reported they proved effective
against low-flying aircraft.63
Air Defense at San Carlos. The landing force required effective air defense
most critically just before and during the amphibious operation at San Carlos.
As I discussed in Chapter Four, the vulnerability of the landing force was
probably greatest during the amphibious task force's final two-day transit to
San Carlos Water. Sea Harriers and escort ships helped to protect the force
at the time, but the foggy weather on D-1 undoubtedly offered the best
Recall that at San Carlos large numbers of Argentine aircraft attacked in
multi-plane waves for five days. The landing force ashore and especially the
valuable supplies aboard ships and moving ashore lay dangerously exposed to
these concentrated attacks. Again, had the Argentine aircraft sunk the supply
ships, the landing force more than likely would have had to withdraw from East
The Royal Navy and the landing force organized a layered defense of the
San Carlos anchorage. The Sea Harrier CAP formed the outer layer. A "missile
trap", consisting of a Type-42 destroyer with Sea Dart missiles and a Type-22
frigate with Sea Wolf missiles, constituted the second layer at the northern
entrance to Falkland Sound. Just inside the Sound's entrance, three or four
ships using all available anti-aircraft guns made up the third "gunline"
layer. The amphibious and supply ships in the anchorage itself - "bomb alley"
- used small caliber guns and Blowpipe missiles as a fourth layer. The Rapier
and Blowpipe missile launchers on the high ground surrounding the anchorage
formed a final layer.
Although Argentine aircraft sank four British ships and damaged many
others during the amphibious operation, the layered air defense at San Carlos
did help to protect the landing force and its supplies. Who knows what might
have happened if the Argentines had attacked the supply ships instead of the
escorts or if the many unexploded bombs had detonated! What did occur is that
the air-defense system at San Carlos destroyed over 50 aircraft during the
amphibious landing and, in so doing, defeated the only force which, in hind-
sight, threatened to prevent the landing force from accomplishing its mission.
Control of Air Defense. Essentially, the Royal Navy and the landing force
controlled their own air-defense assets. Overall control of air defense never
passed from the Navy to the landing force. The Sea Harriers remained under
naval control and operated beyond the range of any of the landing force's
air-defense assets. Only when Harriers flew offensive air-support missions
over East Falkland did a requirement exist to control carefully the firing of
the landing force's air-defense assets. Both the Rapier and Blowpipe missile
launchers had identification-friend-or-foe systems that helped them to dis-
criminate between firendly and enemy aircraft. The landing-force units
received warnings over the radio about planned friendly air operations in
their areas. They established "guns-free" and "guns-tight" conditions to
ensure Blowpipe operators fired on enemy aircraft only.65
Although somewhat loosely organized, the air-defense-control procedures
for the entire task force did prevent friendly forces from shooting down
friendly aircraft. But whether the task force controlled the firing of
air-defense assets efficiently I remain skeptical.
Air-Defense Inadequacies. Although ultimately successful in driving away the
Argentine air threat, the British task force's air defenses revealed four
major inadequacies. First, the British lacked airborne-early-warning aircraft
that could both identify air threats far away from friendly forces and
coordinate the intercept of these threats. To overcome this asset deficiency,
Britain asked the United States in early May to loan some highly capable AWACS
planes to the task force. But the U.S. refused to cooperate because the AWACS
planes require American crews, and the Reagan administration wanted to avoid
the direct involvement of U.S. servicemen in the war.66 Without the early
warning aircraft, the British task force had no choice but to (1) try to avoid
the air threat, and (2) fight at close range those Argentine aircraft able to
find their target. In trying to avoid the air threat the British carriers had
to operate a long distance away from the Falklands, a tactic that degraded the
battle-carrier group's ability to provide air defense and offensive air
support to the landing force. Fighting the Argentine air threat at close
range exposed the task force to saturation attacks that almost overwhelmed the
task force during the amphibious operation. An airborne-early-warning
capability could have greatly alleviated these problems.
A second air-defense inadequacy of the task force was the lack of
long-range fighter-interceptors. The short range of the VSTOL Sea Harriers
forced them to establish a relatively close-in outer defense screen which gave
the other air-defense systems little time to react to those attacking aircraft
that penetrated the screen. These other defense layers revealed the third and
fourth major inadequacies. The destroyers and frigates possessed little
capability of defending the task force's ships against sea-skimming missiles.
Of the seven EXOCET missiles the Argentines fired during the war, three of
them struck British ships. Had the Argentines possessed more of them, they
probably could have inflicted much greater damage on the task force. Finally,
the British ships lacked effective close-in weapons
that could reliably shoot down aircraft and missiles that penetrated the outer
defense layers.67 Low flying aircraft frequently managed to punch through
shipborne anti-aircraft fire to release their bombs directly over their
targets. Again, had more of the bombs detonated, these major air-
defense inadequacies could have doomed the task force, including the landing
force, to failure.
Of the various infantry weapons used on the Falklands, two types
contributed prominently to the British success: anti-armor weapons and
Anti-Armor Weapons. The landing force used anti-armor weapons effectively
against fortified defensive positions, especially those that housed enemy
machine-guns. The commandos used wire-guided Milan missiles to strike
machine-gun positions during the night attacks outside Port Stanley. Since
the Milan has no night sight, the commandos used mortar-illumination rounds to
make the targets visible through the Milan day sights.68
In the actual assaults the British units used 84mm medium assault weapons
(MAW) and 66mm light assault weapons (LAW) to kill enemy soldiers defending
from behind the many rock formations found amongst the hills around Port
Stanley. Since the Argentines fired visible tracer rounds on a one-to-
one basis with their ammunition, the 84mm and 66mm gunners could easily
identify precise locations of enemy positions and direct their powerful area
weapons against them.69
Although grenade launchers would also have worked well against positions
in the rocks, only 2 Para had them available in the Falklands.70 Grenade
launchers are not standard in British units, but 2 Para brought 12 American
M-79 grenade launchers to the war and used them effectively.71
Machine-Guns. The commanders of 42 and 45 Commando stated that machine-guns
greatly helped, even dominated, the attacks on Mt. Harriet and Two
Sisters.72 The devastating fire of the assault weapons and the machine-guns
enabled riflemen to move forward during the assaults to close with and destroy
the enemy. Fortunately for them, some units of the landing force had wisely
increased their machine-gun numbers just before the war started. The Marine
commandos had added a light machine-gun to each rifle squad to augment the
general purpose machine-gun (GPMG) each squad already possessed.73 Thus, in
the Falklands campaign 3 Commando Brigade fielded twice the number of
machine-guns than it had possessed a year or two earlier. 2 Para doubled its
machine-gun numbers specifically for the Falklands War.74 The added
machine-gun fire power helped considerably.
1Nicholls, p. 226.
2Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 240-41 and 249; Whitehead interview,
24 January 1984.
3Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
4Nicholls, p. 226; Field, p. 236.
5Vaux, p. 43.
6Vaux, p. 43; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 298.
7SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 23.
8Trotter, p. 40.
9SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 23.
10Vaux interview; Whitehead interview, 16 December 1983.
11Hastings and Jenkins, p. 319.
12DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 42.
14DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 12.
15Hastings and Jenkins, p. 146.
16"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7,"
17Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
18Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 241 and 244-45.
19Bonsignore, p. 31.
20"The Falkland Islands," p. 1038.
21J. E. Greenwood, "Harriers at the Falklands," Marine Corps Gazette,
October 1982, p. 42.
22SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 19.
23Greenwood, p. 43.
24DON, The South Atlantic Conflict: Lessons Learned, p. EX-5; Gregory
Copley, "The Falklands War: Update," Defense and Foreign Affairs, May 1982,
25SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 24.
26SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 22.
27DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 6.
28"Invasion: Best Guesses," The Economist, 1 May 1982, p. 18.
29DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 27.
30DON, The South Atlantic Conflict: Lessons Learned, p. EX-10.
31DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 28.
32Field, pp. 4-5.
33Menaul, p. 88.
34Greenwood, p. 42.
35Menaul, p. 87.
36George P. Steele, "Warnings From the South Atlantic," Orbis: A
Journal of World Affairs, 26, No. 3 (1982), 577; "The Falklands: the Air War
and Missile Conflict," p. 38.
37DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 3.
38"The Falklands: The Air War and Missle Conflict," p. 33.
39DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 27.
40SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, pp. 20-21.
41SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 21.
42"Harriers, American-Style," The Economist, 12 June 1982, p. 22;
"That Magnificent Flying Machine," Time, 7 June 1982, p. 38.
43DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 27; Menaul, p. 88.
44Greenwood, p. 42.
45SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 45.
46Greenwood, p. 43; Hastings and Jenkins, p. 207.
47SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, pp. 19 and 46.
48Bonsignore, p. 34.
49O'Ballance, p. 37.
50Hastings and Jenkins, p. 229; SSD, The Falklands Campaign:
The Lessons, p. 45.
51"The Falklands: the Air War and Missile Conflict," p. 38.
52Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 206 and 229; SSD, The Falklands Campaign:
The Lessons, p. 45.
53Menaul, p. 85; DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p.7.
54O'Ballance, p. 38.
55Hastings and Jenkins, p. 92.
56DON, The South Atlantic Conflict: Lessons Learned, p. EX-8; SSD,
The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 45.
57"Air Defense Missiles Limited Tactics of Argentine Aircraft,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 19 July 1982, p. 22.
58Hastings and Jenkins, p. 211; "Air Defense Missiles Limited Tactics
of Argentine Aircraft," p. 22.
59Thompson cassette; Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 181 and 211.
60SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, pp. 22 and 45.
61Whitehead interview, 24 January 1984.
62Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 203-04.
63Middleton, p. A-4; Guertner, p. 68.
64SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 9.
65Whitehead interviews, 16 December 1983 and 24 January 1984.
66George Russell, "Girding for the Big One," Time, 21 June 1982,
67DON, Lessons of the Falklands, p. 40.
68Vaux, p. 43.
6942 Commando, p. 246; 45 Commando, p. 251; Whitehead interview,
16 December 1983; Vaux interview.
70SSD, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons, p. 17; Whitehead
interview, 16 December 1983.
71Hastings and Jenkins, p. 235.
72Whitehead interview, 16 December 1983; Vaux interview.
73Howgill interview, October 1983.
74Hastings and Jenkins, p. 235.
MISSION: RECOVER THE FALKLANDS
In the words of Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at King's
College, University of London, the Falklands War was "a textbook example of a
limited war - limited in time, in location, in objectives and means."1
Although one may label the war as "limited," the British government fully
committed the nation to forcible recovery of the Falklands. Had the military
effort failed, Britain would have suffered not only the loss of the Falklands
but a humiliating drop in credibility as a world power. Wisely rejecting
caution and compromise, the British government deployed a military task force
to the South Atlantic with orders to defeat the Argentine forces occupying the
Falklands. Following such clear guidance and with the aid of serious
Argentine errors, the task force overcame major power-projection deficiencies
to win the war and return the Falklands to British sovereignty.
Argentina's surprise invasion of the Falklands caught Britain without
prepared contingency plans to defend or recapture the Falklands. But poor
Argentine timing and British political-military responsiveness made the
invasion's success only temporary.
Had General Galtieri postponed the attack for six months or a year,
Argentine forces would have been much more ready to fight. First, the air
forces would have greatly increased their inventory of air-launched EXOCET
missiles, the weapon that most threatened British shipping. Possessing only
a handful of EXOCETS at the time of the invasion, Argentina penetrated the
task force's porous air defense to sink two ships with the stand-off missile.
More EXOCETS probably would have caused more kills. But the premature
invasion forced the Argentine air forces to fight with an EXOCET inventory too
small to inflict mortal damage to the British task force. Second, the
accelerated timing of the invasion denied the Argentine Army the chance to
train its new, conscript soldiers. Their poor performance in the war
reflected their inadequate training. Overall, the timing of the invasion
significantly curbed Argentine chances for long-term success.
On the other hand, bold and efficient British mobilization in response to
the Argentine coup helped to compensate for the lack of pre-invasion
contingency planning. The British government immediately asserted its
intention to regain the Falklands, if necessary through the use of force.
British naval and ground forces immediately deployed a major task force to
contest the Argentine aggression. And British planners immediately designed
and implemented a brilliant strategic logistics system, to include the use of
STUFT ships and Ascension Island, to support large-scale operations in the
South Atlantic. In short, Britain countered the surprise Argentine blow with
an assertion of political will, military readiness, and logistical innovation
that, in the end, nullified the invasion's temporary accomplishnent.
NAVAL SUPPORTING OPERATIONS
Britain's task force accomplished one major task during the pre-landing
naval supporting operations. After the British submarine CONQUEROR sank the
cruiser GENERAL BELGRANO, the threat of more submarine attacks forced the
Argentine Navy to withdraw all surface ships, including the carrier DE MAYO,
to mainland ports. The withdrawal eliminated not only the navy's surface
threat but the potentially serious threat that Argentine carrier aviation
could have posed to the task force's ships.
But when trying to create other conditions necessary for a successful
landing, the British task force revealed two serious power-projection
deficiencies that nearly prevented the force from succeeding. First, British
anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems failed to defeat the Argentine submarine
threat. Probably only a faulty torpedo-firing mechanism on the SAN LUIS
denied the Argentines the opportunity to inflict serious damage to British
shipping. Second, the task force failed to gain air superiority in the
amphibious objective area, a condition generally accepted as an absolute
requirement for a successful landing. Underfunded defense programs for the
previous 15 years permitted the Royal Navy to send only two small carriers and
pitifully few fighter and attack aircraft to challenge Argentina's fleet of
over 150 land-based aircraft. With no airborne-early-warning planes and long-
range interceptors, the battle-carrier group had no chance of gaining local
Again, circumstances and Argentine mistakes helped protect British ships,
planes, and ground units from the powerful Argentine air forces. Because the
Falklands lie at the range limits of tactical aircraft operating from
Argentina's main-land bases, Argentine aircraft could spend only a limited
time in the target area. They had to attack quickly and couldn't afford the
time to dog-fight the Sea Harriers. A shortage of airborne tankers kept them
from extending their range through aerial refueling. Also, the Argentines
made a critical error in not developing Port Stanley Airfield to accommodate
tactical aircraft, a step that would have eliminated the range-limit problem.
As a result of these circumstances and mistakes, the British carriers could
steam safely beyond the range of enemy aircraft and still launch air-defense
and offensive-air sorties in the objective area; British aircraft faced no
air-to-air threat; and the landing force enjoyed both fighter cover and
offensive-air support during its amphibious and land operations.
SAN CARLOS LANDING
British ASW and carrier-aviation inadequacies exposed the landing force
to major risks during the San Carlos landing. The amphibious group sailed
almost fully exposed to air and submarine attacks for a day and a half before
the landing. A shortage of amphibious shipping compounded the risk by forcing
the landing force to billet on relatively few ships. Successful Argentine
attacks on the ships at this time could have destroyed the landing force. As
much as anything else, fog on D-1 prevented such a catastrophe. A sudden
change in weather could have changed the outcome of the amphibious operation
possibly even the war.
Nonetheless, through skillful reconnaissance and planning, the amphibious
group achieved tactical surprise in making an unopposed landing at San
Carlos. The success illustrates the value of amphibious forces that can
strike when and where they please to secure a beachhead. Unsure of Britain's
true intentions, Argentine forces never recovered from the surprise landing
launch a ground counterattack. A serious error but one forced on the
Argentines by the superior choice of San Carlos as a landing site.
The massive Argentine air counterattack against the amphibious forces
exposed Britain's air-defense weaknesses. The few Harrier fighters and the
layered missile-gun air defense at San Carlos Water couldn't effectively repel
the courageous Argentine pilots flying low-level, saturation attacks against
ships supporting the operation. After suffering some ship losses and damage,
the British wisely off-loaded landing-force supplies under the protection of
Two Argentine mistakes contributed once again to the failure of the air
attacks to defeat the landing. First, Argentine aircraft attacked the escort
ships, not the more vulnerable amphibious supply ships whose destruction could
have denied the landing force the support necessary to sustain land opera-
tions. Second, improper bomb fuzings caused many Argentine bombs to fail to
detonate when they hit British ships. Both errors limited the effectiveness
of the potentially devastating air attacks. Another close call for the
British task force.
Upon completion of the supply build-up within the beachhead, Britain's
strong, professional landing force opposed Argentina's weak, conscript
Argentine Army. Though outnumbered, the British totally dominated the
untested Argentines. They achieved tactical surprise by marching extra-
ordinary distances through allegedly impassable mountains in preparation for
the main attack. They patrolled aggressively to protect themselves and to
gain information about the enemy. They called upon trained combat engineers
to breach minefields. They executed well-planned night attacks that
capitalized on their opponents' night-fighting inexperience. They used
artillery, naval gunfire, and anti-armor weapons to support their attacks
effectively. And they distributed supplies and ammunition efficiently.
Not by chance did the British landing force win the land campaign so
decisively. Well-trained units constituted the force. In peacetime the Royal
Marines and British Army carefully select their men, develop their tactical
skills, mold them into unified teams, and prepare them physically for the
rigors of combat. In the Falklands War, competent officers and non-
commissioned officers led these well-trained men. Completely out-performing
the Argentine draftees, the professional British ground units surmounted other
force deficiencies to strike the crushing, victorious blow.
WHY THE BRITISH WON
Despite serious power-projection deficiencies, Britain soundly defeated
Argentina in the Falklands War. As victors in war have always done, the
British profited from their opponents' mistakes and shortcomings. One could
even assert that when Argentine bombs and torpedo systems malfunctioned, lady
luck seemingly favored the British effort. Maybe so. But Argentine
incompetence and bad luck alone don't account for Britain's success.
Why then did the British win the 1982 Falkland Islands War? First, they
targeted military victory as their immediate goal in the Falklands dispute and
boldly committed the resources and national will necessary to win. Second,
they hastily improvised an innovative and flexible logistical system that for
two months sustained a large, multi-service task force 8,000 miles away.
Third, they skillfully made a surprise amphibious landing to gain a base from
which to operate against the enemy. And fourth, they fielded a proficient and
well-led landing force that overcame severe weather and transportation
shortages to out-maneuver and out-fight a larger adversary.
To recover the Falklands, the British took the fight to the Argentines.
The tenacious pressure forced Argentina to make mistakes and compensated for
Britain's power-projection deficiencies. Aggressiveness and competence, not
luck, gained the British a brilliant triumph on East Falkland.
1Freedman, p. 196.
Click here too view image
1Hastings and Jenkins, p. 95.
2Hastings and Jenkins, inside cover.
3Hastings and Jenkins, pp. 352-53; SSD, The Falklands Campaign:
The Lessons, p. 42.
4Nicholls, p. 222.
5"Reataking of South Georgia," pp. 234-35.
6Hastings and Jenkins, p. 201; Nicholls, p. 221; OPERATION CORPORATE
(Manouevre Map) 21 May - 14 June 1982 (London: Director of Military Survey,
Ministry of Defence, United Kingdom, 1982).
7OPERATION CORPORATE (Manouevre Map); Thompson cassette.
8Hastings and Jenkins, p. 234.
9Nicholls, p. 224; OPERATION CORPORATE (Manouevre Map).
10OPERATION CORPORATE (Manouevre Map).
11DON, The South Atlantic Conflict: Lessons Learned, p. 3.
Ferrer, Jose. Personal interview. 22 February 1984.
Captain Ferrer, Argentine Navy, commented on the political
developments that led to the war and Argentina's military activities
during the war. An excellent presentation of the Argentine perspective.
He served as an Argentine destroyer captain during the war.
Hensman, J. R. Personal interview. 12/15 January 1984.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hensman, Royal Marines, explained various combat
procedures of the Royal Marines and British Army.
Howgill, P.A.C. Personal interview. October 1983.
Lieutenant-Colonel Howgill, Royal Marines, reviewed amphibious
practices of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
Howgill, P.A.C. Personal interview. 8 December 1983.
Lieutenant-Colonel Howgill discussed the general training practices
of the Royal Marines and British Army units that served in the
Hunter, Toby. Telephone interview. 29 March 1984.
Captain Hunter, Royal Marines, provided useful background
information and statistics about the war. He served as the
Operations Officer for 40 Commando during the war.
Vaux, N. F. Personal interview. 16 December 1983.
Colonel Vaux, Royal Marines, discussed his impressions of the
British land campaign in the Falklands. He served as the Commanding
Officer of 42 Commando during the war.
Whitehead, A. F. Personal interview. 16 December 1983.
Colonel Whitehead, Royal Marines, discussed his impressions of the
British land campaign in the Falklands. He served as the Commanding
Officer of 45 Commando during the war.
Whitehead, A. F. Personal interview. 24 January 1984.
Colonel Whitehead responded to prepared questions about how
45 Commando lived and operated in the field during the Falklands War.
Thompson, J.H.A. Cassette. n.p.: n.p., February 1984.
Major-General Thompson served as the Commanding Officer of
3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War. In response to my
questions about the war, he prepared a cassette-tape that addressed
his unit's amphibious landing; land operations; supporting arms;
logistical effort; aviation support; intelligence-gathering and
processing; and command and control. A very candid discussion of
the war by a high-ranking participant.
Howgill, P.A.C. "Falkland Islands War." Command and Staff College, MCDEC,
Quantico, Va., 20 October 1983.
Lieutenant-Colonel Howgill, Royal Marines, presented a general
description of the Falklands War and outlined many lessons which British
ground units learned from the war.
U.K., Secretary of State for Defense, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons.
(London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1982).
A detailed report to Parliament on British sea and land operations
in the Falklands. Highlights the lessons that British forces learned
from the war. Provides official British statistics about the
war. Very useful.
U.S., Department of the Navy. Lessons of the Falklands: A Summary Report.
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1983).
An unclassified summary of the report submitted to the secretary
of the Navy by his Falkland Islands Study Group. The study group's
purpose was "to assess the impact of the performance of British and
Argentine forces and their equipment on the programs and direction of
the United States Navy and Marine Corps." Emphasizes sea operations.
U.S., Department of the Navy, The South Atlantic Conflict: Lessons Learned.
Volume I. Summary of Principal Conclusions and Recommendations. Report
of the Falkland Islands Study Group to the Secretary of the Navy.
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1983).
The first volume of the classified report submitted to the
Secretary of the Navy by his Falkland Islands Study Group. Note the
study group's purpose in the bibliographic item above. A detailed
analysis of British operations during the war. Have included only
unclassified material from the report in this paper.
Hastings, Max, and Simon Jenkins. The Battle for the Falklands. New York:
W. W. Norton, 1983.
A very thorough account of the political and military developments
of the war. Hastings reports his first-hand observations of what took
place during the land campaign. Jenkins offers a complete analysis of
the political maneuverings of Britain and Argentina before and during
the war. Immensely readable and informative. A superior description
and analysis of the Falklands War.
"Air Defense Missiles Limited Tactics of Argentine Aircraft." Aviation Week
and Space Technology, 19 July 1982, pp. 21-22.
A short analysis of the effectiveness of British sea-and land-based
air-defense missiles. Outlines the roles and accomplishments of the
various air-defense systems.
"Argentina: Malvinas yes, army no." The Economist, 1 May 1982, pp. 21-22.
A short analysis of political conditions within Argentina as the
British task force approached the Falklands. The article offers sane
background information about Argentina's air forces.
Baker, A. D. III. "Sealift, British Style." Proceedings, June 1983,
Explanation of how the British government chartered and
requisitioned merchant ships for use in the Falklands War.
"Battle order: The balance of forces." The Economist, 24 April 1982,
A short description of British and Argentine forces used early in
the Falklands War. Provides information on intelligence-gathering
assets and air, naval, and land forces.
Beck, Peter F. "The Falklanders - Had the Argentines Visited Kew: Some
Insights on the Defence of the Falklands." NAVY International, October
1982, pp. 1390-91.
Account of how a Royal Navy squadron analyzed the terrain and
potential landing sites of the Falklands in 1933. Points out that the
report, maintained at the Public Records Office in Kew, recommends San
Carlos as the Falklands' most suitable landing site.
Bonsignore, Ezio. "Hard Lessons from the South Atlantic." Military
Technology, VI, No. 6 (1982), 31-36.
Excellent analysis of the Royal Navy's weapons and equipment
deficiencies evident in the Falklands War.
Cable, James. "The Falklands: Causes and Consequences." NAVY International,
August 1982, pp. 1228-31.
Reviews the historical and political causes of the dispute over the
Falklands. Criticizes Britain's "undue preoccupation with the single
threat and the single scenario" of conflict with the Soviet Union.
Chaze, William. "At the Heart of Battle for the Falklands." U.S. News and
World Report, 7 June 1982, p. 32.
Short, background review of the Falkland Islands and the British-
Argentine dispute over the islands. Includes a description of the
Falklands' government and economy and the U.S.'s interest in the
Commando Logistic Regiment. "Miracle or Nightmare." The Globe and Laurel,
July/August 1982, pp. 254-57.
Insider's report of the regiment's activities during the Falklands
War. A standard column in the Royal Marines' bi-monthly magazine.
40 Commando. "Falklands Diary." The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982,
Insider's account of 40 Commando's activities during the Falklands
War. Provides detailed information about the landing force's reserve.
A standard column in the Royal Marines' bi-monthly magazine.
42 Commando. "Ascension to the Falklands and Back Again." The Globe and
Laurel, July/August 1982, pp. 242-47.
Insider's account of 42 Commando's activities during the Falklands
War. Describes the commando's shipboard training, landing, and attack
of Mount Harriet. A standard column in the Royal Marines' bi-monthly
45 Commando. "Ajax Bay to Stanley." The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982,
Insider's account of 45 Commando's activities during the Falklands
War. Describes the commando's epic march across East Falkland and
attack of Two Sisters. A standard column in the Royal Marines' bi-
Copley, Gregory. "The Falklands War: Update." Defense and Foreign Affairs,
May 1982, pp. 6-7, passim.
A perceptive analysis of the political background and early stages
of the Falklands War by the magazine's publisher. The article covers
Britain's intelligence failure, the use of new weapons systems, and
Argentina's relations with the Soviet Union and the United States.
Davies, C. M. "Op Corporate - I had The Privilege." The Royal Engineers
Journal, 96, No. 4 (1982), 243-47.
Major Davies, MBE RE, reviews the lessons he learned while
commanding 9 Parachute Squadron during the Falklands War. He
emphasizes physical fitness, flexibility, determination, training,
kit, and command and control. Offers good insight into engineer
operations in the war.
Drysdale, David. "The War at Sea." The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982,
Major Drysdale, RM, briefly describes the British battle-carrier
group's contributions to the war during pre-landing operations, the
amphibious assault, and the land campaign. Having served as a member
of Admiral Woodward's staff during the war, Major Drysdale offers much
insight into how the Royal Navy supported the landing force.
English, Adrian. "Argentina's Military Potential." NAVY International, May
1982, pp. 1046-50.
Overview of Argentine naval, amphibious, land, and air forces used
in the Falklands War.
"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After April 13." NAVY
International, June 1982, pp. 1094-99.
Report of war events during the last two weeks of April and first
week of May 1982. Covers American mediation efforts, British force
build-up, and the sinkings of HMS SHEFFIELD and Argentine cruiser
"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 7." NAVY
International, July 1982, pp. 1158-63.
Report of war events during the last three weeks of May 1982.
Covers the Pebble Island raid and the San Carlos landing. Good account
of the Argentine air attacks at San Carlos.
"The Falkland Crisis: Operations and Progress After May 25." NAVY
International, August 1982, pp. 1222-27.
Report of war events from 25 May 1982 to the Argentine surrender
on 14 June 1982. Covers the movement of British units across East
Falkland and the Fitzroy-Bluff Cove tragedy. Offers few details about
the battles fought outside Port Stanley.
"The Falklands Islands." NAVY International, May 1982, pp. 1028-45.
A thorough analysis of the political developments that led to the
war, the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, British mobilization, and
the role of British merchant ships in the war. Contains useful tables
that compare British and Argentine forces.
"Falkland Islands: The noose round Port Stanley." The Economist, 5 June
1982, pp. 19-20.
Description of the British landing force's breakout from the San
Carlos beachhead. Points out the opportunities missed by the Argentines
to thwart British land operations.
"The Falklands: the Air War and Missile Conflcit." Armed Forces Journal
International, September 1982, pp. 30-32.
Excellent analysis of the Falklands' air war. The article
addresses the strength of Third World air forces, the value of the
AIM-9L Sidewinder missile, Argentina's unexploded bombs, aerial
refueling, aerial reconnaissance, the adequacy of the AV-8B Harrier,
and air-defense missiles. Provides table of air-combat statistics and
a comparison of British and U.S. V/STOL aircraft.
"The Falklands: Power Projection and the War at Sea." Armed Forces Journal
International, September 1982, pp. 40-46.
Excellent analysis of British and American ability to project power
at sea. Emphasizes the value of nuclear-powered submarines. Argues
against big carriers and for the ARAPAHO concept of basing aircraft on
container vessels. Recommends adoption of the AH-64 aircraft over the
AV-8B Harrier. Criticizes the shortage of British air-defense weapons
in the Falklands War. Lists the British and Argentine ship losses
during the war.
Field, G. W. "Operation Corporate - The Falkland Islands Campaign."
The Royal Engineers Journal, 96, No. 4 (1982), 230-43.
Thorough review of engineer contributions to the British effort in
the Falklands. Lieutenant-Colonel Field, MBE RE, was General Moore's
CRE during the war. He discusses the building of a Harrier FOB, bulk-
fuel handling, minefield reconnaissance and breaching, bridge-building,
and post-war clean-up problems.
Freedman, Lawrence. "The War of the Falkland Islands, 1982." Foreign
Affairs, 61, No. 1 (1982), 196-210.
Broad overview of the political dispute and the sea and land
campaigns. Praises the superior logistical support of the British
task force and the competency of the British landing force. Warns
about "fixation on technological prowess and weapon inventories."
Greenwood, J. E. "Harriers at the Falklands." Marine Corps Gazette,
October 1982, pp. 42-43.
Praises the performance of British Harriers in the Falklands War.
Claims the performance proves the concept of sea and land loiter by
Guertner, Gary L. "The 74-Day War: New Technology and Old Tactics."
Military Review, LXII, No. 11 (1982), 65-72.
General description of the Falklands' land campaign. Emphasizes
the contributions of helicopters and combat engineers. Praises the
British infantryman's ability to march long distances and the overall
professionalism of the British forces. Warns of the threat posed to
amphibious operations by precision-guided missiles.
"Harriers, American-style." The Economist, 12 June 1982, p. 22.
Short article that advocates the developnent of a better radar for
the British-American AV-8B advanced Harrier.
"Invasion: Best guesses." The Economist, 1 May 1982, p. 18.
A remarkably prescient forecast of (1) the air attacks the British
task force would face in the South Atlantic, and (2) the amphibious and
land operations the landing force would carry out.
Kenney, David J. "The Fascinating Falklands Campaign." Proceedings, June
1983, pp. 100-01.
Captain Kenney, USNR, discusses the lessons offered by the war in
the areas of national will, logistics, operational skills, and
technology. Good analysis.
Menaul, Stewart W. B. "The Falklands Campaign: A War of Yesterday?"
Strategic Review, X, No. 4 (1982), 82-91.
Retired RAF Air Vice-Marshall Menaul reviews British logistical,
aerial, and tactical successes in the Falklands War. He criticizes
Britain's outdated air-defenses and electronic warfare capability.
Britain must modernize its forces to fight in a NATO scenario.
Nicholls, D. V. "Amphibious Victory." The Globe and Laurel, July/August
1982, pp. 220-27.
A thorough overview of the entire British campaign in the
Falklands, including both sea and land operations. Good maps of
3 Commando Brigade's landing, the landing force's movements across
East Falkland, and Argentine force dispositions. Captain Nicholls, RM,
served as 3 Commando Brigade's Public Relations Officer during the war.
O' Ballance, Edgar. "The San Carlos Landing." Marine Corps Gazette, October
1982, pp. 36-45.
Detailed account of the landing at San Carlos and the ensuing
Argentine air attacks.
Record, Jeffrey. "The Falklands War." The Washington Quarterly, 5, No. 4
General analysis of the war's political background and military
operations. Cites the superior quality of the British forces as the
main reason for Britain's victory. Emphasizes the importance of
amphibious warfare and force survivability.
"Retaking of South Georgia." The Globe and Laurel, July/August 1982,
Short but detailed account of the British seizure of South
Georgia. Includes two maps that help to portray the maneuver of
the British force.
Russell, George. "And Now, to Win the Peace." Time, 28 June 1982,
A review of the Argentine surrender and the immediate post-war
problems faced by Britain and Argentina. Describes General Galtieri's
resignation and Mrs. Thatcher's high public approval rating.
Russell, George. "Girding for the Big One." Time, 21 June 1982,
Report of the Fitzroy-Bluff Cove tragedy and British preparations
to attack Port Stanley.
"Sheltered No Longer." Time, 7 June 1982, p. 37.
A description of the terrain, population, and environment of Port
San Carlos during 3 Commando Brigade's occupation. Discusses the
problems Marines had in digging fighting holes.
Steele, George P. "Warnings from the South Atlantic." Orbis: A Journal of
World Affairs, 26, No. 3 (1982), 573-78.
Vice Admiral Steele, USNR, makes the point that "Britain's military
weakness invited aggression." He stresses "the importance of a superior
navy" as a national security asset for the U.S.
"That Magnificent Flying Machine." Time, 7 June 1982, p. 38.
Praises the capabilities of the British Sea Harrier. Describes
the Harrier's "viffing" maneuver techniques, Blue Fox radar, and
Trotter, Neville. "The Falklands Campaign Command and Logistics." Armed
Forces Journal International, June 1983, pp. 32-41.
Excellent analysis of how Britain commanded its forces and
supported them logistically during the Falklands War. Offers many
useful tables on ship and aircraft losses by both sides. The author
is a Conservative MP who specializes in defense matters.
Vaux, N. F. "Commando Night Attack." Marine Corps Gazette, October 1983,
Very detailed account of 42 Commando's brilliant attack on Mt.
Harriet by the Royal Marine Colonel who planned and led it. Includes
an excellent map of the assault.
Middleton, Drew. "War in the Falklands: From Darwin and Goose Green, a
Lesson in Tactics. British Gains Show Mobile Infantry Can Defeat a
Larger Stationary Force." New York Times, 31 May 1982, p. A-4,
Short description of the Darwin-Goose Green Battle. Reporter
Middleton comments about British mobility and use of small-arms
against Argentine aircraft. He speculates about the future landing
of 5 Infantry Brigade.
New York Times, 31 May 1982, p. A-4, cols. 1-2.
Briefly describes some of the main settlements on East Falkland.
OPERATION CORPORATE (Manouevre Map) 21 May - 14 June 1982. London: Director
of Military Survey, Ministry of Defence, United Kingdom, 1982.
A 1:100,000 scale map that depicts the movements of British ground
units during Falklands land campaign. Clear, detailed, and very useful.
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