Friday, April 02, 2010

Pop History Moment: Operation Rosario Commenced


It's a safe bet that there were more people in the world who hadn't heard of the Falkland Islands (some exceptions being geography buffs, higher-ups in the Argentinian and British military, and the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) than would have heard of this remote outpost in the southern Atlantic Ocean before they were invaded by Argentina on this day in 1982 . The assault - codenamed Operation Azul during its planning stage - would henceforth be known as Operation Rosario...

The defense of the islands was mounted by the governor, Sir Rex Hunt, who just two days earlier had received word from the Royal Navy of an impending amphibious assault being mobilized by the Argentine Navy - following their occupation of nearby South Georgia on March 19th. Overall command of the operation was entrusted to Major Mike Norman, also commander of the local garrison, called Naval Party 8901; in all, this force amounted to 68 Marines and 11 sailors - an unusually high number, as the garrison was in the process of changing over - aided by 25 reservists with the Falkland Islands Defence Force. Major Gary Noott assumed the role of military advisor to the governor.

In all 21 Gemini assault craft were deployed by the ARA Santisima Trinidad; under cover of early morning darkness - despite a full moon, it was cloudy - 84 troopers of the 1st Amphibious Commandos Group led by Lieutenant-Commander Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots had been aiming to come ashore off Mullet Creek but got tangled up in kelp beds, and instead landed near Lake Point. Their stated aim was the capture Government House a short distance to the north in the capital, Stanley. Upon landing they split up; the larger group headed for a British barracks, and the smaller group for the capital.

This first wave of commandos launched a siege on the Moody Brook Barracks, having arrived there shortly after 5:30 AM, a 2.5 mile march from where they'd landed over rough terrain; they fired tear gas into the building, but later discover it to be empty. Half an hour later, on the other side of the island, twenty amphibious armoured personnel carriers came ashore from the ARA Cabo San Antonio at Yorke Bay. During their advance on Stanley they met an exchange of gunfire, with one reported injury on the Argentinian side.

At 6:30 AM the invaders to the north captured the deserted airport; at the same time a 16-man force from the south reached Government House, where they were met by 31 Marines. Three Argentines were injured in this assault, one of whom later died. The British also took three prisoners, although by this point the Islands were in no position to mount much of a defense. Over the next two-and-a-half months military sorties of increasing intensity were interspersed with diplomatic sabre-rattling on the part of Argentina's dictator Leopoldo Galtieri and Britain's Margaret Thatcher (who was no less dictatorial, but at least popularly elected).

Although war was never officially declared, the Royal Navy dispatched a Task Force from Plymouth within days, consisting of HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible (whose crew contained the Queen's second son, Prince Andrew - now the Duke of York). In all, by the cessation of the hostilities 258 British and 649 Argentinians would be dead - mainly in the sinkings of the ARA General Belgrano and HMS Sheffield - by the time the Union Jack was once again raised over Government House in Stanley on June 14th.
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Anonymous said...

Very well put, Michael.

The Royal Marines were unceremoniously stripped of their weapons and webbing and then forced
to lie face down in front of the Governor’s House with their hands behind their heads. They
weren’t mistreated, but the Argentine forces made a serious miscalculation by photographing
the event, and then letting the pictures out to the world press. This one action, which upon viewing
it in Great Britain, got the Brit’s “blood up” and served as catalyst for hardening Britain’s resolve
in reclaiming the Falklands.


michael sean morris said...

Thanks for the input, Javier. There'll be more Falklands coverage between now and June, you can bet on it.