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The Falkland Islands are approximately 8000 miles from Britain and the only major island group in the South Atlantic, about 300 miles east of Argentina and the continent of South America in the Strait of Magellan. There are two main islands, West and East Falkland and more than 100 smaller ones. The Buenos Aires government, which had declared its independence from Spain in 1816, claimed sovereignty over the Falklands. Britain began settling the islands and declared a colonial administration in 1842. Argentina never recognized the claim and historically has demanded that the islands be part of that nation. They say that "Ownership is 90% of the law" and the islands have been continuously occupied by residents who have always demanded the right to remain British subjects. In the early 1980s, the period that we will discuss, the population was 1,813 with over half living in the capitol town of Port Stanley on East Falkland. Although there are less than 2,000 citizens, there are an estimated 600,000 sheep. Wool and hides are obviously the chief export of the Falklands. The islands were administered at the time by Governor Rex Hunt. They were far from Britain and certainly not an economic or military priority. There might have been some belief among the Argentineans that the occupation of these islands, called by them the Islas Malvinas would be treated by the British as a fait accompli.
The Spanish first colonized what would be known as Argentina and controlled it for about 300 years. The nation gained independence in 1816 after a six year struggle led by General Jose de San Martin. From that time on there were a series of military takeovers and political dictators. The most famous is probably Juan Peron who was elected president in 1945. After Peron there was a series of petty dictators, with Peron himself being recalled to power in 1973. In 1976, another military coup put a junta made up of the commanders of the armed forces in charge. There were a series of generals in a revolving door leadership that led to Army General Leopoldo Galtieri holding power in 1982.
Argentina was in deep economic trouble. Iinflation was over 600 percent, manufacturing output down 22.9%, and real wages down by 19.2%. In addition, the Junta has kidnapped, tortured and murdered large numbers of the population.
The book War in the Falklands, the Sunday Times of London Insight Team, Harper & Row, NY, 1982 comments on the civil rights violations:
In just over two years, according to estimates of human rights organizations, up to 18,000 Argentineans vanished, including thousands of high-school children. Most of the disappeared were young, radical, and middle-class. Over one hundred journalists and two hundred scientists vanished.
Galtieri accepted the collective responsibility of the junta. He coldly stated:
In any war, there are people who disappear.
The Argentine people were clamoring for change, and the leadership decided that the best way to take their mind off the numerous problems at home is to give them a glorious patriotic victory and the return of the Islas Malvinas. The campaign was originally named Operación Azul after the blue robe of the Virgin Mary, but later changed to Operación Rosario (Rosary) in what appears to be an attempt by the Argentine government to give the impression of a patriotic Catholic religious crusade. The invasion was initially planned for 25 May, the anniversary of the revolution and one of the most important national holidays. Due to the mounting pressures on the government, and mass union demonstrations in late March, the date of the invasion was moved earlier to 2 April. Its main purpose was to divert public attention from the internal problems and restore the long lost popularity and prestige of the dictatorship.
There were numerous previous provocations. In 1966 an Aerolineas Argentinas DC4 was hijacked by a group of twenty Argentine nationalists known as "Condors." They forced the pilot to fly to Stanley and land on the racecourse. The Condors took four Islanders hostage, handed out leaflets stating they had arrived to take over the Islands on behalf of Argentina, and raised the Argentine flag. They gave up to a local priest the next day and were eventually placed on an Argentine naval ship and taken back to Argentina where they received nominal prison sentences. Later that year a small detachment of Argentine Marines landed via submarine Santiago del Estero and reconnoitered potential landing beaches near Port Stanley. In 1968 another Argentine aircraft crashed while attempting a landing to publicize the Argentine demands.
The 1982 Argentinean invasion did not start in the major islands. Instead, an Argentine businessman named Constantino Davidoff sailed to South Georgia Island to salvage scrap metal on the fleet transport Bahia Buen Suceso. It arrived on 19 March 1982 without British permission. The Argentine flag was placed near the work site. The British protested, the political situation escalated and Governor Hunt sent 22 Royal Marines to remove the workers, while Argentina sent 100 Marines to protect them. That quickly erupted into a gun-battle on 3 April and the Argentineans overpowered the smaller British force. The die was cast and military movements set into motion that was unstoppable.
Did Argentina think that Great Britain would not defend the islands? There are often misunderstandings. Kim il Sung believed the United States had no interest in protecting South Korea in 1950 and Saddam Hussein believed the United States had no interest in Kuwait in 1990. Both dictators invaded their neighbors. According to the newsletter The Week, in an article entitled“How did the conflict start?” dated 21 March 2016:
The Port Stanley invasion caught Whitehall off-guard. Just six months earlier, British intelligence had concluded privately that Argentina would not invade the islands. In January 1982, Margaret Thatcher's government inadvertently sent out a signal that Britain had no wish to fight over the islands when it scrapped the only British warship in their vicinity, HMS Endurance. Argentine confidence was further boosted after the British Nationality Act denied UK citizenship to many islanders.
Britain protested in vain about the landing on South Georgia. On 26th March, British Intelligence reported that a number of Argentine military vessels were at sea. Hunt received a top secret telegram from the Foreign Office on 1 April:
We have apparently reliable evidence that an Argentine task force could be assembling off Stanley at dawn tomorrow. You will wish to make your dispositions accordingly.
Governor Hunt announced over the radio that an invasion was imminent. It occurred as expected early on 2 April. Port Stanley was defended by 40 Royal Marines and about the same number of naval personnel.
The first landings occurred about 0600. The Argentineans attacked along a number of fronts with both helicopter and light armored vehicles. The British could not defend against such overwhelming odds and surrendered at 0930. The Argentineans quickly reinforced their troops to about 10,000 and put a military governor in command. Argentina made several immediate changes to the culture of the Falkland Islands. Port Stanley was renamed Puerto Argentino. Spanish became the official language of the Falkland Islands and traffic was thereafter to drive on the right side of the road. The islanders continued to drive on the left, demonstrating their determination to remain British. The Argentineans hoped that the British would accept the occupation. It was not to be. Britain announced a 200 nautical mile maritime exclusion zone around the Falklands to take effect on 12 April. Any Argentine ship found in the area after that time was open game. After formally surrendering his troops, Hunt was flown to Montevideo, Uruguay later that same day.
In London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher prepared for war. President Reagan talked of neutrality and involved himself in the peace process but it was an open secret that the United States later armed and fueled the fleet of her old ally from WWI and WWII. Britain won the diplomatic war, and gained the support of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Commonwealth. Argentina failed to even win over the Organization of American States. The United Nations voted in favor of Britain with only Panama against, and Russia abstaining along with Poland, China and Spain. On 2 April, the Security Council passed Resolution 502 which said in part:
Deeply disturbed at reports of an invasion on 2 April 1982 by armed forces of Argentina,
Determining that there exists a breach of the peace in the region of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas),
1. Demands an immediate cessation of hostilities;
2. Demands an immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas);
3. Call on the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to seek a diplomatic solution to their differences and to respect fully the purposes and principals of the Charter of the United Nations.
Britain had wide support, and General Galtieri discovered that he has totally misjudged the United Kingdom's resolve and world opinion. President Reagan then publicly offered military aid and announced sanctions against Argentina.
We will not discuss the war in depth. Just reporting the "order of battle" for the forces would take several pages. This article is about the PSYOP used during the war. However, we should mention a few brief facts about the buildup and eventual result of the campaign to give the reader a feel for what was happening at the time.
The Argentines should have controlled the air. They had modern Super Etendard fighter-bombers armed with French Exocet missiles. They also had Skyhawk attack bombers, Daggers, Mirage fighters, Canberra light bombers, and more than 35 Argentine-designed and built Pucara close support aircraft. When the war started the Argentineans had about 200 aircraft and the British about 20-odd Harriers. As the war went on, the Argentines were decimated while the British were reinforced. Among the Argentine planes lost in combat were a Hercules C-130, a reconnaissance Lear Jet, 2 Canberra bombers, 13 Pucara fighters, 10 Skyhawk fighter-bombers, 11 Daggers, and 2 Mirage fighters.
The British established a naval task force under the code name "Operation Corporate." They set sail for the Falklands at flank speed with a modern fleet consisting of a carrier battle group, destroyers, frigates, troop carriers, tankers and submarines. They were at a disadvantage in the air, most of their aircraft being Sea Harriers, a jump jet that has certain advantages with a vertical takeoff capability but is certainly not in the class of a modern fighter aircraft. They were armed with American Sidewinder missiles and that evened the score somewhat. Just as Sam Colt made all men equal with his "peacemaker" revolver, modern long range missiles tend to make all aircraft equal. Despite the disadvantage, only six Navy Harriers were lost by accident or ground fire, and not one in air-to-air combat.
The Argentine and British aircraft were both armed with the same Sidewinder missiles. However, the Argentine version was an older heat-seeking type that was fired from the rear toward the jet exhaust of the enemy. The Harrier had the ability to jump in midair. When an Argentine fighter got behind one, the pilot could rotate his nozzles downward and go vertical at a decreased speed. The Argentine fighter would pass the British fighter and immediately become a target. The British also "cheated" by getting 100 of the more modern American AIM9L sidewinders from their NATO stocks which could be fired toward the front of an approaching enemy. Those stocks were European war supplies and "untouchable," but President Reagan replaced them.
The main advantage in the British favor was their well-trained Welsh and Scots Guards, Royal Marines, Special Air Service, and Gurkhas. They would attack lightly trained Argentine conscripts. It would be "no contest." One British Commando told me that some of the Argentine soldiers were so young that underneath their battledress they still wore school uniforms. The Argentineans were well dug in and according to military formula that should have given them about a three to one advantage. However, they were fighting a defensive battle while the British were moving quickly and aggressively. As the French found out along the Maginot line in WWII, speed and aggressiveness usually defeats a static defense.
In One Hundred Days, the Memories of the Falklands Battle Group Commander, Admiral Sandy Woodward, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1992, the author mentions that in 1973 he worked on a report about Britain's ability to protect the Falklands in case of an Argentine invasion. This is reminiscent of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf having studied the problem of defending Kuwait prior to the first Gulf War. The result:
It seemed to us that Her Majesty's government would be largely powerless to do anything whatsoever to stop them. We couldn't afford to station a large enough force in the islands themselves; nor could we get a reinforcement force out there in the time which would probably be available to us. Careful consideration inevitably pointed to the only conclusion: "impossible."
A second coincidence is that Woodward had captained the destroyer Sheffield in 1976. The ship had caused him many problems at the time, the computer weapons program crashing about every four minutes. The Sheffield would cause Woodward and the fleet more worry during the war when it was hit by an Argentine Exocet missile.
He mentions going to war with no intelligence data. Once again we are reminded of the fog of war. The American invasion of Grenada was carried out with some commanders using commercial automobile maps of the islands. Woodward says:
Our knowledge was in fact largely confined to that which was in the public domain. Janes Fighting Ships, the standard reference book on the fleets of the world, was our main source of information on the strength of Admiral Anaya's navy. Likewise, Jane's companion book on the world's aircraft was our primary guide to the strength of their air force.
On 2 May the British submarine Conqueror located the Argentine Cruiser General Belgrano just outside the exclusion zone and sunk her. The cruiser was previously the American "Phoenix" which had been at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The General Belgrano had a crew of approximately 1,042 of whom 368 lost their lives. Although the action is surrounded in controversy it did stop the Argentine Navy from taking further action during the remainder of the war. It never again ventured from the continental shelf where the water was too shallow for the British submarines to operate. There was some world outrage at the sinking, but the British explained that at any time the warship could have turned around and attacked the British fleet. The Argentine Navy fled the war zone and did not take to sea again during the next two months.
The Argentines struck back on 4 May when the destroyer "Sheffield" was hit by an air-launched Exocet missile and sunk. The Exocet was named after the Exocoetus flying fish which skims over the waves. The British warning code for an Exocet attack was "Handbrake." Once the incoming missile was positively identified as an Exocet the warning signal became "Ash Tray." The British tried to defend against the missiles by having Sea King helicopters fly at the flanks of the larger warships during Exocet alerts using their greater heat signature as "bait" to draw the missiles away from the ships.
On 21 May the British Commandos made a diversionary attack on Port San Carlos on the northern coast of East Falkland. From this beachhead the British infantry advanced southward to capture the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green before turning towards Port Stanley. The same day HMS Ardent was sunk by an Argentine air attack, but nine Argentine aircraft were shot down. On 23 May HMS Antelope was attacked and sunk but ten Argentine aircraft were destroyed. The British were bleeding at sea, the Argentineans in the air.
We are now going to see the name of Royal Marine Captain Roderick Bell quite often. Bell was the son of a United Nations official and was raised in Costa Rica. Spanish was his first language and he spoke it perfectly and believed that he understood the Latin temperament and could talk to the Argentineans in a friendly and honest manner. As one of the only Spanish speaking members of the task force, he became almost the sole proponent of British PSYOP. On D-Day, 21 May, when the British discovered an unexpected Argentine observation post on Fanning head, at the mouth of the seaborne entrance to San Carlo, Captain Bell was called forward with a loudspeaker. The Argentineans had air-lifted a 60-man platoon to Port San Carlos code-named "EC Hermes" Captain Bell suggested that EC stood for "Equipo Combate" or Combat Team, which would be no more than a company in strength. Combat Team Eagle made its headquarters at Port San Carlos and sent 20 men forward to Fanning Head to set up an OP overlooking San Carlos Water. This group of Argentineans became known to the British as "The Fanning Head Mob."
Bell called upon the Argentines to surrender. Four of the Argentines raised their hands but others opened fire on the Special Boat Squadron with a machine gun. Because some of the British troops were hit by the fleeing Argentineans, the British commanders temporarily lost faith in the value of the surrender appeal.
On 26 May the British 2nd Parachute Regiment (2 Para), consisting of about 450 men moved against Argentine troops occupying Goose Green. Intelligence indicated that the settlement was defended by one weakened battalion (Bn-). By 30 May, after bitter fighting Captain Bell chose two Argentine senior non-commissioned officer prisoners-of-war to take a surrender message written by Bell in Spanish to the enemy commander. The Argentines agreed to surrender and to the shock of the British, about 1,200 troops marched out of Goose Green and laid down their arms. Bell's use of PSYOP in a well-written letter helped to save the day and avert what could have been a disaster caused by faulty intelligence. The Battle for the Falklands, Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, Norton, London, 1983, says:
One of the many deficiencies revealed by the campaign was the lack of a PsyWar unit at the disposal of the Ministry of Defense. Even more astonishing, Bell - who had been co-opted as an interpreter from his usual job as adjutant of the Commando brigade's headquarters and signals squadron - was almost the only Spanish speaker available to the force.
By 31 May the British have surrounded Port Stanley. Battles continue all over the island with vicious hand-to-hand fighting reported.
War in the Falklands says that after surrounding the Argentine troops occupying Port Stanley, Captain Rod Bell and an SAS colonel (code-name "Reid") broadcast in Spanish starting 6 June appealing to them to surrender before more blood was shed:
They began with a simple humanitarian request to assist civilians and casualties, but later hinted at the Argentineans hopeless military situation. They had fought a noble war and could surrender with their dignity intact. Gradually they raised wider issues; Britain and Argentina needed to be friends and a small offshore island should not be allowed to undermine that... On 14 June; he made a final sonorous appeal. "The position of the Argentine forces is now hopeless. You are surrounded by British forces on all sides. If you fail to respond to this message and there is unnecessary bloodshed in Port Stanley, the world will judge you accordingly."
By 14 June the large Argentine garrison in Port Stanley is defeated, and the war is all but over. The Argentine commander agrees to cease fire and 9,800 Argentine troops throw down their weapons.
British Major General Jeremy Moore flew in to Port Stanley at 2300 on 14 June, 1982 to meet with General Menendez. General Menendez is allowed to strike "unconditional" from the surrender document since he had been promised by the British PSYOP broadcasts that the surrender would be with "dignity and honor". General Moore does not allow him to insert the Argentine propaganda term Islas Malvinas after "Falklands." By 2359 the document was formally signed and the war was officially over.
Both sides were plagued by tactical errors. The British had sailed off to war without careful preparation, and some units were stationed on different naval crafts, had left sections behind, or were without their supplies. They also learned to their horror that although aluminum ships do not burn, they do melt. Some British sailors called them "floating flares."
The Argentines had worse problems. Navy Commander Admiral Jorge Anaya was the most warlike of the three-man junta and yet when the bullets started flying he pulled his ships back and never ventured into the war zone again. The British had spread disinformation that their hunter-killer subs were deployed in number in the exclusion zone and the Argentineans apparently believed the reports.
The Army had 10,000 men who could have fought the British on the beaches and perhaps pushed them back into the sea. Instead, the majority of them stayed huddled near Port Stanley.
Air Force Commander and junta member Brigadier General Lami Dozo was the least enthusiastic proponent of the Falklands war, but his pilots probably did the best job of all the Argentine services. However, many of the attacks were made in dribs and drabs, and if they had made one major assault using all their aircraft they might have broken through the picket line and attacked the British carriers Invincible and Hermes. That could have effectively ended the war. Admiral Woodward was in dread of such a mass attack all through the war, and even after the surrender of the Argentine troops. He could never be sure that the generals would not send one last wave of fighter-bombers to try and destroy the British fleet. The Falklands garrison surrendered, not the nation of Argentina. Since the war was undeclared, there really was no way for them to surrender.
The war lasted 72 days and claimed the lives of 236 British and 655 Argentine troops. The war cost of at least 2 billion dollars. It helped revive and reelect Margaret Thatcher. In 1990 she would supply the backbone to George Bush and urge him to take military action when Iraq invades Kuwait. At the same time, the ignominious defeat severely discredited the military government and forced the resignation of Leopoldo Galtieri, paving the way for the restoration of democracy in Argentina.
FALKLAND ISLANDS WAR PSYOP
There is some debate about how much PSYOP was disseminated during the Falkland Islands War. It is agreed that both sides used radio to a great extent, but there is some question about the use of aerial propaganda leaflets. In the book Weapons of the Falklands Conflict, by Bryant Perrett, Blanford Press, Poole, Dorset, UK, the author mentions the radio war. He points out that the junta controlled the radio and television networks as well as the popular press and could broadcast whatever it liked. It had immediate access to visual material flown in from the Falklands so that the first pictures the world saw of the conflict were invariably Argentine, and these were accompanied by a suitable propaganda commentary.
An unnamed author says in an untitled British Joint Services Command and Staff College abstract:
He mentions the sinking of the Cruiser General Belgrano and how the Junta's stations claimed that the ship had been needlessly and inhumanly sent to the bottom with great loss of life; what was more, the British had broken their own rules by carrying out the sinking well beyond the limits of the total exclusion zone. He says that the return of the cruiser's shocked but game survivors was carefully orchestrated for the media. International opinion suddenly became more sympathetic to the Argentine case, while even in Britain there was a pause for thought. He then points out where the Argentineans went wrong:
Having made a good beginning, the propaganda machine then departed from the established ground rules of the game. In this it was doubtless doing its masters' bidding, for the junta's popularity soared with every success; therefore, the junta reasoned, its people should have a diet of success, while the enemy should be vilified. The Task Force was described as a pirate fleet, while Margaret Thatcher was portrayed as a Viking, a vampire and a Nazi Storm Trooper. There were endless stories of Harriers being sent tumbling in dogfights, of ships sunk, of Hermes and Invincible being damaged again and again, of soldiers dramatically repelling raids. Even failure was exploited to the full. After South Georgia had been recaptured by the British it was announced that Argentine Special Forces had retired into the island's interior, from whence they would continue to fight - and this, in one of the cruelest environments on Earth. When the British landed at San Carlos they were said to be surrounded and on the verge of a second Dunkirk. Sometimes, the propaganda machine simply placed the most favorable interpretation on the facts, but most of its output was the purest fabrication. Until the very last moments the Argentine public sincerely believed that they would win the battle.
One of the odder aspects of Argentine propaganda was the story spread among troops on the Falklands that the British would butcher their prisoners; not only that, the Gurkhas would eat them! There seems to have been a genuine horror of the Gurkhas and the junta is said to have asked the government of Nepal to have them withdrawn.
As the Nazis found out in WWII, overestimating your victories and deriding the enemy's strength can be quite dangerous. When the truth comes out, and it always does, the public is furious at being lied to and duped. It can easily rise up against the government in power. It is also dangerous to build up the ferocity of the enemy in your propaganda. In such a case as the Gurkha descriptions above, just the sight of the "cannibalistic' mercenaries was probably enough to have the Argentine conscript throw down his arms and surrender. If there is one rule to good PSYOP, it is that you always tell the truth.
One Argentine broadcast to the approaching British fleet in May 1982 can be found on the Internet:
Would you like to be reminded of your hometown?
[Sound of bells]
Yes, it's good old Big Ben. It's been a long time since you listened to it.
There was never an organized British propaganda campaign. In fact, the Ministry of Defense made no provision for journalists of any kind to accompany the Task Force. Prime Minister Thatcher intervened and some reporters were "embedded" with the military units. As the American military discovered during Operation Iraqi Freedom, embedded reporters tend to identify completely with the troops they live and share danger with and as a result the stories from the front were very patriotic and pro-Government.
In The Official History of the Falklands Campaign - Volume II: War and Diplomacy, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Routledge, London and New York, 2005, the author mentions British prospective 'black' and deception operations. He describes a Special Projects Group (SPG) charged with developing plans for deception and psychological operations. It would point out that British weaponry and technology was invincible while demoralizing the Argentines by pointing out their weaknesses. It would attempt to exacerbate Argentine inter-service rivalries, discredit the Junta and its members and point out economic problems in Argentina. It would imply that Argentine facilities on the mainland would be attacked by air and that the carrier group had an amphibious warfare capability that could land an invasion force on Argentina proper. The SPG proposed a rumor that Britain might resort to mining Argentine mainland waters. This mining, if actually done, would affect the Argentine economy as well as the movement of its military forces.
The British might have taken part in at least one rumor [they call them "sibs"] operation. There was a mysterious report of a British helicopter going down in Chile and stories that it was on its way to or from a secret British fighter squadron that had been allowed to prepare an attack base on Chilean soil. If the Argentineans believed the rumor they would be forced to keep some defensive aircraft to protect the nation from an air attack from the west, leaving less to fight the British in the southeast. It was reported at the time that:
One of the strangest incidents of the war took place involving Chile. About 17 May the Chilean authorities found a burnt out Sea King helicopter near the southern town of Punta Arenas. The crews of three gave themselves up and were returned to the UK to later receive gallantry awards for a number of hazardous missions. Presumably, and as announced by the Ministry of Defense, these include losing their way, ending up 500 miles from the Task Force and destroying their helicopter.
The British quietly gave Chile a number of electronic reconnaissance, fighter and bomber aircraft. In return, the Chilean Army created increased radio traffic along the border to hold the elite Argentine ground forces in place, and the Chilean Navy put to sea under radio silence, a fact sure to make the Argentine Navy very nervous. The British also considered using Chile as a base for commando operations into Argentina and actually planned an Operation Mikado where two C-130 Hercules aircraft would crash land at the Rio Grand Air Base and a SAS squadron would destroy the Super Entendards based there, all the Exocet missiles, and kill all the Argentine pilots.
British Intelligence also got involved in a number of very complicated black operations to insure that Argentina could not rearm itself with additional Exocet missiles. They set up various dummy deals with bankers, front-corporations and arms dealers so that if Argentina tried to buy the weapons, the money might conveniently disappear or the missiles get lost in transit. These operations seem to have been successful.
The Argentineans were also active. They sent a 3-man team of Marines to Gibraltar to blow up ships of the British fleet. The team of divers was captured by Spanish police (tipped off by British Intelligence) on 17 May 1982 as they were about to attack the tanker British Tamar.
The Argentineans were also able to create and use a secret land-based Exocet launch site to attack British ships shelling forces near Stanley. The system was placed on a heavy-duty truck body and powered by a WWII German generator originally designed for searchlights.
Readers who want to know more about these various plots are advised to read The Secret War for the Falklands, Nigel West, Little, Brown and Company, UK, 1997.
The British newspapers and some service members who took part tell of dropping leaflets on the Falkland Islands. There are conflicting reports with other authors and military sites stating that leaflets were not dropped. It seems clear that if there were leaflet missions, that information never reached higher headquarters.
Ian J. Strange wrote of his experiences during the war in The Falkland Islands - Third Edition, David and Charles, London, 1983. He says:
3 June. Propaganda leaflet raid of Port Stanley.
On 3 June our diary made special mention that at about 6 a.m. a low-flying aircraft had been heard passing over the back of the town under cover of poor visibility. Later we connected this with the information that propaganda leaflets were being dropped over the Argentine positions. These leaflets, in the form of safe-conduct passes, offered the chance for individual troops to surrender. This was one of the mysteries of the conflict, for we never saw one of these leaflets, and have yet to hear from anyone who did. We wonder if they were dropped in some remote region where they still may be found, or whether instead of dispersing they might have landed in bulk and been quickly destroyed.
Although the British have never confirmed the actual number, we believe that at least four PSYOP leaflets were dropped on the Falklands and have been illustrated in publications. They are entitled "Safe Conduct Pass," "Surrender at South Georgia," "Islands of the Condemned," and "South Atlantic Radio."
We understand that all the leaflets were prepared and printed in England and then flown to the Task Force flagship for distribution. Quantities printed, actual dates of dissemination and localities involved as well as which leaflets were dropped are not yet known.
At the time of publication, the Psywar Society researchers had seen four different leaflets. By the winter 1982 issue the Falling Leaf states that there are five such leaflets, but the fifth one is not named. Apparently the five leaflets were exhibited at the British Aerophilatelic Federation's National Airmail Exhibition held at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, and depicted on a BBC television broadcast entitled "The Best of Collecting Now."
The 15th (UK) Psychological Operations Group says on it website:
A limited British PSYOPS campaign was developed during the brief Argentine occupation and subsequent liberation of the Falkland Islands. A radio station was set up on the Ascension Island, known as "Radio Atlantico del Sur" and broadcast to Argentine troops and included music, news and sport. Printed literature including Safe Conduct Passes, were developed but never deployed due to the UK's inability to air-drop leaflets at this time.
The Official History of the Falklands Campaign agrees. It says about leaflets in part:
Another high priority item was the preparation of leaflets for distribution over the Falklands. During the first phase, when there was still uncertainty about the future course of the campaign, three items were produced: a safe conduct pass, a message of inevitable defeat, which took the form of a message from Woodward to General Menendez, and a reassuring letter to the civilian population from the Governor. Later on extra items were produced, announcing the recapture of South Georgia and the opening of Radio Atlantico del Sur. Although 12,000 copies of each leaflet were produced and reached Hermes in time for the landing, unlike the leaflet rounds that could be fired from the big guns of the world wars, a similar capability did not exist for modern field guns so they were never actually distributed.
A British government draft interim assessment for the radio station dating from about 12 May 1982 said in part:
The overall objective of the project for the purpose of this paper is assumed to be purely military. It is defined as: 'Maximizing the use of radio to persuade Argentinian troops (particularly conscripted troops) currently occupying the Falkland Islands to surrender with minimum resistance at the time when British troops land to re-occupy the islands.'
Several approaches have been rejected as counter-productive: Attempting to diminish or demean Argentinians loyalty to their flag; Trying to convince them that their government is not justified in claiming sovereignty of the Falkland Islands; Attempting to create dissension between officers and other ranks; Excessive reference to hardship caused by inadequate clothing or shelter.
Three particular areas may be selected for positive treatment: The long-standing friendship on a person level between British and Argentinian peoples; The lack of training of Argentinian conscripts by comparison with British troops; The physical isolation of the troops on the Falkland Islands, with particular reference to their friends and families.
CONCLUSIONS: The station must first build up credibility and “audience loyalty.” The advantages of radio’s immediacy will be wasted if either the programming is not ‘live’ or the necessary immediate material cannot be delivered to it. Broadcasts could at least persuade the Argentine conscripts to hesitate for even a fraction of a second before firing on British troops. At best they could, by keeping the hopelessness of their position in the minds of the garrison, persuade an earlier surrender than would otherwise be achieved.
Bryant Perett says in Weapons of the Falklands Conflict:
A further attempt to undermine the garrison's morale was the printing of leaflets in Spanish urging soldiers to surrender in their own interests and incorporating a safe conduct pass. There is some doubt that they were ever used, for the means of distribution did not exist. The best method of delivery is by means of a shell which bursts above the enemy positions, scattering the leaflets, but this type of ammunition was not available; nor could Harriers be used as a substitute and nor was it worth risking valuable helicopters in the role.
Perett is wrong about the use of artillery for disseminating leaflets. It is not the best method. In fact, it is rather poor. Soldiers tend to keep their head down when being fired upon and are not likely to leave their fighting positions during an artillery attack. It is also difficult to pinpoint the enemy, and the blast of the shell often chars, crinkles and is some case burns the leaflet. Air dissemination is much preferable. More leaflets can be dropped over a much greater area. It is also true that any aircraft that can carry a bomb can carry leaflets, since they can be placed in cluster bomb shells, flare cases, or even specially designed containers.
There are arguments for the dropping of leaflets too. We have the word of a seaman and several British newspapers of the time.
Able Seaman Gunner Kevin Prout of the HMS Hermes said:
I was a Sea Cat director/aimer stationed near the flight deck. The flight crews would often give us the leaflets as souvenirs prior to them being loaded on the Harrier aircraft. I don't know how they dropped the leaflets at 500 mph but few probably survived considering the conditions ashore. Most of the leaflets were dropped in the early days after the fall of South Georgia. I remember seeing boxes of them but they were gone after a while so I assume that they were all disseminated. I kept a small cache of the souvenir leaflets in my emergency lifejacket bag until I got home.
Authors note: the Sea Cat was the first point-defense missile to enter naval service.
War in the Falklands mentions the British dropping leaflets on Port Stanley just prior to 11 June in an attempt to avoid further bloodshed:
For two days Harriers dropped warning leaflets on Stanley, spelling out the reality of the garrison's position.
The London Daily Mailof 4 June 1982 published a story entitled "Surrender or Suffer Warns Admiral." It said in part:
Thousands of leaflets urging Argentine troops to surrender were dropped on the besieged garrison of Port Stanley yesterday.
British Harriers flew low over the Argentine trenches scattering the documents - one a letter to the enemy's commander from Task Force chief Admiral Sandy Woodward and the other a direct appeal to each soldier to lay down his arms.
One of the leaflets includes a safe conduct to allow any Argentine who surrenders through British lines.
The leaflets were dropped in a last ditch attempt to prevent a bloodbath. But the Argentines must move quickly to take up the surrender offer.
The leaflet addressed to the soldiers carried a photograph of the Argentine commander of South Georgia, Lieutenant Commander Alfredo Astiz, signing the surrender document there.
The second leaflet gives the text of a letter sent to the Argentine commander in the Falklands, Brigadier Benjamin Menendez, by Admiral Woodward.
The Daily Star of 4 June had a similar article which said in part;
Harrier jump-jets yesterday plastered the Argentine troops in Port Stanley with thousands of leaflets, urging them to surrender. The leaflets showered down like confetti on the Argentinean positions.
The Falling Leaf adds:
In late May the British Broadcasting Corporation had announced that leaflets had been disseminated by planes of the Task Force over East Falkland. No additional information appeared in the press on the following day so it was believed that this information was not for public information at the time. A phone call to the Ministry of Defense seeking details brought a very evasive and non-committal reply: Yes, we may have dropped leaflets and No, we have no confirmation.
A second newspaper report said that another leaflet mission was carried out over Lafonia in the southern part of East Falkland, which resulted in the immediate surrender of 200 Argentinean soldiers.
The paperback The Falklands War by the Sunday Times adds:
For two days Harriers dropped warning leaflets on Stanley spelling out the reality of the garrison's position...
Robert Fox adds in Eyewitness Falklands:
Brigadier Thompson said that leaflets had been drawn up to be dropped over Port Stanley asking the Argentineans to give up honorably as their position was now hopeless...
In Don't Cry for Me, Sergeant Major, authors Robert McGowan and Jeremy Hands say:
BBC World Service reported that Harriers had been dropping leaflets on Port Stanley... Marines and Paras suggested what should have been written on the leaflets. "Dear Johnny Gaucho. You are done for. Be a good chap and chuck it in, then we can all go home."
There are so many arguments for and against the dropping of propaganda leaflets during the Falklands War that it would seem impossible to come to a consensus. However, there is at least one report of the leaflet being found on the islands, and this would appear to prove once and for all that some were dropped. Leading Seaman Diver Tony Groom of the Fleet Clearance Diving Team based in the Mine Warfare School in HMS Vernon, Portsmouth, was assigned the task of deactivating bombs, and during his official duties ran across one of the leaflets. He says:
I was serving in the Falklands during the conflict as part of a little known group, the Fleet Clearance Diving Team. Despite our title we did little diving, but a fair bit of bomb disposal. The day after the surrender we were tasked to render a house that was suspected of being booby trapped, safe. In this house I found the "ISLAS DE CONDENADOS," PSYOP leaflet, which I still have. I don't know if it has ever been proven that they were airdropped, but I can assure you this one was. It was found in a house that was still locked up tight due to the fear of booby traps. Besides the leaflet, we also found an Argentine officer's personal equipment.
(Tony has recently published a fascinating book, DIVER, about his life as a Royal Navy and commercial deep-sea diver covering his time searching for underwater mines and repairing bomb-damaged ships during the Falklands war and other adventures around the world. For more details see here.)
Since our original research some further correspondence has surfaced, although it does not really clarify the story. A 9 August 1982 letter from Government House, Port Stanley states in part:
The Civil Commissioner well remembers being involved in the preparation of the leaflets but, oddly enough, we haven't been able to find a single leaflet nor do any of those who were here throughout the occupation remember seeing any.
The Defense Secretariat Division 11 of the Ministry of Defense stated that three leaflets were carried with the Task Force and were available for dropping over the Islands and:
...no leaflets were in fact dropped on the Islands although serious consideration was given to their use and the Task Force Commander had them available. In the event the surrender by the Argentine forces was sufficiently quick for the dropping of leaflets to prove unnecessary.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office concludes in October 1982:
The Ministry of Defense is rather sensitive about these leaflets because after having been assured by CINCFLEET that they had indeed been dropped, they publicly announced the fact. They later discovered that none had in fact been dropped - the rapidity of the final phases of the campaign made them unnecessary. This in itself would not have bothered them, but in the context of widespread allegations of Ministry of Defense misinformation and generally unsatisfactory relations with the press they have become very touchy about it all.
Since some of the published articles indicate that leaflets 1 and 4 were dropped during the war we will depict them first. We will then show leaflet 2 which was found in a locked house on the Falklands by a Navy bomb disposal expert. Finally, we will depict leaflets 3 and 5 and remind the reader that it is possible that they were not disseminated. At least, no written evidence to support air-dropping has appeared yet.
The safe conduct pass that is reported above to have been dropped on 3 June is printed on blue paper. The leaflet is coded "1" on the front and depicts the Royal Crest of the United Kingdom at the top with the test "SAFE CONDUCT PASS" and the instructions in both English and Spanish within a frame. They are:
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE BRITISH FORCES
The soldier who bears this pass has signaled his desire to cease fighting. He is to be treated strictly in accordance with the Geneva Convention and is to be evacuated from the area of operations as soon as possible. He is to be given food and medical treatment if he requires it and then be held in a place of shelter to await repatriation.
J. F. Woodward
The back of the leaflet depicts a flag at the top and the following text:
Brigadier General Benjamin Menendez
Commander in Chief of the Argentine forces.
Undoubtedly you and the readers of this leaflet understand perfectly the serious military situation in which you and the military forces under your command find yourselves at this time. Surely it has not escaped your attention that the British forces under my command have established a dominant presence in the area and that there does not exist even the remotest possibility that your forces can receive aid or be rescued.
It has now reached the point where it has become necessary for you to consider the wisdom and the justification for continuing to resist these overwhelming forces. You must now make a decision about your well being, that of your troops, and the civil population.
Up until now your behavior has indicated clearly that the preservation of human life is of primary importance to you. I feel certain that this will continue to be a primary consideration for you.
I understand perfectly that before you send me your decision, or before communicating your decision to the forces under your command, you will want to very carefully evaluate your position. Nevertheless, and given the difficulties in internal communications in the islands, I am sending you a copy of the orders given to my forces, which you will find reproduced on the reverse side of this leaflet.
Rear Admiral John Forster Woodward, Royal Navy.
Commander in Chief of the British forces.
The leaflet ends with the following instructions:
If you wish to take advantage of the terms offered in this pass you should take the following action:
a. Lay down your weapon.
b. Hold this pass in a prominent position
c. Move forward to the nearest member of the British forces.
On 29 June 1982, the Daily Telegraph reported that the citizens of Port Stanley were looking to purchase souvenir leaflets asking for the garrison's surrender, but none had been found. The citizens claimed that they had heard a number of BBC reports of the leaflets being dropped over the town but had never seen any. The article continues:
One local said he had heard a report that the leaflets were dropped in containers that did not open. He understood Argentine officers simply collected the containers after each drop.
A ministry of defense or military spokesman was not available to comment yesterday in Port Stanley. There is the possibility that the leaflets were lost in the winds.
The leaflet depicts a photograph of the Argentine commander of South Georgia, Lieutenant Commander Alfredo Astiz, signing the surrender document in the wardroom of HMS Endurance. It is notable that not only did he surrender his army and navy troops, but also the crew of the Argentine submarine Santa Fe. The surrender was photographed and forwarded for world-wide media dissemination. The Ministry of Defence then placed it on this leaflet. This leaflet bears the code number "4." The back is all text, depicts the symbol of the H.M.S. Endurance at the top, and says:
Your brave companions at arms on the islands of South Georgia have recently returned to their fatherland. Photographs of them receiving a military welcome with honors and being reunited with their loved ones have appeared in all of the Argentine newspapers (the press).
The Argentine troops recently quartered on these islands surrendered the 24th of April. Within a short time period they were transferred by sea to the island of Ascencion and later sent by plane to Montevideo. They arrived in Buenos Aires the 14th of May.
The captain of the frigate, Alfredo Astiz, commander in charge of the forces in South Georgia, becoming aware that the British forces possessed superior armed power, surrendered honorably. This photo shows him signing the document of surrender.
The British and argentine people are two nations with a traditional bond of friendship encompassing more than 100 years. We do not want to spill any more blood, but we are determined to do so if there is no other alternative. More useless loss of life will only create more disconsolate mothers.
Your companions at arms in South Georgia made the right and honorable decision. You must now do the same. Think of the danger in which you find yourself. Your rations and military equipment are in short supply due to the British naval blockade. Matters will worsen. Think of your loved ones and your home where they await your happy return.
The Daily Express of 4 June 1982 depicted the safe conduct pass and Argentine Lieutenant Commander Alfredo Astiz signing the surrender document in an article entitled "Passport to Safety." Some of the article text is:
On the eve of battle in Port Stanley yesterday the British gave 7,000 Argentinian soldiers a chance to get out and go home. Leaflets showered over the beleaguered garrison by plane told them, "Think of the danger you are in..." The leaflets that floated down from a high-flying Harrier followed a long, two-way bombardment by Royal Navy ships and by artillery supporting the British forces now poised to attack the island capital...
A second leaflet, under the crests of the British ships Endurance and Plymouth, advises the Argentines to think of their "valiant companions in arms" recently on South Georgia who have now returned to their "fatherland."
In The Battle for the Falklands, Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, Norton, London, 1983, explains why the crew of the Santa Fe was captured. The sub was spotted on 25 April. Three British helicopters attacked it with depth charges, torpedoes and rockets. One missile went through the submarine's conning tower, forcing it to return to land and beach itself near Grytviken.
The capture of Captain Astiz caused some problems for the British. Hastings and Jenkins explain:
Captain Alfedo Astiz formally surrendered. He was an embarrassing prisoner of war, as he was wanted for questioning by several nations in connection with the disappearance of their citizens while in government custody on the Argentine mainland years earlier. Britain was eventually to return him to Buenos Aires, uninterrogated.
A leaflet not mentioned in the newspaper article is entitled "Island of the Condemned". The front depicts the Falkland Islands surrounded by barbed wire and warships, Harrier jets and helicopters. The image clearly shows that the Argentinean soldiers are trapped and there will be no relief. The leaflet is coded "2."
The back all text and reads:
SOLDIERS OF THE ARGENTINE FORCES:
You are completely alone. There is no hope of relief or help from your motherland. You are condemned to the sad fate of defending a remote island. Soon there will fall upon you all the rigors of a cruel and merciless winter and the Argentine Navy is in no any condition to supply you with the reinforcements or provisions that you so desperately need. Your families live with the terrible fear of never seeing you again. You well know that all of this is the honest truth.
WHAT ARE THE REASONS THAT YOU FIND YOURSELVES IN SUCH A CALAMITOUS SITUATION?
Those responsible are the egotists who have named themselves the leaders of Argentina without taking into consideration the wishes of the Argentine people, and who have sent you on a ridiculous adventure, knowing there is no hope of any kind for an end to it. Now, these same leaders look for a way to disguise their stupid incompetence.
SOLDIERS! YOU HAVE DONE ALL YOUR COUNTRY CAN ASK OF YOU!
ONLY THE GENERALS STILL ASK FOR MORE.
IT IS NOT FAIR THAT YOU SHOULD FORFEIT YOUR LIVES TO FULFILL THE AMBITIONS OF THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS CRAZY ADVENTURE THAT THE WHOLE WORLD SEES AS WRONG.
The leaflet coded 3 depicts a portrait of the Governor of the Falklands Islands, Mr. Rex Masterman Hunt (Order of St. Michael and St. George). It obviously is meant to raise the morale of the Falklands population and reminds them that the British are on the way and that the ordeal of the occupation will soon be over.
This idea of an exiled leader writing a letter to the occupied subjects is a tried and true method first used by the British in WWII. For instance, after the Germans occupied Norway and Holland, King Haakon VII and Queen Wilhelmenia fled to Britain from whence leaflet letters were prepared in their name and dropped over their nations by the Royal Air Force to lift the morale of their people. This letter by the island's governor is an example of the exact same technique. The text on the back is in English:
A Message from His Excellency the Governor Mr. Rex Hunt CMG
The British Task Force is now at hand and has cut the Argentine access to the islands. I am sorry that I cannot be with it in person but am confident that I shall rejoin you shortly.
Your terrible experience under the occupying force will soon be ended. I know that you will continue to be patient and resolute. Do nothing to antagonize the Argentines and stay under cover until the Task Force has liberated you.
My thoughts and feelings are with you all in this final hour of trial before the aggressors are defeated and your freedom is restored.
Best wishes and God bless you.
R. M. Hunt
Governor and Commander-in-Chief
The Falkland Islands and their Dependencies
The Front of this leaflet is all text:
SOUTH ATLANTIC RADIO
Notice to the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands
I have the great pleasure of announcing to you
a new radio station.
South Atlantic Radio will transmit news daily
from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on a frequency of 9.71 MHz.
This broadcast will operate like an additional station
to the LRA National Radio of the Falklands.
The back of the leaflet bears the code "5" and the text:
From 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.
R. A. S. (inside a lightning bolt)
9.71 MHz frequency.
Perrett says in Weapons of the Falklands Conflict:
During World War II one of the most successful British psywar devices had been a radio station beamed at German troops based in north-western France. Know as Soldatensender Calais, it was listened to because its news broadcasts were truthful, while those of Dr Goebbels' radio stations were not.
Having acquired its audience, Soldatensender Calais insidiously set about undermining the confidence of the troops in their leaders and even in their own weapons. Argentina having promptly jammed the BBC's World Service transmissions on the outbreak of hostilities, it was decided to set up a duplicate of Soldatensender Calais, on Ascension Island, beamed specifically at General Menendez' garrison on the Falklands and known as Radio South Atlantic.
The anti-Argentine Atlantico del Sur propaganda radio operation was not a great success. It first broadcast on 19 May 1982 at 2300 using the Ascension Islands relay Transmitter. The British Broadcasting Corporation issued this press release the same day:
The Ministry of Defense this morning contacted the BBC to make available one of the transmitters at the Atlantic relay station at Ascension Island... The BBC will accordingly make a transmitter available to the Ministry of Defense for its own broadcasting purpose.
This public statement effectively destroyed any chance the British had to claim that the station was a "black" radio operation broadcasting from Argentina or the Falkland Islands. Glenn Hauser recalls the station in the "DX Listening Digest," 30 September 2002. Some of his comments are:
The station was operated by Defense Ministry personnel. The station had a magazine format and fake record dedications. Music with a PSYOP theme such as "Chariots of Fire" was regularly heard. The station was subject to front page ridicule in the quality British press; they commented that the announcers were not native Spanish speakers, spoke in a Cambridge educated Chilean accent, the music chosen would not appeal to Argentinean forces and that the station was so obviously phony that it would have no effect. The estimated cost of the operation was 10 to 20 thousand pounds a week. Argentina did jam the station but the jamming was ineffective.
This is a bit different from comments made about radio Atlantico del Sur in the 4 August 2001 DX Listening Digest:
The two speakers, a male and female, were Foreign Office employees who had learned Spanish from a Colombian and thus spoke with pronounced Colombian accents, causing much mirth in downtown Buenos Aires, as they were claiming to be Argentinean! The program apparently had quite a big audience amongst Argentineans with a penchant for unintentional comedy. People at BBC World Service were incandescent with rage at this amateurish operation by civil servants, broadcast on a well-known BBC frequency.
Tim Tyler monitored and taped the radio broadcasts during the war and told me:
I monitored Radio Atlantico del Sur as a short wave radio listener and although there were complaints that the radio did not broadcast effective PSYOP, someone was actively jamming the broadcasts, or at least the broadcasts that I heard and recorded. Due to the way shortwave radio works, it is possible that the jammer did not block the broadcasts being heard on the Falkland Islands or Argentina, though if they had shortwave jamming equipment, I would assume they were smart enough to know the proper placement of the jammer to make it effective. I also remember the British Forces Broadcasting Service eventually set up service (also using BBC transmitters on Ascension Island, I believe) to provide news and entertainment to their troops deployed to the Southern Atlantic during the crisis, and I monitored them too. I also monitored the United States Air Force aircraft shuttling Secretary of State George Shultz between Buenos Aires, Washington DC and London as he tried to negotiate a truce.
The Official History of the Falklands Campaign states that the proposal to establish a radio station in the South Atlantic came from the SPG in late April. The operation was code-named MOONSHINE. The station would be aimed at soldiers and their families, with popular music and news of interest to the Falklands. It would broadcast for four hours each day. Radio Atlantico del Sur was tasked with persuading Argentine troops currently occupying the Falkland Islands to surrender with minimum resistance. It would refer to the long-standing friendship between the British and Argentine Peoples, the lack of training of the conscripts compared with British troops, the physical isolation of the Islands, the lack of medical facilities, the fear of British special forces, and disillusion with the Junta. It would not demean or diminish loyalty to Argentina, or argue against the sovereignty claim, or attempt to create dissension between officers and ranks. The project was approved on 18 May and the first broadcast was made late the next day. The project lasted until 15 June, by which time 47 broadcasts had been made, three hours each evening from 2300-0200 and an hour in the morning from 0830-0930.
Researcher Lee Richards found more data on the British Propaganda radio station and wrote on PsyWar.Org in November 2015:
Radio Atlantico del Sur was a Spanish language radio station operated by the UK Ministry of Defence as part of its psychological operations campaign cond#ucted for Operation Corporate – the recapture of the Falkland Islands following the Argentine invasion in April 1982. The radio station, known as ‘Project Moonshine’ within the Ministry of Defence, was operated by a specially created group called the Media Assessment Team (MAT). The station broadcast from studios in Mayfair, London, via a requisitioned BBC transmitter on Ascension Island. Its first broadcast was on the evening of 19 May 1982 and continued for 47 broadcasts until 15 June.
We should also note that at the same time the Argentineans had taken over the Falkland Islands radio broadcasting station, renamed it “Liberty,” and put TV News anchor Silvia Fernandez Barrio known as “Argentine Annie” on the air. This station operated from 2 April to 26 June 1982. The anti-British propaganda broadcasts actually originated on a military base Northwest of Buenos Aires near the Paraguayan border, although it claimed to be based on the Falkland Islands. Argentina established a “National Sovereignty Network” on 8 April to consolidate all Argentine broadcasting during the crisis. The short wave-facilities from Cable & Wireless on the Falklands were used to relay Radio Nacional Malvinas and to carry unscrambled radio telephone traffic to Argentina. Glenn Hauser adds in regard to Liberty:
The opening and closing announcements were broadcast over a lush orchestral version of "Yesterday." The announcer said, "I am Liberty and I am speaking to you from the heart of our Malvinas, Georgias and South Sandwich Islands. I am a voice, a spirit, a country. I am now as ever a woman who is proud that the world listens when Argentina speaks."
I have listened to some of the Argentine programs and the female Silvia Fernandez Barrios who later worked on the channel 2 of Buenos Aires has a very sexy voice. Some of her radio comments after a rousing Hollywood orchestral version of the entrance of the chariots into the Roman Colosseum from Ben Hur were:
That was a good war tune, but it belongs of course to Roman Empire days. And empires today are not what they were, are they Mrs. Thatcher?
To my dear Susan, your boyfriend is on the Exeter. I am Liberty and I know that he is so far all right. Anxious of course and a little disappointed at all this useless waiting onboard. Our boys [The occupying Argentine Army] are waiting comfortably. Of course, they are on their native land on firm ground; well fed. They aren’t the 600,000 head of sheep that are here on our Malvinas Island, or the property of the Falkland Island Company. I can assure you that since all of this started on the 2nd of April, we have not taken a single piece of land, not even during Easter. And if you don’t believe me, ask Ted in your next letter, and that is if he gets any letters of course.
Although the Argentineans were never able to drop propaganda leaflets on the British during the short conflict, there were some cases where patriotic groups prepared pro-war leaflets for the Argentine public. They were meant to unite the people to defend the islands that they so recently occupied. They are internal consolidation and morale-building leaflets
At least two leaflets were prepared by the Group for the Defense of the Malvinas. Both are printed in the sky-blue color of the Argentine flag on cream-colored paper. In both cases an Argentine postage stamp overprinted "The Malvinas are Argentina" has been placed on the leaflet and cancelled in Buenos Aires with the first day of cancellation date, 22 April 1982.
The first leaflet depicts the islands and a text in regard to the British fleet:
The attack is against the Argentine people. To organize resistance is our duty.
They gave their lives for the Malvinas Islands.
Captain PEDRO GIACHINO
Corporal PATRICIO HUANACS
Soldier MANUEL ALMONACID
Soldier JORGE AGUILA
The second leaflet depicts the Islands and the text:
We don't want to win more. We want to defend what is ours. We trust our armed forces.
At first glance this second message doesn't seem to make sense, but I believe that what they are saying is:
We do not have aggressive aims on any further lands, and we just want to defend our islands.
The above 1982 leaflet shows American President Ronald Reagan wrapped in a Union Jack and squatting on a toilet marked "TIAR." The letters stand for Tratado Interamericano de Asistencia Recmproca, "the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance." This treaty's central principle is that an attack against one is to be considered an attack against them all; sometimes called the "hemispheric defense" doctrine. Argentina believed that the United States abrogated the treaty when it fueled and armed the British navy.
This Argentine patriotic leaflet depicts Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher conspiring. Reagan is in his cowboy outfit and Thatcher is handing him a handful of money. In return, Reagan tells Thatcher Argentine military secrets and intelligence gathered by an American spy satellite depicted overhead to help her win her war. Reagan whispers in her ear:
...And Argentina has...Pss, pss, pss.
There might be a certain degree of truth to this leaflet. A British veteran of the war told me that on reconnaissance patrols he has satellite photos of the Falklands that had been cropped in such a way that their origin could not be ascertained. He called it an obvious case of deniability.
Another interesting Argentine leaflet depicts a Royal Navy ship sailing toward the Falkland Islands with four troops at attention.
The text is:
To the Falklands
When turned upside down, the leaflet depicts the same ship, now covered with bullet holes and patches and with the figure of death and four coffins. The text is:
On return to the Falklands
Another interesting Argentine propaganda leaflet depicts President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State General Alexander Haig, on top of a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes.
The text is a parody on Chesterfield's claim of being the best selling cigarette:
The Best Selling American
The propaganda message in this leaflet is very clever. The use of "vendido" can imply a corrupt person who could be bought and easily bribed to break a commitment. It has the feeling of "The most easily bought American." A clear reference to Haig siding with Britain rather than Argentina.
Another Argentine leaflet that seems less inspired simply shows a caricature of Uncle Sam with the British Union Jack where the eyes should be. There is no text but the implication is that the United States provided its eyes to the British by the use of its satellite data during the military operations. Ten tears after the war someone added a commemorative postage stamp in memorial of the Cruiser Belgrano.
At the same time, it is a reference to a very famous late 1960's song by the Argentine singer Piero, entitled Los Americanos. This sarcastic song ridicules all the foibles of the offensive Americans who live in South America and dress too garishly, talk too loud, treat their own minorities poorly, and generally look down on the local populace. I was informed that Argentines would easily make the connection between the text and the song.
This strange Argentine flyer depicts an Argentine officer spanking a British Royal Marine while two others already spanked slink away with tears falling from their eyes. The vignette does not quite match the text since the message states that three Marines are being returned to Britain to face punishment. The text is:
The Undisciplined are sent Home! According to a report on page 9 of the Argentine newspaper Clarin, 7 May 1982 - three British Marines were sent home to face disciplinary punishment.
BRITISH PATRIOTIC PROPAGANA LABELS
In time of war the use of patriotic labels for PSYOP is a common sight. In fact, they are probably one of the most numerous forms of propaganda, produced by both the government and private entrepreneurs and citizens.
Pro-British patriotic labels were prepared to be placed on mail, windows, walls or wherever people gathered. They contain such patriotic statements as "We support the Falkland Islanders," "Keep the Falkland Islands British," and "Protect the Falkland Islands from Argentine claims." The Argentines also produced such labels. Ian J. Strange mentions in The Falkland Islands:
Shortly after the invasion I was surprised to see small blue and white stickers resembling the Argentine flag displayed on certain house windows. Each emblem bore the words: "Usted tiene derecho a vivir en libertad," the translation being "You have the right to live in freedom," which seemed rather ironic. Why these stickers had been given to some households and not to others remains a mystery... they might well have been part of some propaganda campaign for the benefit of the media.
In conclusion, I want to recognize the remarkable bravery of the British Navy and the Argentine Air Force. During WWII the U.S. Navy suffered its worse casualties while serving picket duty off the island of Okinawa. 49,000 men were killed or wounded. The British ships that served as pickets or supported the ground troops in the Falklands were close to land and unable to maneuver as they were designed to do on the high seas. Their radar was faulty due to the nearby mountains, their weapons systems "iffy," and yet they stood their ground. Two destroyers, two frigates, a large container ship, and a landing ship were sunk. Numerous other ships were badly damaged. In addition, the Navy lost twenty-four helicopters and ten Harrier jets. In fact, the ground forces lost all their Chinook helicopters (except for one that was airborne) when the Atlantic Conveyer (A converted ocean-going container ship) was hit by an Exocet missile and sunk. This led to the ground troops walking to war rather than making air assaults by helicopter.
At the same time, the Argentine Air Force attacked day after day and took terrible losses. Their pilots flew at wave top altitude to avoid British radar, then followed the lay of the land through hills and valleys while being fired at by British ground troops. They then attacked the British ships and the naval vessels responded with anti-aircraft guns and missiles. Finally, they had to return to their country through a swarm of Harriers firing sidewinder missiles. And yet, they came, day after day.
British Major Andrew M. Pullan mentions the military cost of the war in his Master of Military Arts and Science thesis, The British Infantry in the Falklands Conflict:
By the end of Operation Corporate the Royal Navy had only sufficient ammunition for two more nights of bombardment with the next re-supply three or so weeks away.
British casualties for the campaign were: 255 killed (217 from enemy fire, 10 from friendly fire, and 28 in aircraft crashes) and 777 wounded. Equipment losses were: 7 ships sunk (4 of which were warships), 10 warships damaged, and 3 RFA ships damaged; 10 Harriers, and 24 helicopters were destroyed. Eight of the 34 aircraft lost were to enemy fire, 13 were lost in accidents, and 13 lost when their parent ship sank. Of the killed, 148 were from the Army and Royal Marines and of these 66 were killed in set piece battles.
Argentinean losses were 746 killed (393 Navy, 55 Air Force, and 298 Army and Marines), 1,105 wounded, and 12,978 taken prisoner. Argentinean equipment losses were staggering. One cruiser, 1 submarine, 1 intelligence trawler, 2 patrol craft, and 3 transport ships were sunk. Numerous other ships were damaged; 3 small ships were captured following the surrender. Seventy-five fixed wing aircraft and 25 helicopters were destroyed or captured, 44 while flying in action. The Argentinean Army lost the equivalent of 3 Brigades worth of vehicles, weapons and stores.
The 25th Anniversary of the Falklands War
Twenty-five years after the end of the Falklands War on 14 June 2007 the islands were in the news again. Queen Elizabeth II and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined veterans and widows of the fallen at a chapel west of London to mark the date when British forces accepted the surrender of the Argentine army, ending a 74-day occupation. In London, the 20,000-ton aircraft carrier Ark Royal sailed up the Thames to Greenwich to mark the anniversary. During the service, a stone, one of 255 brought over from the Falklands by HMS Chatham last year, was blessed and placed on a memorial cairn by the Queen. As British Harrier jets flew over the Falklands Islands Memorial Chapel at Pangbourne College, Berkshire.
In a message to the 3,100 residents of the islands, Queen Elizabeth said:
British forces made a stand for democracy and freedom... Since then, you have shown that their sacrifice was not in vain by your continued loyalty and determination to safeguard and develop your way of life in these islands. This week offers you an opportunity to look back with pride on your achievements and to look forward to a prosperous future, living in freedom and governed by those whom you have chosen.
The whole nation rejoiced at the success; and we should still rejoice. Aggression was defeated and reversed. The wishes of local people were upheld as paramount. Britain's honor and interests prevailed.
No celebration of the end of the war was held in Argentina. President Nestor Kirchner criticized the British victory and said:
It was a colonial victory, really unacceptable in the eyes of the world... I would like to say to Senora Thatcher that she may have won the battle because she belongs to a major power, but she never defeated us through the force of reason or justice... The islands are Argentine and by way of peace will again be Argentina's.
So, over 160 years after the British seized the Falkland Islands, and 25 years after the end of the war, the two sides are yet to agree.
In early 2017, the CIA placed 12 million of its formerly classified records on the Internet. One involved the Falkland Islands and was quite a surprise:
The memo, Solution to the Falkland Islands crisis, was written by Chairman of the National Intelligence Council Henry Rowen. It almost reminds me of WWII when Chamberlain and the British decided to give Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler to keep the peace. It says in part:
For a period of three years the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands will be given a chance to consider whether they wish to remain on the Falkland Islands or whether they wish to relocate to an area of British jurisdiction, either in the UK or elsewhere under British sovereignty, with a relocation grant of $100,000 per person. It is likely that many residents will find this sufficient inducement to relocate to some other area, perhaps in Scotland or elsewhere where conditions may be similar to the Falkland Islands. Any residents who do not wish to relocate will be free to remain and become Argentinian citizens at the end of three years. The cost of the relocation grants to be paid to any residents of the Falkland Islands wishing to relocate elsewhere will be borne fifty/fifty by the Argentinian and British governments. After three years the Islands will become Argentinian.
The front of the banknote features the Falklands and the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands superimposed over the southern tip of both South America and Argentina. An albatross, native to the region, is located on the bottom of the center.
In what is seen as a form of numismatic propaganda, Alejandro Vanoli, president of the Central Bank of Argentina announced a redesign of their 50 peso note to include the Falkland Islands. The design of the note was unveiled last year by President Cristina Kirchner, on the 32nd anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the British archipelago, which in Argentina is termed the Malvinas. Mr. Vanoli gave the bank's reasons for the redesign:
The idea is to remind people of the undying claim of the people of Argentina over the Malvinas Islands through the everyday use of money. The new banknote bears the slogan "Malvinas Islands, a sovereign love."
The back of the banknote features Argentine folk hero Antonio Rivero atop a horse and holding the national flag. In 1833, he was the leader of a small revolt on the Isla Malvinas that led to the deaths of five prominent British settlers. On the bottom of the note is a portrayal of the General Belgrano, an Argentine naval vessel sunk by a British nuclear submarine in 1982.
The banknote was mocked by the British residents of the islands. One said: "I am surprised they can afford a color printer," referring to the struggling Argentine economy.
Many Argentinians felt the Government should have issued a 500-peso note instead. Argentina has one of the highest inflation rates in the world, estimated by independent experts to stand at over 35% in 2014, double the official figure.
I am sure that there is much more to learn about the PSYOP of the Falkland Islands War. The author invites comments on this article, or additions and corrections from people who took part in the campaign. Please write him here.