It started as a media joke--but when Britain sent a task force to reclaim the craggy, forbidding Falkland Islands from the...



It started as a media joke--but when Britain sent a task force to reclaim the craggy, forbidding Falkland Islands from the occupying Argentines, the joking stopped. By the time the fighting was over, some 1,000 men had been killed and the Falklands formed a new chapter in British military history. The Sunday Times Insight Team has jumped in with the first recounting, and it is strong on those parts of the story accessible to journalists--mainly the fighting, and occasionally the diplomatic maneuvers. The territorial dispute came to a head when the British Foreign Office kept playing for time while trying to convince the Falklanders to accept some form of Argentine sovereignty (possibly a ""lease-back"" arrangement, as in Hong Kong). Meanwhile recapture of the islands became important for the struggling military dictatorship in Buenos Aires, which anticipated that friendly new relations with the US would ensure diplomatic success following military action. The Insight Team credits Alexander Haig, then Secretary of State, and British Ambassador to Washington Nicholas Henderson for the fact that the Argentines were mistaken, along with some Argentine blunders. While Henderson and his staff deftly handled their propaganda onslaught, Argentine Foreign Minister Costa Mendez was insulting his Latin American colleagues in the OAS--by lecturing them on their duty to support Argentina's anticolonial actions. And, to his dismay, Argentine President Galtieri was publicly promising not to give back any territory, thus cutting off all chance of diplomacy. Beyond this, however, the Insight Team has no insights into Argentine actions or planning comparable to what they know about the British. The efficient-looking British recapture of South Georgia is shown to have been nearly a catastrophe, with two helicopters lost in a bungled attempt to land assault forces in bad weather; when the Argentine garrison quickly surrendered (following air attacks on a submarine), the British were taken by surprise--their land forces had only just made it onto the island. As for the battle for the Falklands proper, the authors reveal that the British navy did not fear the Exocet missiles because they'd been assured by the French that a team supposed to fit the missiles to their launchers had never been sent to Argentina; but the French team was already in Argentina, and presumably forgotten, was not recalled. The sinking of the destroyer Sheffield was the first shock the British forces received. The descriptions of battle are graphic and detailed, but one-sided--since there was no Argentine reporting from the front. (The authors are not happy with British censorship either, but it pales by comparison.) Not the full story, then, but good front.lines journalism with at least a nod toward historical background and ongoing diplomacy.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982