On the 2nd April 1982, the Falklands War began when Argentina launched an amphibious invasion of the Falkland Islands. The Argentine occupation ended 74 days later on the 14th June following a bitter conflict that killed over 900 people.
The Falkland Islands have long been the subject of a sovereignty dispute between Britain and Argentina. Argentina’s military government, led by General Galtieri, sought to use the country’s claim to the islands to boost patriotic feelings at home and draw attention away from criticisms of economic mismanagement and human rights abuses.
Despite increased tensions in the South Pacific following the raising of the Argentinian flag on the island of South Georgia two weeks earlier, Britain did not expect a military invasion of the Falkland Islands. The small garrison of British Marines were overwhelmed by the Argentine invasion on the 2nd April and the islands’ governor Rex Hunt surrendered. As the last Telex conversation from the Falklands to London stated at 4.30pm that day, “You can’t argue with thousands of troops plus enormous navy support when you are only 1800 strong.”
The next day the United Nations passed Resolution 502 which condemned the invasion and demanded an immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces. However, on the 5th April the British Government, led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, ordered a naval task force that numbered more than 100 ships to retake the islands.
Bitter fighting eventually led to the Argentinian surrender, an outcome that further undermined the military government. Argentina’s 1983 general election returned the country to civilian rule, while in Britain Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party secured a landslide election victory.