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Surprise attack catches Great Britain off-guard. 

Heavy casualties on both sides. Islands now under Argentine control.

December 10, 2009

Map of FalklandsPORT STANLEY (ENN) -- Shortly after dawn on Dec. 2, five squadrons of Argentine A-4 fighters suddenly appeared out of the dark, western skies and attacked the British base facilities at Port Stanley and Mt. Pleasant airport, creating chaos and pandemonium throughout the British garrison. The air strikes were followed by a naval bombardment of Port Stanley by an Argentine destroyer-frigate squadron a short time later.  

Both attacks turned out to be a prelude to the main assault force -- a brigade of 1500 or more Argentine marines approaching Port Stanley from the south aboard a flotilla of amphibious landing craft, which had no doubt been launched from a group of larger motherships from just over the horizon a few hours earlier.  

Within an hour of the initial attack, the two companies of Royal Marines that made up the British garrison in Port Stanley found itself under attack by the better part of two battalions of Argentine troops, which steadily began to spread out and encircle the defenders.  

Meanwhile, another Argentine Marine battalion attacked a company of Royal Marines stationed at the airfield.  After only 3 hours of fighting the airfield fell into Argentine hands, which ended any threat posed by British fighters.  

Argentine photo showing British troops surrendering near Port Stanley

Argentine photo showing British troops surrendering near Port Stanley 

The fighting in Port Stanley went on much longer as Marines from the British 31st Commando Brigade performed a number of heroic deeds to maintain control of the port for as long as possible.  By late afternoon, however, casualties began to mount in the face of enfilading fire from three sides and fire support from the Argentine naval squadron.  By dusk, the original garrison of 600 Royal Marines had been reduced to a mere 120, most of whom were now out of ammunition.  After nearly 12 hours of combat, the British commander finally yielded and surrendered to the Argentines. 


London Acts

Response in London was a mixture of both shock and outrage.  The Prime Minister bitterly condemned Argentina, and within hours Parliament passed a declaration of war.  

The Ark Royal carrier group, currently on station off the Angolan coast has been ordered to proceed west to the Falklands, though it must first stop in the Ascension Islands where it will rendezvous with several other warships and a fleet oiler to permit the extended voyage.  That fleet would be capable of arriving in the war zone around December 19.  Britain's other carrier, the Princess Diana, was reportedly undergoing major refitting and reconstruction following her recent series of sea trials and would not be ready for combat for several more weeks. 


Argentine Force Superiority

While the forces that Argentina committed were not exactly overwhelming (The Argentine 3:1 ratio over the British defenders is considered the minimum for victory, according to most military analysts), the air strikes and naval gunfire support coupled with the element of surprise combined to make an Argentine victory a foregone conclusion.  That the British managed to hold out as long as they did was actually quite remarkable under these circumstances, and all are likely to be decorated assuming they one day return to their native soil. 

Amateur video showing Argentine Skyhawk attack on Mount Pleasant airport

Now that Argentina controls both the port and the airfield, more troops and equipment can quickly be transferred there in mass. Most analysts predict that Argentina will deploy at least one or perhaps two additional brigades of follow on forces to the islands within the next several days - well before a British reprisal can be staged. 

Questions abound from both within and without the British government as to how Argentina could have achieved such complete surprise.  It now appears that Argentina had used the peacekeeping mission in Angola as a decoy to keep the US and UK occupied far to the north, in the vicinity of Buenos Aires, while the real attack was being mounted at the Argentine naval base in Ushuaia, near the tip of Cape Horn.  


U.S. Future Involvement

While the US has superior satellite reconnaissance and is a staunch ally of the UK, their own intelligence agencies apparently did not detect the build-up in this region either, and gave no indication that such an attack was imminent. With only limited surface and sub-surface assets in the region, the Royal Navy decided to forgo this remote area in favor of supporting their peacekeeping operations in Angola. 

Whether the US will take part in the conflict remains to be seen - while the US has a strong alliance with Great Britain, its hands may be tied due to various treaties with Latin and South America.  There is a likelihood that helping the UK could look imperialistic in the eyes of poor Latin American countries that the US wishes to prevent from leaning too far to the left; most notably Honduras.  For now, the US may sit this one out.  At least publicly. 


Argentina Celebrates

The Argentine leader, meanwhile, has triumphantly been making speeches praising the brilliance of Argentina's military leaders and defying the British, saying that the Malvinas (the Argentine name for the islands) would never again fall into the hands of imperialist British rule. 

Crowds cheered in response, as the long-awaited promise of returning the islands to Argentina appears to have been kept.  Only time can tell if this will remain true, as the inevitable showdown in the South Atlantic approaches.

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