June 14 – Liberation Day in the Falkland Islands

Posted June 14, 2013

Argentina invaded Great Britain?

During my lifetime? (Actually, it only missed being in my daughter's lifetime by 11 days!)

Yes, on April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, which were British territory at the time. It seems quite surprising until you learn where the islands are, and their history.

You see, the Falklands are about 310 miles (500 km) off the coast of Argentina, in the South Atlantic Ocean. They were uninhabited when they were discovered by Europeans in the 16th Century (although they probably had been visited by Native Americans). The first to sight them may have been the Dutch explorer Sebald de Weert; he named the islands the Sebald Islands.

But Portugal, Spain, and Britain also had claims that they were the first to discover the islands.

In 1690, British Captain John Strong was driven off course by weather and reached the Falkland Islands. He may have been the first European to land there; he named the water the Falkland Channel, after the Viscount who had financed his voyage, and the islands were therefore called the Falkland Islands.

The first settlement on the islands was founded by a French navigator, who called the islands Malouines, but shortly after that an English explorer claimed one of the islands for his nation and helped construct a settlement. Spain acquired the French colony, renamed the islands las Malvinas, and tried to expel the British—and it looked like the two nations would fight a war! But they reached a peace agreement that apparently took the form of “we'll stay over here, and you stay over there.” However, soon after this the Revolutionary War broke out in America, and the British troops were recalled from the outpost on the Falklands. They left behind a plaque that said something like, “Hey! We'll be back! This is still ours!” I guess the Spaniards thought that was a good idea, because when they later withdrew from the island, they left behind a plaque, too—you know, “Still ours!” or some such.

Another thing about the Falklands is
that they are pretty gorgeous!
After that messy beginning for the Falklands—located near Argentina, discovered by the Netherlands, landed on by England, settled by France, claimed by Britain and Spain, abandoned by all—the people of Argentina, who had fought for and won independence from Spain, began to claim the empty (but twice be-plaqued) islands. An Argentine settlement was founded, and a penal colony was begun but failed when the prisoners revolted! A United States warship scuffled with the Argentines, and British forces returned and worked with the Argentines at times and against them at other times.

Doesn't it seem as if there was an awful lot of attention on these small islands? Do you suppose the islands were filled with gold or diamonds? No, they weren't, but various nations decided that their position was a good strategic point for navigation around Cape Horn. Shipping was more and more important as the various powers of the world established far-flung colonies or expanded their borders. Some people in the U.S. found it preferable to travel from the East Coast to the gold fields of California by ocean—traveling all the way around the Cape-Horn tip of South America—rather than making the risky trip over the plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So the Falklands became more and more desirable.

So...there were skirmishes and diplomacy, treaties and violence. There was even a battle at the islands during World War I! Argentina seemed to have a pretty good claim, since the islands were close to its borders and it had settled them soon after becoming an independent nation, when the island was empty. 

However, as talks occurred during the second half of the 20th Century, including negotiations held at the newly-established U.N., Argentina's claims came short, because most of the people who actually lived on the islands, many of whom were of British descent, wanted to remain part of the British Empire.
These guys don't care who rules the islands!


The Argentine forces surprised the world by invading, and they succeeded for a short time. Their claim that they were rightly taking back their own territory was supported by most countries in Latin America, although only Peru provided aircraft and missiles to Argentina. Most of Europe took Britain's side, and Chile broke with its South American neighbors by allowing the Brits to use its harbors and airports to stage a military response to the invasion. The U.S. hemmed and

hawed for a while, said it was neutral, and then finally sided with the Brits.

A few of these signs dot
the Argentine border. They
use the Spanish name for the
Falkland Islands and claim that
they are Argentine.
There were a few naval battles. There were skirmishes in the air. On May 21 British forces landed on one of the islands and began a land campaign. The Argentine forces finally surrendered on this date in 1982. And that is why it is called “Liberation Day.”

Death toll:
3 Falkland civilians
255 British troops
649 Argentine troops

And all so that things could go back to exactly the way they were: both Argentina AND Great Britain (the U.K.) still claim the islands to be rightfully theirs! Sigh...

Also on this date:

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