24 June 1982

“The Jakarta Incident”: British Airways Flight 9 flies into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, resulting in the failure of all four engines.

British Airways Flight 9
British Airways Boeing 747-200 Silagi-1.jpg
G-BDXH, the aircraft involved in the accident, 1980
Date24 June 1982 (1982-06-24)
SummaryQuadruple engine flameout due to blockage by volcanic ash
Sitenear Mount Galunggung, West Java, Indonesia
Coordinates: 7°15′24″S 108°04′37″E / 7.25667°S 108.07694°E / -7.25667; 108.07694
Aircraft typeBoeing 747-236B
Aircraft nameCity of Edinburgh
OperatorBritish Airways
Flight originHeathrow Airport, London, England
1st stopoverSahar Airport, Bombay, India
2nd stopoverSultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3rd stopoverPerth Airport, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Last stopoverMelbourne Airport, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
DestinationAuckland Airport, Auckland, New Zealand

British Airways Flight 9, sometimes referred to by its callsign Speedbird 9 or as the Jakarta incident,[1] was a scheduled British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Auckland, with stops in Bombay, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, and Melbourne.

On 24 June 1982, the route was flown by the City of Edinburgh, a Boeing 747-200. The aircraft flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung (approximately 110 miles (180 km) south-east of Jakarta, Indonesia), resulting in the failure of all four engines. The reason for the failure was not immediately apparent to the crew or air traffic control. The aircraft was diverted to Jakarta in the hope that enough engines could be restarted to allow it to land there. The aircraft glided out of the ash cloud, and all engines were restarted (although one failed again soon after), allowing the aircraft to land safely at the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta.

The crew members of the accident segment had boarded the aircraft in Kuala Lumpur, while many of the passengers had been aboard since the flight began in London.[2]


Shortly after 13:40 UTC (20:40 Jakarta time) above the Indian Ocean, south of Java, the flight crew (consisting of 32-year-old Senior First Officer Roger Greaves, 40-year-old Senior Engineer Officer Barry Townley-Freeman, and 41-year-old[citation needed] Captain Eric Moody) heading to the lavatory first noticed an unusual effect on the windscreen similar to St. Elmo's fire.[1] Despite the weather radar showing clear skies, the crew switched on engine anti-ice and the passenger seat belt signs as a precaution.

As the flight progressed, smoke began to accumulate in the passenger cabin of the aircraft; it was first assumed to be cigarette smoke. However, it soon began to grow thicker and had an odour of sulphur. Passengers who had a view of the aircraft's engines through the window noted that they were unusually bright blue, with light shining forward through the fan blades and producing a stroboscopic effect.[3]

At approximately 13:42 UTC (20:42 Jakarta time), the number four Rolls-Royce RB211 engine began surging and soon flamed out. The flight crew immediately performed the engine shutdown drill, quickly cutting off fuel supply and arming the fire extinguishers. Less than a minute later, at 13:43 UTC (20:43 Jakarta time), engine two surged and flamed out. Within seconds, and almost simultaneously, engines one and three flamed out, prompting the flight engineer to exclaim, "I don't believe it—all four engines have failed!"[3]

Without engine thrust, a 747-200 has a glide ratio of approximately 15:1, meaning it can glide forward 15 miles for every mile it drops. The flight crew quickly determined that the aircraft was capable of gliding for 23 minutes and covering 91 nautical miles (169 km) from its flight level of 37,000 feet (11,000 m).[3] At 13:44 UTC (20:44 Jakarta time), Greaves declared an emergency to the local air traffic control authority, stating that all four engines had failed. However, Jakarta Area Control misunderstood the message, interpreting the call as meaning that only engine number four had shut down. After a nearby Garuda Indonesia flight relayed the message to them, air traffic control correctly understood the urgent message. Despite the crew "squawking" the emergency transponder setting of 7700, air traffic control could not locate the 747 on their radar screens.

Many passengers, fearing for their lives, wrote notes to relatives. One such passenger was Charles Capewell, who scrawled "Ma. In trouble. Plane going down. Will do best for boys. We love you. Sorry. Pa XXX" on the cover of his ticket wallet.[2]

Owing to the high Indonesian mountains on the south coast of the island of Java, an altitude of at least 11,500 feet (3,500 m) was required to cross the coast safely. The crew decided that if the aircraft was unable to maintain altitude by the time they reached 12,000 feet (3,700 m) they would turn back out to sea and attempt to ditch into the Indian Ocean. The crew began engine restart drills, despite being well outside the recommended maximum engine in-flight start envelope altitude of 28,000 feet (8,500 m). The restart attempts failed.

Despite the lack of time, Moody made an announcement to the passengers that has been described as "a masterpiece of understatement":[3]

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.[3][4][5]

As pressure within the cabin fell, oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling – an automatic emergency measure to make up for the lack of air. On the flight deck, however, Greaves's mask was broken; the delivery tube had detached from the rest of the mask. Moody swiftly decided to descend at 1,800 m per minute to an altitude where there was enough pressure in the outside atmosphere to breathe almost normally.

At 13,500 feet (4,100 m), the crew was approaching the altitude at which they would have to turn over the ocean and attempt a risky ditching. Although there were guidelines for the water landing procedure, no one had ever tried it in a Boeing 747. As they performed the engine restart procedure, engine number four finally started, and at 13:56 UTC (20:56 Jakarta time), Moody used its power to reduce the rate of descent. Shortly thereafter, engine three restarted, allowing him to climb slowly. Shortly after that, engines one and two successfully restarted as well.[6] The crew subsequently requested and expedited an increase in altitude to clear the high mountains of Indonesia.[7]

As the aircraft approached its target altitude, the St. Elmo's fire effect on the windscreen returned. Moody throttled back; however, engine number two surged again and was shut down. The crew immediately descended and held 12,000 feet (3,700 m).

As Flight 9 approached Jakarta, the crew found it difficult to see anything through the windscreen, and made the approach almost entirely on instruments, despite reports of good visibility. The crew decided to fly the instrument landing system (ILS); however, the vertical guidance system was inoperative, so they were forced to fly with only the lateral guidance as the first officer monitored the airport's distance measuring equipment (DME). He then called out how high they should be at each DME step along the final approach to the runway, creating a virtual glide slope for them to follow. Moody described it as "a bit like negotiating one's way up a badger's arse."[1] Although the runway lights could be made out through a small strip of the windscreen, the landing lights on the aircraft seemed to be inoperable. After landing, the flight crew found it impossible to taxi, due to glare from apron floodlights which made the already sandblasted windscreen opaque.


Damaged engine parts from BA 9 on display at Auckland Museum

Post-flight investigation revealed that City of Edinburgh's problems had been caused by flying through a cloud of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Galunggung. Because the ash cloud was dry, it did not appear on the weather radar, which was designed to detect the moisture in clouds. The cloud sandblasted the windscreen and landing light covers and clogged the engines. As the ash entered the engines, it melted in the combustion chambers and adhered to the inside of the power-plant. As the engine cooled from inactivity, and as the aircraft descended out of the ash cloud, the molten ash solidified and enough of it broke off for air to again flow smoothly through the engine, allowing a successful restart. The engines had enough electrical power to restart because one generator and the on-board batteries were still operating; electrical power was required for ignition of the engines.


Engines one, two and three were replaced at Jakarta, as well as the windscreen, and the fuel tanks were cleared of the ash that had entered them through the pressurisation ducts, contaminating the fuel and requiring that it be disposed of. After the aircraft was ferried back to London, engine number four was replaced and major work was undertaken to return the 747 to service.

Although the airspace around Mount Galunggung was closed temporarily after the accident, it was reopened days later. It was only after a Singapore Airlines 747 was forced to shut down three of its engines while flying through the same area nineteen days later (13 July) that Indonesian authorities closed the airspace permanently and rerouted airways to avoid the area; a watch was set up to monitor clouds of ash.[3] Flight 9 was not the first encounter with this eruption – a Garuda DC-9 had encountered ash on 5 April 1982.[8]

The crew received various awards, including the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air for Moody,[9] and medals from the British Airline Pilots' Association. G-BDXH's engineless flight entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest glide in a non-purpose-built aircraft (this record was later broken by Air Canada Flight 143 in 1983 and Air Transat Flight 236 in 2001).

One of the passengers, Betty Tootell, wrote a book about the accident, All Four Engines Have Failed, having managed to trace some 200 of the 247 passengers on the flight. In 1993, Tootell married fellow passenger James Ferguson, who had been seated in the row in front of her. She later noted: "The 28th December 2006 marks the start of our 14th year of honeymoon, and on the 24th June 2007 many passengers and crew will no doubt gather to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our mid-air adventure."[10]

G-BDXH, operating for European Aviation Air Charter in August 2003, six months prior to being withdrawn from use

British Airways continued to operate the Flight 9 route from London Heathrow to Sydney but in March 2012, the route was curtailed to Bangkok, and the aircraft operating this route is now a Boeing 777-200ER. City of Edinburgh, later renamed City of Elgin, continued to fly for British Airways after the accident, before being sold to European Aviation Air Charter. The aircraft was taken out of service in February 2004 and in July 2009 the then 30-year-old aircraft was broken up at a breaking facility at Bournemouth International Airport (BOH).[11] It has been reported that in September 2009 the environmental group 10:10 bought the fuselage of City of Edinburgh to be made into tags. Despite a BBC report of this, the remains of the fuselage had been removed from the facility by that time.[citation needed] The tags, bearing the campaign's logo, were reportedly worn as necklaces or bracelets to raise awareness of 10:10's work: the organisation aimed to persuade individuals, organisations and businesses to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.[12]

Captain Eric Moody gave an interview to the July 2010 edition of Flaps Podcast, where he recounted his experience.[13]

In popular culture

The Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic TV series Mayday featured Flight 9 in a 2007 episode titled Falling From the Sky or All Engines Failed which featured interviews with the flight crew and passengers, and a dramatization of the flight.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Faith, Nicholas (1998). Black Box. p. 156.
  2. ^ a b Episode "Falling from the Sky" from the TV series Mayday (Air Emergency, Air Crash Investigation) [documentary TV series].
  3. ^ a b c d e f Job, Macarthur (1994). Air Disaster Volume 2. pp. 96–107.
  4. ^ "When volcanic ash stopped a Jumbo at 37,000ft". BBC News. 15 April 2010.
  5. ^ Armstrong, Paul (16 April 2010). "Explainer: Why ash cloud endangers aircraft". CNN.
  6. ^ Stewart, Stanley (2002). Emergency: Crisis on the Flight Deck (2nd ed.). The Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1-84037-393-6.
  7. ^ Tootell, Betty (1985). All four engines have failed. London: André Deutsch. ISBN 978-0-23397-758-4.
  8. ^ "Galunggung, Java, Indonesia". Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre. Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  9. ^ "No. 49375". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1983. p. 28.
  10. ^ Tootell, Betty (2 July 2007). "All Engines Failed!". Mature Times. Archived from the original on 24 January 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  11. ^ Malavita, G. "G-BDXH European Aircharter Boeing 747-200". PlaneSpotters.net. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Jumbo push over greenhouse gases". BBC News Scotland. 7 April 2010.
  13. ^ "Flaps Podcast Episode 1" (Interview). July 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Falling From the Sky". Mayday. Season 4. 2007. Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic Channel.


  • Faith, Nicholas (1998). Black Box. Boxtree. ISBN 0-7522-2118-3.
  • Job, Macarthur (1994). Air Disaster Volume 2. Aerospace Publications. pp. 96–107. ISBN 1-875671-19-6.
  • Tootell, Betty (1985). All Four Engines Have Failed. André Deutsch. ISBN 0-233-97758-9.

External links

2 May 1982

Falklands War: The British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror sinks the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano.

Falklands War
Operación Rosario-Soldados argentinos en Stanley.jpg
HMS Broadsword and Hermes, 1982 (IWM).jpg
Etendard en 1982.jpg
ARA Belgrano 1982.PNG
HMS Antelope 1982.jpg
Argentine POWs.jpg
Top row: Argentine forces at Port Stanley, 2 April 1982; HMS Hermes and HMS Broadsword of the British Task Force

Middle row: two Super Étendards of the Argentine Navy; Argentine ARA General Belgrano sinking

Bottom row: British HMS Antelope after being hit (she later sank); Argentine Army POWs in Stanley
Date2 April – 14 June 1982 (1982-04-02 – 1982-06-14)
Result British victory
 United Kingdom Argentina Argentina
Commanders and leaders
Casualties and losses
  • Casualties
  • 255 killed[1]
  • 775 wounded
  • 115 captured
  • Losses
  • 2 destroyers
  • 2 frigates
  • 1 landing ship
  • 1 landing craft
  • 1 container ship
  • 24 helicopters
  • 10 fighters
  • 1 bomber interned (in Brazil)
  • Casualties
  • 649 killed[2][3]
  • 1,657 wounded[3]
  • 11,313 captured
  • Losses
  • 1 cruiser
  • 1 submarine
  • 4 cargo vessels
  • 2 patrol boats
  • 1 naval trawler
  • 25 helicopters
  • 35 fighters
  • 2 bombers
  • 4 cargo aircraft
  • 25 COIN aircraft
  • 9 armed trainers
  • 3 Falkland Islanders killed by friendly fire

The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas) was a 10-week undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982 over two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and its territorial dependency, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The result of the war was a British victory.

The conflict began on 2 April, when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands, followed by the invasion of South Georgia the next day. On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with an Argentine surrender on 14 June, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

The conflict was a major episode in the protracted dispute over the territories' sovereignty. Argentina asserted (and maintains) that the islands are Argentine territory,[4] and the Argentine government thus characterised its military action as the reclamation of its own territory. The British government regarded the action as an invasion of a territory that had been a Crown colony since 1841. Falkland Islanders, who have inhabited the islands since the early 19th century, are predominantly descendants of British settlers, and strongly favour British sovereignty. Neither state officially declared war, although both governments declared the Islands a war zone.

The conflict has had a strong effect in both countries and has been the subject of various books, articles, films, and songs. Patriotic sentiment ran high in Argentina, but the outcome prompted large protests against the ruling military government, hastening its downfall and the democratisation of the country. In the United Kingdom, the Conservative government, bolstered by the successful outcome, was re-elected with an increased majority the following year. The cultural and political effect of the conflict has been less in the UK than in Argentina, where it remains a common topic for discussion.[5]

Diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Argentina were restored in 1989 following a meeting in Madrid, at which the two governments issued a joint statement.[6] No change in either country's position regarding the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands was made explicit. In 1994, Argentina adopted a new Constitution,[7] which added the Falkland Islands as an Argentine Province by law.[8]


Failed diplomacy

In 1965, the United Nations called upon Argentina and the United Kingdom to reach a settlement of the sovereignty dispute. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) regarded the islands as a nuisance and barrier to UK trade in South America, so, whilst confident of British sovereignty, was prepared to cede the islands to Argentina. When news of a proposed transfer broke in 1968, elements sympathetic with the plight of the islanders were able to organise an effective Parliamentary lobby to frustrate the FCO plans. Negotiations continued but in general failed to make meaningful progress; the islanders steadfastly refused to consider Argentine sovereignty on one side, whilst Argentina would not compromise over sovereignty on the other.[9] The FCO then sought to make the islands dependent on Argentina, hoping this would make the islanders more amenable to Argentine sovereignty. A Communications Agreement signed in 1971 created an airlink and later YPF, the Argentine oil company, was given a monopoly in the islands.

In 1980, a new Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Nicholas Ridley, went to the Falklands trying to sell the islanders the benefits of a leaseback scheme, which met with strong opposition from the islanders. On returning to London in December 1980 he reported to parliament but was viciously attacked at what was seen as a sellout. (It was unlikely that leaseback could have succeeded since the British had sought a long-term lease of 99 years, whilst Argentina was pressing for a much shorter period of only 10 years.) At a private committee meeting that evening, it was reported that Ridley cried out: "If we don't do something, they will invade. And there is nothing we could do."[10]

The 1976 military coup and the Argentine junta

Jorge Anaya was the driving force in the Junta's decision to invade.[11][12][13]

In the period leading up to the war—and, in particular, following the transfer of power between the military dictators General Jorge Rafael Videla and General Roberto Eduardo Viola late in March 1981—Argentina had been in the midst of devastating economic stagnation and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that had been governing the country since 1976.[14][15]

In December 1981 there was a further change in the Argentine military regime, bringing to office a new junta headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri (acting president), Air Brigadier Basilio Lami Dozo and Admiral Jorge Anaya. Anaya was the main architect and supporter of a military solution for the long-standing claim over the islands,[16] calculating that the United Kingdom would never respond militarily.[17]

By opting for military action, the Galtieri government hoped to mobilise the long-standing patriotic feelings of Argentines towards the islands, and thus divert public attention from the country's chronic economic problems and the regime's ongoing human rights violations of the Dirty War.[18] Such action would also bolster its dwindling legitimacy. The newspaper La Prensa speculated in a step-by-step plan beginning with cutting off supplies to the islands, ending in direct actions late in 1982, if the UN talks were fruitless.[19]

The ongoing tension between the two countries over the islands increased on 19 March, when a group of Argentine scrap metal merchants (actually infiltrated by Argentine Marines) raised the Argentine flag at South Georgia Island, an act that would later be seen as the first offensive action in the war. The Royal Navy ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance was dispatched from Stanley to South Georgia on the 25th in response. The Argentine military junta, suspecting that the UK would reinforce its South Atlantic Forces, ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to 2 April.

The UK was initially taken by surprise by the Argentine attack on the South Atlantic islands, despite repeated warnings by Royal Navy captain Nicholas Barker (commander of the Endurance) and others. Barker believed that Defence Secretary John Nott's 1981 review (in which Nott described plans to withdraw the Endurance, the UK's only naval presence in the South Atlantic) had sent a signal to the Argentines that the UK was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend its territories and subjects in the Falklands.[20][21]

Argentine invasion

The Argentine destroyer ARA Santísima Trinidad landed special forces south of Stanley.
Argentine soldiers in Port Stanley, 2 April 1982

On 2 April 1982 Argentine forces mounted amphibious landings, known as Operation Rosario,[22] on the Falkland Islands.[23] The invasion was met with a nominal defence organised by the Falkland Islands' Governor Sir Rex Hunt, giving command to Major Mike Norman of the Royal Marines. The events of the invasion included the landing of Lieutenant Commander Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots' Amphibious Commandos Group, the attack on Moody Brook barracks, the engagement between the troops of Hugo Santillan and Bill Trollope at Stanley, and the final engagement and surrender at Government House.

Initial British response

The cover of Newsweek magazine, 19 April 1982, depicting HMS Hermes, flagship of the British Task Force. The headline evokes the 1980 Star Wars sequel.

The British had already taken action prior to the 2 April invasion. In response to events on South Georgia, on 29 March, Ministers decided to send the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Austin south from the Mediterranean to support HMS Endurance, and the submarine HMS Spartan from Gibraltar, with HMS Splendid ordered south from Scotland the following day.[24]:75[25] Lord Carrington had wished to send a third submarine, but the decision was deferred due to concerns about the impact on operational commitments.[25] Coincidentally, on 26 March, the submarine HMS Superb left Gibraltar and it was assumed in the press it was heading south. There has since been speculation that the effect of those reports was to panic the Argentine junta into invading the Falklands before nuclear-powered submarines could be deployed.[25]

The following day, during a crisis meeting headed by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Henry Leach, advised them that "Britain could and should send a task force if the islands are invaded". On 1 April, Leach sent orders to a Royal Navy force carrying out exercises in the Mediterranean to prepare to sail south. Following the invasion on 2 April, after an emergency meeting of the cabinet, approval was given to form a task force to retake the islands. This was backed in an emergency session of the House of Commons the next day.[26]

Word of the invasion first reached the UK from Argentine sources.[27] A Ministry of Defence operative in London had a short telex conversation with Governor Hunt's telex operator, who confirmed that Argentines were on the island and in control.[27][28] Later that day, BBC journalist Laurie Margolis spoke with an islander at Goose Green via amateur radio, who confirmed the presence of a large Argentine fleet and that Argentine forces had taken control of the island.[27] British military operations in the Falklands War were given the codename Operation Corporate, and the commander of the task force was Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse. Operations lasted from 1 April 1982 to 20 June 1982.[29]

On 6 April, the British Government set up a War Cabinet to provide day-to-day political oversight of the campaign.[30] This was the critical instrument of crisis management for the British with its remit being to "keep under review political and military developments relating to the South Atlantic, and to report as necessary to the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee". The War Cabinet met at least daily until it was dissolved on 12 August. Although Margaret Thatcher is described as dominating the War Cabinet, Lawrence Freedman notes in the Official History of the Falklands Campaign that she did not ignore opposition or fail to consult others. However, once a decision was reached she "did not look back".[30]

United Nations Security Council Resolution 502

On 31 March 1982, the Argentine ambassador to the UN, Eduardo Roca, tried garnering support against a British military build-up designed to thwart earlier UN resolutions calling for both countries to resolve their Falklands dispute through discussion.[24]:134 He did this because Argentina, based on inadequate intelligence gathering, was convinced a British task force was already on its way to the South Atlantic, and because of Britain's threat to use HMS Endurance to remove the scrap-metal workers from South Georgia. Any Argentine military action could then be justified as trying to counter Britain's use of force to evade complying with an earlier UN resolution. This Argentine approach to portray Britain as the aggressor came to nothing.

On 1 April, London told the UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Anthony Parsons, that an invasion was imminent and he should call an urgent meeting of the Security Council to get a favourable resolution against Argentina.[31] Parsons had to get nine affirmative votes from the 15 Council members (not a simple majority) and to avoid a blocking vote from any of the other four permanent members. The meeting took place at 11.00am on 3 April, New York time (4.00pm in London). Resolution 502 was adopted by 10 to 1, with 4 abstentions.[32][33][34] It said the UN was:

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),
Demands an immediate cessation of hostilities;
Demands an immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
Calls on the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to seek a diplomatic solution to their differences and to respect fully the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

This was a significant win for the UK, giving it the upper hand diplomatically. The draft resolution Parsons submitted had avoided any reference to the sovereignty dispute (which might have worked against the UK): instead it focused on Argentina's breach of Chapter VII of the UN Charter which forbids the threat or use of force to settle disputes.[35] The resolution called for the removal only of Argentine forces: this freed Britain to retake the islands militarily, if Argentina did not leave, by exercising its right to self-defence, that was allowed under the UN Charter.[24]:141

Position of third-party countries

The UK received further political support from member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations and the European Economic Community. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand withdrew their diplomats from Buenos Aires.[36] The EEC also provided economic support by imposing economic sanctions on Argentina.

Argentina itself was politically backed by a majority of countries in Latin America (though, notably, not Chile). Some members of the Non-Aligned Movement also backed Argentina's position.[37]

The New Zealand government expelled the Argentine ambassador following the invasion. The Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, was in London when the war broke out[38] and in an opinion piece published in The Times he said: "The military rulers of Argentina must not be appeased … New Zealand will back Britain all the way." Broadcasting on the BBC World Service, he told the Falkland Islanders: "This is Rob Muldoon. We are thinking of you and we are giving our full and total support to the British Government in its endeavours to rectify this situation and get rid of the people who have invaded your country.”[39] On 20 May 1982, he announced that New Zealand would make HMNZS Canterbury, a Leander-class frigate, available for use where the British thought fit to release a Royal Navy vessel for the Falklands.[40] In the House of Commons afterwards, Margaret Thatcher said: “…the New Zealand Government and people have been absolutely magnificent in their support for this country [and] the Falkland Islanders, for the rule of liberty and of law".[39][41]

The French president, François Mitterrand, declared an embargo on French arms sales and assistance to Argentina.[42] In addition, France allowed UK aircraft and warships use of its port and airfield facilities at Dakar in Senegal[43] and France provided dissimilar aircraft training so that Harrier pilots could train against the French aircraft used by Argentina.[44] French intelligence also cooperated with Britain to prevent Argentina from obtaining more Exocet missiles on the international market.[45] In a 2002 interview, and in reference to this support, John Nott, the then British Defence Secretary, had described France as Britain's 'greatest ally'. In 2012, it came to light that while this support was taking place, a French technical team, employed by Dassault and already in Argentina, remained there throughout the war despite the presidential decree. The team had provided material support to the Argentines, identifying and fixing faults in Exocet missile launchers. John Nott said he had known the French team was there but said its work was thought not to be of any importance. An adviser to the then French government denied any knowledge at the time that the technical team was there. In contrast, a then French intelligence officer maintained he knew the team was there but it was in an intelligence-gathering capacity. John Nott, when asked if he regretted his earlier praise of the French, said he thought the French were "duplicitous", and "always have been".[46]

The Sierra Leone government allowed British task force ships to refuel at Freetown.[47] VC10 transport aircraft landed at Banjul in The Gambia while flying between the UK and Ascension Island.[43]

Declassified cables show the U.S. felt that Thatcher had not considered diplomatic options, and also feared that a protracted conflict could draw the Soviet Union on Argentina's side,[48] and initially tried to mediate an end to the conflict through "shuttle diplomacy". However, when Argentina refused the U.S. peace overtures, U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that the United States would prohibit arms sales to Argentina and provide material support for British operations. Both houses of the U.S. Congress passed resolutions supporting the U.S. action siding with the United Kingdom.[49]

The U.S. provided the United Kingdom with Sidewinder missiles for use by the Harrier jets.[50][51] President Ronald Reagan approved the Royal Navy's request to borrow the Sea Harrier-capable amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) if the British lost an aircraft carrier. The United States Navy developed a plan to help the British man the ship with American military contractors, likely retired sailors with knowledge of Iwo Jima's systems.[52]

Peru attempted to purchase 12 Exocet missiles from France to be delivered to Argentina, in a failed secret operation.[53][54]

Chile gave support to the UK in the form of intelligence about the Argentine military and early warning intelligence on Argentine air movements.[55][56] Throughout the war, Argentina was afraid of a Chilean military intervention in Patagonia and kept some of its best mountain regiments away from the Falklands near the Chilean border as a precaution.[57] The Chilean government also allowed the United Kingdom to requisition the refueling vessel RFA Tidepool, which Chile had recently purchased and which had arrived at Arica in Chile on 4 April. The ship left port soon afterwards, bound for Ascension Island through the Panama Canal and stopping at Curaçao en route.[58][59][60]

According to the book Operation Israel, advisers from Israel Aerospace Industries were already in Argentina and continued their work during the conflict. The book also claims that Israel sold weapons and drop tanks in a secret operation in Peru.[61][62] Peru also openly sent "Mirages, pilots and missiles" to Argentina during the war.[63] Peru had earlier transferred ten Hercules transport planes to Argentina soon after the British Task Force had set sail in April 1982.[64] Nick van der Bijl records that, after the Argentine defeat at Goose Green, Venezuela and Guatemala offered to send paratroopers to the Falklands.[65] Through Libya, under Muammar Gaddafi, Argentina received 20 launchers and 60 SA-7 missiles (which Argentina later described as "not effective"), as well as machine guns, mortars and mines; all in all, the load of four trips of two Boeing 707s of the AAF, refuelled in Recife with the knowledge and consent of the Brazilian government.[66] Some of these clandestine logistics operations were mounted by the Soviet Union.[67] Soviet media frequently criticised the UK and USA during the war, and the Soviet Union provided Geospatial intelligence to Argentina, which is believed to have helped in the sinking of HMS Coventry (D118).[68][69]

British task force

Map outlining the British recapture of the islands
HMS Invincible, one of two aircraft carriers that the Royal Navy had available for the task force
Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier FRS1. The gloss paint scheme was altered to a duller one en route south.

The British government had no contingency plan for an invasion of the islands, and the task force was rapidly put together from whatever vessels were available.[70] The nuclear-powered submarine Conqueror set sail from France on 4 April, whilst the two aircraft carriers Invincible and Hermes, in the company of escort vessels, left Portsmouth only a day later.[26] On its return to Southampton from a world cruise on 7 April, the ocean liner SS Canberra was requisitioned and set sail two days later with 3 Commando Brigade aboard.[26] The ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2 was also requisitioned and left Southampton on 12 May with 5th Infantry Brigade on board.[26] The whole task force eventually comprised 127 ships: 43 Royal Navy vessels, 22 Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and 62 merchant ships.[70]

The retaking of the Falkland Islands was considered extremely difficult. The chances of a British counter-invasion succeeding were assessed by the US Navy, according to historian Arthur L. Herman, as "a military impossibility".[71] Firstly, the British were significantly constrained by the disparity in deployable air cover.[72] The British had 42 aircraft (28 Sea Harriers and 14 Harrier GR.3s) available for air combat operations,[73] against approximately 122 serviceable jet fighters, of which about 50 were used as air superiority fighters and the remainder as strike aircraft, in Argentina's air forces during the war.[74] Crucially, the British lacked airborne early warning and control (AEW) aircraft. Planning also considered the Argentine surface fleet and the threat posed by Exocet-equipped vessels or the two Type 209 submarines.[75]

By mid-April, the Royal Air Force had set up the airbase of RAF Ascension Island, co-located with Wideawake Airfield on the mid-Atlantic British overseas territory of Ascension Island, including a sizeable force of Avro Vulcan B Mk 2 bombers, Handley Page Victor K Mk 2 refuelling aircraft, and McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR Mk 2 fighters to protect them. Meanwhile, the main British naval task force arrived at Ascension to prepare for active service. A small force had already been sent south to recapture South Georgia.

Encounters began in April; the British Task Force was shadowed by Boeing 707 aircraft of the Argentine Air Force during their travel to the south.[76] Several of these flights were intercepted by Sea Harriers outside the British-imposed Total Exclusion Zone; the unarmed 707s were not attacked because diplomatic moves were still in progress and the UK had not yet decided to commit itself to armed force. On 23 April, a Brazilian commercial Douglas DC-10 from VARIG Airlines en route to South Africa was intercepted by British Harriers who visually identified the civilian plane.[77]

Recapture of South Georgia and the attack on Santa Fe

The South Georgia force, Operation Paraquet, under the command of Major Guy Sheridan RM, consisted of Marines from 42 Commando, a troop of the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) troops who were intended to land as reconnaissance forces for an invasion by the Royal Marines. All were embarked on RFA Tidespring. First to arrive was the Churchill-class submarine HMS Conqueror on 19 April, and the island was over-flown by a radar-mapping Handley Page Victor on 20 April.

The ARA Santa Fe (as USS Catfish) in 1956

The first landings of SAS troops took place on 21 April, but—with the southern hemisphere autumn setting in—the weather was so bad that their landings and others made the next day were all withdrawn after two helicopters crashed in fog on Fortuna Glacier. On 23 April, a submarine alert was sounded and operations were halted, with Tidespring being withdrawn to deeper water to avoid interception. On 24 April, the British forces regrouped and headed in to attack.

On 25 April, after resupplying the Argentine garrison in South Georgia, the submarine ARA Santa Fe was spotted on the surface[78] by a Westland Wessex HAS Mk 3 helicopter from HMS Antrim, which attacked the Argentine submarine with depth charges. HMS Plymouth launched a Westland Wasp HAS.Mk.1 helicopter, and HMS Brilliant launched a Westland Lynx HAS Mk 2. The Lynx launched a torpedo, and strafed the submarine with its pintle-mounted general purpose machine gun; the Wessex also fired on Santa Fe with its GPMG. The Wasp from HMS Plymouth as well as two other Wasps launched from HMS Endurance fired AS-12 ASM antiship missiles at the submarine, scoring hits. Santa Fe was damaged badly enough to prevent her from diving. The crew abandoned the submarine at the jetty at King Edward Point on South Georgia.

With Tidespring now far out to sea, and the Argentine forces augmented by the submarine's crew, Major Sheridan decided to gather the 76 men he had and make a direct assault that day. After a short forced march by the British troops and a naval bombardment demonstration by two Royal Navy vessels (Antrim and Plymouth), the Argentine forces surrendered without resistance. The message sent from the naval force at South Georgia to London was, "Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God Save the Queen." The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, broke the news to the media, telling them to "Just rejoice at that news, and congratulate our forces and the Marines!"[79]

Black Buck raids

On 1 May British operations on the Falklands opened with the "Black Buck 1" attack (of a series of five) on the airfield at Stanley. A Vulcan bomber from Ascension flew on an 8,000-nautical-mile (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) round trip dropping conventional bombs across the runway at Stanley and back to Ascension. The mission required repeated refuelling, and required several Victor K2 tanker aircraft operating in concert, including tanker-to-tanker refuelling. The overall effect of the raids on the war is difficult to determine, and the raids consumed precious tanker resources from Ascension,[80] but also prevented Argentina from stationing fast jets on the islands.

Historian Lawrence Freedman, who was given access to official sources, comments that the significance of the Vulcan raids remains controversial.[81] Although taking pressure off the small Sea Harrier force, the raids were costly and used a great deal of resources. The single hit in the centre of the runway was probably the best that could have been expected but it did reduce the capability of the runway to operate fast jets and caused the Argentine air force to deploy Mirage III to defend the capital.[82] Argentine sources confirm that the Vulcan raids influenced Argentina to withdraw some of its Mirage IIIs from Southern Argentina to the Buenos Aires Defence Zone.[83][84][85] This dissuasive effect was watered down when British officials made clear that there would not be strikes on air bases in Argentina.[86] The raids were later dismissed as propaganda by Falklands veteran Commander Nigel Ward.[87]

Of the five Black Buck raids, three were against Stanley Airfield, with the other two anti-radar missions using Shrike anti-radiation missiles.[citation needed]

Escalation of the air war

The Falklands had only three airfields. The longest and only paved runway was at the capital, Stanley, and even that was too short to support fast jets (although an arrestor gear was fitted in April to support Skyhawks). Therefore, the Argentines were forced to launch their major strikes from the mainland, severely hampering their efforts at forward staging, combat air patrols, and close air support over the islands. The effective loiter time of incoming Argentine aircraft was low, and they were later compelled to overfly British forces in any attempt to attack the islands.

The first major Argentine strike force comprised 36 aircraft (A-4 Skyhawks, IAI Daggers, English Electric Canberras, and Mirage III escorts), and was sent on 1 May, in the belief that the British invasion was imminent or landings had already taken place. Only a section of Grupo 6 (flying IAI Dagger aircraft) found ships, which were firing at Argentine defences near the islands. The Daggers managed to attack the ships and return safely. This greatly boosted morale of the Argentine pilots, who now knew they could survive an attack against modern warships, protected by radar ground clutter from the islands and by using a late pop up profile. Meanwhile, other Argentine aircraft were intercepted by BAE Sea Harriers operating from HMS Invincible. A Dagger[88] and a Canberra were shot down.

Combat broke out between Sea Harrier FRS Mk 1 fighters of No. 801 Naval Air Squadron and Mirage III fighters of Grupo 8. Both sides refused to fight at the other's best altitude, until two Mirages finally descended to engage. One was shot down by an AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AAM), while the other escaped but was damaged and without enough fuel to return to its mainland air base. The plane made for Stanley, where it fell victim to friendly fire from the Argentine defenders.[89]

As a result of this experience, Argentine Air Force staff decided to employ A-4 Skyhawks and Daggers only as strike units, the Canberras only during the night, and Mirage IIIs (without air refuelling capability or any capable AAM) as decoys to lure away the British Sea Harriers. The decoying would be later extended with the formation of the Escuadrón Fénix, a squadron of civilian jets flying 24 hours a day, simulating strike aircraft preparing to attack the fleet. On one of these flights on 7 June, an Air Force Learjet 35A was shot down, killing the squadron commander, Vice Commodore Rodolfo De La Colina, the highest-ranking Argentine officer to die in the war.[90][91]

Stanley was used as an Argentine strongpoint throughout the conflict. Despite the Black Buck and Harrier raids on Stanley airfield (no fast jets were stationed there for air defence) and overnight shelling by detached ships, it was never out of action entirely. Stanley was defended by a mixture of surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems (Franco-German Roland and British Tigercat) and Swiss-built Oerlikon 35 mm twin anti-aircraft cannons. Lockheed Hercules transport night flights brought supplies, weapons, vehicles, and fuel, and airlifted out the wounded up until the end of the conflict.

The only Argentine Hercules shot down by the British was lost on 1 June when TC-63 was intercepted by a Sea Harrier in daylight[92][93] when it was searching for the British fleet north-east of the islands after the Argentine Navy retired its last SP-2H Neptune due to airframe attrition.

Various options to attack the home base of the five Argentine Étendards at Río Grande were examined and discounted (Operation Mikado), subsequently five Royal Navy submarines lined up, submerged, on the edge of Argentina's 12-nautical-mile (22 km; 14 mi) territorial limit to provide early warning of bombing raids on the British task force.[94]

Sinking of ARA General Belgrano

ARA General Belgrano sinking
Alferez Sobral

Two British naval task forces (one of surface vessels and one of submarines) and the Argentine fleet were operating in the neighbourhood of the Falklands and soon came into conflict. The first naval loss was the Second World War-vintage Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano. The nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank General Belgrano on 2 May. Three hundred and twenty-three members of General Belgrano's crew died in the incident. More than 700 men were rescued from the open ocean despite cold seas and stormy weather. The losses from General Belgrano totalled nearly half of the Argentine deaths in the Falklands conflict, and the loss of the ship hardened the stance of the Argentine government.

Regardless of controversies over the sinking—including disagreement about the exact nature of the maritime exclusion zone and whether General Belgrano had been returning to port at the time of the sinking—it had a crucial strategic effect: the elimination of the Argentine naval threat. After her loss, the entire Argentine fleet, with the exception of the diesel-powered submarine ARA San Luis,[78] returned to port and did not leave again during the fighting. The two escorting destroyers and the battle group centred on the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo both withdrew from the area, ending the direct threat to the British fleet that their pincer movement had represented.

However, settling the controversy in 2003, the ship's captain Hector Bonzo confirmed that General Belgrano had actually been manoeuvering, not "sailing away" from the exclusion zone, and had orders to sink "any British ship he could find". Further, Captain Bonzo stated that any suggestion that HMS Conqueror's actions were a "betrayal" was utterly wrong; rather, the submarine carried out its duties according to the accepted rules of war.[95]

In a separate incident later that night, British forces engaged an Argentine patrol gunboat, the ARA Alferez Sobral, that was searching for the crew of the Argentine Air Force Canberra light bomber shot down on 1 May. Two Royal Navy Lynx helicopters fired four Sea Skua missiles at her. Badly damaged and with eight crew dead, Alferez Sobral managed to return to Puerto Deseado two days later. The Canberra's crew were never found.

Sinking of HMS Sheffield

HMS Sheffield

On 4 May, two days after the sinking of General Belgrano, the British lost the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield to fire following an Exocet missile strike from the Argentine 2nd Naval Air Fighter/Attack Squadron.

Sheffield had been ordered forward with two other Type 42s to provide a long-range radar and medium-high altitude missile picket far from the British carriers. She was struck amidships, with devastating effect, ultimately killing 20 crew members and severely injuring 24 others. The ship was abandoned several hours later, gutted and deformed by the fires that continued to burn for six more days. She finally sank outside the Maritime Exclusion Zone on 10 May.

The incident is described in detail by Admiral Sandy Woodward in his book One Hundred Days, in Chapter One. Woodward was a former commanding officer of Sheffield.[96] The destruction of Sheffield (the first Royal Navy ship sunk in action since the Second World War) had a profound impact on the British public, bringing home the fact that the "Falklands Crisis", as the BBC News put it, was now an actual "shooting war".

Diplomatic activity

The tempo of operations increased throughout the first half of May as the United Nations' attempts to mediate a peace were rejected by the Argentines. The final British negotiating position was presented to Argentina by UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar on 18 May 1982. In it, the British abandoned their previous "red-line" that British administration of the islands should be restored on the withdrawal of Argentine forces, as supported by United Nations Security Council Resolution 502.

Instead, it proposed a UN administrator should supervise the mutual withdrawal of both Argentine and British forces, then govern the islands in consultation with the representative institutions of the islands, including Argentines, although no Argentines lived there. Reference to "self-determination" of the islanders was dropped and the British proposed that future negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands should be conducted by the UN.[97]

Special forces operations

Given the threat to the British fleet posed by the Étendard-Exocet combination, plans were made to use C-130s to fly in some SAS troops to attack the home base of the five Étendards at Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego. The operation was codenamed "Mikado". The operation was later scrapped, after acknowledging that its chances of success were limited, and replaced with a plan to use the submarine HMS Onyx to drop SAS operatives several miles offshore at night for them to make their way to the coast aboard rubber inflatables and proceed to destroy Argentina's remaining Exocet stockpile.[98]

An SAS reconnaissance team was dispatched to carry out preparations for a seaborne infiltration. A Westland Sea King helicopter carrying the assigned team took off from HMS Invincible on the night of 17 May, but bad weather forced it to land 50 miles (80 km) from its target and the mission was aborted.[99] The pilot flew to Chile, landed south of Punta Arenas, and dropped off the SAS team. The helicopter's crew of three then destroyed the aircraft, surrendered to Chilean police on 25 May, and were repatriated to the UK after interrogation. The discovery of the burnt-out helicopter attracted considerable international attention. Meanwhile, the SAS team crossed the border and penetrated into Argentina, but cancelled their mission after the Argentines suspected an SAS operation and deployed some 2,000 troops to search for them. The SAS men were able to return to Chile, and took a civilian flight back to the UK.[100]

On 14 May the SAS carried out a raid on Pebble Island on the Falklands, where the Argentine Navy had taken over a grass airstrip map for FMA IA 58 Pucará light ground-attack aircraft and Beechcraft T-34 Mentors, which resulted in the destruction of several aircraft.[nb 1]

Air and sea battles

HMS Antelope smoking after being hit, 23 May
HMS Broadsword and HMS Hermes during the war

At sea, the limitations of the British ships' anti-aircraft defences was demonstrated in the sinking of HMS Ardent on 21 May, HMS Antelope (on 24 May when attempts to defuse bombs failed), and the loss of the cargo of helicopters, runway-building equipment and tents on MV Atlantic Conveyor (struck by two AM39 Exocets) on 25 May. The loss of all but one of the Chinook helicopters being carried by the Atlantic Conveyor as well as their maintenance equipment and facilities was a severe blow from a logistical perspective.

Also lost on 21 May was HMS Coventry, a sister to Sheffield, whilst in company with HMS Broadsword after being ordered to act as a decoy to draw away Argentine aircraft from other ships at San Carlos Bay.[101] HMS Argonaut and HMS Brilliant were moderately damaged.[102] However, many British ships escaped being sunk because of limitations imposed by circumstances on Argentine pilots. To avoid the highest concentration of British air defences, Argentine pilots released bombs at very low altitude, and hence those bomb fuzes did not have sufficient time to arm before impact. The low release of the retarded bombs (some of which the British had sold to the Argentines years earlier) meant that many never exploded, as there was insufficient time in the air for them to arm themselves.[103] The pilots would have been aware of this—but due to the high concentration required to avoid SAMs, Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA), and British Sea Harriers, many failed to climb to the necessary release point. The Argentine forces solved the problem by fitting improvised retarding devices, allowing the pilots to effectively employ low-level bombing attacks on 8 June.

In his autobiographical account of the Falklands War, Admiral Woodward blamed the BBC World Service for disclosing information that led the Argentines to change the retarding devices on the bombs. The World Service reported the lack of detonations after receiving a briefing on the matter from a Ministry of Defence official. He describes the BBC as being more concerned with being "fearless seekers after truth" than with the lives of British servicemen.[104] Colonel 'H'. Jones levelled similar accusations against the BBC after they disclosed the impending British attack on Goose Green by 2 Para.

Thirteen bombs hit British ships without detonating.[105] Lord Craig, the retired Marshal of the Royal Air Force, is said to have remarked: "Six better fuses and we would have lost"[106] although Ardent and Antelope were both lost despite the failure of bombs to explode, and Argonaut was out of action. The fuzes were functioning correctly, and the bombs were simply released from too low an altitude.[104][107] The Argentines lost 22 aircraft in the attacks.[nb 2]

On 30 May, two Super Étendards, one carrying Argentina's last remaining Exocet, escorted by four A-4C Skyhawks each with two 500lb bombs, took off to attack Invincible.[108] Argentine intelligence had sought to determine the position of the carriers from analysis of aircraft flight routes from the task force to the islands[108]. However, the British had a standing order that all aircraft conduct a low level transit when leaving or returning to the carriers to disguise their position[109]. This tactic compromised the Argentine attack, which focused on a group of escorts 40 miles south of the main body of ships[110]. Two of the attacking Skyhawks[110] were shot down by a Sea Dart fired by HMS Exeter[108], with HMS Avenger claiming to have shot down the missile with her 4.5" gun (although this claim is disputed)[111]. No damage was caused to any British vessels[108]. During the war Argentina claimed to have damaged the ship and continues to do so to this day,[112] although no evidence of any such damage has been produced or uncovered.[113][114]

Land battles

San Carlos – Bomb Alley

British sailors in anti-flash gear at action stations on HMS Cardiff near San Carlos, June 1982

During the night of 21 May, the British Amphibious Task Group under the command of Commodore Michael Clapp (Commodore, Amphibious Warfare – COMAW) mounted Operation Sutton, the amphibious landing on beaches around San Carlos Water,[nb 3] on the northwestern coast of East Falkland facing onto Falkland Sound. The bay, known as Bomb Alley by British forces, was the scene of repeated air attacks by low-flying Argentine jets.[115][116]

The 4,000 men of 3 Commando Brigade were put ashore as follows: 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (2 Para) from the RORO ferry Norland and 40 Commando Royal Marines from the amphibious ship HMS Fearless were landed at San Carlos (Blue Beach), 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (3 Para) from the amphibious ship HMS Intrepid was landed at Port San Carlos (Green Beach) and 45 Commando from RFA Stromness was landed at Ajax Bay (Red Beach). Notably, the waves of eight LCUs and eight LCVPs were led by Major Ewen Southby-Tailyour, who had commanded the Falklands detachment NP8901 from March 1978 to 1979. 42 Commando on the ocean liner SS Canberra was a tactical reserve. Units from the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, etc. and armoured reconnaissance vehicles were also put ashore with the landing craft, the Round Table class LSL and mexeflote barges. Rapier missile launchers were carried as underslung loads of Sea Kings for rapid deployment.

By dawn the next day, they had established a secure beachhead from which to conduct offensive operations. From there, Brigadier Julian Thompson's plan was to capture Darwin and Goose Green before turning towards Port Stanley. Now, with the British troops on the ground, the South Air Force (Argentina) began the night bombing campaign against them using Canberra bomber planes until the last day of the war (14 June).

Goose Green

Infantry deployment in East Falklands after landing in San Carlos

From early on 27 May until 28 May, 2 Para (approximately 500 men), with naval gunfire support from HMS Arrow[117] and artillery support from 8 Commando Battery, Royal Artillery, approached and attacked Darwin and Goose Green, which was held by the Argentine 12th Infantry Regiment. After a tough struggle that lasted all night and into the next day, the British won the battle; in all, 17 British and 47 Argentine soldiers were killed. A total of 961 Argentine troops (including 202 Argentine Air Force personnel of the Condor airfield) were taken prisoner.

The BBC announced the taking of Goose Green on the BBC World Service before it had actually happened. It was during this attack that Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones, the commanding officer of 2 Para, was killed at the head of his battalion while charging into the well-prepared Argentine positions. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

With the sizeable Argentine force at Goose Green out of the way, British forces were now able to break out of the San Carlos beachhead. On 27 May, men of 45 Cdo and 3 Para started a loaded march across East Falkland towards the coastal settlement of Teal Inlet.

Special forces on Mount Kent

Meanwhile, 42 Commando prepared to move by helicopter to Mount Kent.[nb 4] Unknown to senior British officers, the Argentine generals were determined to tie down the British troops in the Mount Kent area, and on 27 and 28 May they sent transport aircraft loaded with Blowpipe surface-to-air missiles and commandos (602nd Commando Company and 601st National Gendarmerie Special Forces Squadron) to Stanley. This operation was known as Autoimpuesta ("Self-determination initiative").

For the next week, the SAS and the Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre (M&AWC) of 3 Commando Brigade waged intense patrol battles with patrols of the volunteers' 602nd Commando Company under Major Aldo Rico, normally second in Command of the 22nd Mountain Infantry Regiment. Throughout 30 May, Royal Air Force Harriers were active over Mount Kent. One of them, Harrier XZ963, flown by Squadron Leader Jerry Pook—in responding to a call for help from D Squadron, attacked Mount Kent's eastern lower slopes, and that led to its loss through small-arms fire. Pook was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[118] On 31 May, the M&AWC defeated Argentine Special Forces at the skirmish at Top Malo House. A 13-strong Argentine Army Commando detachment (Captain José Vercesi's 1st Assault Section, 602nd Commando Company) found itself trapped in a small shepherd's house at Top Malo. The Argentine commandos fired from windows and doorways and then took refuge in a stream bed 200 metres (700 ft) from the burning house. Completely surrounded, they fought 19 M&AWC marines under Captain Rod Boswell for 45 minutes until, with their ammunition almost exhausted, they elected to surrender.

Three Cadre members were badly wounded. On the Argentine side, there were two dead, including Lieutenant Ernesto Espinoza and Sergeant Mateo Sbert (who were posthumously decorated for their bravery). Only five Argentines were left unscathed. As the British mopped up Top Malo House, Lieutenant Fraser Haddow's M&AWC patrol came down from Malo Hill, brandishing a large Union Flag. One wounded Argentine soldier, Lieutenant Horacio Losito, commented that their escape route would have taken them through Haddow's position.

601st Commando tried to move forward to rescue 602nd Commando Company on Estancia Mountain. Spotted by 42 Commando, they were engaged with L16 81mm mortars and forced to withdraw to Two Sisters mountain. The leader of 602nd Commando Company on Estancia Mountain realised his position had become untenable and after conferring with fellow officers ordered a withdrawal.[119]

The Argentine operation also saw the extensive use of helicopter support to position and extract patrols; the 601st Combat Aviation Battalion also suffered casualties. At about 11:00 am on 30 May, an Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopter was brought down by a shoulder-launched FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missile (SAM) fired by the SAS in the vicinity of Mount Kent. Six Argentine National Gendarmerie Special Forces were killed and eight more wounded in the crash.[120]

As Brigadier Thompson commented, "It was fortunate that I had ignored the views expressed by Northwood HQ that reconnaissance of Mount Kent before insertion of 42 Commando was superfluous. Had D Squadron not been there, the Argentine Special Forces would have caught the Commando before de-planing and, in the darkness and confusion on a strange landing zone, inflicted heavy casualties on men and helicopters."[121]

Bluff Cove and Fitzroy

By 1 June, with the arrival of a further 5,000 British troops of the 5th Infantry Brigade, the new British divisional commander, Major General Jeremy Moore RM, had sufficient force to start planning an offensive against Stanley. During this build-up, the Argentine air assaults on the British naval forces continued, killing 56. Of the dead, 32 were from the Welsh Guards on RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram on 8 June. According to Surgeon-Commander Rick Jolly of the Falklands Field Hospital, more than 150 men suffered burns and injuries of some kind in the attack, including, famously, Simon Weston.[122]

The Guards were sent to support an advance along the southern approach to Stanley. On 2 June, a small advance party of 2 Para moved to Swan Inlet house in a number of Army Westland Scout helicopters. Telephoning ahead to Fitzroy, they discovered that the area was clear of Argentines and (exceeding their authority) commandeered the one remaining RAF Chinook helicopter to frantically ferry another contingent of 2 Para ahead to Fitzroy (a settlement on Port Pleasant) and Bluff Cove (a settlement on Port Fitzroy).

The road to Stanley

This uncoordinated advance caused great difficulties in planning for the commanders of the combined operation, as they now found themselves with 30 miles (48 km) of indefensible positions, strung along their southern flank. Support could not be sent by air as the single remaining Chinook was already heavily oversubscribed. The soldiers could march, but their equipment and heavy supplies would need to be ferried by sea.

Plans were drawn up for half the Welsh Guards to march light on the night of 2 June, whilst the Scots Guards and the second half of the Welsh Guards were to be ferried from San Carlos Water in the Landing Ship Logistics (LSL) Sir Tristram and the landing platform dock (LPD) Intrepid on the night of 5 June. Intrepid was planned to stay one day and unload itself and as much of Sir Tristram as possible, leaving the next evening for the relative safety of San Carlos. Escorts would be provided for this day, after which Sir Tristram would be left to unload using a Mexeflote (a powered raft) for as long as it took to finish.

Political pressure from above to not risk the LPD forced Commodore Michael Clapp to alter this plan. Two lower-value LSLs would be sent, but with no suitable beaches to land on, Intrepid's landing craft would need to accompany them to unload. A complicated operation across several nights with Intrepid and her sister ship Fearless sailing half-way to dispatch their craft was devised.

The attempted overland march by half the Welsh Guards failed, possibly as they refused to march light and attempted to carry their equipment. They returned to San Carlos and landed directly at Bluff Cove when Fearless dispatched her landing craft. Sir Tristram sailed on the night of 6 June and was joined by Sir Galahad at dawn on 7 June. Anchored 1,200 feet (370 m) apart in Port Pleasant, the landing ships were near Fitzroy, the designated landing point.

The landing craft should have been able to unload the ships to that point relatively quickly, but confusion over the ordered disembarkation point (the first half of the Guards going direct to Bluff Cove) resulted in the senior Welsh Guards infantry officer aboard insisting that his troops should be ferried the far longer distance directly to Port Fitzroy/Bluff Cove. The alternative was for the infantrymen to march via the recently repaired Bluff Cove bridge (destroyed by retreating Argentine combat engineers) to their destination, a journey of around seven miles (11 km).

On Sir Galahad's stern ramp there was an argument about what to do. The officers on board were told that they could not sail to Bluff Cove that day. They were told that they had to get their men off ship and onto the beach as soon as possible as the ships were vulnerable to enemy aircraft. It would take 20 minutes to transport the men to shore using the LCU and Mexeflote. They would then have the choice of walking the seven miles to Bluff Cove or wait until dark to sail there. The officers on board said that they would remain on board until dark and then sail. They refused to take their men off the ship. They possibly doubted that the bridge had been repaired due to the presence on board Sir Galahad of the Royal Engineer Troop whose job it was to repair the bridge. The Welsh Guards were keen to rejoin the rest of their Battalion, who were potentially facing the enemy without their support. They had also not seen any enemy aircraft since landing at San Carlos and may have been overconfident in the air defences. Ewen Southby-Tailyour gave a direct order for the men to leave the ship and go to the beach; the order was ignored.[123]

The longer journey time of the landing craft taking the troops directly to Bluff Cove and the squabbling over how the landing was to be performed caused an enormous delay in unloading. This had disastrous consequences. Without escorts, having not yet established their air defence, and still almost fully laden, the two LSLs in Port Pleasant were sitting targets for two waves of Argentine A-4 Skyhawks.

The disaster at Port Pleasant (although often known as Bluff Cove) would provide the world with some of the most sobering images of the war as TV news video footage showed Navy helicopters hovering in thick smoke to winch survivors from the burning landing ships.

British casualties were 48 killed and 115 wounded.[124] Three Argentine pilots were also killed. The air strike delayed the scheduled British ground attack on Stanley by two days.[125] Argentine General Mario Menéndez, commander of Argentine forces in the Falklands, was told that 900 British soldiers had died. He expected that the losses would cause enemy morale to drop and the British assault to stall.

Fall of Stanley

HMS Cardiff anchored outside Port Stanley at the end of hostilities in 1982
Argentine prisoners of war in Port Stanley

On the night of 11 June, after several days of painstaking reconnaissance and logistic build-up, British forces launched a brigade-sized night attack against the heavily defended ring of high ground surrounding Stanley. Units of 3 Commando Brigade, supported by naval gunfire from several Royal Navy ships, simultaneously attacked in the Battle of Mount Harriet, Battle of Two Sisters, and Battle of Mount Longdon. Mount Harriet was taken at a cost of 2 British and 18 Argentine soldiers. At Two Sisters, the British faced both enemy resistance and friendly fire, but managed to capture their objectives. The toughest battle was at Mount Longdon. British forces were bogged down by rifle, mortar, machine gun, artillery fire, sniper fire, and ambushes. Despite this, the British continued their advance.

During this battle, 13 were killed when HMS Glamorgan, straying too close to shore while returning from the gun line, was struck by an improvised trailer-based Exocet MM38 launcher taken from the destroyer ARA Seguí by Argentine Navy technicians.[126] On the same day, Sergeant Ian McKay of 4 Platoon, B Company, 3 Para died in a grenade attack on an Argentine bunker, which earned him a posthumous Victoria Cross. After a night of fierce fighting, all objectives were secured. Both sides suffered heavy losses.

A pile of discarded Argentine weapons in Port Stanley

The second phase of attacks began on the night of 13 June, and the momentum of the initial assault was maintained. 2 Para, with light armour support from the Blues and Royals, captured Wireless Ridge, with the loss of 3 British and 25 Argentine lives, and the 2nd battalion, Scots Guards captured Mount Tumbledown at the Battle of Mount Tumbledown, which cost 10 British and 30 Argentine lives.

With the last natural defence line at Mount Tumbledown breached, the Argentine town defences of Stanley began to falter. In the morning gloom, one company commander got lost and his junior officers became despondent. Private Santiago Carrizo of the 3rd Regiment described how a platoon commander ordered them to take up positions in the houses and "if a Kelper resists, shoot him", but the entire company did nothing of the kind.[127]

A ceasefire was declared on 14 June and the commander of the Argentine garrison in Stanley, Brigade General Mario Menéndez, surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore the same day.

Recapture of South Sandwich Islands

The Argentine Thule Garrison at the Corbeta Uruguay base

On 20 June, the British retook the South Sandwich Islands, which involved accepting the surrender of the Southern Thule Garrison at the Corbeta Uruguay base, and declared hostilities over. Argentina had established Corbeta Uruguay in 1976, but prior to 1982 the United Kingdom had contested the existence of the Argentine base only through diplomatic channels.[128]


In total, 907 were killed during the 74 days of the conflict:

Of the 86 Royal Navy personnel, 22 were lost in HMS Ardent, 19 + 1 lost in HMS Sheffield, 19 + 1 lost in HMS Coventry and 13 lost in HMS Glamorgan. Fourteen naval cooks were among the dead, the largest number from any one branch in the Royal Navy.

Thirty-three of the British Army's dead came from the Welsh Guards (32 of which died on the RFA Sir Galahad in the Bluff Cove Air Attacks), 21 from the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, 18 from the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, 19 from the Special Air Service, 3 from Royal Signals and 8 from each of the Scots Guards and Royal Engineers. The 1st battalion/7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles lost one man.

There were 1,188 Argentine and 777 British non-fatal casualties.

Red Cross Box

Hecla at HM Naval Base Gibraltar, during conversion to a hospital ship for service during the Falklands War

Before British offensive operations began, the British and Argentine governments agreed to establish an area on the high seas where both sides could station hospital ships without fear of attack by the other side. This area, a circle 20 nautical miles in diameter, was referred to as the Red Cross Box (48°30′S 53°45′W / 48.500°S 53.750°W / -48.500; -53.750), about 45 miles (72 km) north of Falkland Sound.[141] Ultimately, the British stationed four ships (HMS Hydra, HMS Hecla and HMS Herald and the primary hospital ship SS Uganda) within the box[142], while the Argentines stationed three (ARA Almirante Irízar, ARA Bahía Paraíso and Puerto Deseado).

The hospital ships were non-warships converted to serve as hospital ships[143]. The three British naval vessels were survey vessels and Uganda was a passenger liner. Almirante Irizar was an icebreaker, Bahia Paraiso was an Antarctic supply transport and Puerto Deseado was a survey ship. The British and Argentine vessels operating within the Box were in radio contact and there was some transfer of patients between the hospital ships. For example, the Uganda on four occasions transferred patients to an Argentine hospital ship. The British naval hospital ships operated as casualty ferries, carrying casualties from both sides from the Falklands to Uganda and operating a shuttle service between the Red Cross Box and Montevideo, Uruguay.

Throughout the conflict officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) conducted inspections to verify that all concerned were abiding by the rules of the Geneva Conventions. On 12 June, some personnel were transferred from the Argentine hospital ship to the British ships by helicopter. Argentine naval officers also inspected the British casualty ferries in the estuary of the River Plate.

British casualty evacuation

Hydra worked with Hecla and Herald to take casualties from Uganda to Montevideo, Uruguay, where a fleet of Uruguayan ambulances met them. RAF VC10 aircraft then flew the casualties to the UK for transfer to the Princess Alexandra Hospital at RAF Wroughton, near Swindon.[144]


The Monumento a los Caídos en Malvinas ("Monument for the Fallen in the Falklands") in Plaza San Martín, Buenos Aires; a member of the historic Patricios regiment stands guard[nb 5]

This brief war brought many consequences for all the parties involved, besides the considerable casualty rate and large materiel loss, especially of shipping and aircraft, relative to the deployed military strengths of the opposing sides.

In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher's popularity increased. The success of the Falklands campaign was widely regarded as a factor in the turnaround in fortunes for the Conservative government, who had been trailing behind the SDP-Liberal Alliance in the opinion polls for months before the conflict began, but after the success in the Falklands the Conservatives returned to the top of the opinion polls by a wide margin and went on to win the following year's general election by a landslide.[145] Subsequently, Defence Secretary Nott's proposed cuts to the Royal Navy were abandoned.

The islanders subsequently had full British citizenship restored in 1983, their lifestyle was improved by investments the UK made after the war and by the liberalisation of economic measures that had been stalled through fear of angering Argentina. In 1985, a new constitution was enacted promoting self-government, which has continued to devolve power to the islanders.

In Argentina, defeat in the Falklands War meant that a possible war with Chile was avoided. Further, Argentina returned to a democratic government in the 1983 general election, the first free general election since 1973. It also had a major social impact, destroying the military's image as the "moral reserve of the nation" that they had maintained through most of the 20th century.

Various figures have been produced for the number of veterans who have committed suicide since the war. Some studies have estimated that 264 British veterans and 350–500 Argentine veterans have committed suicide since 1982.[146][147] However, a detailed study[148] of 21,432 British veterans of the war commissioned by the UK Ministry of Defence found that between 1982 and 2012 only 95 had died from "intentional self-harm and events of undetermined intent (suicides and open verdict deaths)", a proportion lower than would be expected within the general population over the same period.[149]

Military analysis

Militarily, the Falklands conflict remains one of the largest air-naval combat operations between modern forces since the end of the Second World War. As such, it has been the subject of intense study by military analysts and historians. The most significant "lessons learned" include: the vulnerability of surface ships to anti-ship missiles and submarines, the challenges of co-ordinating logistical support for a long-distance projection of power, and reconfirmation of the role of tactical air power, including the use of helicopters.

In 1986, the BBC broadcast the Horizon programme, In the Wake of HMS Sheffield, which discussed lessons learned from the conflict, and measures since taken to implement them, such as stealth ships and close-in weapon systems.


There are several memorials on the Falkland Islands themselves, the most notable of which is the 1982 Liberation Memorial, unveiled in 1984 on the second anniversary of the end of the war. It lists the names of the 255 British military personnel who died during the war and is located in front of the Secretariat Building in Stanley, overlooking Stanley Harbour. The Memorial was funded entirely by the Islanders and is inscribed with the words "In Memory of Those Who Liberated Us".[150]

In addition to memorials on the islands, there is a memorial in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, London to the British war dead.[151] The Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel at Pangbourne College was opened in March 2000 as a commemoration of the lives and sacrifice of all those who served and died in the South Atlantic in 1982.[152] In Argentina, there is a memorial at Plaza San Martín in Buenos Aires,[153] another one in Rosario, and a third one in Ushuaia.

During the war, British dead were put into plastic body bags and buried in mass graves. After the war, the bodies were recovered; 14 were reburied at Blue Beach Military Cemetery and 64 were returned to the UK.

Many of the Argentine dead are buried in the Argentine Military Cemetery west of the Darwin Settlement. The government of Argentina declined an offer by the UK to have the bodies repatriated to the mainland.[154]


Although some minefields have been cleared, a substantial number of them still exist in the islands, such as this one at Port William, East Falkland.

As of 2011, there were 113 uncleared minefields on the Falkland Islands and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) covering an area of 13 km2 (5.0 sq mi). Of this area, 5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi) on the Murrell Peninsula were classified as being "suspected minefields"—the area had been heavily pastured for the previous 25 years without incident. It was estimated that these minefields had 20,000 anti-personnel mines and 5,000 anti-tank mines. No human casualties from mines or UXO have been reported in the Falkland Islands since 1984, and no civilian mine casualties have ever occurred on the islands.

The UK reported six military personnel were injured in 1982 and a further two injured in 1983. Most military accidents took place while clearing the minefields in the immediate aftermath of the 1982 conflict or in the process of trying to establish the extent of the minefield perimeters, particularly where no detailed records existed.

On 9 May 2008, the Falkland Islands Government asserted that the minefields, which represent 0.1% of the available farmland on the islands "present no long term social or economic difficulties for the Falklands," and that the impact of clearing the mines would cause more problems than containing them. However, the British Government, in accordance with its commitments under the Mine Ban Treaty has a commitment to clear the mines by the end of 2019.[155][156]

In May 2012, it was announced that 3.7 km2 (1.4 sq mi) of Stanley Common (which lies between the Stanley – Mount Pleasant road and the shoreline) was made safe and had been opened to the public, opening up a 3 km (1.9 mi) stretch of coastline and a further two kilometres of shoreline along Mullet's Creek.[157] The 2019 deadline has not been achieved but clearance is currently scheduled for completion by 2024.[158]

Press and publicity


Gente's "Estamos ganando" headline ("We're winning")

Selected war correspondents were regularly flown to Port Stanley in military aircraft to report on the war. Back in Buenos Aires, newspapers and magazines faithfully reported on "the heroic actions of the largely conscript army and its successes".[19]

Officers from the intelligence services were attached to the newspapers and 'leaked' information confirming the official communiqués from the government. The glossy magazines Gente and swelled to 60 pages with colour photographs of British warships in flames—many of them faked—and bogus eyewitness reports of the Argentine commandos' guerrilla war on South Georgia (6 May) and an already dead Pucará pilot's attack on HMS Hermes[19] (Lt. Daniel Antonio Jukic had been killed at Goose Green during a British air strike on 1 May). Most of the faked photos actually came from the tabloid press. One of the best remembered headlines was "Estamos ganando" ("We're winning") from the magazine Gente, that would later use variations of it.[159]

The Argentine troops on the Falkland Islands could read Gaceta Argentina—a newspaper intended to boost morale among the servicemen. Some of its untruths could easily be unveiled by the soldiers who recovered corpses.[160]

The Malvinas cause united the Argentines in a patriotic atmosphere that protected the junta from critics, and even opponents of the military government supported Galtieri; Ernesto Sabato said: "Don't be mistaken, Europe; it is not a dictatorship who is fighting for the Malvinas, it is the whole Nation. Opponents of the military dictatorship, like me, are fighting to extirpate the last trace of colonialism."[citation needed] The Madres de Plaza de Mayo were even exposed to death threats from ordinary people.[19]

HMS Invincible was repeatedly sunk in the Argentine press,[161] and on 30 April 1982 the Argentine magazine Tal Cual showed Prime Minister Thatcher with an eyepatch and the text: Pirate, witch and assassin. Guilty![162] Three British reporters sent to Argentina to cover the war from the Argentine perspective were jailed until the end of the war.[163]

United Kingdom

The Sun's infamous "Gotcha" headline

Seventeen newspaper reporters, two photographers, two radio reporters and three television reporters with five technicians sailed with the Task Force to the war. The Newspaper Publishers' Association selected them from among 160 applicants, excluding foreign media. The hasty selection resulted in the inclusion of two journalists among the war reporters who were interested only in Queen Elizabeth II's son Prince Andrew, who was serving in the conflict.[164] The Prince flew a helicopter on multiple missions, including Anti-Surface Warfare, Exocet missile decoy and casualty evacuation.

Merchant vessels had the civilian Inmarsat uplink, which enabled written telex and voice report transmissions via satellite. SS Canberra had a facsimile machine that was used to upload 202 pictures from the South Atlantic over the course of the war. The Royal Navy leased bandwidth on the U.S. Defense Satellite Communications System for worldwide communications. Television demands a thousand times the data rate of telephone, but the Ministry of Defence was unsuccessful in convincing the U.S. to allocate more bandwidth.[165]

TV producers suspected that the enquiry was half-hearted; since the Vietnam War television pictures of casualties and traumatised soldiers were recognised as having negative propaganda value. However, the technology only allowed uploading a single frame per 20 minutes—and only if the military satellites were allocated 100% to television transmissions. Videotapes were shipped to Ascension Island, where a broadband satellite uplink was available, resulting in TV coverage being delayed by three weeks.[165]

The press was very dependent on the Royal Navy, and was censored on site. Many reporters in the UK knew more about the war than those with the Task Force.[165] Ministry of Defence press briefings in London were characterised by the restrained dictation-speed delivery of its spokesman, Ian McDonald.[166]

The Royal Navy expected Fleet Street to conduct a Second World War-style positive news campaign[167] but the majority of the British media, especially the BBC, reported the war in a neutral fashion.[168] These reporters referred to "the British troops" and "the Argentinian troops" instead of "our lads" and the "Argies".[169] The two main tabloid papers presented opposing viewpoints: The Daily Mirror was decidedly anti-war, whilst The Sun became well known for headlines such as "Stick It Up Your Junta!," which, along with the reporting in other tabloids,[170] led to accusations of xenophobia[161][170][171] and jingoism.[161] [171][172][173] The Sun was condemned for its "Gotcha" headline following the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano.[174][175][176]

Cultural impact

There were wide-ranging influences on popular culture in both the UK and Argentina, from the immediate postwar period to the present. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges described the war as "a fight between two bald men over a comb".[177] The words yomp and Exocet entered the British vernacular as a result of the war. The Falklands War also provided material for theatre, film and TV drama and influenced the output of musicians. In Argentina, the military government banned the broadcasting of music in the English language, giving way to the rise of local rock musicians.[178]

See also


  1. ^ 6 Pucaras, 4 T-34 Mentor and 1 Short Skyvan
  2. ^ 21/27 May: 9 Dagger, 5 A-4C, 3 A-4Q, 3 A-4B & 2 Pucara
  3. ^ Location: "Bomb Alley" San Carlos Water, Falkland Islands
  4. ^ Location: Mount Kent, Falkland Islands
  5. ^ Buenos Aires War Memorial is at coordinates 34°35′37″S 58°22′29″W / 34.59373°S 58.374782°W / -34.59373; -58.374782 (Buenos Aires War Memorial)


  1. ^ "Falkland Islands profile". BBC News. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  2. ^ Burns, John F. (5 January 2013). "Vitriol Over Falklands Resurfaces, as Do Old Arguments". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Historia Marítima Argentina, Volume 10, p. 137. Departamento de Estudios Históricos Navales, Cuántica Editora, Argentina: 1993.
  4. ^ "Argentine to reaffirm Sovereignty Rights over The Falkland Islands". National Turk. 4 January 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  5. ^ "Cómo evitar que Londres convierta a las Malvinas en un Estado independiente". Clarin. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  6. ^ "Joint statement of 19 October 1989: Re-establishing Consular Relations Between Britain and Argentina, and Agreeing a Framework on Sovereignty Which Would Allow Further Talks". Falklands info. Archived from the original on 17 May 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Constitución Nacional". Argentine Senate (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 17 June 2004. La Nación Argentina ratifica su legítima e imprescriptible soberanía sobre las Islas Malvinas, Georgias del Sur y Sandwich del Sur y los espacios marítimos e insulares correspondientes, por ser parte integrante del territorio nacional.
  8. ^ "Argentina: Constitución de 1994". pdba.georgetown.edu. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  9. ^ Welch, David A. (2011). Painful Choices: A Theory of Foreign Policy Change. Google Books: Princeton University Press. p. 75. ISBN 9781400840748. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  10. ^ Paul Eddy; Magnus Linklater; Peter Gillman; Sunday Times of London Insight Team (1982). The Falklands War. Google Books: André Deutsch. p. 53. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
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  12. ^ Bicheno 2006, p. 25: "A basic assumption underlying the conflict was that the British were, in the opinion of the war's main architect, Admiral Jorge Anaya, unworthy heirs to a glorious heritage, the men mainly maricones… to call a man a maricón does not question his heterosexuality; but it definitely impugns his physical and moral courage. Anaya was Naval Attaché in London from January 1975 to January 1976 … He returned to Argentina, making no attempt to conceal his contempt for all things British."
  13. ^ Middlebrook 1989, p. 1: "He was an ardent 'Malvinist' … Anaya was enthusiastic, and his orders in the last days of 1981 were to set in train that tragic series of events."
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  45. ^ John, Nott (2002). "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow". Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. A remarkable world-wide operation then ensured to prevent further Exocets being bought by Argentina. I authorised our agents to pose as bona fide purchasers of equipment on the international market, ensuring that we outbid the Argentines. Other agents identified Exocet missiles in various markets and covertly rendered them inoperable, based on information from the French. (John Nott, defence minister during the Falklands war)
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    ("The M III would defend the Argentine mainland against possible attacks by Vulcan bombers from the RAF, providing escort of fighter bombers to the FAA, and to prevent attacks by aircraft of the Royal Navy and RAF on the Falklands.")
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  87. ^ Ward 2000, pp. 247–48: "Propaganda was, of course, used later to try to justify these missions: 'The Mirage IIIs were withdrawn from Southern Argentina to Buenos Aires to add to the defences there following the Vulcan raids on the islands.' Apparently the logic behind this statement was that if the Vulcan could hit Port Stanley, the [sic] Buenos Aires was well within range as well and was vulnerable to similar attacks. I never went along with that baloney. A lone Vulcan or two running in to attack Buenos Aires without fighter support would have been shot to hell in quick time."-"Mirage IIIs were in evidence near the islands on several occasions during the conflict, either escorting the Neptune reconnaissance missions or on 'interference' flights that attempted to draw CAP attention away from air-to-ground attacks."-"Suffice it to say that you didn't need more than one or two Mirage IIIs to intercept a Vulcan attack on Buenos Aires"-"It would have taken much more than a lone Vulcan raid to upset Buenos Aires"
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  123. ^ Ewen Southby-Tailyour (31 December 1990). Reasons in Writing: A Commando's View of the Falklands War. Pen and Sword. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-84415-014-4. "It was clear that I was achieving nothing and so, in desperation, I gave a direct order for the infantry to get ashore with or without their kit in order that we could get on with unloading Sir Tristram.
    The officers ignored my order. In doing so they explained to me quite clearly that no orders would be accepted from an officer of equivalent rank."
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  160. ^ Middlebrook 1989, p. 94: "First of May. Menéndez ordered the publication of a newspaper for the troops on the Falkland Islands called Gaceta Argentina. It stated that one of the Mirages lost on 1 May had collided with a Sea Harrier and the Argentine pilot survived. In fact Argentine AAA at Stanley shot down the Mirage when it tried an emergency landing there. It was a blatant lie for all those Argentine servicemen who had seen the Mirage being shot down by Argentine guns and had removed the dead pilot from the crashed aeroplane. Similarly, the junta's press office in Buenos Aires informed that Lieutenant Antonio Jukic, who actually was killed in his Pucará on the ground at Goose Green, had perished in a gallant, single-handed Pucará attack on HMS Hermes, setting it on fire. This statement was illustrated with dramatic sketches. The men at Goose Green knew that Lieutenant Jukic had died on the ground there.
    Gaceta Argentina summed up the British losses up to 25 May as: 5 warship sunk (correct number 3), 3 transport ships including SS Canberra (1; Atlantic Conveyor), 14 Sea Harriers (2 shot down & 3 accidents) and many ships damaged, including HMS Hermes. Gaceta Argentina even wrote: 'All of these details refer only to proven claims and not to estimated or unproven claims ...'."
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  172. ^ Stefanie Hauk. "Between censorship and rude sensationalism – Falkland and "the information war"" (PDF). Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  173. ^ Kassimeris, George; Buckley, John D. (16 February 2010). The Ashgate research companion to modern warfare. p. 425. ISBN 978-0-7546-7410-8. Retrieved 9 February 2011. The Falklands conflict was no different, although the excessively jingoistic headlines of The Sun newspaper ('UP YOURS GALTIERI!', 'ARGIE BARGEY' and 'GOTCHA') resulted in a downturn in readership.
  174. ^ "The Sun newspaper on the Falklands". The Guardian. London. 25 February 2002. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  175. ^ Douglas, Torin (14 September 2004). "UK | Forty years of The Sun". BBC News. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
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  • Caviedes, César N (1994). "Conflict over the Falkland Islands: A never-ending story?". Latin American Research Review. 29 (2): 172–87.
  • Bluth, Christoph (1987). "The British Resort to Force in the Falklands/Malvinas Conflict 1982: International Law and Just War Theory". Journal of Peace Research. 24 (1): 5–20.
  • Tulchin, Joseph S (1987). "The Malvinas War of 1982: An Inevitable Conflict That Never Should Have Occurred". Latin American Research Review. 22 (3): 123–141.
  • Little, Walter. "The Falklands Affair: A Review of the Literature," Political Studies, (June 1984) 32#2 pp 296–310

External links

2 February 1982

Hama massacre: The government of Syria attacks the town of Hama.

Hama Islamic uprising
Part of Islamist uprising in Syria
Date2 February – 28 February 1982
(3 weeks 5 days)

Decisive Syrian Army victory

  • Islamist insurgency in Syria suppressed
Syria Defense Companies
Syria Syrian Arab Army
 • Military Intelligence
 • General Intelligence
 • Air Force Intelligence
Flag of the Muslim Brotherhood.gif Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
Commanders and leaders
Hafez al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad
Hikmat al-Shihabi
Shafiq Fayadh
Ali Haydar
Ali Douba
Mohammed al-Khouli
`Adnan `Uqla
Adnan Sa'd al-Din
Muhammad al-Bayanuni
Sa'id Hawwa
Units involved
 • 3rd Armoured Division
 • 10th Armoured Division
 • 14th Special Forces Division
Defense Companies: 3 Brigades (12,000 soldiers)
Syrian Arab Army : 4 Brigades (15,000 soldiers)
Total : About 30,000 soldiers
Fewer than 2000 armed volunteers
Casualties and losses
About 1,000 Estimates vary from 2,000 to 40,000.

The Hama massacre (Arabic: مجزرة حماة‎), or Hama uprising, occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian Arab Army and the Defense Companies, under the orders of the country's president Hafez al-Assad, besieged the town of Hama for 27 days in order to quell an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood against al-Assad's government.[1][2] The massacre, carried out by the Syrian Army under commanding General Rifaat al-Assad, effectively ended the campaign begun in 1976 by Sunni Muslim groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, against the government.

Initial diplomatic reports from Western countries stated that 1,000 were killed.[3][4] Subsequent estimates vary, with the lower estimates claiming that at least 2,000 Syrian citizens were killed,[5] while others put the number at 20,000 (Robert Fisk)[1] or 40,000 (Syrian Human Rights Committee).[2][6] About 1,000 Syrian soldiers were killed during the operation, and large parts of the old city were destroyed. The attack has been described as one of the "deadliest acts by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East".[7] According to Syrian opposition, the vast majority of the victims were civilians.[8]


The Ba'ath Party of Syria, which advocated the ideologies of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism had clashed with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with a Sunni Islamist ideology, since 1940.[9] The two groups were opposed in important ways. The Ba'ath party was nominally secular, nationalist. The Muslim Brotherhood, like other Islamist groups, saw nationalism as un-Islamic and religion as inseparable from politics and government. Most Ba'ath party members were from humble, obscure backgrounds and favored radical economic policies, while Sunni Muslims had dominated the souqs and landed power of Syria, and tended to view government intervention in the economy as threatening.[10] Not all Sunni notables believed in fundamentalism, but even those who did not often saw the Brotherhood as a useful tool against the Ba'ath.[11]

Section of Hama before the government attack

The town of Hama in particular was a "stronghold of landed conservatism and of the Muslim Brothers," and "had long been a redoubtable opponent of the Ba'athist state."[9] The first full-scale clash between the two occurred shortly after the 1963 coup, in which the Ba'ath party first gained power in Syria. In April 1964 riots broke out in Hama, where Muslim insurgents put up "roadblocks, stockpiled food and weapons, ransacked wine shops." After an Ismaili Ba'ath militiaman was killed, riots intensified and rebels attacked "every vestige" of the Ba'ath party in Hama. Tanks were brought in to crush the rebellion and 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood died, with many others wounded or captured, and still more disappearing underground.

After the clashes in Hama, the situation periodically erupted into clashes between the government and various Islamic sections. However a more serious challenge occurred after the Syrian invasion of Lebanon in 1976. In October 1980, Muhammad al-Bayanuni, a respected member of the religious hierarchy of Aleppo, became the Islamic Front's Secretary General, but its leading light remained 'Adnan Sa'd al-Din, the General Supervisor of the Muslim Brothers. The chief ideologue of the Islamic Front was a prominent religious scholar from Hama, Sa'id Hawwa, who along with Sa'd al-Din had been a leader of the northern militants during the mid-1970s.[12] Anti-regime activists such as Marwan Hadid and Muhammad al-Hamid were also carefully listened to.[13]

From 1976 to 1982, Sunni Islamists fought the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria in what has been called a "long campaign of terror".[11] In 1979 the Brotherhood undertook guerrilla activities in multiple cities within the country targeting military officers and government officials. The resulting government repression included abusive tactics, torture, mass arrests, and a number of massacres[citation needed]. In July 1980, the ratification of Law No. 49 made membership in the Muslim Brotherhood a capital offense.[14]

Throughout the first years of the 1980s the Muslim Brotherhood and various other Islamist factions staged hit-and-run and bomb attacks against the government and its officials, including a nearly successful attempt to assassinate President Hafez al-Assad on 26 June 1980, during an official state reception for the president of Mali. When a machine-gun salvo missed him, al-Assad allegedly ran to kick a hand grenade aside, and his bodyguard (who survived and was later promoted to a much higher position) smothered the explosion of another one. Surviving with only light injuries, al-Assad's revenge was swift and merciless: only hours later a large number of imprisoned Islamists (reports say more than 1,200[citation needed]) were executed in their cells in Tadmor Prison (near Palmyra), by units loyal to the President's brother Rifaat al-Assad.

In an earlier massacre in 1981, over 300 residents of Hama were killed by security forces, in a revenge attack for an Islamist terror incident.

Attack by insurgents in Hama

The events of the Hama massacre began at 2 am on 3 February 1982. An army unit searching the old city "stumbled on the hideout of the local guerilla commander, Omar Jawwad (aka Abu Bakr) and were ambushed. Other insurgent cells were alerted by radio and "roof-top snipers killed perhaps a score" of Syrian soldiers. Reinforcements were rushed to besiege Abu Bakr who then "gave the order for a general uprising" in Hama. Mosque loudspeakers used for the call to prayer called for jihad against the Ba'ath, and hundreds of Islamic insurgents rose to attack the homes of government officials and Baath Party leaders, overrun police posts and ransack armories. By daybreak of the morning of 3 February some 70 leading Ba'athists had been killed and the Islamist insurgents and other opposition activists proclaimed Hama a "liberated city", urging Syrians to rise up against the "infidel".[15]

Counter-attack by government forces

Hafez al-Assad (right), president of Syria. His brother Rifaat al-Assad (left) supposedly supervised the operation

According to author Patrick Seale, "every party worker, every paratrooper sent to Hama knew that this time Islamic militancy had to be torn out of the city, whatever the cost." The military was mobilized, and president Hafez al-Assad sent Rifaat's special forces (the Defense companies), elite army units and Mukhabarat agents to the city. Before the attack, the Syrian government called for the city's surrender and warned that anyone remaining in the city would be considered a rebel. Hama was besieged by 12,000 troops for three weeks – the first week spent "in regaining control of the town," and the last two "in hunting down the insurgents."[15] Robert Fisk, a journalist who was in Hama midway through the battle, described civilians fleeing pervasive destruction.[16]

According to Amnesty International, the Syrian military bombed the old city center from the air to facilitate the entry of infantry and tanks through the narrow streets; buildings were demolished by tanks during the first four days of fighting. Large parts of the old city were destroyed. There were also unsubstantiated reports of use of hydrogen cyanide by the government forces.[17]

Rifaat's forces ringed the city with artillery, shelled it, then combed the rubble for surviving Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters.[18] Suspecting that rebels were still hiding in tunnels under the old city, he had diesel fuel pumped into them and stationed tanks at their entrances to shell fleeing militants.[19]

Fatality estimates

Initial diplomatic reports from western governments in 1982 had stated that 1,000 were killed in the fighting.[3][4] Subsequent estimates of casualties varied from 2,000 to 40,000 people killed, including about 1,000 soldiers. Robert Fisk, who was in Hama shortly after the massacre, originally estimated fatalities at 10,000, but has since doubled the estimate to 20,000.[1][20][21] Syrian general and brother to the president Rifaat al-Assad reportedly boasted of killing 38,000 people.[22] Amnesty International initially estimated the death toll was between 10,000 and 25,000.[7]

Reports by Syrian Human Rights Committee claimed "over 25,000"[23] or between 30,000 and 40,000 people were killed.[6] Twenty years later, Syrian journalist Subhi Hadidi, wrote that forces "under the command of General Ali Haydar, besieged the city for 27 days, bombarding it with heavy artillery and tank [fire], before invading it and killing 30,000 or 40,000 of the city's citizens – in addition to the 15,000 missing who have not been found to this day, and the 100,000 expelled."[2]


After the Hama uprising, the Islamist insurrection was broken, and the Brotherhood has since operated in exile while other factions surrendered or slipped into hiding. Government attitudes in Syria hardened considerably during the uprising, and Assad would rely more on repression than on political tactics for the remainder of his rule, although an economic liberalization began in the 1990s.[24]

After the massacre, the already evident disarray in the insurgents' ranks increased, and the rebel factions experienced acrimonious internal splits. Particularly damaging to their cause was the deterrent effect of the massacre, as well as the realization that no Sunni uprisings had occurred in the rest of the country in support of the Hama rebels. Most members of the rebel groups fled the country or remained in exile, mainly in Iran, while others would make their way to the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.[25] The Muslim Brotherhood—the largest opposition group—split into two factions, after giving up on armed struggle. One, more moderate and recognized by the international Muslim Brotherhood, eventually headquartered itself in the UK where it remains, while another for several years retained a military structure in Iran, with backing from the government, before rejoining the London-based mainstream.

The Hama massacre is often raised in indictment of the al-Assad government's poor human rights record.[14][26] Within Syria, mention of the massacre has been strictly suppressed, although the general contours of the events—and various partisan versions, on all sides—are well known throughout the country. When the massacre is publicly referenced, it is only as the "events" or "incident" at Hama.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Fisk 2010
  2. ^ a b c MEMRI 2002
  3. ^ a b "Syria: Bloody Challenge to Assad". Time. 8 March 1982.
  4. ^ a b JOHN KIFNER, Special to the New York Times (12 February 1982). "Syrian Troops Are Said To Battle Rebels Encircled in Central City". The New York Times. Hama (Syria); Syria. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  5. ^ New York Times 2011 March 26
  6. ^ a b Syrian Human Rights Committee, 2005
  7. ^ a b Wright 2008: 243-244
  8. ^ Fisk, Robert. 1990. Pity the Nation. London: Touchstone, ISBN 0-671-74770-3.
  9. ^ a b Seale 1989: 93
  10. ^ Seale 1989: 37, 93, 148, 171
  11. ^ a b Seale 1989: 335-337
  12. ^ "Syria's Islamic Movement and the 2011-12 Uprising". July 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  13. ^ Lefevre, Raphael (2013). Ashes of Hama: The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Oxford University Press. p. 58. ISBN 9780199330621.
  14. ^ a b Human Rights Watch 1996
  15. ^ a b Seale 1989: 332-333
  16. ^ Fisk, Robert (2001). Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War. Oxford University Press. pp. 185–186. ISBN 978-0-19-280130-2.
  17. ^ Reports of cyanide gas being used, SHRC, archived from the original on 25 March 2011
  18. ^ Benjamin, Daniel; Simon, Steven (2002). The Age of Sacred Terror. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-58836-259-9.
  19. ^ Melman, Yossi (19 May 2011). "Tanks Finally Get Their Thanks". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 13 September 2018.
  20. ^ Fisk 1990: 186
  21. ^ Fisk 2007
  22. ^ From Beirut to Jerusalem, pp. 76–105
  23. ^ Syrian Human Rights Committee, 2006.
  24. ^ US Dept. of State, country profile
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 May 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ Human Rights Watch, 2010


Further reading

  • Kathrin Nina Wiedl: The Hama Massacre – reasons, supporters of the rebellion, consequences. München 2007, ISBN 978-3-638-71034-3.
  • The Economist (16 November 2000) Is Syria really changing?, London: 'Syria’s Islamist movement has recently shown signs of coming back to life, nearly 20 years after 30,000 people were brutally massacred in Hama in 1982' The Economist
  • Routledge (10 January 2000) Summary of the 10 January 2002, Roundtable on Militant Islamic Fundamentalism in the Twenty-First Century, Volume 24, Number 3 / 1 June 2002: Pages:187 – 205
  • Jack Donnelly (1988) Human Rights at the United Nations 1955–85: The Question of Bias, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Sep., 1988), pp. 275–303
  • More Detailed Account of the actual Hama Massacre and Killings
  • NSArchive
  • Fisk, Robert. 1997 January 19. A LAND IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH. The Independent (UK) (paragraph recollecting insurgency and reaction).

3 November 1982

The Salang Tunnel fire in Afghanistan kills up to 2,000 people.

A distance view of the Salang Tunnel in March 2010

The Salang Tunnel fire occurred on 3 November 1982 in Afghanistan's Salang Tunnel during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Details are uncertain, but the incident may have been the deadliest known road accident, and one of the deadliest fires of modern times, with the death toll estimated at 2,700 to 3,000 people.[1]


The Salang Tunnel, which opened the famous Salang Pass (or Kotal-e Salang) to motor traffic, was built by Soviet engineers in 1964 and eased traffic across the Hindu Kush mountain range that separates northern and southern Afghanistan.

Prior to this, on 23 February 1980, a similar incident killed 16 Soviet soldiers in the Salang Tunnel.[2]


Very few facts are known about the fire. All information available constitutes little more than hearsay, in part because the Soviet Army was not inclined to reveal massive losses during wartime. Neither the Soviet nor Afghan governments confirmed any incident occurred.[3] Most sources agree that it involved a Soviet Army convoy traveling southward through the tunnel.

According to Soviet Army records, on 3 November 1982, two military convoys (2211 and 2212) collided in the Salang tunnel causing a traffic jam. There were no fires or explosions.[4]

Another report from a traveler,[unreliable source?] who has been to the region, sounds very different from this official version: A fuel tanker in a military convoy exploded inside (the cause of the explosion remains somewhat in doubt with the Soviet Union still claiming it was an accident and the Mujahideen still claiming it was a successful terrorist attack) the Salang Tunnel, unleashing an explosive chain reaction. Drivers of cars, trucks, and buses evidently continued to enter the tunnel after the explosion. Soviet troops, fearing that the explosion might have been a rebel attack, closed off both ends with tanks, trapping many inside.


Initial reports described fuel and ordnance explosions, and estimates of the death toll were as high as 2,700.[5] Shortly after the event, Western diplomats indicated that a collision with a fuel truck initiated the fire in the tunnel that led to the catastrophe resulting in the death of as many as 700 Soviet soldiers and 400 to 2,000 Afghan civilians.[6] People died either from fire or of asphyxiation.[6] The death toll was subsequently revised downwards many times. A 2010 NPR article listed the death toll as at least 150.[4]

56 to 64 Soviet soldiers and 112 Afghan people were killed by carbon monoxide emitted by idling engines.[note 1] [7] US military analysts placed the casualty figure at 100 to 200 Soviet and Afghan soldiers.[6] Some burned to death; others were killed by smoke and by carbon monoxide escaping from vehicles whose drivers kept their engines idling to stay warm in the freezing cold. As many as 700 Soviet troops and 2,000 Afghan soldiers and civilians may have died.[8]


Afghan insurgents said they did not have any role in the explosion in the tunnel.[6]

See also


  1. ^ The names of soldiers who died in the incident can be found in «The Book of remembrance of soviet soldiers fallen in Afghanistan» (Russian: Книга памяти о советских войнах, погибших в Афганистане) which can be found here.
  1. ^ "Truck explosion kills 3,000 in Afghanistan". History Channel. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  2. ^ In Russian Archived 2007-12-16 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Claiborne, William (14 November 1982). "Kabul Silent on Tunnel Disaster". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  4. ^ a b Dahiya, Nishant (December 7, 2010). "High Up in Afghanistan, A 'Ghostly' Ride Through the Salang Tunnel". NPR. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  5. ^ AFGHANISTAN: Tunnel Tragedy - TIME
  6. ^ a b c d Associated Press (November 10, 1982). "Afghan Blast Toll is Put in Hundreds". New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  7. ^ "«АФГАНСКИЕ ГРАБЛИ» - Родная афганская пыль - Прочее | PyramidWeb.ru". www.pyramidweb.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  8. ^ [unreliable source?]Salang Pass, Salang Tunnel and The Last Battle | The Velvet Rocket

External links and sources

Coordinates: 35°19′19.91″N 69°1′36.72″E / 35.3221972°N 69.0268667°E / 35.3221972; 69.0268667

14 October 1982

U.S. President Ronald Reagan proclaims a War on Drugs.

As part of the War on Drugs, the U.S. spends approximately $500 million per year on aid for Colombia, largely used to combat guerrilla groups such as FARC that are involved in the illegal drug trade.[1][2][3][4][5]

The war on drugs is a global campaign,[6] led by the U.S. federal government, of drug prohibition, military aid, and military intervention, with the aim being the reduction of the illegal drug trade in the United States.[7][8][9][10] The initiative includes a set of drug policies that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of psychoactive drugs that the participating governments and the UN have made illegal. The term was popularized by the media shortly after a press conference given on June 18, 1971, by President Richard Nixon—the day after publication of a special message from President Nixon to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control—during which he declared drug abuse "public enemy number one". That message to the Congress included text about devoting more federal resources to the "prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted", but that part did not receive the same public attention as the term "war on drugs".[11][12][13] However, two years prior to this, Nixon had formally declared a "war on drugs" that would be directed toward eradication, interdiction, and incarceration.[14] Today, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the War on Drugs, estimates that the United States spends $51 billion annually on these initiatives.[15]

On May 13, 2009, Gil Kerlikowske—the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)—signaled that the Obama administration did not plan to significantly alter drug enforcement policy, but also that the administration would not use the term "War on Drugs", because Kerlikowske considers the term to be "counter-productive".[16] ONDCP's view is that "drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated... making drugs more available will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe".[17]

In June 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."[18] The report was criticized by organizations that oppose a general legalization of drugs.[17]


19th century

Morphine was first isolated[specify] in 1805, and hypodermic syringes were first constructed in 1851. This was particularly significant during the American Civil War, when wounded soldiers were treated with morphine. This led to widespread morphine addiction among veterans of the war.[19]

Until 1912, products such as heroin were sold over-the-counter in a form of cough syrup. Doctors also prescribed heroin for irritable babies, bronchitis, insomnia, "nervous conditions," hysteria, menstrual cramps, and "vapors", leading to mass addiction. In addition, laudanum, an opioid, was a common part of the home medicine cabinet.[20][21]

In fiction, Conan Doyle portrayed the hero, Sherlock Holmes, as a cocaine addict.[22]

Citizens[specify] did not reach a consensus on dealing with the long-term effects of hard drug usage until towards the end of the 19th century.[citation needed]

20th century

The first U.S. law that restricted the distribution and use of certain drugs was the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. The first local laws came as early as 1860.[23] In 1919, the United States passed the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, with exceptions for religious and medical use. In 1920, the United States passed the National Prohibition Act (Volstead Act), enacted to carry out the provisions in law of the 18th Amendment.

During World War I many soldiers were treated with morphine and became addicts.[19]

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established in the United States Department of the Treasury by an act of June 14, 1930 (46 Stat. 585).[24] In 1933, the federal prohibition for alcohol was repealed by passage of the 21st Amendment. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt publicly supported the adoption of the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. The New York Times used the headline "Roosevelt Asks Narcotic War Aid".[25][26]

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed. Several scholars have claimed that the goal was to destroy the hemp industry,[27][28][29] largely as an effort of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family.[27][29] These scholars argue that with the invention of the decorticator, hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry.[27][30] These scholars believe that Hearst felt[dubious ] that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Mellon, United States Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America, had invested heavily in the DuPont's new synthetic fiber, nylon, and considered[dubious ] its success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp.[27][31][32][33][34][35][36][37] However, there were circumstances that contradict these claims. One reason for doubts about those claims is that the new decorticators did not perform fully satisfactorily in commercial production.[38] Production of fiber from hemp, requiring harvest, transport and processing, was a labor-intensive process. Technological developments decreased the labor required but not sufficiently to eliminate this disadvantage.[39][40]

On October 27, 1970, Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which, among other things, categorized controlled substances based on their medicinal use and potential for addiction.[41] In 1971, two congressmen released a report on the growing heroin epidemic among U.S. servicemen in Vietnam; ten to fifteen percent of the servicemen were addicted to heroin, and President Nixon declared drug abuse to be "public enemy number one".[41][42]

Although Nixon declared "drug abuse" to be public enemy number one in 1971,[43] the policies that his administration implemented as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 were a continuation of drug prohibition policies in the U.S., which started in 1914.[41][44]

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

— John Ehrlichman, to Dan Baum[45][46][47] for Harper's Magazine[48] in 1994, about President Richard Nixon's war on drugs, declared in 1971.[49]

In 1973, the Drug Enforcement Administration was created to replace the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.[41]

The Nixon Administration also repealed the federal 2–10-year mandatory minimum sentences for possession of marijuana and started federal demand reduction programs and drug-treatment programs. Robert DuPont, the "Drug czar" in the Nixon Administration, stated it would be more accurate to say that Nixon ended, rather than launched, the "war on drugs". DuPont also argued that it was the proponents of drug legalization that popularized the term "war on drugs".[17][unreliable source?]

The presidency of Ronald Reagan saw an expansion in the federal focus of preventing drug abuse and for prosecuting offenders. In the first term of the presidency Ronald Reagan signed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which expanded penalties towards possession of cannabis, established a federal system of mandatory minimum sentences, and established procedures for civil asset forfeiture.[50] From 1980 to 1984 the federal annual budget of the FBI's drug enforcement units went from 8 million to 95 million.[51][52]

In 1982, Vice President George H. W. Bush and his aides began pushing for the involvement of the CIA and U.S. military in drug interdiction efforts.[53]

Mexican troops during a gun battle in Michoacán, 2007. Mexico's drug war claims nearly 50,000 lives each year.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was originally established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988,[54][55] which mandated a national anti-drug media campaign for youth, which would later become the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.[56] The director of ONDCP is commonly known as the Drug czar,[41] and it was first implemented in 1989 under President George H. W. Bush,[57] and raised to cabinet-level status by Bill Clinton in 1993.[58] These activities were subsequently funded by the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 1998.[59][60] The Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 codified the campaign at 21 U.S.C. § 1708.[61]

21st century

An international group called the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report on June 2, 2011, stating that "The war on drugs has failed."[citation needed] The commissioned was made up of 22 self-appointed members including a number of prominent international politicians and writers. U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin also released the first ever National Prevention Strategy.[62]

California Attorney General Kamala Harris visiting U.S.–Mexico border to discuss strategies to combat drug cartels, 2011

On May 21, 2012, the U.S. Government published an updated version of its drug policy.[63] The director of ONDCP stated simultaneously that this policy is somewhat different from the "War on Drugs":

  • The U.S. Government sees the policy as a "third way" approach to drug control; an approach that is based on the results of a huge investment in research from some of the world's preeminent scholars on disease of substance abuse.
  • The policy does not see drug legalization as the "silver bullet" solution to drug control.
  • It is not a policy where success is measured by the number of arrests made or prisons built.[64]

At the same meeting was a declaration signed by the representatives of Italy, the Russian Federation, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States in line with this: "Our approach must be a balanced one, combining effective enforcement to restrict the supply of drugs, with efforts to reduce demand and build recovery; supporting people to live a life free of addiction."[65]

In March 2016 the International Narcotics Control Board stated that the International Drug Control treaties do not mandate a "war on drugs".[66]

United States domestic policy

Arrests and incarceration

Graph demonstrating increases in United States incarceration rate

According to Human Rights Watch, the War on Drugs caused soaring arrest rates that disproportionately targeted African Americans due to various factors.[68] John Ehrlichman, an aide to Nixon, said that Nixon used the war on drugs to criminalize and disrupt black and hippie communities and their leaders.[69]

The present state of incarceration in the U.S. as a result of the war on drugs arrived in several stages. By 1971, different steps on drugs had been implemented for more than 50 years (since 1914, 1937 etc.) with only a very small increase of inmates per 100,000 citizens. During the first 9 years after Nixon coined the expression "War on Drugs", statistics showed only a minor increase in the total number of imprisoned.[citation needed]

After 1980, the situation began to change. In the 1980s, while the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%.[70] The result of increased demand was the development of privatization and the for-profit prison industry.[71] The US Department of Justice, reporting on the effects of state initiatives, has stated that, from 1990 through 2000, "the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates." In addition to prison or jail, the United States provides for the deportation of many non-citizens convicted of drug offenses.[72]

In 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the "War on Drugs" resulted in the incarceration of one million Americans each year.[73] In 2008, the Washington Post reported that of 1.5 million Americans arrested each year for drug offenses, half a million would be incarcerated.[74] In addition, one in five black Americans would spend time behind bars due to drug laws.[74]

Federal and state policies also impose collateral consequences on those convicted of drug offenses, such as denial of public benefits or licenses, that are not applicable to those convicted of other types of crime.[75] In particular, the passage of the 1990 Solomon–Lautenberg amendment led many states to impose mandatory driver's license suspensions (of at least 6 months) for persons committing any type of drug offense including offenses that were unrelated to driving.[76][77] Approximately 191,000 licenses were suspended in this manner in 2016 according to a Prison Policy Initiative report.[78]

Sentencing disparities

In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed laws that created a 100 to 1 sentencing disparity for the trafficking or possession of crack when compared to penalties for trafficking of powder cocaine,[79][80][81][82] which had been widely criticized as discriminatory against minorities, mostly blacks, who were more likely to use crack than powder cocaine.[83] This 100:1 ratio had been required under federal law since 1986.[84] Persons convicted in federal court of possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine received a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years in federal prison. On the other hand, possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine carries the same sentence.[80][81] In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act cut the sentencing disparity to 18:1.[83]

According to Human Rights Watch, crime statistics show that—in the United States in 1999—compared to non-minorities, African Americans were far more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and received much stiffer penalties and sentences.[85]

Statistics from 1998 show that there were wide racial disparities in arrests, prosecutions, sentencing and deaths. African-American drug users made up for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of people sent to prison for drug possession crimes.[80] Nationwide African-Americans were sent to state prisons for drug offenses 13 times more often than other races,[86] even though they only supposedly comprised 13% of regular drug users.[80]

D.C. Mayor Marion Barry captured on a surveillance camera smoking crack cocaine during a sting operation by the FBI and D.C. Police.

Anti-drug legislation over time has also displayed an apparent racial bias. University of Minnesota Professor and social justice author Michael Tonry writes, "The War on Drugs foreseeably and unnecessarily blighted the lives of hundreds and thousands of young disadvantaged black Americans and undermined decades of effort to improve the life chances of members of the urban black underclass."[87]

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided that the government needed to make an effort to curtail the social unrest that blanketed the country at the time. He decided to focus his efforts on illegal drug use, an approach which was in line with expert opinion on the subject at the time. In the 1960s, it was believed that at least half of the crime in the U.S. was drug related, and this number grew as high as 90 percent in the next decade.[88] He created the Reorganization Plan of 1968 which merged the Bureau of Narcotics and the Bureau of Drug Abuse to form the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs within the Department of Justice.[89] The belief during this time about drug use was summarized by journalist Max Lerner in his work America as a Civilization (1957):

As a case in point we may take the known fact of the prevalence of reefer and dope addiction in Negro areas. This is essentially explained in terms of poverty, slum living, and broken families, yet it would be easy to show the lack of drug addiction among other ethnic groups where the same conditions apply.[90]

Richard Nixon became president in 1969, and did not back away from the anti-drug precedent set by Johnson. Nixon began orchestrating drug raids nationwide to improve his "watchdog" reputation. Lois B. Defleur, a social historian who studied drug arrests during this period in Chicago, stated that, "police administrators indicated they were making the kind of arrests the public wanted". Additionally, some of Nixon's newly created drug enforcement agencies would resort to illegal practices to make arrests as they tried to meet public demand for arrest numbers. From 1972 to 1973, the Office of Drug Abuse and Law Enforcement performed 6,000 drug arrests in 18 months, the majority of the arrested black.[91]

Total incarceration in the United States by year

The next two presidents, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, responded with programs that were essentially a continuation of their predecessors. Shortly after Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, he delivered a speech on the topic. Reagan announced, "We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts; we're running up a battle flag."[92]

Then, driven by the 1986 cocaine overdose of black basketball star Len Bias,[dubious ] Reagan was able to pass the Anti-Drug Abuse Act through Congress. This legislation appropriated an additional $1.7 billion to fund the War on Drugs. More importantly, it established 29 new, mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. In the entire history of the country up until that point, the legal system had only seen 55 minimum sentences in total.[93] A major stipulation of the new sentencing rules included different mandatory minimums for powder and crack cocaine. At the time of the bill, there was public debate as to the difference in potency and effect of powder cocaine, generally used by whites, and crack cocaine, generally used by blacks, with many believing that "crack" was substantially more powerful and addictive. Crack and powder cocaine are closely related chemicals, crack being a smokeable, freebase form of powdered cocaine hydrochloride which produces a shorter, more intense high while using less of the drug. This method is more cost effective, and therefore more prevalent on the inner-city streets, while powder cocaine remains more popular in white suburbia. The Reagan administration began shoring public opinion against "crack", encouraging DEA official Robert Putnam to play up the harmful effects of the drug. Stories of "crack whores" and "crack babies" became commonplace; by 1986, Time had declared "crack" the issue of the year.[94] Riding the wave of public fervor, Reagan established much harsher sentencing for crack cocaine, handing down stiffer felony penalties for much smaller amounts of the drug.[95]

Reagan protégé and former Vice-President George H. W. Bush was next to occupy the oval office, and the drug policy under his watch held true to his political background. Bush maintained the hard line drawn by his predecessor and former boss, increasing narcotics regulation when the first National Drug Control Strategy was issued by the Office of National Drug Control in 1989.[96]

The next three presidents – Clinton, Bush and Obama – continued this trend, maintaining the War on Drugs as they inherited it upon taking office.[97] During this time of passivity by the federal government, it was the states that initiated controversial legislation in the War on Drugs. Racial bias manifested itself in the states through such controversial policies as the "stop and frisk" police practices in New York city and the "three strikes" felony laws began in California in 1994.[98]

In August 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law that dramatically reduced the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine, which disproportionately affected minorities.[99]

Commonly used illegal drugs

U.S. cannabis arrests by year

Commonly used illegal drugs include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and, marijuana.

Heroin is an opiate that is highly addictive. If caught selling or possessing heroin, a perpetrator can be charged with a felony and face two–four years in prison and could be fined to a maximum of $20,000.[100]

Crystal meth is composed of methamphetamine hydrochloride. It is marketed as either a white powder or in a solid (rock) form. The possession of crystal meth can result in a punishment varying from a fine to a jail sentence. As with other drug crimes, sentencing length may increase depending on the amount of the drug found in the possession of the defendant.[101][102]

Cocaine possession is illegal across the U.S. The penalties for possession vary by state, or if charges are federal.[101][102]

Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug worldwide. The punishment for possession of it is less than for the possession of cocaine or heroin. In some U.S. states, the drug is legal. Approximately half of all adult Americans have tried marijuana.[103]

United States foreign interventions

Some scholars have claimed that the phrase "War on Drugs" is propaganda cloaking an extension of earlier military or paramilitary operations.[10] Others have argued that large amounts of "drug war" foreign aid money, training, and equipment actually goes to fighting leftist insurgencies and is often provided to groups who themselves are involved in large-scale narco-trafficking, such as corrupt members of the Colombian military.[9]

War in Vietnam

From 1963 to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, marijuana usage became common among U.S. soldiers in non-combat situations. Some servicemen also used heroin. Many of the servicemen ended the heroin use after returning to the United States but came home addicted. In 1971, the U.S. military conducted a study of drug use among American servicemen and women. It found that daily usage rates for drugs on a worldwide basis were as low as two percent.[104] However, in the spring of 1971, two congressmen released an alarming report alleging that 15% of the servicemen in Vietnam were addicted to heroin. Marijuana use was also common in Vietnam. Soldiers who used drugs had more disciplinary problems. The frequent drug use had become an issue for the commanders in Vietnam; in 1971 it was estimated that 30,000 servicemen were addicted to drugs, most of them to heroin.[12]

From 1971 on, therefore, returning servicemen were required to take a mandatory heroin test. Servicemen who tested positive upon returning from Vietnam were not allowed to return home until they had passed the test with a negative result. The program also offered a treatment for heroin addicts.[105]

Elliot Borin's article "The U.S. Military Needs its Speed"—published in Wired on February 10, 2003—reports:

But the Defense Department, which distributed millions of amphetamine tablets to troops during World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf War, soldiers on, insisting that they are not only harmless but beneficial.

In a news conference held in connection with Schmidt and Umbach's Article 32 hearing, Dr. Pete Demitry, an Air Force physician and a pilot, claimed that the "Air Force has used (Dexedrine) safely for 60 years" with "no known speed-related mishaps."

The need for speed, Demitry added "is a life-and-death issue for our military."[106]

Operation Intercept

One of the first anti-drug efforts in the realm of foreign policy was President Nixon's Operation Intercept, announced in September 1969, targeted at reducing the amount of cannabis entering the United States from Mexico. The effort began with an intense inspection crackdown that resulted in an almost shutdown of cross-border traffic.[107] Because the burden on border crossings was controversial in border states, the effort only lasted twenty days.[108]

Operation Just Cause

The U.S. military invasion of Panama in 1989

On December 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama as part of Operation Just Cause, which involved 25,000 American troops. Gen. Manuel Noriega, head of the government of Panama, had been giving military assistance to Contra groups in Nicaragua at the request of the U.S. which, in exchange, tolerated his drug trafficking activities, which they had known about since the 1960s.[109][110] When the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) tried to indict Noriega in 1971, the CIA prevented them from doing so.[109] The CIA, which was then directed by future president George H. W. Bush, provided Noriega with hundreds of thousands of dollars per year as payment for his work in Latin America.[109] When CIA pilot Eugene Hasenfus was shot down over Nicaragua by the Sandinistas, documents aboard the plane revealed many of the CIA's activities in Latin America, and the CIA's connections with Noriega became a public relations "liability" for the U.S. government, which finally allowed the DEA to indict him for drug trafficking, after decades of tolerating his drug operations.[109] Operation Just Cause, whose purpose was to capture Noriega and overthrow his government; Noriega found temporary asylum in the Papal Nuncio, and surrendered to U.S. soldiers on January 3, 1990.[111] He was sentenced by a court in Miami to 45 years in prison.[109]

Plan Colombia

As part of its Plan Colombia program, the United States government currently provides hundreds of millions of dollars per year of military aid, training, and equipment to Colombia,[112] to fight left-wing guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), which has been accused of being involved in drug trafficking.[113]

Private U.S. corporations have signed contracts to carry out anti-drug activities as part of Plan Colombia. DynCorp, the largest private company involved, was among those contracted by the State Department, while others signed contracts with the Defense Department.[114]

Colombian military personnel have received extensive counterinsurgency training from U.S. military and law enforcement agencies, including the School of Americas (SOA). Author Grace Livingstone has stated that more Colombian SOA graduates have been implicated in human rights abuses than currently known SOA graduates from any other country. All of the commanders of the brigades highlighted in a 2001 Human Rights Watch report on Colombia were graduates of the SOA, including the III brigade in Valle del Cauca, where the 2001 Alto Naya Massacre occurred. US-trained officers have been accused of being directly or indirectly involved in many atrocities during the 1990s, including the Massacre of Trujillo and the 1997 Mapiripán Massacre.

In 2000, the Clinton administration initially waived all but one of the human rights conditions attached to Plan Colombia, considering such aid as crucial to national security at the time.[115]

The efforts of U.S. and Colombian governments have been criticized for focusing on fighting leftist guerrillas in southern regions without applying enough pressure on right-wing paramilitaries and continuing drug smuggling operations in the north of the country.[116][117] Human Rights Watch, congressional committees and other entities have documented the existence of connections between members of the Colombian military and the AUC, which the U.S. government has listed as a terrorist group, and that Colombian military personnel have committed human rights abuses which would make them ineligible for U.S. aid under current laws.[citation needed]

In 2010, the Washington Office on Latin America concluded that both Plan Colombia and the Colombian government's security strategy "came at a high cost in lives and resources, only did part of the job, are yielding diminishing returns and have left important institutions weaker."[118]

A 2014 report by the RAND Corporation, which was issued to analyze viable strategies for the Mexican drug war considering successes experienced in Colombia, noted:

Between 1999 and 2002, the United States gave Colombia $2.04 billion in aid, 81 percent of which was for military purposes, placing Colombia just below Israel and Egypt among the largest recipients of U.S. military assistance. Colombia increased its defense spending from 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2000 to 4.19 percent in 2005. Overall, the results were extremely positive. Greater spending on infrastructure and social programs helped the Colombian government increase its political legitimacy, while improved security forces were better able to consolidate control over large swaths of the country previously overrun by insurgents and drug cartels.

It also notes that, "Plan Colombia has been widely hailed as a success, and some analysts believe that, by 2010, Colombian security forces had finally gained the upper hand once and for all."[119]

Mexico is scheduled to receive US$1.6 billion in equipment and strategic support from the United States through the Mérida Initiative

Mérida Initiative

The Mérida Initiative is a security cooperation between the United States and the government of Mexico and the countries of Central America. It was approved on June 30, 2008, and its stated aim is combating the threats of drug trafficking and transnational crime. The Mérida Initiative appropriated $1.4 billion in a three-year commitment (2008–2010) to the Mexican government for military and law enforcement training and equipment, as well as technical advice and training to strengthen the national justice systems. The Mérida Initiative targeted many very important government officials, but it failed to address the thousands of Central Americans who had to flee their countries due to the danger they faced everyday because of the war on drugs. There is still not any type of plan that addresses these people. No weapons are included in the plan.[120][121]

Aerial herbicide application

The United States regularly sponsors the spraying of large amounts of herbicides such as glyphosate over the jungles of Central and South America as part of its drug eradication programs. Environmental consequences resulting from aerial fumigation have been criticized as detrimental to some of the world's most fragile ecosystems;[122] the same aerial fumigation practices are further credited with causing health problems in local populations.[123]

U.S. operations in Honduras

In 2012, the U.S. sent DEA agents to Honduras to assist security forces in counternarcotics operations. Honduras has been a major stop for drug traffickers, who use small planes and landing strips hidden throughout the country to transport drugs. The U.S. government made agreements with several Latin American countries to share intelligence and resources to counter the drug trade. DEA agents, working with other U.S. agencies such as the State Department, the CBP, and Joint Task Force-Bravo, assisted Honduras troops in conducting raids on traffickers' sites of operation.[124]

Public support and opposition

An American domestic government propaganda poster circa 2000 concerning cannabis in the United States.

Several critics have compared the wholesale incarceration of the dissenting minority of drug users to the wholesale incarceration of other minorities in history. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, for example, wrote in 1997 "Over the past thirty years, we have replaced the medical-political persecution of illegal sex users ('perverts' and 'psychopaths') with the even more ferocious medical-political persecution of illegal drug users."[125]

United States

The War on Drugs has been a highly contentious issue since its inception. A poll on October 2, 2008, found that three in four Americans believed that the War On Drugs was failing.[126]

In 2014, a Pew Research Center poll found more than six in ten Americans state that state governments moving away from mandatory prison terms for drug law violations is a good thing, while three out of ten Americans say these policy changes are a bad thing. This a substantial shift from the same poll questions since 2001.[127] In 2014 a Pew Research Center poll found that 67 percent of Americans feel that a movement towards treatment for drugs like cocaine and heroin is better versus the 26 percent who feel that prosecution is the better route.[128]

In 2018, a Rasmussen Report poll found that less than 10 percent of Americans think that the War on Drugs is being won and that 75 percent found that Americans believe that America is not winning the War on Drugs.[129]


Mexican citizens, unlike American citizens, support the current measures their government were taking against drug cartels in the War on Drugs. A Pew Research Center poll in 2010 found that 80 percent supported the current use of the army in the War on Drugs to combat drug traffickers with about 55 percent saying that they have been making progress in the war.[130] A year later in 2011 a Pew Research Center poll uncovered that 71 percent of Mexicans find that "illegal drugs are a very big problem in their country". 77 percent of Mexicans also found that drug cartels and the violence associated with them are as well a big challenge for Mexico. The poll also found that the percentages believing that illegal drugs and violence related to the cartel were higher in the North with 87 percent for illegal drug use and 94 percent cartel related violence being a problem. This compared to the other locations: South, Mexico City and the greater area of Mexico City, and Central Mexico which are all about 18 percent or lower than the North on Illegal drug use being a problem for the country. These perspective areas are also lower than the North by 19 percent or more on the issue of drug cartel related violence being an issue for the country.[131]

In 2013 a Pew Research Center poll found that 74 percent of Mexican citizens would support the training of their police and military, the poll also found that another 55 percent would support the supplying of weapons and financial aid. Though the poll indicates a support of U.S. aid, 59 percent were against troops on the ground by the U.S. military.[132] Also in 2013 Pew Research Center found in a poll that 56 percent of Mexican citizens believe that the United States and Mexico are both to blame for drug violence in Mexico. In that same poll 20 percent believe that the United States is solely to blame and 17 percent believe that Mexico is solely to blame.[133]

Latin American leaders

At a meeting in Guatemala in 2012, three former presidents from Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia said that the war on drugs had failed and that they would propose a discussion on alternatives, including decriminalization, at the Summit of the Americas in April of that year.[134] Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said that the war on drugs was exacting too high a price on the lives of Central Americans and that it was time to "end the taboo on discussing decriminalization".[135] At the summit, the government of Colombia pushed for the most far-reaching change to drugs policy since the war on narcotics was declared by Nixon four decades prior, citing the catastrophic effects it had had in Colombia.[136]

Socio-economic effects

Creation of a permanent underclass

Circa 1 million people are incarcerated every year in the United States for drug law violations.

Penalties for drug crimes among American youth almost always involve permanent or semi-permanent removal from opportunities for education, strip them of voting rights, and later involve creation of criminal records which make employment more difficult. Thus, some authors maintain that the War on Drugs has resulted in the creation of a permanent underclass of people who have few educational or job opportunities, often as a result of being punished for drug offenses which in turn have resulted from attempts to earn a living in spite of having no education or job opportunities.[137]

Costs to taxpayers

According to a 2008 study published by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron, the annual savings on enforcement and incarceration costs from the legalization of drugs would amount to roughly $41.3 billion, with $25.7 billion being saved among the states and over $15.6 billion accrued for the federal government. Miron further estimated at least $46.7 billion in tax revenue based on rates comparable to those on tobacco and alcohol ($8.7 billion from marijuana, $32.6 billion from cocaine and heroin, remainder from other drugs).[138]

Low taxation in Central American countries has been credited with weakening the region's response in dealing with drug traffickers. Many cartels, especially Los Zetas have taken advantage of the limited resources of these nations. 2010 tax revenue in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, composed just 13.53% of GDP. As a comparison, in Chile and the U.S., taxes were 18.6% and 26.9% of GDP respectively. However, direct taxes on income are very hard to enforce and in some cases tax evasion is seen as a national pastime.[139]

Impact on growers

The status of coca and coca growers has become an intense political issue in several countries, including Colombia and particularly Bolivia, where the president, Evo Morales, a former coca growers' union leader, has promised to legalise the traditional cultivation and use of coca.[140] Indeed, legalization efforts have yielded some successes under the Morales administration when combined with aggressive and targeted eradication efforts. The country saw a 12–13% decline in coca cultivation[140] in 2011 under Morales, who has used coca growers' federations to ensure compliance with the law rather than providing a primary role for security forces.[140]

The coca eradication policy has been criticised for its negative impact on the livelihood of coca growers in South America. In many areas of South America the coca leaf has traditionally been chewed and used in tea and for religious, medicinal and nutritional purposes by locals.[141] For this reason many insist that the illegality of traditional coca cultivation is unjust. In many areas the U.S. government and military has forced the eradication of coca without providing for any meaningful alternative crop for farmers, and has additionally destroyed many of their food or market crops, leaving them starving and destitute.[141]

Allegations of official involvement in drug trafficking

The CIA, DEA, State Department, and several other U.S. government agencies have been alleged to have relations with various groups which are involved in drug trafficking.

CIA and Contra cocaine trafficking

Senator John Kerry's 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra drug links concludes that members of the U.S. State Department "who provided support for the Contras are involved in drug trafficking... and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly receive financial and material assistance from drug traffickers."[142] The report further states that "the Contra drug links include... payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies."

In 1996, journalist Gary Webb published reports in the San Jose Mercury News, and later in his book Dark Alliance, claiming that: "For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency." This drug ring "opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles" and, as a result, "The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America."[143]

Webb's premise regarding the U.S. Government connection was initially attacked at the time by the media. The series remains controversial. The series resulted in three federal investigations (i.e. by the CIA, Department of Justice, and the House Intelligence Committee) into the claims of "Dark Alliance". The reports rejected the series' main claims but were critical of some CIA and law enforcement actions. The CIA report found no evidence that "any past or present employee of CIA, or anyone acting on behalf of CIA, had any direct or indirect dealing" with Ross, Blandón, or Meneses or that any of the other figures mentioned in "Dark Alliance" were ever employed by or associated with or contacted by the agency.[144] The Department of Justice report stated that "We did not find that he [Blandón] had any ties to the CIA, that the CIA intervened in his case in any way, or that any connections to the Contras affected his treatment."[145] The House Committee report examined the support that Meneses and Blandón gave to the local Contra organization in San Francisco and the Contras in general, the report concluded that it was "not sufficient to finance the organization" and did not consist of "millions," contrary to the claims of the "Dark Alliance" series. This support "was not directed by anyone within the Contra movement who had an association with the CIA," and the Committee found "no evidence that the CIA or the Intelligence Community was aware of these individuals’ support."[146]

Heroin trafficking operations involving the CIA, U.S. Navy and Sicilian Mafia

According to Rodney Campbell, an editorial assistant to Nelson Rockefeller, during World War II, the United States Navy, concerned that strikes and labor disputes in U.S. eastern shipping ports would disrupt wartime logistics, released the mobster Lucky Luciano from prison, and collaborated with him to help the mafia take control of those ports. Labor union members were terrorized and murdered by mafia members as a means of preventing labor unrest and ensuring smooth shipping of supplies to Europe.[147]

According to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in order to prevent Communist party members from being elected in Italy following World War II, the CIA worked closely with the Sicilian Mafia, protecting them and assisting in their worldwide heroin smuggling operations. The mafia was in conflict with leftist groups and was involved in assassinating, torturing, and beating leftist political organizers.[148]

Efficacy of the United States war on drugs

USS Rentz (FFG-46) attempts to put out a fire set by drug smugglers trying to escape and destroy evidence.
External video
A Conversation with President Obama and David Simon (The Wire creator), discussing The Wire and the War on Drugs, The White House[149]

In 1986, the US Defense Department funded a two-year study by the RAND Corporation, which found that the use of the armed forces to interdict drugs coming into the United States would have little or no effect on cocaine traffic and might, in fact, raise the profits of cocaine cartels and manufacturers. The 175-page study, "Sealing the Borders: The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction", was prepared by seven researchers, mathematicians and economists at the National Defense Research Institute, a branch of the RAND, and was released in 1988. The study noted that seven prior studies in the past nine years, including one by the Center for Naval Research and the Office of Technology Assessment, had come to similar conclusions. Interdiction efforts, using current armed forces resources, would have almost no effect on cocaine importation into the United States, the report concluded.[150]

During the early-to-mid-1990s, the Clinton administration ordered and funded a major cocaine policy study, again by RAND. The Rand Drug Policy Research Center study concluded that $3 billion should be switched from federal and local law enforcement to treatment. The report said that treatment is the cheapest way to cut drug use, stating that drug treatment is twenty-three times more effective than the supply-side "war on drugs".[151]

The National Research Council Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs published its findings in 2001 on the efficacy of the drug war. The NRC Committee found that existing studies on efforts to address drug usage and smuggling, from U.S. military operations to eradicate coca fields in Colombia, to domestic drug treatment centers, have all been inconclusive, if the programs have been evaluated at all: "The existing drug-use monitoring systems are strikingly inadequate to support the full range of policy decisions that the nation must make.... It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether and to what extent it is having the desired effect."[152] The study, though not ignored by the press, was ignored by top-level policymakers, leading Committee Chair Charles Manski to conclude, as one observer notes, that "the drug war has no interest in its own results".[153]

In mid-1995, the US government tried to reduce the supply of methamphetamine precursors to disrupt the market of this drug. According to a 2009 study, this effort was successful, but its effects were largely temporary.[154]

During alcohol prohibition, the period from 1920 to 1933, alcohol use initially fell but began to increase as early as 1922. It has been extrapolated that even if prohibition had not been repealed in 1933, alcohol consumption would have quickly surpassed pre-prohibition levels.[155] One argument against the War on Drugs is that it uses similar measures as Prohibition and is no more effective.

In the six years from 2000 to 2006, the U.S. spent $4.7 billion on Plan Colombia, an effort to eradicate coca production in Colombia. The main result of this effort was to shift coca production into more remote areas and force other forms of adaptation. The overall acreage cultivated for coca in Colombia at the end of the six years was found to be the same, after the U.S. Drug Czar's office announced a change in measuring methodology in 2005 and included new areas in its surveys.[156] Cultivation in the neighboring countries of Peru and Bolivia increased, some would describe this effect like squeezing a balloon.[157]

Richard Davenport-Hines, in his book The Pursuit of Oblivion,[158] criticized the efficacy of the War on Drugs by pointing out that

10–15% of illicit heroin and 30% of illicit cocaine is intercepted. Drug traffickers have gross profit margins of up to 300%. At least 75% of illicit drug shipments would have to be intercepted before the traffickers' profits were hurt.

Alberto Fujimori, president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, described U.S. foreign drug policy as "failed" on grounds that

for 10 years, there has been a considerable sum invested by the Peruvian government and another sum on the part of the American government, and this has not led to a reduction in the supply of coca leaf offered for sale. Rather, in the 10 years from 1980 to 1990, it grew 10-fold.[159]

At least 500 economists, including Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman,[160] George Akerlof and Vernon L. Smith, have noted that reducing the supply of marijuana without reducing the demand causes the price, and hence the profits of marijuana sellers, to go up, according to the laws of supply and demand.[161] The increased profits encourage the producers to produce more drugs despite the risks, providing a theoretical explanation for why attacks on drug supply have failed to have any lasting effect. The aforementioned economists published an open letter to President George W. Bush stating "We urge...the country to commence an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition... At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition."

US yearly overdose deaths, and the drugs involved. There were 70,200 drug overdose deaths overall in 2017 in the USA.

The declaration from the World Forum Against Drugs, 2008 state that a balanced policy of drug abuse prevention, education, treatment, law enforcement, research, and supply reduction provides the most effective platform to reduce drug abuse and its associated harms and call on governments to consider demand reduction as one of their first priorities in the fight against drug abuse.[162]

Despite over $7 billion spent annually towards arresting[163] and prosecuting nearly 800,000 people across the country for marijuana offenses in 2005[citation needed] (FBI Uniform Crime Reports), the federally funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana "easy to obtain". That figure has remained virtually unchanged since 1975, never dropping below 82.7% in three decades of national surveys.[164] The Drug Enforcement Administration states that the number of users of marijuana in the U.S. declined between 2000 and 2005 even with many states passing new medical marijuana laws making access easier,[165] though usage rates remain higher than they were in the 1990s according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.[166]

ONDCP stated in April 2011 that there has been a 46 percent drop in cocaine use among young adults over the past five years, and a 65 percent drop in the rate of people testing positive for cocaine in the workplace since 2006.[167] At the same time, a 2007 study found that up to 35% of college undergraduates used stimulants not prescribed to them.[168]

A 2013 study found that prices of heroin, cocaine and cannabis had decreased from 1990 to 2007, but the purity of these drugs had increased during the same time.[169][170]

According to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Prisons 45.3% of all criminal charges were drug related and 25.5% of sentences for all charges last 5–10 years. Furthermore, non-whites make up 41.4% of the federal prison system's population and over half are under the age of 40.[171] The Bureau of Justice Statistics contends that over 80% of all drug related charges are for possession rather than the sale or manufacture of drugs.[172] In 2015 The U.S. government spent over to $25 billion on supply reduction, while allocating only $11 billion for demand reduction. Supply reduction includes: interdiction, eradication, and law enforcement; demand reduction includes: education, prevention, and treatment. The War on Drugs is often called a policy failure.[173][174][175][176][177]


The legality of the War on Drugs has been challenged on four main grounds in the U.S.

  1. It is argued that drug prohibition, as presently implemented, violates the substantive due process doctrine in that its benefits do not justify the encroachments on rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. On July 27, 2011, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven ruled that Florida's legislation purporting to eliminate intent as an element of the crime of drug possession was unconstitutional. Commentators explained the ruling in terms of due process.
  2. Freedom of religious conscience legally allows some (for example, members of the Native American Church) to use peyote with definite spiritual or religious motives. The sacramental use of dimethyltryptamine in the form of ayahuasca is also allowed for members of União do Vegetal. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment implies no requirement for someone to be affiliated to an official church – therefore leaving some ambiguity.
  3. It has been argued that the Commerce Clause means that the power to regulate drug use should be state law not federal law. However, Supreme Court rulings go against this argument because production and consumption in one locality will change the price in another locality because it affects the overall supply and demand for the product and interstate price in a globalized, market economy.
  4. The inequity of prosecuting the war on certain drugs but not alcohol or tobacco has also been called into question.


Several authors believe that the United States' federal and state governments have chosen wrong methods for combatting the distribution of illicit substances. Aggressive, heavy-handed enforcement funnels individuals through courts and prisons; instead of treating the cause of the addiction, the focus of government efforts has been on punishment. By making drugs illegal rather than regulating them, the War on Drugs creates a highly profitable black market. Jefferson Fish has edited scholarly collections of articles offering a wide variety of public health based and rights based alternative drug policies.[178][179][180]

In the year 2000, the United States drug-control budget reached 18.4 billion dollars,[181] nearly half of which was spent financing law enforcement while only one sixth was spent on treatment. In the year 2003, 53 percent of the requested drug control budget was for enforcement, 29 percent for treatment, and 18 percent for prevention.[182] The state of New York, in particular, designated 17 percent of its budget towards substance-abuse-related spending. Of that, a mere one percent was put towards prevention, treatment, and research.

In a survey taken by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it was found that substance abusers that remain in treatment longer are less likely to resume their former drug habits. Of the people that were studied, 66 percent were cocaine users. After experiencing long-term in-patient treatment, only 22 percent returned to the use of cocaine. Treatment had reduced the number of cocaine abusers by two-thirds.[181] By spending the majority of its money on law enforcement, the federal government had underestimated the true value of drug-treatment facilities and their benefit towards reducing the number of addicts in the U.S.

In 2004 the federal government issued the National Drug Control Strategy. It supported programs designed to expand treatment options, enhance treatment delivery, and improve treatment outcomes. For example, the Strategy provided SAMHSA with a $100.6 million grant to put towards their Access to Recovery (ATR) initiative. ATR is a program that provides vouchers to addicts to provide them with the means to acquire clinical treatment or recovery support. The project's goals are to expand capacity, support client choice, and increase the array of faith-based and community based providers for clinical treatment and recovery support services.[183] The ATR program will also provide a more flexible array of services based on the individual's treatment needs.

The 2004 Strategy additionally declared a significant 32 million dollar raise in the Drug Courts Program, which provides drug offenders with alternatives to incarceration. As a substitute for imprisonment, drug courts identify substance-abusing offenders and place them under strict court monitoring and community supervision, as well as provide them with long-term treatment services.[184] According to a report issued by the National Drug Court Institute, drug courts have a wide array of benefits, with only 16.4 percent of the nation's drug court graduates rearrested and charged with a felony within one year of completing the program (versus the 44.1% of released prisoners who end up back in prison within 1-year). Additionally, enrolling an addict in a drug court program costs much less than incarcerating one in prison.[185] According to the Bureau of Prisons, the fee to cover the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates in 2006 was $24,440.[186] The annual cost of receiving treatment in a drug court program ranges from $900 to $3,500. Drug courts in New York State alone saved $2.54 million in incarceration costs.[185]

Describing the failure of the War on Drugs, New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter noted:

Jeffrey Miron, an economist at Harvard who studies drug policy closely, has suggested that legalizing all illicit drugs would produce net benefits to the United States of some $65 billion a year, mostly by cutting public spending on enforcement as well as through reduced crime and corruption. A study by analysts at the RAND Corporation, a California research organization, suggested that if marijuana were legalized in California and the drug spilled from there to other states, Mexican drug cartels would lose about a fifth of their annual income of some $6.5 billion from illegal exports to the United States.[187]

Many believe that the War on Drugs has been costly and ineffective largely because inadequate emphasis is placed on treatment of addiction. The United States leads the world in both recreational drug usage and incarceration rates. 70% of men arrested in metropolitan areas test positive for an illicit substance,[188] and 54% of all men incarcerated will be repeat offenders.[189]

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