The Significant ‘Little War’

‘Miles and miles of bugger all” was the succinct judgment of Sir Denis Thatcher on the Falkland Islands, delivered during his first and only visit there. It was also the conventional wisdom 30 years ago when, on April 2, 1982, Argentinean special forces landed at Port Stanley, defeated its British marine defenders — wounding one NCO for the loss of three Argentinean lives — and inflicted a deep political humiliation on the British, notably on Sir Denis’s wife, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In 1982, very few people believed that the Atlantic around the islands had substantial economic value, let alone major energy reserves. The British Foreign Office had been trying hard to persuade the islanders to accept a gradual transfer of sovereignty to Argentina for more than a decade. And a recent British defense review had withdrawn the icebreaker, HMS Endurance, from the islands, indicating that London had a low estimate of their strategic importance.

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