How Argentina Planned to win the Falkland Islands War: A “Dirty Dozen” Raid on Gibraltar?
A forgotten chapter in the war over the Falkland Islands.
When Argentina invaded the remote Falklands Islands and South Georgia in April 1982, seizing them and their 1,800 inhabitants from Britain, the military junta that ruled the country thought that they had a fait accompli and that there was nothing the British could do to respond—a view that was held by many, including the United States.
The attitude proved short-sighted. The British formed a naval task force and launched “Operation Corporate,” an expedition to recover the islands and reassert British sovereignty. The Argentine military’s initial confidence that the mission was beyond the capabilities of Royal Navy and British Land Forces started to turn to alarm as it became apparent that a substantial force was headed into the South Atlantic to confront them.
The head of the Argentine Navy—and a member of the military junta running the country as well as the primary architect of the plan to seize the disputed islands—was Admiral Jorge Anaya. While developing his navy’s defense plans, he conceived the audacious idea of striking the Royal Navy were it least expected it—in one of its home ports.
With the British force reliant on a huge logistical tail to support the operation, the reasoning was that, by demonstrating the weakness of their defenses, the British would be forced to draw critically short resources back to protect their facilities and throw the whole counter-invasion into doubt.
With this idea in mind, the Argentines began to look around for where to strike. Security in Britain was considered to be too tight, so another plan formed—using divers armed with limpet mines the Argentines would sink or damage a Royal Naval warship at Gibraltar. And they had just the man in mind.
In 1974, a limpet mine killed the Argentine Federal Police chief while he was on his yacht. Less than a year later the brand new Type 42 destroyer, the Santisima Trinidad, which was still under construction, was sabotaged when a charge detonated under her hull as she was fitting out. The damage delayed the ship’s completion for a year.
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