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The Empire Strikes Back
Newsweek headline (19 April 1982), after declaration of war.

The 1982 war between Argentina and the UK over a bunch of currently British-owned islands in the South Atlantic.

The Argentine military junta launched an invasion of the islands it called the Malvinas, thinking that the British military wouldn't be able to respond effectively (if they'd left it a year later, they wouldn't have been able to). Margaret Thatcher dispatched a Royal Navy task force, which arrived in May.

Diplomatic efforts failed, as neither side was willing to back down. It's also possible that war was what both sides truly wanted, since it actually helped both sides politically-speaking. "The military junta" and Margaret Thatcher needed to regain their popularity, and fighting a war helps to boost a leader's popularity. [1]

The British Task Force retook the islands after an intense land, sea and air battle, which introduced the world to Exocet anti-shipping missiles and saw the Harrier dominate against Argentine Skyhawks. Fast Roping also made its debut here.

Resulted in 255 British and 649 Argentine deaths, as well as those of three civilians. The British lost several ships, including three Type 42 Destroyers. The most notable Argentine loss was of the cruiser General Belgrano (which had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as the American USS Phoenix) outside the pre-arranged war-zone to a British submarine - their navy played little part in the war after that.

A useful and comprehensive website about the war can be found here.


Tropes involved in this war include:

  • Ace Pilot: A lot of the pilots on both sides, the British pilots on the one hand were the only ones to actually make air-to-air kills; while in the other hand the Argentine pilots managed to get great kills while running on very little fuel and also could only afford to drop their bombs and run. The war was one of the few occasions after World War Two when anyone even had a chance at earning the title of this trope.
  • Argentines With Armored Vehicles: Quite literally (see the Tank Goodness entry).
  • Banana Republic: No matter what one's opinion on the sovereignty issue is, Argentina under the National Reorganization Process counted. One of the reasons for the was was because the Junta sought something to placate domestic discontent at home.
  • Brits With Battleships And Jump Jets: As awesome as it sounds.
  • Body Horror: This guy was on board HMS Sir Galahad when it was bombed. He survived with 46% of his body burned. Some time after the war, he met and became friends with the pilot who bombed him.
  • Cool Plane:
    • On the British side, there's the Sea Harrier, which was deployed in a warzone for the first time in its operational history. To a lesser extent, so were the Avro Vulcan strategic jet bombers - though this would be the the first, last and only time they were used in a shooting war, in the course of which they set the record for the longest bombing missions ever undertaken. Not bad for a design conceived in the 1940s, first flown in 1952 and ready to be phased out around the time the war started... You could say the war gave them a final blaze of glory before heading into retirement.
    • The Argentinian Pucará ground attack planes may have been helpless against Sea Harriers and SAS operatives with grenade launchers, but the British found them hard to take down.
  • Curb Stomp Battle:
    • The Battle of Goose Green, in which the British units defeated fortified Argentine forces three times their size, despite losing a few men themselves, particularly in the end phase of the battle (the siege of the Goose Green settlement itself - the entrenchments around the airfield and the schoolhouse, to be precise).
    • The war in general. Argentinian army was mostly made of young untrained soldiers that were forced to participate. Their equipment was rusty and most of it didn't work properly. Britain had one of the best armies in the world.
  • The Dreaded: The Sea Harriers.
  • The Empire: The British Empire. More straightly, what the Argentine military wanted to create at the expense of Britain, Chile, and Uruguay.
  • Everybody Lives: The Ajax Bay field hospital ("The Red and Green Life Machine") commanded by Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly RN had a near perfect record of keeping patients alive "...despite dust, dirt, poor lighting & the presence of two unexploded bombs...".
  • Fast Roping
  • The Generalissimo: Galtieri and the rest of the Junta are textbook examples.
  • Genghis Gambit: What the war was to the increasingly unpopular Galtieri government. Arguably, it backfired as the outrage from the defeat led directly to its' overthrow soon after the war.
  • Glorious Leader: Galtieri and the rest of the Argentine Junta are casebook examples. Maggie Thatcher also displayed at least some shades of it.
  • Heroic BSOD: A lot of veterans on both sides committed suicide after the war was over. More British soldiers killed themselves after the war than died during the war.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Argentine Junta sought to use the war as a rallying point to keep power and redirect popular discontent outwards. And if they're lucky, maybe form an Empire doing so. The defeat and capitulation led the war to be used as a rallying point against the Junta and its' handling of it, almost directly leading to the Junta's overthrow.
  • Honor Before Reason: It was about the conflicting honor of the respective states. The Falklands don't have any material benefits and if there were the populations of the respective countries, as opposed to the governments would not have been particularly more supportive.
  • HSQ: Pretty damn high despite the relatively moderate body count.
  • Occupiers Out Of Our Territory: Depending on who you ask, either side.
  • Iron Lady: Maggie.
  • Karmic Death: On a governmental level, the National Reorganization Process suffered this due to the backlash from the failure of its' PR-raising Imperial adventure.
  • Mama Bear: Margaret Thatcher. You do not want to mess with her.
  • More Dakka: Averted. Both sides were equipped with variants of the FN FAL battle rifle, but the ones used by the British were limited to semi-automatic. Played straight with actual stationary and light machine guns, that came in handy during the Battle of Goose Green.
  • Nepali With Nasty Knives: The British Ghurkas also served on the battlefield and won at least one battle without firing a shot: Argentine soldiers who were told they were being attacked by Gurkhas turned tail and ran.
  • Redshirt Army: The Argentine military was this in general, although it wasn't completely one-sided in the UK's favor.
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • The British deliberately announced that the Gurkhas were assigned to the campaign in public to make absolutely sure that the Argentines knew. Rumor began to spread about the "hideous things" Gurkhas did to their prisoners. As a result, once when they arrived on a ridge no Argentines were there.
    • On one returning transport ship there was written in graffiti that the Gurkhas were taking several hundred Argentine heads with them. All that of course is legend. The Gurkhas behaved in a civilized and disciplined fashion. But it is funny and shows how far a reputation can go.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: On two occasions, the crew of a disabled ship, waiting on deck to be rescued, sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".
  • Tank Goodness: Double subverted. The Argentinians deployed French Panhard AML armoured cars and American LVTP7amphibious APCs instead of tanks. They didn't do much before being withdrawn from the islands or blown up with Milan anti-tank missiles. The trope was played straight a bit more by the British, who deployed Scorpion and Scimitar light tanks, which were used in several engagements.
  • Warrior Prince: Prince Andrew flew an ASW helicopter personally. In order to decoy missiles from his ship, no less.
  • Weapons Kitchen Sink/Selective Historical Armoury: Noticeable with some of the standard issue firearms used in the war. While most of the small arms were reasonably contemporary models (e. g. the FN FALs and the various grenade and rocket launchers), the troops were still using some trusty World War Two era arms as well: The Brits used Sterling SMGs for close combat and updated Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles for sniping duty, while the Argentines had the American M3 "Grease Gun" SMGs and German WWII and WWI Mauser rifles as equivalents. In the case of the Argentines, it was more out of necessity than anything else, since their army equipment was generally more outdated than the British one (though, surprisingly, the Argentine soldiers had more effective night vision devices).
  • Ye Goode Olde Days/Anachronism Stew: Admittedly for some noncombatants it felt a bit like deja vu as this seemed like something out of the days of Rudyard Kipling when "War Was Glorious" and the sun never set on The British Empire. OK, war is only glorious to those who don't have to crawl in the mud, not even in the days of Rudyard Kipling. But it looks different in the news.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Averted. Out of at least Britain, Pinochet's Chile, and Uruguay, the Argentine Junta chose the British as the stage one targets of their wider plans for expansion. Ooops. Played straighter by the successful occupation of the barely-defended islands and the surrender of the skeleton garrison.

The Falklands War in fiction:

Comics

  • Bloom County did a plot-arc set on the islands during the war, with the resident penguins offering perplexed comments on the fighting. Opus' mother seemingly perished in the Falklands War. However, she survived with amnesia and was taken by a cosmetics company. (Despite this, Opus was originally from Antarctica, not the Falklands.)
  • Steve Bell's very left-wing Guardian cartoon strip If... was born during the Falklands War and still runs today; its first and most enduring plot-arc is of the mutinous sailor Kipling who serves in the War and brings back a Falklands penguin, who returns to London with him and becomes the series' acid commentator on the idiocies and dogmatic lunacies of Thatcher's Britain and a consistently subversive comment on right-wing mentality and government in general.
  • A story arc in the comic strip Doonesbury featured the characters Duke and Honey attempting to run a charter boat down to the Falklands for people to watch the war.


Films

  • Serves as a backdrop for This Is England. The youthful main character's father died in the war, and frustration with the country's involvement is part of what incites the Skinhead movement. To paraphrase Combo, it was a pointless war against FUCKIN' SHEPHERDS.
  • Argentine Iluminados Por El Fuego about the musings of a shell-shocked veteran.
  • The 1989 British drama Resurrected, starring David Thewlis. Fun fact: It's an early work of Paul Greengrass.


Music

  • The Iron Maiden song "Como Estais Amigos" is an somber expression of solidarity with the Argentinian people (Maiden is, of course, British) and discusses the conflict.
  • The war forms the backdrop for the Pink Floyd album, The Final Cut, where the schoolteacher from The Wall, a shellshocked World War Two veteran, watches young soldiers go off to fight in the Falklands for no reason. He expresses dismay that no one has learned from history and that England failed to fulfill the post-war promise to promote peace instead of fighting and bloodshed.
  • The Sabaton song "Back In Control" is about the war from the perspective of the British military.


Live Action TV

  • The Falklands Play
  • Tumbledown (1988)
  • An Ungentlemanly Act (1992)
  • Mentioned in Ashes to Ashes, where Shaz objects to Ray's cheering the sinking of General Belgrano pointing out that the Argentine sailors are only conscripts. When HMS Sheffield is lost later in the episode, Ray points out that they're clearly not all conscripts.
  • On Yes Minister in the episode "The Bed of Nails", Jim Hacker opines that, if he takes on the traffic problem in Britain, "...if I succeed, this could be my Falkland Islands" -- to which Sir Humphrey replies, "And you could be General Galtieri."
  • In the final episode of The New Statesman, Alan B'Stard arranges to have a porn director stage a fake French invasion of the Falklands in order to trigger a war that will a) drive the value of his shares through the roof, b) secure an election victory for his new party, and c) let him declare himself Lord High Protector and effectively take over Britain for life.


Literature

  • A number of Jack Higgins's thrillers after 1982 mention this war, most of all Exocet.
  • The Falklands War is mentioned and often discussed in the early Adrian Mole books. Adrian's father panics after hearing the news about the outbreak of war... until Adrian reassures him that the Falklands are located by the shore of South America and not Scotland.
  • The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman by Raymond Briggs retells the war as a children's picture book.


Tabletop Games

  • Harpoon has a entire book for its fourth edition on scenarios related to the war, entitled South Atlantic War.


Video Games

  • Unsurprisingly, various British computer games of the 1980s took their inspiration from the war, including the flight sim Harrier Attack! and the (darkly hilarious) Frogger clone Yomp, in which you guide a paratrooper across a dirt road with speeding army trucks and then across a minefield.
  • The Falklands War from the indie war Simulation Game studio Shrapnel Games. Besides recreating actual missions and battles from the war, it also offers several Alternate History takes on various engagements, including greater use of armed vehicles on the islands.
  • Another upcoming indie war sim about the Falklands conflict is Jet Thunder.
  • The enviroments (islands with a subarctic climate and overall atmosphere) and the time frame in which Operation Flashpoint takes place are inspired by various aspects of this war, even though the plot is quite different (a small-scale NATO and Soviet showdown threatening to erupt into World War Three). The game had several Falklands-themed Game Mods over the years, directly featuring both militaries and various battles of the war. If you own the Game of the Year edition of OFP, you can grab the Falklands War total conversion here and here and run it from a custom mod folder. Sadly, the Development Hell it had gone through prevented its creators from making a proper campaign, so you'll have to play one of the three available missions or make your own in the game's editor.

Western Animation

  • Referenced in The Simpsons:
    • In one episode, Krusty takes a night off filming his show and sticks on a re-run, figuring that no one will notice; unfortunately for him, it happens to be the edition that was playing the night the Falklands War was declared, and he interrupted the show to deliver an Author Filibuster about it.
    • The second Treehouse of Horror episode has a segment in which Lisa uses a wish to bring peace to the world, and the resulting montage includes a conversation between the British and Argentine ambassadors at the UN:

 "Eh, sorry about the Falklands, old boy."

"Oh, forget it. We kind of knew they were yours."

    • An issue of The Simpsons comic has Mr. Burns remark "Oh, this is almost as fun as that Falklands War I started!"

Notes

  1. Many believe this requirement for a good image was the true reason behind the war
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