The Fifth Myth: The “War Boys”
1. Why were they sent?
When I started working with Lieutenant General Galtieri as his attorney for the defense (on April, 1983), one of the first questions I asked him was: “General, why were draftees sent to the Falklands?”.
This was his explanation: “Mr. De Vita: on April the 23th, 1982, the Naval Intelligence Service (SIN is the Spanish acronym) deciphered a coded message from general Pinochet addressed to all the Chilean armed forces —land, sea, air, and police forces. The message stated that they were ready to “support Great Britain overtly or covertly” (the fleet was arriving on April the 25th).
For this reason —that is, the fear of facing hostilities from yet a second front—, Argentinean troops —duly trained and equipped— were stationed at the Andes mountain range.
This was confirmed by General Vaquero, General García, and other high ranking officials before the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and the testimonies were included in the file#59 of the Federal Court of Appeals.
In due time, and thanks to the information that gradually became of public knowledge, the Chilean support to the British fleet was confirmed.
2. The “War Boys” concept is derogatory, insulting, and biased.
It is biased because not all the brave Argentinean individuals who fought at the Falklands were “boys”. The heroic members of the Argentinean Air Force, the Naval Force, the Marine Force, the Merchant Navy force, the Infantry, the Artillery, and the BIM5 were not conformed by “boys”. They were men.
Indeed, the “boys” fulfilled their duty as it was expected from them: as men. I believe that the British government must have felt endulged when Carlos Saúl Menem —a great son of our Argentinean homeland— took the decision of abolishing the mandatory military service in Argentina (a veritable source of brave men).
3. The British performance at wars
Where there any other occasion in which the British empire fought against “war boys”?
Yes, there was. The case, being cited below, is very different from the Argentinean case because of its geographical and cultural background.
The date was January the 22nd of 1879: the Isandhlwana battle took place at that time, in south Africa. Great Britain was seeking to seize economic resources (needless to say, never by democratic means or subjet to human rights); specifically, Great Britain was in need of minerals, and the Zulu territory (Zululand) had them plenty.
Great Britain faced the opposition of the owners of the lands: the Zulu tribes, whose members did not agree with this act of robbery.
In order to persuade the zulus, the British government sent one of its best regiments —conformed by 1,200 men, and 900 ancillary staff—, armed with the most modern equipment of the time being: cannons, machine guns, rifles and pistols.
Opposite them were the Zulu tribes: their members were barefoot, wearing just a loincloth, and armed with spears and shields.
Both sides engaged in a battle, called the battle of Isandhlwana.
There were absolutely no survivors on the British side.
On the Falklands, the British casualties are far from the 240-250 declared men (no wonder the state secret regarding the 1982 events was extended for ninety years, when the usual period of time is of thirty). According to the German magazine “Stern” (1984), the British casualties are reckoned at around 1,500 men. This exact number of caualties was mentioned by captain Robacio and Admiral Busser on the basis of conversations held with British officials at the time they were war prisoners (these conversations were held after the ceasefire).
4. The Magnitude of this Feat
The Argentinean society has no idea of the magnitude of the feat performed by the “war boys”, among others.
The Argentinean society barely recollects that during 1806 and 1807, the population of this “little town in the remotest part of the Earth” kicked the second most important army in the world out of Buenos Aires.
The Falklands feat is even greater.
Suffice it to say that the latest British naval defeats took place in 1941, when the German battleship “Bismarck”sank the British cruiser “Hood”, and in 1942, when the Japanese Zero fighter sank two British jewels: the “Renown” and the “Prince of Wales”.
Forty years came and gone until Great Britain lost their ships at the Falkland Sound (in Spanish, “estrecho de San Carlos”), and at Bluff Cove (in Spanish, “Bahía Agradable”), “the fleet’s darkest day”.
As to the land casualties, the latest ones underwent by the British took place on September, 1944, at Arnhem bridge. This operation had been conceived by marshal Montgomery; it was aimed at arriving Germany from the north; the British had to cross three Dutch bridges: Eindhoven, Nimega, and Arnhem. These bridges had to be captured and occupied by American, Polish, and British paratroopers, while a column of armored vehicles drove down the road until reaching the bridges.
The British intelligence gave the “go-ahead” signal to the operation, but everything went wrong.
The British parachute troops, which had the mission of capturing the Arnhem bridge, landed on the verge of a forest, where an SS Panzer division was having a rest. The British casualties were of 9,000 men, although some reckon them of about 16,000.
Again, forty years went by until the Falklands war started.
5. Last, but not least, it has been publicly acknowledged that, without the aid given by the U.S. and the Chile Republic, Great Britain would have had to withdraw its forces from the Falklands.
In other words, Great Britain would have been defeated; among other brave men, by the “Falklands war boys”.