The Argentine Invasion of the Falklands (1982)
On April 2, 1982 Argentina launched the invasion of the Falkland Islands, a British territory about 300 miles away. The invasion and subsequent occupation of South Georgia the next day spurred the ten-week long Falklands War.
The islands had been a source of contention for over 200 years. Argentina argued that it had inherited the islands from Spain in the 1800s, and was therefore reclaiming its own territory. For Britain, the act was an invasion of its territory. Under the leadership of PM Margaret Thatcher, Britain responded by dispatching a task force to reclaim the islands more than 8,000 miles from home. 74 days of heavy fighting ensued, involving massive naval and air forces from both sides. The war saw the sinking of Argentina’s cruiser the General Belgrano that took over 320 Argentine lives. The incident sparked heated controversy as the vessel was outside the 200-mile exclusion zone around the Falklands. The Falklands war came to an end with the surrender of Argentine forces on June 14 after the fall of Port Stanley.
The war was a major turning point in Thatcher’s career, resulting in her re-election in 1983. National confidence in the UK, which had taken a hit amid recession and high levels of unemployment, resurged after the victory. Diplomatic relations between the UK and Argentina have resumed, although differences over the territory still remain.