Originally published June 12, 1982.
At least 46 British troops were killed and 130 wounded on Tuesday when Argentine planes attacked British landing ships south of the Falkland Islands’ capital of Port Stanley, according to authoritative reports circulating here last night.
The death toll is likely to increase since many of the injured may not survive serious burns sustained in the bombing raids, which put two British landing craft out of operation.
If confirmed, the total of deaths and injuries would be the largest suffered by Britain in a single military incident since the Korean War. Official figures are being suppressed on the advice of the British joint chiefs of staff.
Britain denied an Argentine report that between 500 and 900 British troops were killed. However, a ham radio operator in the western city of Bristol said yesterday he had received a transmission from a Falklands farmer who helped with first aid after the raids and who reported 220 British dead and 400 wounded. “He described the scene as ‘bloody carnage,’ as the Argentinian planes swooped on our landing craft. He also saw the attack on the (landing ship) Sir Galahad and soldiers falling everywhere,” Bruce Sutherland said. “The information he gave suggested that all the casualties were ours, including a native girl who was either injured or killed by a landmine. The same man gave me details of (last month’s) Goose Green landing, which has proved correct.” The British Defence Ministry said last night five Argentines were killed during clashes with British patrols on Wednesday. It said four Argentine Pucara aircraft had strafed a forward British position, but said there were no casualties. Four Argentine Mirages were also sighted but chased away.
In spite of clear weather, Argentine air operations have subsided since Tuesday’s heavy raids.
Meanwhile, Argentine President Leopoldo Galtieri said in an interview published in London today in The Times that he never expected a British mobilization over Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands on April 2.
Speaking to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, he said: “Though an English reaction was considered a possibility, we did not believe that Great Britain would mobilize for the Malvinas. We did not see it as a probability. Personally, I judged it scarcely possible and totally improbable.” Asked if he thought he had made a mistake and had regrets after “hundreds of kids” died on the Argentine side in the conflict, he answered: “No, madam journalist.” He called British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “politically inadequate” to the Falkands situation, but denied that Latin “machismo” had blinded him to the possibility that a woman prime minister might go to war.
Gen. Galtieri said he felt bitter about U.S. “deception” and “betrayal” over the crisis: “We got along really well. We were supposed to do many things together in this continent. This is why I accepted without hesitation . . . (U.S. Secretary of State Alexander) Haig . . . when he offered to act as a mediator.” The later U.S. declaration of support for Britain was seen by Argentines “as a betrayal,” he said.
In other Falklands developments: Intelligence sources said in Washington that Peru has sent Argentina 10 French-built Mirage-5 warplanes to help replace the estimated one-third of the Argentine air force which has been lost so far.
The Mirages, designed for attacking surface targets, were reported to have left Peru for Argentina last Sunday, two days before the heavy Argentine assault. It was not known, however, if any of the jets were involved in the raids. . In the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, a British Embassy spokesman said that two ships carrying 1,000 Argentine prisoners and 70 British wounded from the Falklands war zone were due to arrive there this weekend.
Uruguay supports Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands but has remained neutral in the present conflict, serving as a base for the exchange of prisoners between the two sides and the removal of British wounded from the war zone. In the British port of Southampton, the liner Queen Elizabeth 2, converted to a troopship and carrying 700 survivors from British warships sunk in the Falklands conflict, returned home. Small ships blew their whistles and sirens, planes dipped their wings in salute and hundreds of relatives and friends of the troops and volunteer crew waved flags and bunting as the converted luxury liner steamed in. In Paris, the French Government said yesterday it still considers the case against Argentine naval Captain Alfredo Astiz open despite his repatriation to Buenos Aires from Britain on Thursday.
It says Capt. Astiz, captured when British forces retook the island of South Georgia on April 25, was involved in the disappearance of two French nuns in Argentina. Britain flew him to London but he refused to answer any questions prepared by French officials and by the Swedish Government, which wanted to ask him about the murder and rape of a Swedish girl in Buenos Aires in 1977.
In Stockholm, the Swedish Government said it deplored Britain’s decision, but that there was no legal basis upon which to appeal it.
Special to The Globe and Mail