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The Falklands War 1982

 

On 2 April 1982, Argentinian forces invaded the Falklands and Margaret Thatcher faced the most testing crisis of her career.

There are many documents on the site relating to the war, including audio of MT's performances in the Commons and the diary of a key US official during the war

1982 april 1 - june 25: the commons & the falklands - audio

The House of Commons played an important part in the Falklands War, meeting on a Saturday for the first time in 25 years immediately after the invasion to debate the crisis and frequently returning to the subject during the ten weeks of the war, its broadcast debates closely followed by media and public. The Saturday session was one of those occasions on which the quality of a minister's performance really matters and the poor reception given John Nott's speech by an angry House nearly did for him.

At that time the proceedings of the Commons were recorded on audio tape, but not filmed. Copies of MT's key statements and speeches to the Commons during the war have now been added to the site from the archive of the Parliamentary Recording Unit.

 

3 April 1982: MT's speech on the Argentinian invasion (Saturday session)

3 April 1982: John Nott's speech on the Argentinian invasion (Saturday session)

14 April 1982: MT speech on the diplomatic & miliary situation

26 April 1982: MT statement on the recapture of South Georgia

29 April 1982: MT statement on the diplomatic & military situation

20 May 1982: MT statement on Britain's final diplomatic offer

14 June 1982: MT statement announcing the Argentinian surrender

1982 april 1 - june 25: jim rentschler's diary

Jim Rentschler was the White House official responsible for handling the Falklands on behalf of President Reagan, a young, affable, high-flying career diplomat seconded to the NSC under President Carter who had stayed on into the new Administration. He generously shared his vivid personal diary with margaretthatcher.org and agreed that we should be the first to publish extensive extracts.

The diary covers the entire period of the conflict. Written shortly after the event, it is a highly credible contemporary source, drawing on documents prepared by the author for the Administration's own archive. Not only was he able to form a judgment of what was happening around the President, he travelled with Haig on his shuttle diplomacy between London and Buenos Aires, making him the only US official present on both sides of the perenially troubled White House-State Department divide.

Rentschler first knew of the Falklands conflict on 1 April when he listened in to the phone conversation between President Reagan and the Argentinian President. "The Argentines have clearly misjudged the British temper and this guy Galtieri, speaking in broken mafiosi-style English before the State Department interpreter tactfully intervenes, sounds like a thug". He was present at the key White House meeting of 8 April at which the CIA representative, Admiral Bobby Inman, launched a sharp attack on Mrs Jeane Kirkpatrick's bid to maintain US neutrality between Britain and Argentina. "I couldn't disagree more with Jeanne's statement, it's the most wrongheaded thing I've ever heard!" The meeting decided nonetheless that Secretary of State Alexander Haig should begin a mediating mission between the warring parties in the hope of finding a settlement and Rentschler joined the Haig party in its shuttling between London, Buenos Aires and Washington.

MT's reception of Haig and his team on the first evening in London left a strong impression on the Americans as to her resolve and clarity of thought (as was intended, of course). "Thatcher, you see, just ain't buying our 'suggestion' for a diplomatic approach to the crisis", Rentschler wrote. She was particularly critical of plans for an interim administration on the islands - "Interim authority! - to do what?" - while Haig sat "nervously tapping his leg and chain smoking his Merits". She ended the evening by saying: "I do hope you realize how much we appreciate and are thankful for your presence here ... and how the kind of candor we have displayed could only be possible among the closest of friends – with everyone else we're merely nice".

Where Reagan stood in relation to Haig is one of the key questions in assessing US policy during the crisis. The diary implies that Haig felt he had an understanding with the President that if a deal was within reach, Reagan would put personal pressure on MT to make the necessary final concessions. But that point never came during the period of the shuttle. It did come, however, in the weeks after the shuttle failed and American policy publicly "tilted" towards the British (30 April). The diary shows that the White House as well as the State Department retained a strong interest in promoting diplomatic initiatives during that period, hugely disappointing MT who felt that America had declared its position and that the diplomacy should swiftly be brought to an end.

The diary says little about the fighting itself, but includes a description of the Versailles G7 summit in early June where Reagan and Thatcher met. The extracts show very clearly how tense relations had become between Al Haig and the President's entourage, and the extracts close with Haig's resignation as Secretary of State on 25 June 1982.

The document has been prepared from a photocopy of the typed original provided by Ambassador Rentschler. Cuts are indicated by ellipsis. The total length of the extract is around 21,500 words.

Be warned that the diary contains some strong language. Ambassador Rentschler's original diary version has been edited to ensure greater clarity and concision for a non-American reader; should any subscriber wish to see these diary excerpts as initially drafted, please contact the site.

Jim Rentschler's Falklands diary

1982 mar - june: other falklands material

There are hundreds of documents relating to the Falklands on this site, from speeches and interviews to highly classified British and American state papers.

Read the main Falklands documents on this site