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Chapter Eight OPERATION ROSARIO The Argentine Plan It is standard practice for the Argentine military to prepare contingency plans in case any of the territorial disputes with the country's neighbours becomes critical. These plans are known as 'conflict' or 'war hypotheses' and they serve as the basis for military policy for periods ranging from eighteen months to three years. As the political circumstances change these plans are updated or cancelled accordingly . This also tends to happen when commanders-in-chief or governments change. By and large these plans are developed within individual services. Argentina has not had a strong centralized Ministry of Defence or Joint Staff structure. Each of the chiefs has concentrated on his own service, and so the joint planning process has been minimal. Only at times of crisis do the services work together to any serious extent. This has usually been achieved through ad hoc committees rather than through institutionalized procedures. The Falklands War was no exception. The Navy had always taken prime responsibility for the maritime aspects of all potential conflicts, including the South Atlantic Islands, along with access to Antarctica and the conflict with Chile relating to the Beagle Channel. It had therefore been preparing plans for the Falklands for many years. The first were developed after the breakdown in negotiations in 1968. The major planning exercise prior to 103 Confrontation 1982 had been at the time of the Shackleton incident of 1976. When Admiral Anaya took command of the Navy in October 1981 he began at once to review its plans. On 18 December 1981, when the new Junta first discussed the Falklands, Anaya listened to Costa Mendez outline the lack of progress in the negotiations with Britain, the pressure to reinstate the Endurance and the election of hardliners to the Falkland Islands Council, and he concluded that this could well lead to a conflict with Britain. It was therefore natural to order his own Navy planners to revise the Malvinas plans. At the time there was no need to go much beyond that as the Junta had yet to decide on its approach to the negotiations. According to Anaya: Ί ordered on 22 December 1981 my Chief of Staff, Vice-Admiral Alberto Vigo, to arrange - as a preventive measure - that the recently named head of Naval Operations, Vice-Admiral Juan Jose Lombardo, should update the plans to occupy the Malvinas.'1 The next day Lombardo received a memo ordering him to do this. He ordered his direct commands - the Surface Fleet, the Marine Infantry, the Naval Aviation and his Chief of Staff* - to develop plans for the use of armed force in the event of a continued lack of progress in the negotiations with the United Kingdom. After a week Lombardo arrived at a plan involving helicopters from the naval transports used in the Sub-Antarctic. No warships would be involved: the idea would be to surprise the British garrison and take over the Falklands with the minimum of casualties.2 The Junta decided on its approach to the Falklands question when it met on 5 January 1982. A military option was given a higher priority; future planning should be on a joint basis and not just undertaken by an individual service. Such an historic step should not be left to the Navy alone. A planning group was established on 12 January to consider how military force might best be used to support the Junta's determination to regain sovereignty over the Falklands. Lombardo was joined by Army General Garcia and Brigadier Sigfrido Plessl of the Air Force. * Rear Admiral Gualter Allara, Rear Admiral Carlos Biisser, Rear Admiral Carlos Garcia Boll and Rear Admiral Angel M. Rodriguez respectively. 104 Operation Rosario Until 23 March, the real objectives behind all this activity were known only to a handful of high-ranking officers, who were gathering pertinent information and developing a general plan as to how to capture the Islands by force. They met secretly, at different places and kept only hand-written records. For those involved it seemed a tedious business, in that they had put together plans in the past from which little or nothing had resulted. Capturing the Falklands was a well-known problem, frequently rehearsed at the Naval War School as an exercise in planning techniques , with many studies in the War School's filing cabinets. Few of the officers involved believed that this time the plan would actually be implemented.3 The first stage of the planning process was completed...


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