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Chapter Twenty-One THE BRIDGEHEAD AND BEYOND The Argentine High Command was caught out by the British landing, and further confused, as was the intention, by diversionary attacks not only in San Carlos but also in Fox Bay, Darwin and Stanley. The intelligence assessments had been inaccurate and now the decisionmaking was paralysed.' The landing had been detected by the unit at Fanning Head. At 08.30 it had sent a message warning of the landing to Goose Green, from where it had been sent to General Menendez. Because he had received scant detail, Menendez asked for a reconnaissance flight. An Aeromacchi went off in search of British ships. The pilot was startled to come across twelve in San Carlos Bay. He gallandy attacked a frigate and then returned to Stanley. Menendez contacted Galtieri immediately . The President asked if there were 'many of them'. Menendez said not to worry, 'It was within our expectations. They have landed in an undefended place. And well... we are doing what we can.'2 The Junta in Buenos Aires met at 21.00 hours on 21 May. It had been delayed until the return to the capital of Lami Dozo, the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, who had witnessed the landing from the Air Force Headquarters in the south. He convinced the Junta that whatever effective force was available should be used against the beachhead in San Carlos to prevent it being consolidated. However, when consulted, Menendez argued that this landing was not the main attack but a secondary action aimed at diverting the attention of the Argentine defences. Studies undertaken at Stanley had 357 Combat concluded that less than a brigade had landed at San Carlos, so that the second brigade (which was in fact still some days away from the Falklands) was still available for a landing elsewhere.3 He refused to send forces from the Stanley area, in his opinion still the main enemy objective. Only a company could have been sent, which would have made little impression on the British. The only response was to reinforce the Goose Green garrison with 105mm guns which were to be transported from Stanley on the Rio Iguazu. Menendez could think of little else to do to disrupt the British advance. He later told General Garcia: We have studied the possibility of sending a contingent of the 12th regiment to the hilly area, and have also moved heavy mortars to increase fire power. Later we are going to try some limited action. We have a plan to climb the hills but there is a risk that the British with their helicopters would trap us there in a sort of sandwich.4 His options had not been eased by an attack which caught a Chinook and two Pumas on the ground at Mount Kent. His other Chinook at Stanley was already unserviceable. The British had made the identification of Argentine helicopters a major intelligence task and their removal an early priority. Land transport was extremely difficult across the Falklands, and the trucks and tracked vehicles that the Argentine forces had brought with them were useless outside the capital. The more helicopters denied to the Argentine forces the more they would be pinned down at Stanley. Bomb Alley The confusion in the Argentine command over the scale of the British operation at San Carlos led to delays in organizing substantial air attacks against the beachhead. They were only ready to begin after noon on 21 May, although there were a number of smaller raids in the morning. After the single Aeromacchi came two groups each of three Daggers, 358 The Bridgehead and Beyond flying in at 9.35 and then 9.43 on an armed reconnaissance, one of which was shot down. An hour later two Pucaras based at Goose Green also made an attack. One of these was also shot down. The Skyhawk attacks began at 12.00 prompt by one group of two and another of four. Six more Skyhawks came in at 13.15, to be followed half an hour later by two groups of four Daggers and four skyhawks respectively. The next attack at 14.00 involved two groups each of three Daggers and one group of three Skyhawks. The day's attacks concluded at 14.15 withfiveSkyhawks. The sporadic nature of these attacks meant that the British defences were never swamped. Of the thirteen Daggers and nineteen Skyhawks attacking that day,fiveof each were lost, mainly to Harriers. In...


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