The Rattenbach report on the performance of the Argentine armed forces during the 1982 invasion followed by the Malvinas war has been officially de-classified and Rosendo Fraga, an outstanding Argentine historian and political analyst reveals some details, which contrary to popular belief, far from condemning praise the performance of Argentine forces.
The report was ordered by the outgoing military Junta and was ready for its release before the first elected democratic government of then President Raul Alfonsin who took office in late 1983. However since some chapters were particularly damning of the ruling Junta as commanders of the conflict, allegedly it was rapidly classified and expected to be kept secret for 50 years.
Nevertheless Fraga points out that at the time (1983) a copy of the main body of the report was filtered to the press by one of the officers involved, General Tomas Sanchez de Bustamante with the purpose of helping the incoming weak civilian government as well as trying to upgrade the credibility of the Argentine armed forces.
General Benjamin Rattenbach who led the group of six officers, (two from each service), because of his seniority, as so many young officers of his generation (including General Juan Peron) was an admirer of the Axis and had pictures taken in Germany with Hitler.
Fraga points out that the main text does not include two attachments longer than the one leaked to the press. In effect the harsh criticism of military leadership of the Malvinas war is well known and clearly identifies the officers involved, even suggesting the firing squad in some cases.
The whole report has four main parts, in fifteen chapters with almost 900 parts and Fraga reveals some of those he considers most relevant.
Chapter VII, Part III (Assessment and Critical analysis) after strongly criticizing the Commander in Chief of the Argentine Army, nevertheless indicates in points 605 to 609 that field and air defence artillery, commando companies, cavalry exploration squadron, helicopters support and some elements from Infantry regiment 25 displayed a high degree of “training and professionalism, as well as an adequate commando action which was evident during the defence of Puerto Argentino (Stanley) where they had an outstanding performance”.
In other words, says Fraga, the report clearly praises the performance of the majority of the Army units involved in the fight in the Falklands.
The actions of the Commander in Chief of the Navy are extremely criticized and addressed in points 611 to 614 but in 615 it refers to the Navy’s air force.
“The A4Q operated from the continent and together with the recently incorporated Super Etendard inflicted damages out of all proportion in respect to previous analysis of relative power taking into account elements such as own means, opposition means and the operational environment influence”.
There is a special mention in point 616 to the Marines Battalion, which was involved in ground fighting during the defence of Puerto Argentino (Stanley) with ‘outstanding performance’.
The commander of the Air Force is addressed in points 617 to 619, and contrary to his peers there is acknowledgement of his procedure.
Further on point 620 says that the training of combat personnel was in line with the demands of war. Pilots had to experience and take to practice unprecedented attacks on surface war vessels; however the lack of specific training for this kind of combat together with the great technological capacity and dimension of the enemy force, caused many losses of lives and equipment.
Point 622 says that in spite of these limitations to adequately sustain a conflict in a sea-air theatre, when fighting broke out the Air Force commander accepted the disadvantages and risks and sent all his resources into battle.
Finally Chapter XV with the conclusions states in point 882 that there were numerous acts of extraordinary valour both in the Armed Forces and Security Forces in the theatre of operations giving evidence of the plenitude of the best Argentine military traditions.
“We must be proud of the nobility with which the Armed Forces of the Motherland acted, which in no moment infringed the rules of war by participating in actions contrary to the ethics of troops in combat such as attacking troops, vessels or aircraft involved in rescue operations.
Point 884, leaving aside the outcome of the war conflict “our Armed Forces can be satisfied of their actions during the combat since they faced a first rate world magnitude supported politically and logistically by the United States”.
Finally 885, if in such conditions “our Armed Forces were able to inflict damages out of all proportion to the UK Joint Task Force, to the point it was forced to display most of its amphibious forces, we can affirm that they have gracefully accomplished with their duty”.
Historian Fraga ends his analysis saying that the Rattenbach report praises the actions of the Argentine Armed Forces as such, leaving aside the errors of military command, which have been the most publicly known side so far.
“On the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the South Atlantic war it is fair to remember this side normally hidden of the Rattenbach report”.