The former military governor of the Malvinas Islands during the Argentine occupation said that the negative outcome of the war for Argentina can only be attributed to “negligence and improvisation”.
However he attacked Chile which he said that during the conflict they “did not behave as brothers, they behaved as swine”.
In a long interview with an Argentine television channel, General Mario Benjamin Menendez admitted Argentina was not prepared “for a war in the Islands, but rather for war with Chile”.
General Menendez was named military governor of the Malvinas Islands a day after the Argentine invasion on 2 April and officially took the post three days later.
“When I asked Galtieri (the general who acted as president of the military Junta that ruled Argentina) what support I would have to rule the Islands, he replied 500 men, a couple of vessels and a couple of aircraft”, revealed Menendez.
The former governor said this was clearly insufficient but helps to understand the loss of the war, which from the very beginning put in evidence the “negligence and improvisation of the whole operation”.
General Menendez also attributes the defeat to the fact that the UK received aid and support from France and the United States. And regarding Chile the former general said that they openly collaborated with the UK, “they did not behave as brothers, they behaved as swine”.
Regarding his battle experience, Menendez said that what his troops most needed and was not becoming was food. He was also shocked about the conditions in which the military hospitals operated.
Menendez recalls the visit of a Red Cross vessel from which after the official ceremony and dinner on board, “we waited for all of them to go to sleep and took the food ashore”.
“That evening we all dined, but later they went to sleep and we unloaded their food provisions”, said Menendez.
As to the hospitals and doctors an idea of the improvisation was the fact doctors only had “saws and razor blades” as surgical instruments. Doctors would have to care up to three patients at the time.
“I think the idea of the Junta was to stand up to the first push, but they never thought we would have to sustain a war as happened. The Galtieri Junta did not know or was unable to negotiate to avoid the full fledged war” admitted Menendez.
Further on Menendez said his main concern was that the civilian population of the Islands suffered the less impact of the conflict and as he became convinced it was a lost war, to save the lives of as many soldiers as possible.`
Menendez was later questioned for having surrendered when still with two thirds of his forces active but clearly in spite of Galtieri’s orders to continue battling “we realized it was the best way out of the situation”.
“He demanded I prepare a counterattack, since the Air Force and Navy were exhausted, but we only had left the valour and combat willingness of our soldiers. For a counterattack plan we had more needs than support”.
Finally when he signed rendition, he admitted easing the word unconditional from the document, but at the time it was pointless since “Galtieri was announcing to the world it was an evacuation, not surrender”.
The 40 day Falklands military governor also revealed that in spite of his daily reports on the situation, the Argentine people were fed other information. He mentioned specifically a well known Buenos Aires magazine which showed a formation of Argentine soldiers on the ground preparing to open fire, “a picture clearly manipulated”.
“In Malvinas combat was never on flat dry ground: soldiers lived and died in fox holes and trenches with water to their knees”.
Contrasting with current interpretations of what happened then Menendez said he didn’t’ believe Galtieri wanted to remain in office and therefore invaded the Islands.
“I think our main interest as military was the return to a civilian government in Argentina”-
Regarding the Rattenbach report on military shortcomings and responsibilities during the Malvinas conflict, Menendez said the alleged “lack of spirit and aptitude” from the military was nonsense.
He exhibited an original document, from the Argentine Army archives, and unknown so far and which comes under the name of “Criticism of the Rattnbach report”. Allegedly it was drafted by General Rattenbach and denies statements contrary to Menendez performance.
“In fact General Rattenbach signed the report, which is totally attributed to him and carries his name, in dissidence”, revealed Menendez.