At least 17 of the 649 names that are engraved in the black marble plates of the Buenos Aires city Memorial to the Argentine servicemen killed in action in the South Atlantic conflict did not die in combat but rather in service, claim former Falklands veteran and former Commander in Chief of the Argentine Army General Martín Balza, and Marcelo Sánchez president of the Committee of Former Combatants.
In an interview published in a Buenos Aires magazine General Balza and Mr. Sánchez who have been investigating the issue for several years believe the irregularities date back to 1983 when the list of "National Heroes" and "Argentine Nation honors medal" to those killed in combat were first made up. "We know for certain two names in the Memorial belonging to the Army never set a foot on the Islands; one drowned in Puerto Deseado and the other died of a pancreas disease in hospital", says General Balza.
Mr. Sanchez adds to the list of irregularities the names of eleven servicemen killed when their helicopter crashed in Santa Cruz province April 30, 1982. "We don't want to offend or harm families, but all this must be made clear. Soldiers died carrying mines, of heart attacks and even from stray shots, on duty but never in combat. We must respect those who died in combat and their families".
Mr. Sánchez points out that a surprising fact of the list of 649 servicemen killed has always been the painfully low number of officers included, and "we've always suspected a manipulation of names with the purpose of bettering that situation". "We've detected this new and painful irregularity in the Army's rolls and we'll begin a similar investigation in the other services. We'll be taking the case to the Anti-corruption Office and the Federal Justice because we're convinced that this has been ill intended. It's unbelievable that the list of servicemen killed has been adulterated, nothing like this has happened in other wars", insists Mr. Sánchez.
Just before New Year General Balza and Mr. Sanchez met with Interior Minister Aníbal Fernández who encouraged them to continue with the investigation.
Another surprising fact denounced by Mr. Sánchez is the "inexplicable and shameful" increase in the number of Malvinas veterans comparing the 1983 and 1999 records.
In the Army the number increased 3%, in the Navy 231% and the Air Force 48%.
"Besides the composition in 1983 of those of us who actually fought in Malvinas was 26% officers and subalterns and 74% soldiers. But the 1999 records indicate 48% officers and subalterns, with only 52% soldiers", says the former Malvinas veteran adding that "when we publicly exposed the fact in 1999 the government did nothing. We hope they do now and they recognize the true heroes of the Motherland".