Opertaion Soberania

Naval discussions covering the latter half of the 20th Century.
Francis Marliere
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Opertaion Soberania

Postby Francis Marliere » Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:14 pm

Gentlemen,

in 1978, Argentina and Chile nearly went to war for the possession of 3 islands of the Canal Beagle. The mediation of pope John Paul II did prevent the war a couple of hours before the hostilities begin.
I am looking for details on intentions and deployment of both countries fleets but unfortunately most sources are in Spanish, which I can't read.
Do you know sources in English (or French) abou this event ?

thanks for any help,

Francis Marliere

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RF
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Re: Opertaion Soberania

Postby RF » Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:17 pm

I have only just come across this thread. What was Operation Soberania, I haven't heard of this before.
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Francis Marliere
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Re: Opertaion Soberania

Postby Francis Marliere » Tue Nov 10, 2015 11:19 am

In the 70's, Argentina claimed 3 Chilean island at the eastern end of the Canal Beagle. Negociations with Chile did not succeed and hard liners in Argentina's junta decided to take the islands by force. At this time, Argentina had stronger armed forces than Chile and expected a quick and total victory.
The details of Argentina's battle plan are not easy to fix (almost everything is in Spanish, which I don't speak, and there are several versions) but roughly, Argentina's naval infantry was to take control of both contested islands (Picton, Nuva and Lennox) as well as another archipelagos (Wollaston, Freycinet, Herschel and Horn islands) by amphibious and / or airmobile assaut. The next morning, the Air Force would attack air bases in Chile (and hopefully, destroy the few enemy combat aircrafts on the ground), while the army would launch severall offensives across the Andes to capture key points in Chile (Santiago, Valparaiso, ...). The navy was to ambush the Chilean fleet attempting the retake the lost island and sink it.
Fortunately for both countries, bad weather delayed the Argentinean landing on the islands, and gave enough time to pope John Paul II to impose a mediation. War was avoided by a narrow margin (some sources say that there were actually a few shots exchanged) and both countries escaped a war in which they had probably nothing to gain but a lot to loose.

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RF
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Re: Opertaion Soberania

Postby RF » Wed Nov 11, 2015 8:43 am

It would have been interesting if this conflict had happened... at the same time as the Falklands war.

As a separate point, had Argentina captured Santiago and Valparaiso there would likely to have been a US reaction, as Chile was an ally of the US. Another perspective is whether Peru and Bolivia would also seek to join in to recover their lost territories from the 1880's.

Given the nature of Chile I do get the impression that an attempt to overrun Chile by Argentina would be rather like Egypt and Syria trying to overrun Israel. I can't see it happening.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Francis Marliere
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Re: Opertaion Soberania

Postby Francis Marliere » Thu Nov 12, 2015 9:51 am

IMHO, it is very unlikely that Argentina attacks Chile and the Falkland Islands at the same time. However, there is a link between the two conflicts. The Falklands war occured because Argentina believed (and still beieves) that the 'Malvinas' are part of its territory, but also because the Junta still wanted in 1982 to go to war with Chile. There was plan to build a naval base in the Falklands, that would be of better use than Ushuaia. Ushuaia was en constant observation from Chile and very difficult to defend.

I don't know about US reaction if Argentina invaded Chile, and I guess that nobody knows for sure what would have happened. At this tuime Argentina was a much more important ally than Chile for the US. Chile was under US arms embargo for a long time in 1978 and did not have good relationships with the US government.

Chile felt able to defend himself against Argentina but feared that Peru and Bolivia could attack from the north, making the situation much more dangerous. As far as I know, neither Peru nor Bolivia agreed to join Argentina (I guess they feared a reaction from Brazil).

The strategic situation for Chile was not good in 1978. Argentina was a much larger, more prosperous country at the time, with a a larger population and stronger armed forces. Chile's Air Force was almost non existant and both the army and navy, while better trained, were inferior in size. Moreover, Chile is a very narrow country that can easily be 'cut' by an inading army. The only advantages that Chile had is the bad quality of Argentina's army (as showed in the Falklands war) and the difficulties for such an army to attacked entranched troops in mountains.

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Re: Opertaion Soberania

Postby RF » Thu Nov 12, 2015 11:04 am

In the 1980's under the Reagan Administration (the period of late 1970's you refer to was under the Carter Administration) Reagan did a deal with Pinochet for the US to have military facilities on Easter Island and elsewhere which included listening posts to spy on Soviet bloc communications.

Anything Argentina did that would upset or interfere with that arrangement would have brought a hostile US reaction.

As you say Argentina would not choose to engage Chile and assault the Falklands at the same time, not even the Junta was that stupid. But war could have started with Chile during the Falklands conflict, not least because the RN was using Chilean airspace and territory covertly for operations which remain secret in the UK until at least 2032.
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