Sources for Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume XIII, Conflict in the South Atlantic, 1981–1984

This volume documents the development of U.S. policy toward the Anglo-Argentine sovereignty dispute in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, centered upon the island territories and adjacent waters of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands, during the first administration of President Ronald Reagan. While the volume’s main narrative tracks the Reagan administration’s handling of the crisis sparked by the outbreak of war in the South Atlantic between Argentina and the United Kingdom in April–June 1982, the volume also seeks to contextualize these actions by documenting U.S. officials’ prewar attitudes toward the dispute and the abortive negotiations between the Argentine and British Governments that predated hostilities, as well as the U.S. assessment of the postwar balance between the belligerents, the conflict’s impact on wider U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere and Europe, and attempts to encourage a lasting diplomatic settlement after June 1982. Moreover, the final chapter of the compilation illustrates the significant influence exerted by the lingering sovereignty dispute, and the perceived need to accommodate British sensitivities in particular, upon the Reagan administration’s attempts to normalize political, economic, and military relations with Argentina between the end of the 1982 war and the re-establishment of civilian government in December 1983. The purpose of this access guide is twofold: to inform the reader where to locate the most relevant source material related to these issues and to assess the role played by these collections in the construction of this compilation.

As with any subject relating to U.S. foreign policy during the Reagan years, researchers seeking to document the administration’s attempts to respond to the crisis and war between Argentina and the United Kingdom the South Atlantic, its prelude and its aftermath, along with the often-thorny interdepartmental debates within the policymaking establishment that accompanied U.S. decisionmaking, would be well-served to begin their work at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Although the National Security Council did not hold the same dominant position in U.S. foreign policymaking at the start of Reagan’s first term that it had held during the 1970s, reflective of the administration’s initial enthusiasm for decentralized bureaucracy, the files of the NSC’s Executive Secretariat [Page XVIII] serve as an important central repository for many of the key policy documents relating to the South Atlantic conflict. Within the Executive Secretariat files, two collections, the Country File and Cable File, were integral for this compilation. Organized geographically by region, the Country File offers substantial documentation not only relating to bilateral relations with Argentina and the United Kingdom, including memoranda, telephone conversations, and reporting cables, but also several folders of material devoted specifically to the course of the war itself. Similarly, the Cable File contains a separate “Falkland File,” a voluminous series of telegrams produced during the 1982 Anglo-Argentine war by the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and other U.S. Government agencies, and collected by the White House Situation Room.

Beginning in 1983, the NSC Executive Secretariat was replaced and the NSC Staff was reorganized into geographic directorates. Therefore, researchers interested in documentation relating to the postwar situation in the region; the impact of the British victory on Anglo-American relations, U.S.-Latin American relations, and the transition to civilian rule in Argentina; and the continuation of the sovereignty dispute in the United Nations and Organization of American States, should consult the files of the Latin American Affairs Directorate (which also contains significant additional documentation from the 1982 war) and the European and Soviet Affairs Directorate. Lastly, any documentary record of the Reagan administration’s policy toward the South Atlantic conflict, and the role of the National Security Council in shaping it, would be incomplete without research in the office files of several key individuals, most notably the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, William P. Clark, and NSC Staff members Dennis Blair, Roger Fontaine, and James Rentschler.

While the Reagan Library holdings provide a solid foundation for reconstructing the documentary record of the Reagan administration’s policy toward the Anglo-Argentine dispute, it would be impossible to construct a complete picture of U.S. diplomacy, especially during the April–June 1982 war, without the files of the Department of State and Department of Defense. Both sets of records include vital documentation, including action memoranda and memoranda of conversation with Argentine and British officials, not found elsewhere. As the source notes in this compilation indicate, the Department of State’s Central Foreign Policy File and institutional Lot Files are enormously rich resources for illustrating the central role of the Department in general, and of Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., in particular, in shaping and executing the administration’s attempt to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict following the Argentine landing on the Falklands/Malvinas on April 2, 1982. For documenting Secretary [Page XIX] Haig’s diplomatic “shuttle” between Washington, London, and Buenos Aires, three Lot Files—82D370, 83D210, and 89D213—are indispensable. These lots contain not only multiple draft versions of the settlement agreement Haig unsuccessfully sought to broker between the two sides in multiple rounds of intense bilateral discussions, but also verbatim memoranda of conversation of Haig’s exchanges with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Argentine President General Leopoldo Galtieri, and other officials of the British and Argentine Governments, documents which do not appear in any other collection. Moreover, these lots provide valuable documentation on diplomatic initiatives undertaken after the administration’s public “tilt” toward the British side in late April, most notably records of discussions concerning the Peruvian peace initiative and reports of Ambassador-at-Large Vernon Walters’s meetings with the Argentine Junta in May 1982, copies of which are also not readily available elsewhere.

Like Haig, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger exerted considerable influence on the administration’s diplomatic course. An early and consistent supporter of the British position, Secretary Weinberger advocated for the full weight of U.S. political and military resources to be placed behind the Thatcher government. To capture the dimensions of Weinberger’s viewpoint, its scope and depth, Department of Defense records are essential. As with Department of State lot files, the official records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense contain many types of documentation, including memoranda of conversation and reports on the military situation produced by U.S. defense attachés, not generally found in other agencies’ files. Also unique to Defense files are many of the documents dealing with U.S. military aid to the British, including most of the relevant signed action memoranda presented to Weinberger.

Numerous other collections also yielded important documentation for this volume. The files of the Central Intelligence Agency provided critical meeting minutes, assessments, and analyses of the political and military situation in the South Atlantic. The files of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General David Jones were also useful in rounding out the U.S. military’s view of the Anglo-Argentine war.

This documentation has been made available for use in the Foreign Relations series thanks to the consent of the agencies mentioned, the assistance of their staffs, and, especially, the cooperation of the NatioGeneral David Jonesnal Archives and Records Administration. In addition, with the kind permission of the respective Estates of Secretaries Haig and Weinberger and with the assistance of the staff of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, special access was granted Department of State historians to the Secretaries’ personal papers, which remain closed to the public. These papers contain a wealth of unique documen [Page XX] tation which does not appear in official files, including handwritten notes, meeting minutes, and annotated documents, which contribute significantly to our understanding of the central roles played by Secretaries Haig and Weinberger in shaping the Reagan administration’s approach to the South Atlantic conflict. Without these, this volume would have been incomplete.

In addition to the paper files cited below, a growing number of documents are available on the Internet. The Office of the Historian maintains a list of these Internet resources on its website and encourages readers to consult that site on a regular basis.

Unpublished Sources

  • Department of State
    • Central Foreign Policy File
      • Lot Files
      • Lot 89D489: Bureau of European Affairs, United Kingdom Political Files
      • Lot 90D400: Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, Falklands/Malvinas Files of Luigi Einaudi
      • Lot 86D157: Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, Falklands Crisis Historical Files
      • Lot 83D210: Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Miscellaneous Files, March 1981–February 1983
      • Executive Secretariat
        • Lot 82D370: Executive Secretariat, Files of Alexander M. Haig, Jr., 1981–1982
        • Lot 83D288: Executive Secretariat, Very Sensitive Correspondence Files of Alexander M. Haig, Jr., 1981–1982
        • Lot 84D204: Executive Secretariat, Files of Lawrence S. Eagleburger, 1967–1984
        • Lot 87D327: Executive Secretariat, Secretary Shultz Memoranda of Conversation
        • Lot 89D213: Executive Secretariat, Files of Ambassador-at-Large Vernon A. Walters, 1981–1985
        • Lot 96D262: Executive Secretariat, S/S Special Handling Restrictions Memos, 1979–1983
        • Lot 12D215: Executive Secretariat, Top Secret Hardcopy Telegrams
  • National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
    • RG 218, Files of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
      • FRC 218–92–0030: Official Files of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General David Jones, June 1978–June 1982
    • Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California
      • White House Staff and Office Files
        • Files of the Executive Secretariat, National Security Council
          • Agency File
          • Cable File
            • Falkland File
          • Country File
            • Europe and Soviet Union
            • Latin America/Central
          • Head of State File
          • Meeting File
          • National Security Decision Directives (NSDD) File
          • National Security Planning Group (NSPG) File
          • National Security Study Directives (NSSD) File
          • Subject File
          • VIP Visits File
        • Files of the European and Soviet Affairs Directorate, National Security Council
        • Files of the Latin American Affairs Directorate, National Security Council
        • Files of the Political Affairs Directorate, National Security Council
        • Files of the Situation Room, White House
        • Dennis C. Blair Files
        • William P. Clark Files
        • Roger W. Fontaine Files
        • David Gergen Files
        • Oliver North Files
      • Papers of George P. Shultz
      • President’s Daily Diary
    • Central Intelligence Agency
      • National Intelligence Council
        • Job 83B01027R: Policy Files (1978–1982)
        • Job 83T00966R: Chronological Files (1982)
      • Office of the Deputy Director for Intelligence
        • Job 83T00966R: Chronological Files (1982)
        • Office of the Director of Central Intelligence
        • Job 83M00914R: EXDIR and Executive Registry Files (1982)
        • Job 84B00049R: Subject Files (1981–1982)
        • Job 88B00443R: Policy Files (1980–1986)
        • Job 89B00224R: Committees, Task Forces, Boards, and Councils Files
      • Office of Russian and European Analysis, Directorate of Intelligence
        • Job 01T02211R: Intelligence Publication File—Record Copy of Finished Intelligence Pubs
        • Office of Support Services, Directorate of Intelligence
        • Job 83B00225R: Production Case Files (1982)
        • Job 83B00228R: Production Case Files (1982)
        • Job 84T01067R: Production Case Files (’81–’82)
      • Office of Security
      • Job 87T00623R: Policy Files (1973–1986)
      • Job 95B00915R: Leak Data Base Files (1976–1991)
    • History Staff Files
  • Washington National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland
    • RG 330, Records of the Department of Defense
      • FRC 330–84–0003: 1982 Official Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense
      • FRC 330–84–0004: 1982 Official Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense
      • FRC 330–86–0042: 1982 Official Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense
      • FRC 330–87–0067: Official Files of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
    • National Security Council
      • National Security Council Institutional Files
    • Library of Congress
      • Manuscript Division
        • Papers of Alexander M. Haig, Jr. Department of State Files
        • Papers of Caspar W. Weinberger Department of Defense Files

Published Sources

  • Congress and the Nation, Volume IV, 1981–1984. Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 1985.
  • Freedman, Sir Lawrence. The Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volume I: The Origins of the Falklands War. London: Routledge, 2005.
  • ______. The Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volume II: War and Diplomacy. London: Routledge, 2005.
  • Haig, Alexander M., Jr. Caveat: Realism, Reagan, and Foreign Policy. New York: Macmillan, 1984.
  • Henderson, Nicholas. Mandarin: The Diaries of Nicholas Henderson. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994.
  • New York Times
  • Reagan, Ronald W. Diaries: Volume I, January 1981–October 1985. Unabridged edition. New York: Harper, 2009.
  • Rentschler, James M. A Reason to Get Up in the Morning: A Cold Warrior Remembers. Estate of James M. Rentschler, 2008. (Self-published memoir)
  • ______. “Falklands Diary: 1 April–25 June 1982,” Margaret Thatcher Foundation.
  • Shultz, George P. Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State. New York: Scribner’s, 1993.
  • Thatcher, Margaret. The Downing Street Years. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
  • United Nations. Yearbook of the United Nations, 1982, 1983, 1984.
  • United States. Department of State. American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984–1986.
  • ______. Department of State. Bulletin, 1981–1984.
  • ______. National Archives and Records Administration. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982–1986.
  • Washington Post
  • Weinberger, Caspar. Fighting for Peace: Seven Critical Years at the Pentagon. New York: Warner Books, 1990.