Malvinas/Falklands War: Argentine Experiences of the 1982 Conflict Through Letters, War Diaries, and Amateur Photographs by Soldiers and Civilians Mobilized During the War

Federico Lorenz, CONICET—National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina

Research Grant, 2013

The objective of my project was to study the war experience that Argentine conscripted soldiers went through during the Malvinas war in 1982. The material basis for the study were letters sent and received by soldiers during the conflict, as well as amateur photographs taken by them. Since the conflict was so short, in most cases, correspondence was not subject to censure: It offers unique, first-hand evidence to get to know how soldiers decided to communicate (or not) what they were experiencing.

Many of the photographs and letters were seized by the British or are scattered around. In order to have access to a representative sample, I visited archives and personal collections on the Malvinas Islands, Great Britain, and different regions in Argentina (mainly Patagonia). From this field work, I was able to build a collection of never-before-seen photographs and correspondence.

Civilian letters show a strong presence of the "national cause" in Argentine political culture and also an idealization about Patagonia and Malvinas.

Additionally, I found a large amount of correspondence from civilians who were volunteers to go to islands after the April 2 Argentine landing. Other noteworthy material that I found and used are the reports drafted by some soldiers shortly after their return to the mainland following orders of their units.

Jointly, correspondence and photos show major differences with the official version about the war created from photojournalism and war chronicles. Photos taken by the soldiers break away from the Argentine propaganda images and from the image built by British photographs after the Argentine surrender. Soldiers appear in their daily activities before, during, and after the combat in the way they chose to depict themselves.

There are also important regional and social differences when referring to the war, the nation, and the sacrifice that, ultimately, soldiers must make. Civilian letters show a strong presence of the “national cause” in Argentine political culture and also an idealization about Patagonia and Malvinas.

I plan to continue working on this research and have published articles focusing on this topic in scientific magazines.

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