GONE .. Argentine General Mario Menéndez
What is omitted is his butchery in the Cordoba Region during the dirty war.. An evil ruthless man..
Menéndez in the Falklands during the Argentine occupation in 1982
Menéndez in the Falklands during the Argentine occupation in 1982 Epa
Last updated at 12:01AM, September 26 2015 – Times (UK)
Army officer who was briefly governor of the Falklands after the Argentine invasion in 1982 but failed to mount an effective defence against British forces
Described by President Leopoldo Galtieri as “the best general in the Argentine army”, Mario Menéndez probably owed his appointment as governor of the Malvinas, otherwise known as the Falklands Islands, more to his record of providing his head of state with advice that he wished to hear than either to his military experience or his judgment.
Brigadier-General Menéndez arrived at Port Stanley, the capital, five days after the occupation of the Falklands. One of his tasks was to meet the British governor, Sir Rex Hunt, who was wearing a formal uniform, including a plumed hat, and arrived at the town hall in his offical car, which was a converted London taxi. “There was this rather miserable little general, sallow faced, coming towards me with a fixed smile,” said Hunt, who was ordered to leave the islands.
Menéndez was not expecting to have to fight for the retention of the islands and, it is said, his confidence never recovered from hearing that a British task force had left for the South Atlantic.
By his own account, Menéndez was previously a member of the military committee in Buenos Aires, reporting weekly to Galtieri on foreign policy, military readiness, training and the budget. With the country’s economy in decline, Menéndez would have needed flashes of imagination almost every week to keep the president happy, but seemingly not enough to dissuade the military junta from deciding on the classic political trick of generating a foreign policy crisis to distract attention from troubles at home.
His two commanders on the Falklands were senior to him as brigadier-generals, so his orders would have been subject to debate before compliance. Much of his 11,300-man force were conscripts with scant appetite for battle. The defensive campaign he conducted reflected nagging doubts about whether his men would stand and fight. Yet, when the crunch came, they fought competently and resolutely at Goose Green against 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment and initially against all of Major-General Jeremy Moore’s force in defence of Stanley. Throughout the campaign, Menéndez’s uncertainty dissipated what resolve his subordinate commanders were able to muster in terms of offensive spirit.
As a graduate of the national military college, Menéndez would have recognised that an amphibious force is vulnerable during a landing and in its immediate aftermath. In tune with military pundits worldwide, he expected the British landing to be close to Port Stanley. When the belt of seaweed off the coast precluded that option, and the task force began to disembark at San Carlos Water, 50 miles away on the opposite coast, he at first dismissed the report as a diversion intended to draw his forces away from the capital.
The capture of Goose Green by the 2nd Parachute Battalion at the end of May left him and his immediate staff in a despondent mood. In one of the few initiatives taken during the campaign, Menéndez assembled his staff to issue orders “to plant a screen from north to south of East Falkland to ambush the British troops as they advanced towards Stanley and cut their line of communications behind them”.
He had some tough, experienced special forces capable of putting at least part of such a plan into practice, but not enough; one group was ambushed by an SAS patrol on Mount Kent and another by the Royal Marines Arctic Warfare detachment on Mount Simon. Worse, as the bulk of the air force’s ground-attack aircraft were based on the mainland, and therefore not under his command, they sought targets of opportunity rather than systematically attacking 3 Commando during its long march eastwards. From the moment that the two British brigades were ashore, Menéndez knew he faced defeat. The proportion of professional soldiers in his force was just too small for it to prevail against the professional forces the UK had fielded against him. His aim then was to hold out for long enough that he could claim “surrender with honour”.In the first week of June, he was urged by Galtieri to mount a counteroffensive against the Fitzroy Settlement at Bluff Cove to the southwest of Stanley, which was occupied by troops of the British 5th Infantry Brigade. Such a venture might possibly have delayed the outcome, but, yet again, Menéndez hesitated, and his two subordinate brigadiers began plotting to remove him.
Such was his lack of confidence in the ability of his troops to hold the range of hills surrounding the capital that he even considered withdrawing to the airport, but he was dissuaded from doing so. By then, his troops were cold, hungry and demoralised. Despite the well-prepared positions in the hills, their minefields, and the observation points from which their medium guns could fire, the Argentine defence of Stanley was neither sufficiently sustained nor resolute to allow any claim to be made of “surrender with honour”. They were beaten by better men, who were better led and highly motivated.
Mario Benjamin Menéndez was born in Buenos Aires into a military family. An uncle had led an unsuccessful coup against President Juan Perón in 1951, while his cousin, Luciano, was another politically inspired general who became involved in the so-called “Dirty War” against domestic insurgents in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After graduation from military college, he made steady progress, commanding the 5th Infantry Brigade in Operation Independencia, a counter-insurgency campaign against Trotskyist guerrillas operating in Tucumán province, and later commanded the 6th Mountain Brigade in Neuquén province.
A month after the surrender of Port Stanley, he was stripped of all military authority and in October 1983 arrested and confined to a base away from Buenos Aires. According to his mother, Hilda Villarino de Menéndez, his arrest was due to a book he had published criticising the Falklands campaign; he said the idea for the invasion came from the Argentine navy. Almost 30 years later, he was also charged with human rights abuses committed before the Falklands campaign.
He is survived by his wife, Susana, whom he married in 1955; their son, also named Mario, who followed him into the army and served with him during the Falklands campaign; and two daughters. Marta Julia is a nursery teacher and Maria José is an employee of the Bank of Italy in Buenos Aires.
Tired, disillusioned and discredited, Menéndez spent his 30-year retirement reflecting on the penalties of being described by the disgraced former president, Galtieri, as the country’s best general, which was certainly not an assessment borne out by his performance during the Falklands conflict of 1982.
Brigadier-General Mario Menéndez, Argentine army officer, was born on April 3, 1930. He died on September 18, 2015, aged 85
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