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Operation Soberania

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:14 pm
by Francis Marliere

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

Re: Opertaion Soberania

Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:17 pm
by RF
I have only just come across this thread. What was Operation Soberania, I haven't heard of this before.

Re: Opertaion Soberania

Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2015 11:19 am
by Francis Marliere
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.

Re: Opertaion Soberania

Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2015 8:43 am
by RF
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.

Re: Opertaion Soberania

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 9:51 am
by Francis Marliere
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.

Re: Opertaion Soberania

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 11:04 am
by RF
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.

Re: Opertaion Soberania

Posted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:02 am
by JAG
In the 80s Argentina was running Washington's killing squads in Central America which is why they were getting tons of weapons for free and thought they could get away with Taking the Falklands, Chile got an US arms embargo instead... so, what alliance?

In 1978 both fleets were about to engage, but the Argentinians got cold feet at the last minute and requested a mediation from the Pope.

Still, they felt humiliated when their bluff failed and launched on a buying-binge in order to try and settle the affair by force, but they made a slight detour at the Falklands.

Re: Opertaion Soberania

Posted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:28 am
by SUT
the 1978 quasi war that pitted argentina against Chile had its origins on a long term dissension about the delimitation of their common border on the austral area. In 1977, a settlement brokered by the British crown found reason the chilean position and became unacceptable to the military junta in Buenos Aires. When General Pinochet coulndt be coaxed into handing over to Argentina the three islands at the eastern outlet of the Beagle Channel, plus a numbers of smaller souther islets and half Hornos Island with the Cape Horn in it. For Chile it was unacceptable, and despite being almost completely isolated, it chose to fight. In late December 1978, tyhe argentinan fleet deployed to the Isla de los Estados area, divided into three battle Groups. The Carrier Group with 25 de Mayo carrying 11 A4Qs plus sume S2G and SH3, a Surface Action Group centered around Belgrano and an amphibious group built around the Casablanca class LSD called Candido de Lasala. This was just the most austral of the attack forces as several army multi brigade forces deployed in the Magallanes and Ultima Esperanza area and then, succesive forces deployed up to the north

The Chilean Fleet itself deployed to the area, and besides numerous inshore vessels and deploying its marine brigade into the area, heavily fortified the islands with old ship guns and prepared to engage. It ewas deployed in two main groups, each with a cruiser at its core and four destroyers and frigates. Group A ( or Acero, Steel in Spanish) centered around the fleet flagship "Prat", a Brooklyn class cruiser, plus two Fletcher and two Allen M Sumner DDs. Group B ( Or Bronce, Brass in Spanish) centered around the problematic Swedish cruiser Latorre and had the two Leanders ands two Almirante class DDGs equipped with MM38 Exocets.

The argentinean plan considered improbable a surface action, and thus was surprised when the 10 chilean major units deployed from hidden war anchorages in the austral channel maze. They had their battlegroups badly placed and were risking a Samar, as both chilean groups were converging on the carrier group and the amphibious and SAG were to forward to be able to get back. When the chilean and argentinan Flagships were at 375Miles of distance ( there were other vessels at closer distances) and when everybody had hoisted battle ensigns, given the last minute speaches and prepared Action Stations, the argentinan force gave a wide circle while receiving instructions from Buenos Aires and finally retreating

To cover the retreat, a Mediation offer from the Vatican, that had been turned down on the 12th of december, was reactivated...wich eventually generated a peace treaty in 1984, that kept the islands as chilean...

For the afrgentinan Junta and , in particular, army generals and navy admirals, this was a slkap in the face. The divided into a peaceful "dove" group and a warlike "Falcons" group...this eventually ended with the leader of the Falcons reaching the presidency in 1981, and finally launching Operation Blue, the invasion of the Falklands, which was expected to be followed by a re run of Operation Soberania ( sovereignity). The british decision to fight prevented them to launching theoffensive against Chile, wich was the second part of "operation Rosario", the general invasion plan against Chile AND the Falklands. I guess this also helps to understand the unreserved chilean help

The Chilean Argentinan war was to be a total war, at least from the chilean perspective...and would have been a severe bloodshed....armies of several hunderd thousands, navies with cruisers, carriers and reasonable numbers of escorts. Probably, the Battle of the Cape Horn ( Which has had several full stage reheasals since 1897) would probably have been the largest Fleet to Fleet surface action since 1945