In 1982, Argentina was ruled by a military junta presiding over an imploding economy and facing mass civil unrest. A new leader, General Galtieri, saw the invasion of the Falklands, a British overseas territory long claimed by Argentina, as a means of galvanizing popular support, calculating the British would not retaliate to defend such a remote and insignificant possession. An initial occupation of neighbouring South Georgia was followed by an amphibious invasion of the almost undefended Falklands on 2 April. The British response was decisive and resolute. Diplomatically, a UN Resolution was secured, demanding Argentine withdrawal. A nuclear submarine Conqueror set sail for the South Atlantic on 4 April; two aircraft carriers with escort vessels departed the following day. The task force, which would eventually comprise 127 vessels, including eight destroyers, 15 frigates, six submarines, assorted ice-breakers, patrol vehicles and supply vessels began to mass in Falklands waters from the middle of April, with aircraft refuelling established at nearby Ascension Island. Roughly half the task force comprised vessels of the merchant marine, which included ferries, cargo ships, freighters, tugs and tankers.
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