But a fierce firefight broke out, and Giachino, 34, was mortally wounded.
His death became a rallying cry in Argentina, with photographs of the lantern-jawed officer reprinted in newspapers and shown on television as the invasion unfolded. And when Argentina lost its brief control of the Falklands to a large British fleet, Giachino’s sacrifice became the stuff of military lore. He was posthumously promoted to captain and even had a stamp issued in his honor.
Karina Giachino, one of his two daughters, recalls a loving father, a devoted Catholic and a patriotic officer.
“I see him as a hero who gave his life for all of us,” said Giachino, who is 37 and raising three daughters in a tranquil, prosperous Mar del Plata neighborhood. “He carried out his operation. I cannot feel anything but to be proud of him.”
But in the past few years, Pedro Giachino’s name began to come up in the trials of other officers facing charges for rights abuses in Mar del Plata, where hundreds had gone through interrogations at the naval base where he had been assigned.
Gabriel Della Valle, who first recognized Giachino when his photograph was reprinted after his death, was among those who had been interrogated here.
“I froze up — it is a face that I will never forget, never,” said Della Valle, 56, a psychologist, who told his story in judicial hearings last month. “It was the face of the person who interrogated me in Mar del Plata.”
Another witness to emerge was Alfredo Molinari, a former navy corporal, who told a federal judge in 2010 that his superior, Giachino, had ordered him to shoot a detainee in the head in 1977. He said he refused to carry out the killing.
Victor Basterra, now 67, who had been held by the military during the dictatorship at the notorious Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires, said in an interview that Giachino had also worked there. More than 5,000 prisoners were processed there, most of whom were killed.
Once Giachino’s history as an interrogator had been pieced together, Carlos Diaz, 57, leader of a human rights group in Mar del Plata, successfully lobbied for the removal of a portrait honoring Giachino from the City Council chamber.
“If Giachino had not died,” Diaz said, “he would at the very least be detained if not convicted for crimes against humanity.”
The portraits of 11 other servicemen from Mar del Plata who died on the Falklands remain on the wall, as do grainy black-and-white photographs of more than 400 people who were interrogated here and never seen again.