In his article "The Day Argentines Sank My Ship" Outlook, July 13 , Capt. David Hart-Dyke describes his fears and those of his crew on board the unfortunate destroyer H.M.S. Coventry and how their fears were overcome. They are essentially the same fears that have been felt by man since the first battle in history.
In the Malvinas War, the Argentines by themselves confronted the world's third naval power. Looking at a comparison of the numbers of ships, weapons and aircraft, it should be easy to understand the fears to be overcome by the Argentine crews; the comparison in itself deals only with numbers and does not reflect British technological advantages or the oldness and obsolescence of most of the Argentine materiel:
The United Kingdom had 25 surface fighting ships, Argentina, 11; the U.K. had 60 antiship missile launchers, Argentina, 32; the U.K. had 32 antiair missile launchers, Argentina, 4; the U.K. had 43 bombers, fighters and fighter-bombers, Argentina, 77; the U.K. had 5 nuclear submarines, Argentina 0; the U.K. had 1 diesel submarine, Argentina, 3; and, finally, the U.K. had 63 shipborne antisubmarine helicopters, Argentina, 7.
In general terms, I agree with Capt. Hart-Dyke when he says that always in war the critical factor is morale. However, I would rather say it is one of several critical factors. The superior morale of the Coventry's company was not enough to win her only fight of May 25 against four old Argentine air force Skyhawks that sank her with plain iron bombs, after penetrating her defenses and those of the destroyer H.M.S. Broadsword and two intercepting Sea Harriers that were supporting her.
I firmly disagree with his statement that the Argentines the Royal Navy fought were lacking good leadership, discipline, comradeship and devotion to a just cause. As the former intelligence officer for the Argentine Naval Aviation Task Force and an occasional air crew member during the Malvinas War, I feel that one of the best services that can be rendered to the dead on both sides is being as objective as possible on this matter.
The combat morale and devotion to duty of the Argentine ship and aircraft crews could be better evaluated by reviewing how 440 Argentines were killed at sea and in the air and the British ships' losses (6 sunk and 14 damaged, according to U.K. government figures).
I understand Capt. Hart-Dyke's feelings and I am truly glad that he and most of his brave men survived the ordeal of the Coventry. It is my firm conviction that the fears and horrors so well described by him should be an incentive to avoid war by a better mutual understanding between nations.