To paraphrase Frederick Forsyth, Ol’ Weird maintains to this day that the 1982 Falkland Islands War was not entirely his fault.
Back in 1974, when Ol’ Weird was an energetic young captain at Fort Hood,
serving as G-2 Air in the 1st Cavalry Division, he saw a notice announcing a three-year Command and General Staff College course to be presented on post by an Army Reserve schools unit, one weekend a month, plus summer resident sessions. It presented the entire Leavenworth curriculum, lesson plans and exams. Not knowing it was intended for reserve component officers with at least seven years in grade, Ol’ Weird signed up.
By the time Ol’ Weird came up for PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to grad school, he had completed 50% of the course, and his article [a requirement for graduation in those days was to write an acceptable article for publication, although it didn’t need to be actually published] had already been published, which made him eligible for attending the second half in residence at Leavenworth. Officer Personnel Assignments sent him TDY (temporary duty) en route, so Ol’ Weird graduated C&GSC in Bell Hall in 1976, having barely turned 29.
The Commandant assured his class they got every bit of the full course instruction and exams, missing only the guest speakers, special projects and graduate school opportunities. The Commandant called the nine-month regular program his “course for slow learners.”
One oddity of the course was the exam structure. The questions were of the format: Question premise, then “One or more of the following statements are correct. Select all the correct answers.” This made the exam a series of True-False questions, except it was guaranteed that at least one answer in each group was true. Therefore, if a chimpanzee took a crayola and colored the entire answer sheet black, he would average 63% correct on the exam. Passing score was 75%, which meant that a Leavenworth graduate had to prove himself at least 12% smarter than a chimpanzee. Surprisingly, some had trouble passing the exams!
After graduate school and the Foreign Area Officer course, his in-country FAO tour began with the Mexican National War College, a three-year program for senior captains whose graduates are guaranteed to make General Officer. Each year a US Army exchange officer is assigned, normally to the second year, while a Mexican graduate spends a year at Leavenworth. Because Ol’ Weird was already a Leavenworth graduate, a combat veteran, and had impressed them with his above-average Spanish, they put him in their third year, completely unprecedented. Thus in 1979 Ol’ Weird became the first-ever and probably the only US officer to graduate from their War College. Plus, he had the distinction of being the only man in his graduating class never to make General Officer.
Horsemanship was an essential part of the curriculum, with every Friday morning starting at 6:00 AM spent in cavalry drills at the military garrison across Mexico City from the school. As part of the graduation exercises before the Mexican Secretary of Defense, the class put on a riding exhibition, with the nine best Mexican horsemen [out of 24 classmates] plus Ol’ Weird, as an honorary gesture. He at least managed not to fall off his horse before the crowd, and they were all awarded the Diploma as accredited members of the Mexican SECDEF staff, an unheard-of honor for a North American.
So the summer of 1979 Ol’ Weird began six months of in-country travels through Central America, the Caribbean, South America and Brazil – in civvies.
Ol’Weird was in El Salvador the night the bad guys blew up the Israeli embassy and kidnapped a female member of the Peace Corps, and assisted with embassy security. In Bogota the DEA guys complimented his report to the Defense Intelligence Agency on Operation Condor, the Mexican Army drug interdiction operation in Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua. [Traveling with his class, Ol’ Weird had been the only US national ever inside that operation.]
In Argentina the US Defense Attaché, an Air Force colonel, asked Ol’ Weird whether he was able to change his travel itinerary. At that time [November 1979] our intelligence agencies were seriously worried that Argentina and Chile were making preparations for war over their disputed ownership of three islands in the Beagle Channel. Since the Argentine government had locked diplomatic personnel down to a 25-mile radius of Buenos Aires, no one had been able to get eyes or ears on what was going on down south.
So, as a tourist, Ol’ Weird bought a round-trip ticket to Ushuaia, the southernmost “city” in the world. Traveling down the coast on a Sunday, his plane landed at seemingly every airfield along the 1,400-mile route. The first few flights were in commercial puddle-jumpers, but after they hit Patagonia there were no more civilian airports. From there on, the Argentine Air Force was the airline, carrying passengers in their cargo aircraft, hopping from air base to air base. At every air base where they landed, Ol’ Weird saw intense activity, with heavy construction under way and aircraft being moved to revetments. The thing that made it remarkable is that Sunday in the Latin culture is the family day, with almost no work ever being done – that Sunday was not a family day.
From the southernmost airfield, it was a two-hour “bus” ride with chickens and goats to get to his destination of Ushuaia, a desolate community on the Antarctic Ocean. After a cold and miserable night in the only hotel in town, Ol’ Weird made the return trip the next day. Turning over several rolls of “tourist” film to the Defense Attaché, Ol’ Weird confirmed for him that the Argentine military appeared deadly serious about preparing for war. The Colonel thanked him for his report, and Ol’ Weird resumed his travels, giving it no further thought.
Two months later there was a huge Vatican announcement that Pope John Paul II had summoned the foreign ministries of Chile and Argentina to Rome, issuing an ultimatum forbidding them from attacking each other. The Pope had intervened to avert an imminent war! Never learned how he found out about it. So much for the war that never happened.
Sadly, peace lasted only until April 1982. It seemed that Argentina had fully mobilized the nation for war, and by golly, they were burning to kick somebody’s ass. So they decided, instead of Chile, to attack the British Falkland Islands. Not entirely Ol’ Weird’s fault.
As the world saw, that turned out to be a really bad idea! They should have listened to the Pope.