Thirty years ago this coming Monday, British troops began to land at San Carlos Bay in the Falkland Islands. Just over three weeks later, the Argentine forces surrendered to them. This weekend in Portsmouth, the Navy Museum is organising a commemorative conference, and a dinner on HMS Victory.
The keynote speech will come from John Lehman, who was the US navy secretary at the time. Today Mr Lehman is the most senior foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger to Barack Obama in this year’s presidential election.
Mr Lehman will explain how, contrary to current historical orthodoxy, the Americans helped Britain instinctively, secretly and right from the start of the Falklands war. He should know, because he did it.
Mr Lehman’s key point is that this help came from the bottom up. So great were what were called “the customary patterns of cooperation” between Britain and the US that they could provide the cover for a huge operation. Weeks before the US announced its public policy “tilt” to Britain on April 30, 1982, there was, as Mr Lehman puts it, “already water flowing through the pipes”. President Reagan felt benign towards Britain, and particularly towards Mrs Thatcher, his friend since both were in opposition, but it was not necessary for him to approve anything for help to start.