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Logistics in the Falklands War (Paperback)

Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Falklands

By Kenneth L Privratsky, Foreword by Julian Thompson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 304
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781473899049
Published: 3rd April 2017
Last Released: 4th July 2024


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Recommended Reading for U.S Marines

The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps has included 'Logistics in the Falklands War' on his recommended professional reading list.

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While many books have been written on the Falklands War, this is the first to focus on the vital aspect of logistics. The challenges were huge; the lack of preparation time; the urgency; the huge distances involved; the need to requisition ships from trade to name but four.

After a brief discussion of events leading to Argentina's invasion the book describes in detail the rush to re-organise and deploy forces, despatch a large task force, the innovative solutions needed to sustain the Task Force, the vital staging base at Ascension Island, the in-theatre resupply, the set-backs and finally the restoring of order after victory.

Had the logistics plan failed, victory would have been impossible and humiliation inevitable, with no food for the troops, no ammunition for the guns, no medical support for casualties etc.

The lessons learnt have never been more important with increasing numbers of out-of-area operations required in remote trouble spots at short notice. The Falklands experience is crucial for the education of new generations of military planners and fascinating for military buffs and this book fills an important gap.

The success of any maneuver force, especially in expeditionary operations, hinges on effective logistical planning and execution from initial operations, to combat and thence to recovery and stability/post-hostility operations. Military forces that fail to consider or adequately address logistical considerations in their planning are doomed to mission failure.

In Logistics in the Falklands War, retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Privratsky has written a fascinating and in-depth, meticulous and phenomenally well-researched account of the 1982 Falklands (or Malvinas, depending upon your sympathies) War, focusing on Great Britain’s mobilization, logistical planning and execution of the conflict. From the rapid decision to commence with operations to retake the islands, the U.K. faced almost insurmountable and complex problems over a more than 8,000-mile supply line. Issues ranged from obtaining adequate sealift, equipment, ammunition, fuel and supply transport and storage, logistics over-the-shore without an adequate harbor or support facilities in theater, bad weather—the list was seemingly endless.

Yet the prevailing mindset of the government, the military and the people was epitomized by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s confidently indignant and proud response. When asked about the chance of failure, she replied, “Failure? The possibilities do not exist!” That confidence and commitment to victory—walking hand in hand with superior planning and execution—enabled success in 74 days.

Privratsky opens his book with a good lead-in by covering the events leading to the Argentinian invasion and attempted annexation of the Falklands, as well as a brief political overview. He transitions rapidly into the accelerated efforts by Great Britain to marshal its forces and equipment for the coming conflict. From this point, he covers the operation in a complete and neatly organized manner from start to finish. His organization of text is superb—clearly correlating the distinct logistical challenges for each operational phase of the war plan. This enables the reader to clearly see and understand the logistical concerns facing commanders and logistical forces as well as their solutions as problems arose.

Privratsky has integrated the logistical aspects of the war into the discussion of the tactical aspects of the conflict—no easy task. His level of research is apparent, accomplished through maintenance of superb contacts with British forces as well as his use of complete and well-organized references and footnotes.

Privratsky’s book fills a niche not normally addressed in military writing and, to my knowledge, is the first to focus on the logistical aspects of Operation Corporate. In addition, while accounts abound on the strategic, operational and tactical aspects of warfare in all eras and conflicts, few have addressed the field of logistics. Logistics in the Falklands War provides these lessons not only for the career logistician, but also for the military leader and the amateur or professional historian.

Although the focus is logistics, the paramount lesson I took from this work is the necessity for leaders to not only conduct exhaustive planning and preparation but also to be inventive, flexible, clever and able to respond rapidly to changes on the battlefield due to unexpected circumstances. Privratsky’s work abounds with examples of this—from the expansion of Ascension Island as a logistical support base to the loss of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter fleet (on which resupply hinged so critically) to the lack of shore-based logistical support. One can see clearly how leaders responded and reacted.

As operations have been increasing in remote areas, over long supply lines and on short notice, this book offers many lessons. This is an excellent account on many levels with many teaching points—as an account of expeditionary warfare, as a worthy treatise on logistical planning and support at the strategic, operational and tactical levels, as an example of the importance of leadership in war and perhaps most importantly, as a showcasing of the ability of the soldier to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to accomplish the mission.

Col. Steve Patarcity, USAR Ret., is a civilian strategic planner on the staff of the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve at the Pentagon.

Privratsky’s book is the first to look at the Falkland’s war purely from the perspective of logistics. His work is thoughtful and insightful and conveys messages that continue to be relevant and timely. Many will argue that technology is making the world smaller and more accessible; however, as the Falkland’s war demonstrated, advances in technology raise both the level of expectation of the operators towards their support elements but also increases the degree of complexity that logisticians must overcome in maintaining and supporting far flung ops worldwide. This book contains a significant number of lessons for militaries of all stripes and capabilities and should be reviewed in detail.

Journal of the Royal Canadian Air Force

Privratsky's account should become required reading for military students early in their careers.

Royal Air Force Historical Society

One of the best books that I have read on the Falklands War, and it certainly fills a significant gap in our knowledge on the conflict.

Military Vehicle Trust

The author is very even-handed when it comes to how the decisions were reached and at no point does he criticise any commander who acted in good faith and using the best information available. He does explain a lot of things that have never made sense to me, as someone who lived through the war and has read a book or two on the subject.

WarGames Illustrated, July 2017 – reviewed by Jim Graham

★★★★★ Outstanding and long overdue. How those on the front line succeed almost in spite of those who deploy and direct them. Highlights the overwhelming importance of communications, database and transport facilities. Those lessons, at least, seem to have been learned. Beautifully written, a pleasure to read and with only one of this publisher's irritating editorial lapses.

Amazon Customer

★★★★★ I have been wanting to read a book on this subject for years. I have already read Brigadier Thomson's book on logistics where he covered the Falklands campaign in one chapter as part of a bigger discussion. However he did not get to the level of detail found here. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest beyond the battle stories

Amazon Customer

★★★★★ A superb book which gives a detailed and comprehensive account of the multitude of logistic (mainly supply, distribution and medical) factors involved in this campaign. A great work which takes the reader from the strategic to tactical levels with ease. Definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in military logistics.

Amazon Customer

★★★★★ As one who " went south" during Operation Corporate it was fascinating to understand and be made aware of the behind the scenes activity that supported those at the sharp end. I was part of a Naval Party on a STUFT ship and our good fortune was to arrive in Stanley not long over the surrender. All the major events are covered but from a logistics perspective with lots of good detail about what worked and what didn't. Credit to those who improvised and adapted to the dynamic situations they experienced. All together a really good read.

Amazon Reviewer

★★★★★ An interesting explanation of how the logistics of the Falklands War was organised and how it affected the conduct of the war. It explains an awful lot about why certain things happened. Compelling reading.

Amazon Customer

he story of the British assault upon the Falklands, as recorded in the book, “Logistics in the Falklands War”1 – by Major General Kenneth Privratsky, US Army (Retired) should be mandatory reading for all those who will partake in instituting preparations, as well as implementation, of future ADF amphibious operations. Surprisingly, in this tome written by an American General Officer/ professional logistician, with credible guidance from, among others, Major General Julian Thompson, the Commander of the 3 Commando Brigade at the Falklands War, the book details the saga of British efforts to supply the modern logistical equivalents of “Beans, Bullets, Black Oil and Bandages” to the invasion force.

Journal of Military and Veteran's Health

If you think you have explored the Falklands War, then read this to complete the perspective and you will be amazed.

Gun Mart, August 2017 – reviewed by John Norris

This is a very detailed analysis of the logistics that underpinned Operation Corporate in 1982...

... This makes for compelling reading in the 35th anniversary year of the Falklands conflict.

The Armourer, inc. Classic Arms & Militaria, August 2017

this is a timely book that explores the logistical challenges of projecting decisive combat power across transoceanic distances. As America’s Joint force explores new ways of leveraging technology to counter aggression from a distance, this book dispels any misunderstanding about the magnitude of the challenges that supplying war across great distances creates. At the end of the day, projecting and sustaining combat power for conflict and post-conflict operations is a logistical undertaking requiring foresight, planning, C2, and extensive logistical preparation of the battle space. A country’s operational reach is ultimately determined by its’ military effectiveness in projecting and sustaining combat power—which is all about logistics.

Marine Corps Gazette

‘Logistics in the Falklands War’ is, in short, a thorough account of how the British hastily improvised a task force to recapture lost territory. It shows how doing that was achieved by coordinating civilian and military assets and integrating the civilian assets into a military organisation; it reveals the complexities of managing logistics afloat and ashore and of integrating fundamentally different methodologies; finally, it demonstrates that expeditionary forces, in whatever environment they may deploy, must be self-sustaining, for the logistical line becomes more and more tenuous as the distance from the home base increases. As Privratsky presents the story, one may wonder at the British achievement but also draw discomforting lessons for the present.

Read the full review here.

Australian Naval Institute

Highly recommended. Well written with pertinent analysis a 'must read' for those keen to understand the complexities of enabling an operation 8000 miles from home.

5 Stars!

Amazon reviewer

I came to this through watching a lecture on YouTube at the USAHEC: [...] by the author. I have family connections with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the Falklands war and have always taken a keen interest in this area. The issue of logistics in is a vital question in the war and only served thus far by a very weak book: "No Sea Too Rough" which focuses only on the RFA and even that is done very badly. I wrote a review of that which said that this magnificent story deserved better. That book is this one. It is superb.

It takes a military logistics professional to tell this story, and maybe needs a foreigner to do so with some distance and perspective. Privatsky is a US one star general with logistics as his speciality. He tells this story with experience, acumen and respect. His command of detail talks of diligent research, privileged access but also a piercing focus on the key issues born of a lifetime's professionalism. As a result, he tells a story with disciplined analysis, measured judgement and no little skill.

His prose is spare and economic, but needs to be. This is a story that needs no embellishment. As a Brit, one reads his understated narrative with a mounting sense of pride and respect. I defy any Brit to read this and not stand just a little straighter, a little taller. That is not to say this is a gushing anglophile whitewash; it is a tight professional analysis, rich in lessons for future military leaders (hence his invitation to the US Army's historical centre). But there is clear respect for the feat of arms he describes.

This is a fine book. If this admittedly obscure topic is of interest, I assure you this will be of value to you.

5 Stars!

Amazon reviewer

Military operational planners and military history enthusiasts should add this book to their professional library.

Naval War College Review, spring 2016 - Cynthia K, Sexton

Having known and served with MG (Ret) Privratsky it was a real pleasure to finally read his book on Logistics in the Falklands War. Not wanting to be bias but I admit to my professional relationships with MG Privratsky and having known of his expertise on the Falklands War first hand, I did read his book with a critical eye as a US Army former Logistician. As an avid reader of military history I have always looked for good reads that would address the monumental challenges of “Logistics” and there are not many good books out there that upfront and throughout the book address logistics from a holistic and detail approach – to include how it is planned and executed. Logistics in the Falklands War does a superb job of taking the reader from Strategic, Operational and tactical level logistics. Truly this book should become part of the US Army Logistics Corps recommended reading list. I was impressed with how the book painstakingly weaves all aspects of logistic challenges, issues, failures and successes into the British battle plans and even discusses logistics techniques and support from the United Kingdom to the objectives on the Falklands. First war account I have read, although small scale fight that gives today’s military logisticians some excellent insights into the challenges of orchestrating logistics on short notice, over long lines of communications, uncompromising terrain, weather, and no contractor base to bail you out! A must read for today’s military Logisticians!

Amazon Reviewer

MG Privratsky's book is an astonishing account of Great Britain's efforts to mobilize troops and logistical support to gain victory in the Falklands war. From the complex issues of marshaling soldiers and sailors to a conflict 8000 miles distant, to the seemingly impossible tasks of obtaining ships to be retrofitted as floating hospitals and transports for every type of war fighting equipment imaginable, General Privratsky makes military history as exciting as any war fiction could ever be. The unanticipated challenges facing commanders in combat and their responses to these challenges provide apt lessons for today's military leaders. The passage (163) about the "dead man's kit" being a source for personal comfort items is an example. The great lesson of the book is about leaders reacting quickly (and sometimes wrongly) in the chaos of battle in a forbidding combat zone. MG Privratsky's great contribution here is in making military history accessible to those interested in military affairs as well as in providing lessons learned to future leaders, civilian and military. This book is an accomplished account of a little known historical event, but it is also a highly entertaining read.

Amazon Reviewer

A broad, interesting and subtle picture of the events that took place.

Aviation Book Reviews

This is a highly recommended book. It makes clear the huge amount of improvisation needed to improvise a supply chain that stretched 8,000 miles, the often innovative methods that were required, how problems like the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyer and its cargo impacted on operations and how the campaign was shaped by the logistic limitations and capabilities of the British forces.

Army Rumour Service

This is a story of the professionalism and flexibility for the British armed forces to act quickly, for an event they hadn't pre-planned. The author tells the story in the sequence of the events of the war, but gives a fascinating viewpoint of mixing how events and the need for supply and re-supply played an important part.

Military Modelling

I was absolutely enthralled by your US general's book on the Log for the Falklands. A brilliant read, and in my opinion, should be required reading for every officer in HM Forces!

Former Senior British Army Commander

This book is the first to look in depth at the logistics, the risks and how the British Forces overcame obstacles to defeat a much larger enemy that also enjoyed the advantages that a defender has against an amphibious landing. This book should be compulsory reading... It will certainly be well-received by enthusiasts and professionals. Highly recommended.


I am indebted to Ken Privratsky for his recent book about the logistics of the Falklands Operation. He has done an excellent job to pull all the strands together and the lessons learned. In many ways I believe that the book has even more credibility, as it is written by a professional military logistician from another country, who can be both objective and honest about some of both our failures and successes.

Ivar Hellberg, Commander of Commando Logistic Regiment

Simply the best book that I have read on the Falklands War. It reads like a thriller.

Brigadier Roderick Macdonald, OBE (Commander 59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers during the War)

Privratsky skilfully looks at each problem, discusses the solution and narrates how the various pieces of the plan worked in action. What comes across very well in this book is the skin-of-the-teeth margin by which some of all this worked.
Major General Privratsky is no stranger to the story of the Falklands campaign and has written papers on the subject, lectured on the Falklands at West Point Military Academy and worked on this book over many years at the Hoover Institute of War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University.

Britain at War
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About Kenneth L Privratsky

Major General Kenneth L Privratsky served in the US Infantry in Vietnam before becoming a logistics specialist. He taught at West Point and commanded organizations supplying US Forces worldwide.

He was a military fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In civilian life he was an executive in the ocean transportation industry. He writes and lectures regularly.

He lives in Alaska.

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