There were six potential landing points in the Falklands for the leaders of the Task Force to decide on. They had to make a correct decision, as they would have had only one chance for a successful landing. A failure would have led to many casualties both on land and at sea and would have put in jeopardy the whole purpose of the Task Force.
The six potential landing areas were:
1) Port Stanley itself. This was the headquarters for the Argentine forces that had landed on the islands, therefore a successful landing here would have been decisive. It is thought that this was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s favoured choice. However, as the Argentine military had its headquarters here it would have been a strongly fortified landing base. There was also the prospect that many civilians would have been hurt and killed if such a landing was carried out here.
2) A second potential landing base was Uranie Bay. This was only 25 miles to the northwest of Port Stanley and Berkeley Sound would have given a degree of protection against unpredictable weather. However, this landing zone was rejected because of the concern of a counter-attack, as the British forces were so near to many Argentine troops.
3) A third landing zone was Cow Bay to the north of Berkeley Bay. This was far enough from Port Stanley to make a counter-attack less feasible as Berkeley Sound cut into East Falkland and would have required the Argentineans to have made a detour inland before they could get to Cow Bay. Brigadier Thompson was said to have most favoured this landing zone.
4) Port North on the West Falklands was also seen as a potential site as there was the potential to build an airstrip there. However, while it was apparently a favourite of Admiral Sandy Woodward, Thompson believed it was simply too far from Port Stanley and would have probably required another amphibious landing across Falkland Sound which would have exposed his men to attack from the air.
5) A fifth potential landing zone was Low Bay – on East Falklands and to the southwest of Port Stanley. The beach here would have made for an easy landing but the flatness of the beach was, according to Thompson, also its weakness as it would have exposed his men to aerial attack.
6) The final choice was San Carlos Bay on the west side of East Falklands. The hills around the bay would have been perfect for the Rapier missile systems that were needed to give protection against Argentine fighter planes. The bay itself was tolerably sheltered which would have assisted any landing. The only negative was that San Carlos was 65 miles from Port Stanley. However, it was to be the choice of Thompson.
On May 20th, Thompson received the code word ‘Palpas’ from London – the go-ahead for the landings. In the early hours of May 21st, 1982, men from the Task Force started to land at San Carlos Bay.