"Argentine Soldier Known unto God"

Louis

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#1
The story behind british Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo, who was in charge of burying the bodies of Argentine soldiers killed in the Falklands war.



In 1982 the british Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo was 32 years old and worked in logistics tasks in the Ministry of Defense in London. On June 14, the day of the Argentine surrender, a call changed his life: he was ordered to travel to the islands to occupy himself and maintain the discipline of the men who had survived the war.

"I set foot on the islands the day after the conflict ended, they sent me to help the officers with the troops in the post-war period, which is always very difficult, I had to look, take care, give our soldiers restraint. The post conflict is very hard for the fighters: they are very high on adrenaline, they have a lot of stress, there is aggression and they tend to drink too much alcohol. It is a time when you have to watch and control men, because after battles there are often excesses. My role was to maintain discipline, give them food and comfort, which is very important for the survivors," he said.

He tells how the engineers who were looking for mines in those frozen months of June of 1982 began to find the bodies of Argentine soldiers buried in the battlefields.

"When the engineers found the graves, they sent for me, I went by helicopter to the place, sometimes I carried a trumpet, we did a small ceremony, we prayed a prayer and we marked the place where they had been buried".

For four months he worked on the islands. By December 1982, Margaret Thatcher's government had already offered Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, de facto president of Argentina, "to repatriate the bodies." The general who led the country to war responded: "They are in our country, they will stay there." "It was then that the United Kingdom sent me to give them an honorary burial and build a cemetery," recalls Cardozo.

With the new task entrusted to him, Cardozo flew to London to look for experts: "It's not a job to make soldiers," he said at the time. He visited three funeral homes: he looked for men older than 30 years, for a subject of emotional maturity, and up to 40, for a theme of physical resistance, since it was a very hard task.

The chosen company in turn subcontracted two funeral directors: Pauls Mills - who had been in charge of moving the bodies of the British from the islands - and William Lodge. In total twelve men returned to the islands with the colonel to inhumar the remains of the Argentine soldiers.

"We started the task in the first days of January 1983, and we buried them on Feb 19. Until then I was installed on a ship, but with this new mission I went to live with them in the tents that lay near from each place where the bodies were, which we then moved by helicopter to Darwin. "

For the construction of the cemetery, he made contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. "They are the ones who have experience and they could help me, I talked to an expert and he gave me technical details, how to locate the cemetery, how the irrigation had to be and what was the correct layout of the crosses," he explained.

He recalled that it was very difficult to determine where on the island they were going to erect the cemetery: "The islanders did not want to have the dead nearby because the feelings were still raw." But a farmer from Darwin, Brooke Hardcastle, owner of several hectares in the area, felt pity and offered a piece of his land so that they could be given a burial with honor to the Argentine soldiers. "He had a great humanitarian gesture," was says the colonel.

"I checked each body very carefully, the pockets, the jackets, everything, I was looking for something that would allow me to identify it with certainty: there were sweets, matches, some personal blotted letter, but nothing that would allow me to certify who he was. "

"I wrote down everything I found in a book, in case some day somebody asked for identification, I sent all these belongings to England, so that in turn they were sent to the relatives in Argentina, except for what, due to its state of deterioration, is offensive to your loved ones".

"I took care of and respected each body, wrapped them first in a sheet, like Christ, put them in a black plastic bag, and then in a white PVC bag, where I wrote down all the details in indelible ink. It was deposited with respect in a wooden coffin, and over the coffin, I returned to record all the data, I was looking for those bodies to be preserved for future identification. I'm not an English soldier, I'm a soldier," said Cardozo, although he fought in different battles and is the son of a World War II hero. "I am a soldier, just like the young people who are buried in Falklands.... I put my feet in the shoes of every father and every mother and felt their pain, which is why I took care of and respected every Argentine soldier as if my children were the dead ones in that war."






(Excerpt from Infobae news interview)

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Since June 2017, Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo worked with experts chosen by the International Red Cross in the exhumation of the bodies and the taking of samples that were collated with those of 95 families that seek to know where their children are buried.

December, 2017: the forensic team of the International Committee of the Red Cross that studied the remains of 123 Argentine soldiers buried unidentified in the Darwin cemetery in the Falklands Islands managed to establish the identity of 88 of them, the organization confirmed.


Simply thanks Col. Cardozo
 

Louis

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A total of 248 families landed on the morning of Monday 26 in the Falkland Islands and went to Darwin Cemetery, where lie the bodies of 123 fallen in the 1982 war.
Until recently, each of these tombs had as any legend " Argentine soldier only known by God ", according to which the identities were unknown. But since Monday, there are only 32 tombstones that lack identification.



The work coordinated by the Red Cross in the framework of an agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina allowed to identify by DNA the soldiers buried 36 years ago in that cemetery of Darwin.

A team of fourteen forensic specialists - from Argentina, Australia, Chile, Spain, Mexico and the UK - managed to identify the majority after exhuming, analyzing, obtaining samples to document each of those mortal remains.



And of course could not miss the presence of Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo.