Book Review: Three days in June

Three days in June
Three days in June by James O’Connell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I finished reading The Falklands War by Martin Middlebrook and posted my review of it I received a reply from the author of Three Days in June, James O’Connor suggesting his book as one to read on the conflict. I took a look at it on Amazon and it sounded like an interesting read so I added it to my Kindle to read list (it is only available as an E-book). It was only published in June 2013 and only has seven reviews on Amazon but all of them were five star reviews so I put it up near the top of to read list. I finished reading Three Days in June just a few days ago and it was an outstanding read.

Rather than an overview of the Falklands War, Three Days in June focuses on the Battle for Mount Longdon and the subsequent advance into Port Stanley following the Argentinean collapse. For those not familiar with the Falklands War, the Battle for Mount Longdon was fought between the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment – 3 Para and supporting units on the British side and B Company 7th Infantry Battalion plus Marine platoons and supporting units on the Argentinean side. If the British forces were to take Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkllands, it was important for them to open the door by taking the high ground of Mount Longdon. In fierce fighting over 11/12 June 1982, 3 Para took Mount Londgon, pushing the Argentine forces off of the mountain. Once they pushed the Argentine forces off of the mountain, the Argentineans heavily shelled Mount Longdon. Over the three days, 3 Para took heavy losses of 23 killed and 47 wounded out of 450 men. The Argentine forces, consisting of 278 men, also suffered heavily with losses of 31 killed, 120 wounded, and 50 captured. As you can well see, this battle was no pushover for 3 Para, it was a hard bloody fight. After the initial fight for the mountain and 2 days of enduring Argentinean artillery, 3 Para was able to take off their helmets, put on their trademark berets and join the advance into Port Stanley when the Argentine forces surrendered. There is much, much more to the story, but I’ll leave you to read Three Days in June to learn about it all.

This is not a book written by an academic or a journalist, it is a book written by a soldier who was there; O’Connell not only served in the Falklands but participated in and was seriously wounded in the Battle for Mount Longdon. In this book, O’Connell doesn’t attempt to tell the story of the battle himself; he does it through interviews with many of the participants, radio log excerpts, diary entries, and excerpts from some secondary sources (as a radio hobbyist, I enjoyed the inclusion of the radio logs and I believe they add a lot to the account – there are times that you can feel the aggravation and frustration within them). The result is a soldier’s eye view of the battle told in the language of the soldier. I have never been in a battle, much less served in the military but I think this book probably comes as close as possible to relating the fear, confusion, stress, and emotion the soldiers of 3 Para and their supporting units felt without actually being there. The book is divided into eight chapters, with 4 chapters devoted to B Company, one chapter each devoted to Support Company, A Company, and C Company, 3 Para and one chapter devoted to the Medical and Evacuation personnel. The chapters use accounts from the soldiers involved, radio log entries, excerpts from diaries, and other sources which O’Connell puts together like pieces of a puzzle to give an overview of the battle chronologically with each Company. As he puts it in the introduction:

“I wanted to give more of a 360 degree view, with a timeline and an accurate sequence of events, so that the reader and the soldiers who took part in the battle can understand more about their colleagues’ pars in the battle, as most of the soldiers who took part in the battle only knew their own part.”

I can’t speak for O’Connell’s colleagues, but from the perspective of someone who wasn’t there, I believe he has succeeded in his goal. It’s worth mentioning that O’Connell treats his Argentinean adversaries with respect, including accounts from their perspective alongside those of the British troops. At the end of the book when he lists 3 Para’s dead and a Roll of Honor for the British troops, he lists the Argentinean dead and a Roll of Honor for their troops as well. I also appreciate that he includes accounts from logistics, medical, and evacuation personnel. The last chapter truly conveys the frustration felt at the delays and difficulty in casualty evacuation.

You come away from reading Three Days in June with massive respect for the private soldiers of 3 Para and great appreciation for the leadership of 3 Para’s Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs). While the Battalion Commander, Company Commanders, and Platoon Commanders directed the battle, it was the Battalion, Company, Platoon, and especially the section level NCOs that were the glue that held the unit together. Padre Derek Heaver, the Chaplain, also made an impression on me for the part he played in the Medical and Evacuation Company.

“He has put together a wonderful record of courage, tenacity, stoicism, self-sacrifice, teamwork and of course humour, so that from all these personal reminiscences, a number of threads can consistently be traced, all of them timeless truths of war. The qualities of the soldiers of 3 Para naturally dominate all else, as you read these pages about the terrible battle for Mount London, you will think to yourself, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – Hew Pike, Commanding Officer, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment 1982

Three Days in June is a compelling, well assembled account of the Battle for Mount Longdon. If you have even a passing interest in military history I recommend reading this book. If you are interested in the Falklands War, this book is a must read. The only complaint that I had reading the book was a lack of maps, but there is a companion Flickr gallery that remedies that problem: Some of the photos in that set will allow you to develop a mental picture of the geography and understand the rough terrain that 3 Para dealt with. Given the usual poor quality of maps and images you find in E-books, this might just be a good way getting around those problems. When I took a military history course in college, one of my assignments was to write a small unit action paper of a Civil War battle at the regimental level. I well remember how difficult it was to research and put together that paper. Remembering that experience, I believe that Jimmy O’Connell is to be commended for putting together such an excellent, readable, and once again compelling account of 3 Para on Mount Longdon; it definitely deserves a 5 out of 5 stars rating.

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