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John ‘Sandy’ Woodward, 81; led Royal Navy during Falklands War

Major General Jeremy Moore (left) with Admiral Sandy Woodward aboard the HMS Hermes in 1982.

Martin Cleaver/Pool

Major General Jeremy Moore (left) with Admiral Sandy Woodward aboard the HMS Hermes in 1982.

LONDON — Admiral John ‘‘Sandy’’ Woodward, who led the Royal Navy task force during the 1982 Falklands War, has died. He was 81.

In announcing his death Monday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense did not give a cause. The BBC said Admiral Woodward died after a long illness.

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Prime Minister David Cameron said Admiral Woodward was a courageous and decisive leader. ‘‘We are indebted to him for his many years of service and the vital role he played to ensure that the people of the Falkland Islands can still today live in peace and freedom.’’

A career sailor who joined the navy at 13 and rose to command submarines, Admiral Woodward was in charge of the naval force dispatched by Margaret Thatcher after Argentina seized the South Atlantic islands, home to some 2,000 British residents, in April 1982.

Britain retook the territory 10 weeks later, after a war that killed 649 Argentines, 255 British troops, and three islanders.

One of Admiral Woodward’s most contentious decisions was the sinking of the Argentine warship General Belgrano, killing 323 of its crew. It was a turning point in the war, but the attack was controversial because the ship appeared to be leaving the British exclusion zone when it was sunk.

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II after the war, Admiral Woodward later published a book about the conflict, ‘‘One Hundred Days.’’

He had recently spoken out against cuts to Britain’s armed forces, which he said would make it impossible for Britain to recapture the Falklands if they were invaded again.

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