Years later, Longewala reminds the do-or-die battle

Discussion in 'Military History' started by AVERAGE INDIAN, Dec 19, 2013.



    Sep 22, 2012
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    Detroit MI
    Jaisalmer: The picture paints the devastation. The burnt pieces of tanks and weapons strewn around remind one of the great defence put up by Indian forces against 2000-odd Pakistani soldiers who dreamt of "breakfast at Longewala, lunch at Ramgarh and dinner at Jodhpur'' that day on December 4, 1971.

    What followed is history as the famous battle of Longewala unfolded between Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the border post of Longewala (now called Indo-Pak pillar 638), in the Thar Desert. Taken aback by a sudden Indian Air Force attack, even as the Indian Army defended its posts, the Pakistani tanks and infantry men were scarcely left with space even to retreat.

    This scene is alive even today. An area of 2 sq km on both sides of the road lies strewn with anti-tank mines and has been fenced. No one, not even the BSF and Army jawans, are allowed to go there. Each year the Vijay Diwas -- marking India's victory over Pakistan in 1971 - brings in a stream of jawans who come to pay their respects to the martyrs.

    "BSF jawans and officers have been directed to remain on their tracks. They cannot go anywhere else. The area is strewn with mines. It is only after the Longewala battle, that in 1992-93, the BSF border posts were shifted nearer to the international border. Earlier these border posts were 20-25km behind the international border," says BSF Jaisalmer sector south DIG Bhanwar Singh Rajpurohit who was the company commander at this place in 1999.

    But the burnt pieces of tanks are not the only relics of the war. The story goes that the Pakistani forces during their retreat had poisoned a well of Gamnewala village here. Even today no one drinks from it

    "People of Longewala used to drink water from this well. But during the 1971 war, the Pak army poisoned the well and even now no one drinks from it despite the government having cleaned it up. Villagers still doubt the water to be poisonous and avoid drinking from it. Now a new water point has been made," said Heer Singh of Gamnewala village, an eye witness of the 1971 war.

    On December 4, 1971, Lt. Dharam Veer's platoon, while conducting a patrol, detected noises across the border that suggested a large number of armored vehicles approaching. The Pakistani forces began their attack at 12:30 am. As the offensive approached the lone outpost, Pakistani artillery opened up with medium artillery guns, killing five of the ten camels from the 14 battalion BSF detachment.

    As the column of 45 tanks neared the post, Indian defences, lacking the time to prepare minefield, laid a hasty anti-tank minefield, one infantryman being killed in the process. The Indian infantry held fire until the leading Pakistani tanks had approached 15-30 metres. They then accounted for the first two tanks on the track with their jeep-mounted 106 mm M40 recoilless rifle, with one of its crew being killed during the combat.

    Although massively outnumbering the Indian defenders, and having surrounded them, the Pakistani troops were unable to advance over an open terrain on a full moon night. As dawn arrived, the Pakistan forces had still not taken the post, and were now having to do so in full daylight.

    "In the morning the Indian Air Force was finally able to direct some HF-24 Maruts and Hawker Hunter aircraft to assist the post. They were not outfitted with night vision equipment, and so were delayed from conducting combat missions until dawn. With daylight, however, the IAF was able to operate effectively, with the strike aircraft being guided to the targets by airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC) Major Atma Singh in a HAL Krishak," says Air Marshal M S Bawa (retd).

    The Indian aircraft attacked the Pakistani ground troops with 16 Matra T-10 rockets and 30 mm cannon fire on each aircraft. Without support from the Pakistan Air Force, which was busy elsewhere, the tanks and other armoured vehicles were easy targets for the IAF's Hunters.

    By noon the next day, the assault ended completely, having cost Pakistan 22 tanks, claimed destroyed by aircraft fire, 12 by ground anti-tank fire, and some captured after being abandoned, with a total of 100 vehicles claimed to have been destroyed or damaged in the desert around the post

    Years later, Longewala reminds the do-or-die battle - The Times of India

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