Military & Aerospace

The 1965 War with Pakistan-II
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Issue Book Excerpt: In the Line of Duty | Date : 15 Feb , 2011

The paratroopers, it seemed, had been launched in a hurry, without much preparation, as they all dropped far away from their targets. There was not much action required on our part as they were suitably dealt with by the villagers near where they dropped. They were unable to cause any damage, as intended, to our Forward Fighter airfields at Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara. A little bit of shooting was reported in Halwara Airfield, between aircraft-pens, but that was a response out of sheer panic on the part of ‘Lashkars’, a civilian set-up, employed by the airfield for the protection of the parked aircraft.

There was no risk to the aeroplanes taking off from the airfield. And yet, out of fear, the Air Force authorities withdrew their Fighter Planes from the forward airfields at Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara, without my knowledge. I believe, that they got permission to do so from the Chief of the Army Staff, with the connivance of my Chief of Staff, Major General Joginder Singh. This greatly upset our communications and arrangements for close-air-support to the troops at the Front. Several calls from the Front had no effect on Major General Joginder Singh, who was supposed to be manning the Close­-Air-Support Organisation at my Main Headquarters, at Ambala.

Book_in_the_line_of_dutyAir support to our troops fighting on the ground, from our fighter planes, which were taking off from Agra, and beyond, without any briefing by the Air-Contact teams, which had been left behind at the Forward Airfields, was, at its best, only spasmodic and ephemeral. The troops on the Front, who had to bear the brunt of enemy attacks from the air, complained bitterly about the absence of our planes. A situation that I found very difficult to explain. I, of course, kept on asking my Chief of Shiff, through my ADC, the reason for this lack of air support, for I did not then know that our planes had been removed to Agra, and beyond, by the Air Force, without asking me. A most deplorable state of affairs, to say the least! The result was that during the critical period of early operations, the troops at the Front had no air-support, while Pakistani planes, taking off from Sargoda Airfield, pounded them mercilessly!In the early hours of the morning of the 8th of September, I received a very alarming report, in the form of a hand-written letter, through a special courier officer, from General Officer Commanding, XI Corps, who had visited 4 Division on the afternoon of the 7th of September, 1965. Following is the text of the original letter:

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CONFIDENTIAL

HQ XI Corps

C/O 56 APO

07 Sep 65

My dear Harbakhsh,

I visited 4 Mtn Div this afternoon from 1415 to 1615 hrs & met the GOC at his HQ. Most of the officers in the HQ and the GOC were wearing long faces. The troops I saw on my way to the HQ appeared slack and generally uninterested. On enquiry I came to know the following:

The strength of the six infantry has been reduced to an overall strength of about three and a half bns in 24 hours of action commenc­ing 0400 hrs 6 Sep. This reduction was partially due to enemy action but mostly due to desertion.

The rot started with 13 Dogras, who without orders, left the posi­tion allotted to them without any enemy pressure except perhaps shelling. GOC 4 Mtn Div halted them as they were coming back. During night 6/7 Sep they all disappeared except the 5% and the CO's party. This rot quickly spread to other inf units.

4 Div have the following bns and units at present:

18 Raj Rif 4 Grenadiers 7 Grenadiers

1/9 GR 9 J &K]

13 Dogras

Of these only 4 Grenadiers & 1/9 GR are intact. I am told by the GOC that the CO of 9 J &K left his posn, without orders o~ the night of 6/7 Sep taking a coy of inf with him. 7 Grenadiers are bnly about two coy strong. 18 Raj Rif has about 10% deserters & the GOC thinks that this unit is cracking up. I am further given to understand by the GOC that deserters are restricted to inf units only & no other arm or service in the Div is affected.

Because of the above situation not a single task given to 4 Mtn Div in the current operations has been carried out. No bridge on the 1 GC in 4 Div sector has been blown. The GOC had to request the posn of the Div on the night of 6/7 Sep & again on the afternoon of 7 Sep. When I visited him today he was arranging the preparation of a def sector in the Asal Uttar .area.

The morale of the Div being what it is, it is my considered view that any defences held by the present inf units in 4 Mtn Div cannot withstand even slight enemy pressure. This is a most serious situation in the present stage of the Operations.

I recommend:

That 4 Mtn Div be immediately replaced by some other fmn for carrying out the orders given to them.

Except for 4 Grenadiers and 9 GR, the four inf units of 4 Mtn Div as given in para 4 above should be disbanded.

I request that you pay a visit to this formation at your earliest convenience to see at first hand its state of morale & the competence of its commander.

It was a privilege & an honour to have you here on the epoch making day - 6 Sep 65.

With warm regards

Yours ever

Jogi.

As can be seen’ from the letter, the General Officer Commanding XI Corps had recommended that the Division be replaced; and all its Infantry Units, except two, be disbanded. There was, of course, no question of doing this. And that’s when I felt the necessity of having some reserves, which could have been availed of if the Chief of Staff had agreed to my suggestion of crossing the river Ravi, in our own territory, at Nianakot. Because of the Chief of the Army Staff’s insistence, 1 Corps, the only reserve I could have counted on, had been deployed in the Sialkot area.

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