The Brigadier Who Defied Enemy Tanks in 1971 War

Compiled By: Shri Ramakrishna Prasad

The famous battle of Longewala (1971) was one of the first major engagements in the western sector during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, fought between assaulting Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala in the Thar desert of Rajasthan. A company of the Indian Army’s 23rd battalion, Punjab Regiment, commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri with just 120 men against a full-fledged attack by advancing Pakistani Patton tanks and over 2,000 soldiers, was left with the choice of either attempting to hold out until reinforced, or fleeing on foot from Pakistani force. Choosing the former, Chandpuri ensured that all his assets were correctly deployed, and made the most use of his strong defensive position, and weaknesses created by errors in enemy tactics. When the operation ended, 22 Pakistani tanks had been destroyed.

He was decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for the heroic stand-off that forced the enemy to retreat.

The MVC citation read: “Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was commanding a company of the Punjab Regiment occupying a defended locality in the Rajasthan Sector. On the 5th December 1971, in the early hours of the morning the enemy launched a massive attack on this locality with infantry and tanks. Major Chandpuri exhibited dynamic leadership in holding his command intact and steadfast.”

“Showing exceptional courage and determination, he inspired his men moving from bunker to bunker, encouraging them in beating back the enemy till reinforcements arrived. In this heroic defence, he inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and forced them to retreat leaving behind twelve tanks.

“In this action, Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri displayed conspicuous gallantry, inspiring leadership and exceptional devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Army.” 

The feat of Brig. Chandpuri and his men later became celluloid history through the J.P. Dutta-directed Bollywood blockbuster “Border” which was released in 1997. His action-packed role was played by actor Sunny Deol.

Brig. Chandpuri was a third generation officer in the Indian army. Born in 1940 at Montgomery, Punjab in undivided India, his family settled into their native village, Chandpur Rurki in Balachaur. He graduated from the Government College in Hoshiarpur in 1962. Thereafter, he joined the Indian Army. He passed out of the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, in 1963 and was commissioned into the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment. Apart from displaying his grit in the 1971 Battle of Longewala, he had also fought the 1965 war in the western sector. In addition he also served in the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) at Gaza in Egypt for a year. He was also honoured on the board of The War Decorated India, an association of gallantry awardees and nominated as a councillor in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. His heroic life came to end on 17th November 2018.

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