Tag Archives: Pakistan war

Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla Personified Courage and Selflessness

The year was 1971. As dusk fell on December 3, at 5.45 PM, the Pakistan Air Force attacked six Indian airfields. The same night, IAF Canberra aircrafts struck Pakistani airfields as ground battles immediately commenced in nearly every sector. The Indo-Pak War of 1971 had begun and soon enough, Indian Navy too joined the battle. Two days later, on December 5, the Indian Navy detected the presence of a Pakistani Daphne-class submarine in north Arabian Sea — it was about 16 nautical miles from the coast of Diu. Acting immediately, the Navy directed its anti-submarine frigate squadron to locate and destroy it.

And so, on December 8, INS Khukri (commanded by Captain Mulla) and INS Kirpan sailed out of Bombay towards the location, unknowing of the tragedy that was to befall the former ship. On December 9, INS Khukri (an Indian anti-submarine frigate of the F-14 squadron) was hit by torpedoes from Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor that had detected its approach. What made the Indian vessel an easy target for enemy torpedoes was the presence of an experimental sonar equipment aboard that had been specially deployed for research.

The limitations placed by this equipment had drastically slowed down the movement of the Khukri to the submarine-detectable speed of 12 knots. Also, Khukri‘s sonar set could detect only up to 3,000 yards and it was no match to the Hangor that could fire from distances of nearly six kilometers. As such, the Khukri began taking on water at a rapid pace after it was hit and it started sinking within minutes.

With time running out fast, Captain Mulla decided to abandon his attempts to save the ship and began overseeing rescue operations that would ensure that his crew was safe. Aware that the majority of his men were trapped below deck, he personally began helping as many as he could even though he was injured and bleeding from the head. In those defining moments, Captain Mulla could have saved himself easily. But the incredible leader man chose to give his own life-saving gear to another sailor. Such was his courage and strength of character that he then went back to the bridge to direct as many of his men as possible to leave the ship before going down with his ship.

In fact, throughout the crisis, the man from Uttar Pradesh was calm, composed, and resolute. Several survivors would later recall having seen their Captain Mulla at the bridge, holding on to the guard rail as the ship slipped below the dark waters. And so the Khukri sank to its watery grave in the Arabian Sea, taking with it 176 sailors, 18 officers, and braveheart captain. 67 men survived — they were rescued by INS Katchal next morning. It remains the only (and hopefully the last) naval ship that India has ever lost during a war. Captain Mull also remains the only Indian captain to go down with a vessel. For his conspicuous gallantry and dedication to duty, he was posthumously honoured with the Maha Vir Chakra.

What Captain Mulla did in those last moments did not just lift the morale of Khukri’s surviving crew but of the entire Indian armed forces for years to come. The manner in which he died upholds the highest the traditions of the armed forces and exemplifies the upper limits of cold courage. He believed that the nation comes first, that the men he commands come next, and his safety comes last.” The martyrs of Khukri have also been honoured by the Indian Navy with a memorial at Diu. It constitutes of a scale model of the INS Khukri encased in a glass house and placed atop a hillock facing the sea. Interestingly, Captain Mulla was not the only member of his family with an exemplary sense of responsibility. His wife, Sudha Mulla, spent the year after the sinking of the Khukri single-mindedly taking steps to ensure that the families of all the deceased crew members were rehabilitated.

Ireland Born officer Who Led India in Its Greatest Infantry Battle

Lieutenant Colonel Desmond E Hayde, the man who led his troops from the 3 Jat battalion into one of the greatest, yet bloodiest infantry battle ever fought in Post-Independent India during the 1965 war against Pakistan, was born in Ireland to Anglo-Indian parents on November 26, 1928. Despite his origins, it was the tricolour that coursed through his veins. Leading 550 men into battle against an enemy force twice that number and allied with support from a tank squadron, Lt Col Hayde masterminded the capture of Dograi, a township on the outskirts of Lahore, in a battle that raged from September 21-23.

This was a show of remarkable courage, smarts and pure conviction, battling the enemy with everything they had—guns, grenades and bayonets—besides engaging in some brutal hand-to-hand combat. In the process, they managed to clear out an entire township, not missing a street, gulley, house or enemy bunker. Interestingly enough, he didn’t win the Mahavir Chakra for this heroic battle, but for another, that should have easily secured Dograi two weeks earlier.

As part of Operation Riddle, the 3 Jat battalion was ordered to breach the Ichhogil Canal, which was built by the then Punjab (Pakistan) chief minister to ostensibly protect Lahore from Indian aggression eight kms inside Pakistani territory. Although Colonel Hayde and his men managed to take the Dograi township on the intervening night of September 6-7 (for which he won the Mahavir Chakra), no supporting units of the Indian armed forces were forthcoming because of a glaring communication gap. They held their ground until receiving orders from the brigade headquarters to retreat.

As a consequence of that communication gap, Colonel Hayde and his men had to fall back and wait for two weeks in Santpura village – deep inside Pakistani territory, before receiving orders to launch another offensive on Dograi. Unfortunately, in the intervening two weeks, Pakistani forces had substantially strengthened their presence in Dograi, bringing another  battalion to support the one already present and enlisting a tank squadron to help them. The odds were heavily against Colonel Hayde and his men, but in a stirring address to his troops on the night of September 21, 1965, he made just two simple demands:

1)‘Not a single man will turn back!’ and 2) ‘Dead or alive, we have to meet in Dograi!’

In approximately two days, Colonel Hayde and his brave men from the 3 Jat battalion re-captured Dograi, losing in the process 86 troops while taking out nearly 300 Pakistani soldiers.

A leader who was worshiped by his regiment, the daring hero of Dograi was awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his incredible courage and exemplary leadership.

“Brigadier Hayde never spoke about the Maha Vir Chakra or the Battle of Dograi. He thought of it as a job he had to do, and he did it,” says Colonel Singh, who runs the Hayde Heritage school in Kotdwar, Uttarakhand, in a conversation with Rediff. “He never even travelled on a free ticket that the government grants (for winners of gallantry medals). He was a rough, rugged, tough, guy for whom every day of life was the Indian Army.” Following retirement, Brigadier Hayde constantly fought in defence of better conditions for the Indian soldier and assisting former members of the Jat regiment in their day-to-day affairs, before unfortunately succumbing to skin cancer on September 25, 2013. Today, he rests alongside his wife at a cemetery in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.

The Master Destroyer of PAK’s Deadly War Submarine Ghazi

Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan (1919 – 1982) was the most decorated officer in the Indian Navy with over 40 years of distinguished service career and 17 medals to his credit. Vice Admiral Krishnan has been a part of many pre and post independence operations his role in the war of 1971, has etched his name in the pages of history in golden letters.

Vice Admiral Krishnan was born the youngest son of Rao Bahadur Mahadeva Nilakanta Ayyar, who worked as an executive engineer. His eldest brother had gone into the line of Indian Civil Services while Vice Admiral Krishnan had a different passion. He joined the Royal Indian Navy at the age of 16. On the 1st of September. 1940, he was appointed the Sub-Lieutenant of the Royal Indian Navy. Through the length of his military career, he engaged in pre and post-independence battles, in Europe and Asia. In 1961, he led the naval push that brought down the Portuguese flag and liberated Goa, Diu, and Daman.


During the Indo-Pak War of 1971, Vice Admiral Krishnan was serving as the Chief of Eastern Naval Command. It was during this war that he carried out what many consider “of the great sea-faring victories in Indian naval history.”

Before the onset of the war, Pakistani troops had the intentions to surprise Indian Forces. On the 14th of November, 1971, Pakistan dispatched one of its deadliest weapons, the assault submarine Ghazi. With the aim of annihilating the INS Vikrant, they sent it to Chittagong in East Pakistan. By 23rd November, Ghazi had gone more than 2,200 nautical miles from Karachi to reach to watch range code-named Zone Mike in Madras. The Indian Forces received intelligence about this advancement and immediately informed the Eastern Naval Command. The Vice-naval commander had been requested that INS Vikrant was to prevent the troops in East Pakistan from getting any maritime help from the Pakistan Navy. However, due to some technical problems, the INS Vikrant’s pace had reduced to a mere 16 ties and making it impossible for it to thwart any imminent attacks.

Vice Admiral Krishnan was aware of this difficulty and had to make a strategy to shield their otherwise defenceless vessel. The subsequent plan he came up with was ingenious and would set a staggering record in naval history for years to come. He summoned the captain of the maturing INS Rajput, Lt-Commander Inder Singh. His ship was at the time being sent to Vizag to be decommissioned. That is until Vice Admiral Krishnan gave him a monumental task. He instructed Singh to cruise 160 miles out of Vizag harbour and create substantial remote movement, which would give foe submarine a feeling that INS Vikrant, its prime goal, was in the close region. To confuse the enemy further, he requested an enormous amount of meat and vegetables. He then ordered INS Vikrant and her escorts to cruise into ‘X-Ray’, a mystery palm-fronded safe haven in the Andaman Islands, almost 1,000 miles away.

Pakistani fell for the trap and prepared to dispatch Ghazi against INS Vikrant. In the late hours of 3rd December, reports indicated an inward blast occurred in the forward area of the Ghazi where torpedoes and mines were kept. Subsequently, Ghazi, one of Pakistan’s greatest weapons sank, inflicting no damage on the Indian vessel.For his remarkable strategy, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Admiral Krishnan retired from the Indian Navy in 1976. He was one of the only two Indians who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He received the award in 1942 for “courage, enterprise and devotion to duty in operations in the Persian Gulf”. He also received the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) which is awarded in recognition of peace-time service of the most exceptional order. He met his natural death in January 1982.

The Lion of Naushera Who Refused Offer to be Pakistan Army Chief

No military commander in independent India, except one, has received a state funeral. But so overwhelmed was a nascent nation at the supreme courage and sacrifice of Brigadier Mohammad Usman that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his cabinet colleagues turned up at the funeral of the hero who was laid to rest with full state honours on the premises of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi.

Brigadier Mohammad Usman was born on July 15, 1912, in Bibipur in Mau district of present day Uttar Pradesh. Son of a police officer Mohammad Farooq Khunambir  and  Jamilun Bibi, Courage came to Brig Usman at a young age, when at the age of 12, he jumped into a well to save a drowning child. His father wanted him to join the civil services, but he was destined to don the military uniform and joined the Army.

On the 19 March 1935, as a young officer he was appointed to the Indian Army and posted to the 5th battalion of the 10th Baluch Regiment. During the partition of India, Brig Usman, being a Muslim officer in the Baluch Regiment, was under intense pressure from Jinnah to opt for the Pakistan Army. However, despite the fact he was promised a future position as the Pakistan Army Chief, he was unconvinced. When the Baluch Regiment was allotted to Pakistan, Brig Usman opted for the Dogra Regiment.

In 1947 Pakistan sent tribal irregulars into the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in an attempt to capture it and accede it to Pakistan. Brig Mohammad Usman, then commanding the 77th Parachute Brigade, was sent to command the 50th Parachute Brigade, which was deployed at Jhangar in December 1947.  On 25 December 1947, with the odds stacked heavily against the brigade, Pakistani forces captured Jhangar. Located at the junction of roads coming from Mirpur and Kotli, Jhangar was of strategic importance. On that day Brig Usman took a vow to recapture Jhangar a feat he accomplished three months later, but at the cost of his own life.

In January–February 1948 Brig Usman repulsed fierce attacks on Naushera and Jhangar, both highly strategic locations in Jammu and Kashmir. During the defence of Naushera against overwhelming odds and numbers, Indian forces inflicted around 2000 casualties on the Pakistanis (about 1000 dead and 1000 wounded) while Indian forces suffered only 33 dead and 102 wounded. His defence earned him the nickname Lion of Naushera. Pakistani forces then announced a sum of Rs 50,000 as a prize for his head. Unaffected by praise and congratulations, Brig Usman continued to sleep on a mat laid on the floor as he had vowed that he would not sleep on a bed till he recaptured Jhangar, from where he had had to withdraw in late 1947.

The operations commenced in the last week of February 1948. The 19th Infantry Brigade advanced along the northern ridge, while the 50th Parachute Brigade cleared the hills dominating the Naushera-Jhangar road in the south. The enemy was eventually driven from the area, and Jhangar was recaptured. Pakistan brought its regular forces into the fray in May 1948. Jhangar was once again subjected to heavy artillery bombardment, and many determined attacks were launched on Jhangar by the Pakistan Army. However, Brig Usman frustrated all their attempts to recapture it. It was during this defence of Jhangar that Brig Usman was killed on July 3, 1948, by an enemy 25-pounder shell. He was 12 days short of his 36th birthday. His last words were “I am dying but let not the territory we were fighting for fall for the enemy”. For his inspiring leadership and great courage, he was awarded the “Maha Vir Chakra” posthumously. A bachelor, a bulk of his salary would be spent in providing education to poor children. He was religious yet a staunch loyalist. On receiving reports that 50000 tribal marauders had taken refuge at a mosque near Naushera and that our troops were hesitant in firing at the religious structure, he reached there personally and ordered fire to be opened, stating that the place no longer remained religious as it had been occupied by marauders. Brigadier Mohammed Usman, remains one of the greatest soldiers and an inspiring military leader India has ever produced. Two memorials, one at Jamia Millia Islamia, the other at Naushera, stand as silent reminders of the supreme courage and sacrifice of Mohammed Usman.