Hectic Days in Halwara-12: The End is Visible

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General wisdom says that the flame of a lamp about to die-out burns brighter for a brief moment before it extinguishes.   The condition of the war seemed to follow the same path on the morning of the 14th.      By all indications, Pakistan was in no condition to continue with this war;   in response, our war effort was on the up-swing without a doubt.   At Halwara, we were let loose with a general direction to search and destroy any enemy assets we could find.    The boys were eager to oblige.   This search and destroy was mainly along the railway lines.   Alan D’Costa with Ceezee Sandhu  took on Raiwind junction at ten in the morning.   Manek Madon and Palekar went to Khudian Junction.   Lamba and Pinto found a train near a railway station named Kotla Khal and accounted for its locomotive and six goods bogies attached to it.   Chopra and Bapat did the honours to the locomotive and six bogies of another train found at Changamanga railway station.   Mitroo and Y Rao found an obviously important goods train at Raiwind on a repeat visit at about one in the afternoon.   They were greeted with fierce small arms fire from the train but they took their time and finished all the ten or eleven bogies of the train carrying arms and ammunition:  heavy black smoke and secondary explosions told its own tale.   In the process, Mitroo’s aircraft picked up a fair amount of damage.    By the time they reached back at Halwara, Mitroo had lost his primary hydraulics and it was clearly difficult for him to keep his aircraft under control.  It was wallowing seriously on the approach.   I came out of my BADC (Base Air Defence Centre) dugout, saw the aircraft and ordered Mitroo to eject.   Mitroo however insisted on continuing with his stricken aircraft.   In a display of superb airmanship and flying skill he not only put his aircraft down on the runway safely, he also managed to stop it with his brakes fading out without hydraulic pressure.    His controlled use of residual brake pressure under an extremely trying circumstance was really praiseworthy.   I regret to say however that my recommendation for him to get a gallantry award was watered down at the command and air HQ.   He was finally recognized only by a ‘Mentioned in Despatch’.     It was rather unfair, because there was an instance of a similar incident producing an MVC at another base.

 In the afternoon, Dass and Balachand destroyed one locomotive and five goods bogies of a train on the line between Kasur and Khudian.   Ayre and  Ceezee followed closely behind and finished off the rest of the bogies of the burning train.   Lamba and Pinto went back with bombs to destroy a railway bridge over a canal by steep glide bombing, but did not quite manage to destroy it.   Manek and Palekar in their second outing found an oil train chugging along and finished off the oil as well as the locomotive.   Chakladar and Ghosh went to bomb out a small railway bridge near Kot Randhanpur and apparently succeeded.   This long list of interdiction was topped up by the Green Berets at night.  Roy and Ramakrishna visited Kanganpur and delivered their load of 3 inch rockets accurately.

 This open hunt for interdiction did not mean that close air support effort was ignored.   For the day of 14th, all close air support demands came from the Lahore sector.   The first call was answered by BS Rao and Rishi.   Their target was a concentration of tanks near a village named Sidhanwalla.   The FAC led them to some fortifications and they dropped their bombs as directed.  Then Chakladar and Ghosh went to a point near Khemkaran and dropped their bombs on a concentration of troops.   Couple of hours later, Dada Deshmukh and Williams went back to the same spot and bombed it again.   Chopra and Bapat were sent against a tank concentration but the FAC messed up in his directions and the target could not be spotted.   Rao and Punetha went and dropped their bombs on a small grove where tanks were reported to be hiding.   Dass and Patel did the same fifteen minutes later.   Four or five other missions were waiting for calls, but no more requests came through.   Through out the day, we faced no air opposition for any of our missions.

 News from the Eastern Front was all positive.    Pakistanis apparently were frightened enough to abandon their prepared defences at Jessore and retreat in panic.   Tension was however mounting in our minds.   Intelligence feed about the movement of the US  7th  Fleet towards the Bay of Bengal became strong enough for the Prime Minister to call for a mass meeting at the Ram Leela Maidan at Delhi.   She delivered a stirring speech where she reiterated her resolve to prosecute the war till its satisfactory end irrespective of international pressure that might be mounted.    It was a wonderful speech that made us all proud.   A race for Dacca was now officially on.   We slept at peace  that night once again.

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