Battle of Longewala: India-Pakistan War 1971
Battle of Longewala is known as one of the most crucial battles during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. This battle took place at Longewala, an Indian post near international border in the desert of Rajasthan. In spite of of the heavy attack from by armored regiment of Pakistan, a small number of Indian soldiers successfully held the post until they got air support and reinforcement.This victory of Indian Army and Air Force foiled the enemy plan to capture Jaisalmer Airbase and then the city of Jodhpur.
Longewala is situated nearly 6 Kilo Meters inside from the international border. Before the battle took place, the post was under control of Border Security Force, but when tensions started between India and Pakistan, a company of 23rd Battalion of Punjab Regiment of Indian army took the possession of the post. As Indian army wanted to concentrate on its activities in Eastern Front, it stayed defensive on Western front. The commanding officers were not expecting any major attack on this post, so they deployed a company of 120 soldiers with a M40 Jeep mounted Recoilless Gun. They were accompanied by 3 soldiers of BSF as they knew field details of surrounding area.
At evening of 4th December 1971, Pakistan Air Force launched air strikes on several air bases of western India.
Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri immediately sent a patrol team towards the borderline, which heard noises of armored vehicles. This was confirmed by army’s air observation aircraft. A 20 Kilo Metrs long column of armored vehicles of Pakistan was leading directly towards Longewala post. Major Chandpuri immediately requested urgent reinforcement with artillery and armour support from his battalion Headquarters. As it was not possible to reinforce the post immediately, the Head Quarter gave two options: Leave the post or hold it as much time as possible. The brave major choosed the second option.
The Battle Begins
Pakistani armored regiment reached Longewala post at midnight and started shelling it. In response, Indian infantry used their Anti Tank Gun. The Jeep mounted Gun destroyed 2 Pakistani tanks. As Pakistani forces misinterpreted the compound wire as minefield, it stopped its further advancement towards the post. On the other hand it became easy for Indian infantrymen to locate Pakistani tanks in the light of flames of burning tanks and vehicles. The biggest advantage of Indians was they were at elevated position, as the post was on a small hill. Further they were very safe in the bunkers on the post. The Indian infantrymen were successful in destroying 12 tanks until dawn, but they lost their jeep and two men.
On the other hand, Pakistani tanks and vehicles were unable to move faster because of the sandy land.
Entry of IAF Fighter Planes
Meanwhile, the situation was informed to the Airbase. The nearest airbase was Jaisalmer. There were four Hunter Hawkers on the base. Two of them took flights towards Longewala. The fighter pilots found that the post was surrounded by Pakistani tanks. They were shelling the post. The pilots started to fire rockets to the tanks which were closest to the post. Both the pilots were successful in destroying or damaging some tanks, but had to return to the base to refuel. The enemy got a relief for a while but saw another pair of Hunter Hawkers arrived and started bombarding. They too destroyed and damaged some tanks.
This continued for a long time. 4 Hunter Hawkers and 6 fighter pilots took part in this mission and destroyed or damaged enemy tanks and many of the vehicles.
By noon of 5th December the battle was over as the enemy went back, losing its 36+ tanks and about one hundred other vehicles. The Pakistani regiment lost 200 hundred of its soldiers and many others were wounded. On Indian side, two soldiers lost their lives and a Jeep was destroyed. A Hunter Hawker plane was slightly damaged, but not because of the enemy fire. The pilot lose control of his fighter plane for few seconds and its tail was bumped on a sand mound. But the pilot was successful in returning to the base safely.
The Battle in News, Films and Books
World media, especially British media took notice of this battle. Soon after the war was over, the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal R.M. Carver, visited Longewala to learn the details of the battle from Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri.
Several books were written on Battle of Longewala. The famous ones are Hunting hunters: Battle of Longewala, December 1971: a study in joint army-air operations by Virendra Verma and Pakistan's Failed Gamble: The Battle of Laungewala by Anil Shorey.
Border was the film based on Battle of Longewala. This film was a super hit one, but created controversy as the story was manipulated.
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