Friday, 6 February 2015

Yuichi Akatsu

The story of a man who fought WWII for full 29 years after the Japanese surrendered, because he didn't know the war was over. 

On December 26th, 1944, Hiroo Onoda was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines. His orders from his commanding officers, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, were simple:

"You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily. 

He took these words more seriously then it was actually meant. 

In February 1945, US troops landed on Lubang while Most Japanese soldier surrendered some split into groups and headed into jungle. Many of these groups were killed off but Onoda and his men (Yuichi Akatsu, Siochi Shimada, and Kinshichi Kozuka) continued to use guerrilla warfare tactics to harry the enemy troops as best they could. 

Several attempts where made to get back the soldiers in hiding. Leaflet after leaflet were dropped. Newspapers were left. Photographs and letters from relatives were dropped. Friends and relatives spoke out over loudspeakers. They kept scrutinizing every bit of it and there was always something suspicious, so they never believed that the war had really ended. 

After about 5 years , Yuichi Akatsu decided to surrender without the knowledge of others. He surrendered to whom he believed to be the allied troops. This only made the rest of the men even more cautious and went deeper into hiding. After another 5 years, Siochi Shimada was killed too.

For nearly 20 years , Kozuka and Onoda continued to live in the jungle together, awaiting the time when they would again be needed by the Japanese army. After all the order of their division commander, was to remain behind enemy lines and gather intelligence to be able to train Japanese troops in guerrilla warfare in order to regain the Philippine islands.

Onoda refused to surrender until 1972, when his Major Taniguchi(then retired) was brought back to the island to tell him that Japan had lost the war and he was to give up his weapons and surrender to the Filipinos.

After 29 years in hiding Onoda walked out with his 30 year old riffle and military uniform - both well maintained. 

Khem Karn

Destroying tanks with Water. In the 1965 India-Pakistan war, Pakistan had an upper hand in the initial stages of the war, main reason of that being its much superior weaponry .One of the areas where Pakistani weapons were almost a generation ahead of India's were armored vehicles, more specifically tanks. Years of USA benevolence had equipped the Pakistani army with M-47 and M-48 Patton tanks,the most advanced tanks of its time.The Indians had to do with World War II era M4 Shermans, as well as 1945 vintage Centurion and light AMX-13 tanks. The Pattons had higher calibre and increased range guns as well as better armor and outclassed the Indian tanks in every attribute.

Naturally, Pakistan plans had heavy dependence on its powerful armored corps. As part of this strategy, on 8th September 1965,  the Pakistani army's (PA) 1st Armored Division (6 tank regiments) and 11th Infantry Division launched a major offensive in the Khem Karn area of Punjab with more than 220 Patton tanks, composing about a 3rd of their armored corps. The goal of this offensive was to capture large tracts of plains in Punjab and use that a bargaining chip for exchange of land in Kashmir. The plan was flawless, however Indian ingenuity converted this massive armored assault into the single largest graveyard of US made weaponry, post-World war II.

The Khem Karn area was under Indian army's (IA) 4th Mountain Division, led by Maj. Gen. Gurbaksh Singh and had few artillery regiments and 3 tank regiments under its command each with  45 tanks of Sherman, Centurion and AMX-13 make. An Indian scout party detected the progress of  PAs 1st Armored Division, and realizing there is no way his forces can withstand this assault, Maj. Gen. Gurbaksh Singh ordered all Indian formation to withdraw from the path of the strike force. However, rather than a full withdraw he rearranged his forces in a U shaped formation around the town of Asal Uttar which was further into Indian territory. This allowed Indian forces to surround the invading forces from 3 sides, and retain the option of a surprise assault on Pakistani forces, as they crossed into the deeper end of the U formation through Khem Karn totally unopposed.  The Pakistani's were delighted and thought all Indian forces has withdrawn with several Pakistani officers even stopping for Photo-Ops in Khem Karn. Then they continued their forward thrust and stopped before the town of Asal Uttar to start their assault the next day (Both the Indian and Pakistani tanks didn’t have night fighting capabilities at that time). 

(Pakistani forces Photo-Op at Khem Karn. Source: WikiPedia)

Now the region around Khem Karn is composed of porous fertile soil and the region is a major sugarcane growing region of India. During the time of the attack all the sugarcane fields were mature. The tall sugarcane grass allowed the Indian forces in the U formation to remain hidden and allow its tanks to be much closer to the invading forces, blunting  the advantage of the higher range guns of the Patton tanks. However, with its higher calibre gun and powerful engine the Pattons could still break through any defensive formation. The Pattons had to be immobilized, somehow !

On the night of September 9th, Indian troops were told to flood the Sugarcane fields in the path of the PA formation towards Asal Uttar. Large water tanks as well as water from a canal were used to flood all the fields. The porous soil of the sugarcane plantations soaked up all the water like a sponge.

Next morning, the Pakistani armored division continued its movement. The Indians waited. Very soon, the forward columns of Patton tanks started to cross the flooded sugarcane fields. The thick armor makes the Patton a very heavy tank and very soon due to their excessive weight, the Pattons started to sink into the ground right up to its turret, in the spongy porous soil. The flooding of the fields has converted the sugarcane fields to a swamp. When the forward columns was made immobile, other tank columns following it could not move ahead. PAs 1st Armored Division was effectively immobilized ! At this time artillery, infantry and tanks of 4th Mountain Division commenced a massive fire assault. Being stuck in the 'swamp', the Pattons were sitting ducks and the sugarcane field hid the direct source of Indian fire.

At close range the Patton's armor was unable to withstand the force of the incoming projectiles and gave away. By the end of the day more than 170 Patton tanks were destroyed or abandoned, and 11 of them were captured by Indian forces in intact condition. Indian losses stood at 32 tanks.

The event called the Battle of Asal Uttar, was the largest tank battle after WW II. This place also got the name as Patton Nagar (Graveyard of Pattons), and several of these Patton tanks still stand as war trophies in several Indian army establishment across India today. While Pakistan still had a superior Air Force, with the advantage of its armor blunted, Pakistan could never recover leading to its major city Lahore almost being captured before a cease fire was declared.

(Destroyed Patton tanks at Patton Nagar. Source: WikiPedia)

The battle of Asal Uttar is taught as a battle strategy in all major war colleges in the world. Another significance of this battle was that Gen. AS Vaidya, who commanded an IA tank regiment as a Lieutenant  Colonel would lead to command the Indian Army. Also Gen. Pervez Musharraf who became the head of state of Pakistan was also part of this battle as a Captain, some people say it was the loss here that prompted him to avenge it in the Kargil War. Also QM Abdul Hamid of Indian Army, was posthumously awarded India’s highest gallantry award as he destroyed 7 Patton tanks using one recoil-less gun in this battle.

INS Vikrant

Before the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Indian Navy’s (IN) sole aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was docked in Visakhapatnam at the eastern coast of India. After the 1971 hostilities started, Indian naval intelligence got wind of Pakistani plans to target the Vikrant through its flagship submarine PNS Ghazi which was a Tench-class diesel-electric submarine leased from the US Navy. During the initial days of the war the IN stealthily moved Vikrant to a secret harbor (Port X-Ray) in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. However, it wanted the Pakistani Navy (PN) to think the Vikrant was still in Visakhapatnam. To do this, every week large orders for groceries were made from the IN’s port in Visakhapatnam. These orders were large enough to sustain the 1,340 sailors of the INS Vikrant, and to any observer (including Pakistani spies) it meant the Vikrant was in Visakhapatnam. Another ship INS Rajput was used as a decoy for INS Vikrant, and several wireless transmissions were made to/from INS Rajput (a larger ship has more wireless messages). A deliberately unencrypted telegram was also sent wirelessly through INS Rajput in the name of a sailor from INS Vikrant asking about the health of his mother who had fallen seriously ill.

Pakistani Navy took the bait and sent PNS Ghazi off the harbor entrance in Visakhapatnam, where she was sunk by depth charges of IN ships , becoming the only submarine sunk in war after World War II. The hull of the submarine still lies in the sea bed off the Visakhapatnam coast. INS Vikrant continued on to southern East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and played a pivotal role in the destruction of PN ports and ships.

  Gorkha soldiers

Incident 1:
A Maratha Light Infantry battalion was newly inducted in a sensitive sector. On the very first night when the rear party of the
previous battalion finally moved out and the main body of Marathas newly moved in, Pakis fired 2" mortar shells on a Maratha forward
post. (This has been the usual way to welcome newly inducted Indian Army units by the Pakis for ages.)
As soon as day broke, a Major on the Maratha post climbed a tree with an RL (Rocket Launcher, for my civilian friends) slung on one shoulder and two rockets slung on the other, and simply blasted two bunkers of the Mujahid post across the LOC.Thereafter, not one bullet was fired by the Pakis on the Maratha paltan for as long as they stayed there.

Incident 2: Pakis observed that Gorkha soldiers in their OP (Observation Post) just left the LMG (Light Machine Gun) un-attended for 2 to 3 minutes while they went out of the OP for a pee. One summer day at about 11 o' clock in the morning, in a daring raid, two Paki soldiers sneaked in and ran back with the LMG. Four hours later, which is normally siesta time and security is lax, a team of Gorkha soldiers raided the Pak post and came back with the Paki CO's 15 years old daughter. (Pakistan Army's officers-lot is
super privileged. They even stay on border posts with their families.) The Gorkhas did not harm the child, they just made her sit on a chair on top of the OP bunker. Soon enough, a bunch of Paki jawans came up to the LOC with a white flag and the Gorkhas' LMG, and a neat and clean exchange took place.

Incident 3: This incident happened when Naga Regiment was newly raised in the Indian Army and Pakis had no clue what material the Nagas were made of! (Those with a weak stomach may please skip reading this incident further.)

The Nagas were also given the customary welcome on their induction, but they did not retaliate. Then, for the next two consecutive nights, a couple of Paki soldiers would cross over to the Indian side, lob hand-grenades at the Naga post and run back. On the third night, a few Naga soldiers laid
an ambush and caught 2 Pakis. They brought the Paki soldiers back enough to be hidden from the Paki OP sights. They tied the Pakis to a tree, lit a fire and performed a traditional Naga dance! Then they chopped a leg off one of the Paki soldiers and literally barbecued it over the fire. Both the Paki soldiers were let off the next morning, but not before the were made to hear this dialogue between a Naga Havildar and a Sepoy: Sepoy: "Ustaad, inko rakhte hain, bilkul chicken jaisa taste hai." Havildar: "Nahi re, inko jaane do, yeh dono bahut kamjor hain. Ab yahan 3 saal rehna hai; tu tension mat le, aur bahut mote tagde milenge." This news spread like wildfire, and the Pakis (Baluch Regiment) across the LOC were thereafter not to be seen even through binoculars, till the Naga battalion was replaced by another unit after 3 years.

Jebe Noyan 

In the year 1201 A.D, there was a battle between the forces of Genghis Khanand Targhutai Kiriltugh, the chief of the Tai'Chiyud tribe. This battle was known as The Battle of The Thirteen Sides. During the course of the battle, one of the Tai'Chiyud horsemen shot a well-aimed arrow at Genghis himself, injuring him in his neck. After the battle was over, all the remaining men of the Tai'Chiyuds were rounded up. 

                       Genghis Khan commanded the man who had shot his horse (in an attempt to conceal his injury) to come forward and confess. And a young warrior by the name of Zurgadai, voluntarily came forward, and confessed that he had indeed shot Genghis himself, and not his horse. He also said that he was not afraid of death, and if the Great Khan wished to execute him, he may do so, but should he grant him mercy, then he promised that he would be the most loyal soldier in his army, and serve him till death.

                        The Great Khan valued loyalty and bravery above everything, and he liked the answer given by the young man. He pardoned the marksman, and gave him a new name- "Chepe" meaning "Arrow" in mongolian.

                          Later, the name "Chepe" gradually turned into "Jebe", andJebe Noyan became the second greatest commander under the Great Khan after Subhotai Baa'tur. He went on to complete many campaigns, including the campaign against Kuchlukh of the Khara-Khitans, and "The Battle of the Kalkha River"(1223 A.D.)

        Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal

In 2001, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal - now 81 years old - felt a strong desire to visit his birthplace at Sargodha, now in Pakistan. At Lahore airport, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was met by Brigadier Khawja Mohammad Naser, who took it upon himself to be Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal host and guide. Brigadier Naser really went out of way to ensure that Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal had a satisfying and nostalgic visit to his old house in Sargodha. Upon his return to Lahore he was once again the guest of Brigadier Naser for three days.
Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was overwhelmed by the extreme kindness, deference, courtesy and respect bestowed upon him by Brigadier Naser and by all the members of his family and his many servants. However Brigadier Khetarpal felt that something was amiss but could not make out what it was. Was it the long silences that punctuated their animated conversation or was it the look of compassion in the eyes of the women in the family? He could not make out but was sure he was being treated as someone very special.

Finally, on the last night before Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal's departure, Brigadier Naser said 'Sir, there is something that I wanted to tell you for many years but I did not know how to get through to you. Finally, fate has intervened and sent you to me as an honoured guest. The last few days we have become close to one another and that has made my task even more difficult. It is regarding your son who is, of course, a national hero in India. However on that fateful day, your son and I were soldiers, unknown to one another, fighting for the respect and safety of our respective countries. I regret to tell you that your son died in my hands. Arun's courage was exemplary and he moved his tank with fearless courage and daring, totally unconcerned about his safety. Tank casualties were very high till finally there were just two of us left facing one another. We both fired simultaneously. It was destined that I was to live and he was to die.

It was only later that I got to know how young he was and who he was.I had all along thought that I would ask your forgiveness, but in telling the story I realize that there is nothing to forgive. Instead I salute your son for what he did at such a young age and I salute you too, because I know how he grew into such a young man. In the end it is character and values that matter."

Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was silent as he did not know how to react to be enjoying the hospitality of the person who had killed his son was a confusing feeling. However being a soldier himself he genuinely admired the chivalry of an officer whose complete squadron was decimated by his son.

Both the Brigadiers retired for the night deep in thought. There are never any victors in war; both sides lose and it is the families that have to pay the price and suffer the most. As someone once said 'Wars are created by politicians, compounded by bureaucrats and fought by soldiers.'

The next day photographs were taken and Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal returned to Delhi. Later the photos reached Delhi along with a note from Brigadier Naser that said:
"With Warmest regards and utmost sincerity, To: Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal, father of Shaheed Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, PVC, who stood like an insurmountable rock, between the victory and failure, of the counterattack by the 'SPEARHEADS' 13 LANCERS on 16 December 1971 in the battle of "Bara Pind' as we call it and battle of "Basantar" as 17 Poona Horse remembers. --Khawja Mohammad Naser, 13 Lancers, 2 March 2001, Lahore, Pakistan.

Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, (14 October 1950 – 16 December 1971) born in Pune, Maharashtra, was an officer of the Indian Army and a posthumous recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military decoration for valour in face of the enemy. He died in the Battle of Basantar during the Bangladesh war where his actions earned him his honour
Khetrapal is an iconic figure in the ethos of the Indian Army with prominent constructions being named after him. The parade ground at NDA is named Khetarpal Ground while the auditorium and one of the main gates bear his name an the IMA.