A saga of great courage and sacrifice against enemy: The 1971 Battle of Longewala

The Battle of Longewala fought at the Rajasthan border on December 4-7, during the 1971 India-Pakistan war is a remarkable story of valour in which a small contingent of 120 soldiers of the 23 Punjab regiment fought heroically to defend their position against a massive line-up of Pakistani forces comprising tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Although vastly outnumbered, the Indian soldiers fought courageously through the night to destroy as many as 12 Chinese-made T-59 tanks and stopped in its tracks the Pakistan division led by an armoured regiment backed with three infantry battalions.

At the break of dawn the Indian Air Force struck a devastating blow with Hunter and Marut jets from the nearby Jaisalmer airfield to knock out another 26 tanks and several armoured personnel carriers which forced the huge Pakistani force to retreat in panic. The enemy offensive aimed at advancing to Jaisalmer and conquering a large swathe of Indian territory was decisively defeated.

For displaying exceptional courage and determination and encouraging his men to beat back the enemy, Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri the company commander of the Indian infantry unit was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra while 10 other soldiers were awarded the Vir Chakra.

It was a bad day for the Pakistani Army as it lost dozens of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other military equipment in the Battle of Longewala. Here, an Indian soldier inspects a damaged tank in the Rajasthan desert.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) played a major role in the Battle of Longewala, as it swooped down with Hunters and picked up Chinese T-59 tanks and other equipment. The IAF attack lasted two days during which it destroyed dozens of tanks, a large number of APC and even one Pakistani train bring men and materials to the border. The IAF calls the attack at the Battle of Longewala as the “turkey shoot” for the easy pickings of Pakistani tanks in the desert.

The battle has gone down in war history for the bravery of the men and showed the lack of strategy by the better-equipped Pakistani Army.

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