This post is dedicated to my dad on the occasion of Pakistan Defense Day (September 6). This day is observed to pay homage to the martyrs who rendered supreme sacrifices in defending motherland against enemy's aggression during the 1965 war.
Here are the personal memories of events of an officer who had the honor to defend the country in 1965 at the front lines. During the war he had a chance to meet Capt. Pervez Musharraf. They were in the same unit and lived together in the same trench for 3 days. He was their tech officer but volunteered to do their duties as well i.e observer of fire, recce (reconnaissance), identification of target and bringing/directing fire of artillery. Mush was about 2 years junior in service and he called him "Turkey Dunmbi". He says, he looked like one and the Captains gave him that nickname cos he was also well versed in Turkish. According to him, Mush was a very brave and fit Capt. Below are his memmories of 1965 war: (The names of regiment/brigade/divison have been edited for obvious reasons)
Memories of INDO-PAK 1965 war
I was assistant inspector of weapons at Inspectorate of Armaments when the emergency was declared. I was ordered to join XX Self-Propelled Field Regiment Artillery LAD (light aid detatchment) of XX Armored Brigade of XX Armd Division. I reported at Rear HQ of the division, communicated and was picked up by regiment's MTO and taken in a jeep to the location of regiment. My actual job was to have whole equipment of the regiment in battle-worthy state. This included guns, vehicles, weapons and wireless sets. I had about 30 men under my command, all tech, almost. I was to be located much behind the gun positions but had instead deployed myself and requisite men at the gun positions all the time. Additionally I accepted the duties of MTO(Mechanised Transport officer), Quarter Master and incharge B echelon thus sparing 3 officers to do the Observer duties. Of course I also got myself trained as Observer.
1965 May, Mujahideen in Indian Occupied Kashmir troubling Indian Army Indians have its army deployed all along the border Pakistan responses. Late evening I report to a self-propelled artillery unit of strike formation, as tech support officer. We are in Changa Manga jungle full of fly-size mosquitoes and wild boars sweltering heat, total darkness dug up on the fringes of jungle. No movement or activity allowed. Additional duties including training as reserve Observer are accepted. Observers are located on the battle front including enemy territory at vintage point to guide and give correction to own artillery fire on enemy positions or troop movement.
Its July/August. Humidity has added miseries to the already extreme discomforts. Indians still have not located the strike formation. The tribesman and commandos have joined mujahideen. Indian army in IOK is in shambles and terrified and locks itself in fortified camps at night. Nowshehra, Rajauri, Poonch etc are threatened & almost vacated. It was like 1948/49 situation when even Srinagar airport was captured by mujahideen and Indians had to rush to UN for ceasefire and committed plebiscite in Kashmir. However this time, they do it differently.
Early morning of 6 September, their air force attacks a passenger train moving from Sialkot to Lahore, crosses the international border and launches full scale attack on Lahore without declaration of war. The generals have vowed to have a peg at Lahore Gymkhana same evening. They are stopped at BRB canal, the main line of defense, never ever able to cross it.
The strike force moves same afternoon towards Kasur, Khem Karran, Taran Taran to hit at the belly of Indian Force. The advance is halted at and around Rohi nalla. Someone had messed up. The recce carried out and routes approved in the Advance Plain by Brig Lumb are all incorrect. Those routes and terrain could not bear heavy armour and artillery cross country due to very high water table. The advance is delayed by almost 48 hours. Meanwhile Indian air recce locates advance of Strike Force. It's a pity that brigadier was not court martialed and hanged.
Third night and we are in Indian territory, Khem Karan - Taran Taran. Indians have inundated the whole area in the north of road. Movement towards Jullundhar and Ambala not possible. Tanks are stuck and are sitting ducks. Infantry has reached the RV but own amour is missing. An amour unit (13 Lancers) suffers the maximum causalities when having been hit by Indian anti amour units and having exhausted their ammunition, dismounts and fight like an infantry.
I am traveling in a jeep in the evening leading ammunition and food supply convoy towards Taran Taran. The wireless operator in the back seat is in comm with imam (commanding officer of the unit who wants to speak to me. I lean back and turn my head to grab the mic. A shower of bullets graze the back of my neck. Some guerilla in elephant grass/ high sugar cane/ cotton plants. We deploy to search but cant find him. Its dark, we miss the gun positions track and probably start traveling up-north. Suddenly we stop on hearing "Stop Oy kaur ay. Ki password ay". In the mild moon light I could make out some tanks "Oay aapi aan sardar ji, towaday gawandhi" and start reversing. We had hit the enemy concentration. It was too late for sardar ji to realize, who started firing but by then we escaped. We reached our destination at dusk. The second in command was resting in bushes rather than in foxhole. His explanation : The guerilla will always look you up in the foxholes ! I smiled to tell him I was better off there being no time night before to dig a foxhole, I had rested with a skeleton in a grave!
The threat at Lahore was increasing. Our brigade was ordered to move to Lahore-Barki Sector. It was mid-afternoon and I was leading a convoy of guns, ammo, POL and supply vehicles. Outskirts of Kasoor on Kasoor-Lahore road, in the open, saw two enemy aircrafts hovering. By then PAF had achieved parity with IAF and it was considered safe enough to move during day time. The aircrafts dropped their four bombs and hurried away. We could see these floating in the sky and coming toward us but were helpless so we kept moving. These exploded in the flanks causing no damage at all. The aircrafts dare not dive to strafe us!
8) Barki Sector
, mid night, on gun positions. We hear shouts from jeep fast traveling rearwards to Lahore. "Enemy has crossed BRB with armor and is fast advancing. Run for your life". The adjutant ( who is a minister now ) orders all guns to be deployed broad in one line and to be used as antitank. A Major dismounts a jeep with sub machinegun in his hands, shouting "where is the enemy Who has spread this rumor. Jawano come along lets hunt the enemy" and rushes toward BRB with his men.
Meanwhile India has launched its largest offensive with one armored and two infantry divisions in Sialkot sector. At that time Pakistan had only one armored regiment in support of one infantry brigade in that sector. They stopped the onslaught. The tanks were lined up one mile apart in one frontal line and told to advance, find the enemy and engage. (The armor moves in triangular formulation. One tank in front, two in rear flanks. This is one troop. Then three troops and one troop in reserve. All these is one squadron. Then the three squadron making a regiment. Then three regiments make a brigade. Then three brigades making a division. So the formation is a very broad base isosceles triangle. The strength of advancing armor is accessed by number of engagement by opposing force in time and distance frames. So contact by enemy of 45 tanks in short time and distance frame befooled it to be an armored division frontal attack). This slowed down the momentum of Indian advance to regroup and Pakistan gained time to move forces from other sectors. Only one brigade had held the advance of one crops for 3 days.
So we are moved from Lahore to Sialkot. We take up position along Sialkot-Pasroor road, in general area village Bathhe. The other armored brigade of strike force was also moved from Kasoor sector to reinforce at and around Chawinda. At one point all the field, medium and heavy guns were deployed almost next to each other and unconventionally very much forward. (Field arty is one regiment per brigade, medium is distributed one battery each and heavy is one regiment per corps. The guns are deployed (1965 era warfare) at about 3-4 miles (field), 6-8 miles (medium), 10 miles (heavy) from the forward defensive lines (FDLs). Enemy assesses strength of forces from distance of shells falling in its territory. So knowing the max range of guns held by an opposing forces, say 20 miles of heavy gun, if the shell lands 10-20 miles deep in its territory, it is heavy gun and therefore corps deployment. As all the guns were deployed about 2-3 miles from FDLs, Indians were confusingly harassed. All field guns were being assessed as medium, medium as heavy and heavy as super heavy! They were foxed. But such like tactics are effective for couple of days only. They added an extra armor and artillery brigade to their strength.
I was incharge of B-echelon as well, supposed to be located 3 miles behind gun positions, getting food prepared, collecting ammo, POL and other supplies and delivering personally as many times a day as opportunes. I would get baulking from boss for spending most of day at gun positions and also loc the echelon not more than one mile behind. The gun positions always run the risk of counter bombardment (CB) by enemy. The "Tipsy-dog" radar would trace the trajectory of shell, feed data to heavy mortars who would fire back. One day a heavy CB came. Artillery commander at brigade HQ asked for situation report. The adjutant wisely said "We are Ok, Imam, the enemy CB is falling 500 yards plus of us at our rear", Expecting that enemy will be listening to wireless comm. Within few minutes the CB was shifted and we could watch the shells falling 500 yards ahead of us! When dust cleared I saw one shell embedded in the inner rear wall of my trench unexploded!
! O Yes. It was 17 or 18 September. Indians had reorganized. They launched the most severe attack with four heavy armored brigades and infantry division plus. To face them were four armored regiments and five infantry battalions, all depleted. Aim was to isolate Lahore from west through axis Chawinda- Pasroor-Narowal-GT Road. All the artillery guns were deployed in anti-tank roll and SP Guns as tanks, to fire point blank at approaching enemy. This probably was the biggest armor battle-war since WW2. In next 3 days it was all over. We didn't budge an inch but caused very heavy damage to enemy to force them to retreat. O yes I took shoots as observer like a gunner officer!
Once again ceasefire was negotiated. At midnight 23 September, all firing was to be stopped. That night, at gun position, we were picking up possible enemy targets or concentrations,off the map and "sending" 18 to 36 shells of 105 mm caliber high explosive salvos as last gifts. In return, just before cease fire, we attracted CB. One of the SP gun fully loaded with shells and cordite caught fire. A young captain, mounted the SP tank and started throwing out shells and cordite and warning the crew to take away the nearby shells and explosives. He single handedly extinguished the fire. I had seen that captain once returning from observers duty with a bullet hole in his sleeve folds. This young officer had joined the unit during the war and I had the honour to share the bunker. A very brave, imaginative, intelligent and shrewd officer. He is a VVIP now (General Pervez Musharraf)
Morning of the ceasefire and I went over to the area where the tank battle was fought. In an area of about 4x8 miles, there were innumerable destroyed enemy tanks,littered with dead bodies, limbs and even boots. I had the camera on me and took many photos. Most of the dead I found were Sikhs. On my return I informed acting Imam of what I saw. I marked the area of my adventurous recce on the map. The eyeballs of adjutant popped out. He said "This particular area where you have been roaming, was mined by us only 3-4 days back to protect our singleline front of gun deployment". This was the forth instant that I found death being so near yet so far away. It firmed my belief there after that destiny is not in your control. The day and time is fixed for one's demise. I have never ever been afraid of death since then.
Pakistan outnumbered force stood like a rock against very heavy odds. We have the same situation now as in 1965 but India dare not cross international border not even the LOC. They had had their lesson!!!