Both from the Indian/Pakistani War of 1971 – thanks again to Quora.
[With several billion Solomani of East Indian descent in the Empty Quarter, even the visuals here can be handy… as well as the cunning tactics!]
From , Regular Indian
This happened during the Battle of Longewala in 1971.
Evening of 3rd of December 1971. India had just declared war on Pakistan officially.
The A Company of the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment of the Indian Army was manning the border post at Longewala in Rajasthan under the command of Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri. It was basically 120 Indian Soldiers and the Great Indian Thar Desert.
Major Chandpuri received intelligence of a 20 km long convoy of Pakistani Tank columns headed straight towards his post. It was Pakistan’s pride, the 1/51 Mobile Infantry Brigade, which also consisted of 2000 soldiers along with 100’s of supporting vehicles. Their plan was simple – breakfast at Longewala, lunch at Jaisalmer and dinner at Jodhpur.
It was a do or die for Chandpuri and his 120 men. It was late in the evening. There was no time to get any backup. Even the air force was helpless till dawn.
After discussing the pros and the cons with his superiors, that night, Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri and his men decided to take the enemy head-on.
The objective was to hold back the enemy till the dawn when the Indian Air Force could send in bombers to tackle the aggressors.
While the decision to take on a tank battalion with 2000 men can be termed as emotional – Major Chandpuri and his 120 men used a brilliant military tactic, which saved many lives and eventually broke the back of the enemy morale.
Lacking the time to lay a proper minefield, Major Chandpuri and his ill equipped team covered the area around their post, a high ground, with Barbed wires – signifying the presence of land Mines. There were no land mines, just the barbed wires.
The Pakistani attack began at 12:30 AM. Their initial artillery bursts remained unanswered and they were allowed to come further.
Suddenly, the Battalion lead commander noticed the barbed wires and ordered the tanks to halt – There was a mined area ahead of them.
Sappers had to be called urgently to detect and clear the anti-tank mines. The Pakistani tank column sat idle – unable to move – becoming an open target for Chandpuri and his men. The Indians opened the gauntlet of their fury.
The lead tank was soon blown into pieces by a Jeep Mounted M40 recoilless gun, the only heavy weapon with the Indian Soldiers. Soon, Chandpuri and his men destroyed 12 tanks and the enemy was bogged down, without a clue, frustrated.
The Pakistani spare fuel tanks were fired upon and blown, providing proper lighting of the battlefield, aiding Chandpuri’s men to snipe from a position of advantage.
The Pakistani sappers took 2 long hours to figure out the Indian game plan – There were no Land Mines – Just the barbed wire.
But, by then, the battle of wits was lost – The remaining Pakistani Tanks tried to surround the post – going off-road – But this lead to many Pakistani tanks getting stuck in the desert sand becoming sitting ducks – many Pakistani soldiers simply ran away.
Although massively outnumbered and surrounded, the Indian soldiers kept on the heat, pounding the enemy. Minutes became hours and the Pakistanis failed to capture the post.
Soon came the dawn and with it came the HF 24s and Hawker Hunters of the Indian Air Force. The Indian Pilots quickly brought down the curtain on the Pakistani ambitions, smothering the remaining enemy soldiers along with their hardware – it was a complete rout.
A total of 34 tanks were up in flames – over 100 vehicles destroyed, many were captured – 200 enemy soldiers dead – The commander of the Battalion ran away from the battlefield and was later court martialled – Indians had two casualties. The news just broke the morale of the Pakistan Army.
Here below is the now famous image showing the track prints of the desperate Pakistani Tanks in the desert of Longewala.
Longewala that day proved to be the defining moment of the 1971 war. Major (Later Brigadier) Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri was awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his exceptional service, courage and leadership.
His character was later played by Sunny Deol in the Bollywood Movie, Border – released in 1997.
Thank you for reading 🙂
, studied at Columbia University
My grandfather was an Engineering Officer with the Indian Air Force (), and was part of the 1965 and 1971 conflicts with Pakistan. As an engineer, he never flew combat missions but was an integral part of Air Base defense and development of some offensive tactics. Growing up we heard a lot of stories about battles – some stood out.
During the, the Pakistan Air Force ( ) tried emulating the strategy (during ) of raiding enemy airfields every 30 mins (or at periodic intervals) so the enemy didn’t have a chance to recover – and would eventually capitulate. While this was a good strategy the Pakistanis had a few disadvantages, primary of which were a lack of resources to sustain such a strategy and not expecting the enemy to respond creatively.
The IAF came up with a “Dirty Bomb” – don’t worry nothing Nuclear about this Dirty Bomb. The IAF put together pyramid shaped iron pieces and(a strong adhesive), and dropped these “Dirty Bombs” on PAF Airfields (at the spots their aircraft would land or take off). By the time an air raid ends, the pyramidal iron blocks covered in adhesive would get stuck to the tarmac. If personnel didn’t pay close attention, a fighter jet landing or taking off would crash due to bursting tyres – rendering the jet out of action if not damaged beyond repair. After the first accident PAF would presumably get wiser, but the so called Dirty Bomb continued to be effective. The iron blocks would need to be chiseled off the tarmac, rendering the tarmac unusable for some (critical) time. The tarmac would then need to be repaired as chiseling off the iron blocks also damages the tarmac, rendering the airbase useless for offensive action – the strategy of periodic air raids (among any other offensive action) now had an additional challenge.
I asked my grandfather why Pakistan didn’t adopt the same technique against India. The simple answer was that war in itself was too short and IAF quickly gained air superiority, the same tactic would not have had much affect on the IAF especially given the latter.
The IAF tactic was very cost effective, and apparently caused such grief that even thecommented “India is playing dirty tricks with us”.
Just a quick note here: both of these tricks relied on unexpected action AND a time limit to be effective.
Now, if the war was able to be drawn out over a long period of time, a smooth criminal stunt would be reduced in effectiveness. But
- Some wars can’t be drawn out: for financial, supply & personnel, diplomatic, or PR reasons, the war must be decisive, and the war has to be won quickly;
- There are certain key moments in a battle or a war, where even a few hours delay will make a massive difference in the course of the clash. Fling dust in the enemy’s eyes at exactly the right time, and (if you can follow up) you are golden.
Naturally, the issue of limited resources and time pressure is applicable to many mercenary units: but on short time frames of a few months, this is even applicable to Imperial forces. If the Commanding Noble has a force package of (say)
two Destroyer squadrons
four SDB squadrons
40,000 men (ground: call it an Army Group for now), of which
* 5,000 trained for NBC conflicts
* 4,000 trained for wet marine operations
* no grav belts, no battle dress
three Air Commands of 100 planes each (fighters, bombers, transport)
one Wet Navy Carrier group, including
* one carrier with 40 artigrav fighter/bombers
* 10 major combatants (missile, gauss cannon),
* 20 minor combatants (missile, laser),
* five submarines (attack),
* two submarines (missile),
* one submarine (special forces)
two companies, with FTL transport, all battledress
two squadrons (system/planet surveillance)
one squadron (courier)
(assumed: the enemy is tied to the system,
with 95%+ of forces in on the mainworld & her moons, if any)
One dedicated Merchant Marine flotilla, with a six-week resupply schedule
And for unknown reasons the logistic flotilla is having trouble keeping to schedule, he needs to get the war won before attrition & supplies force him to pull back. It ain’t easy to ‘live off the land’ if you are a high-tech force, and even if you can do so, you are negating much of the military advantage your technology is giving you.