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The Battle Of Asal Uttar

New Delhi, Aug 15, 2016: Courage is contagious and it often turns certain defeats into victories. The battle of Asal Uttar, fought between the armies of India and Pakistan between September 8- 10 in 1965, is one such tale of unparalleled courage displayed by Indian soldiers, and it changed the course of the war altogether.

Updated:Sunday, August 14, 2016, 18:34

The Battle Of Asal Uttar New Delhi, Aug 15, 2016: Courage is contagious and it often turns certain defeats into victories. The battle of Asal Uttar, fought between the armies of India and Pakistan between September 8- 10 in 1965, is one such tale of unparalleled courage displayed by Indian soldiers, and it changed the course of the war altogether.

The battle of Asal Uttar rivals the battle of Kursk, the biggest tank battle fought in the history of mankind between Nazi Germany and Soviet forces during the second World War. The battle was fought when Pakistani forces, with the help of American Patton tanks, had captured Khem Karan, a small Indian town 5 kms inside the international border. Pakistani forces were eyeing a siege at the holy city of Amritsar, and the Indian army knew that if Amritsar fell, Indian defeat would be certain.

Captain Amrinder Singh, former CM of Punjab, who had also fought in the 1965 war, had once said that if the Indian Army hadn`t stopped Pakistani advance at Asal Uttar, Amritsar would have fallen and it would have been all over for India.

Pakistan has fought many wars with India, but it has never been more menacing than the war of 1965, when riding on their sophisticated American weaponry, they almost annihilated Indian defenses in Khem Karan and captured the town on September 6.

Asal Uttar means fitting reply and that`s exactly what the Indian army gave their Pakistani counterparts when Indian troops, marred by a lack of supplies and ammunition, crushed Pakistani hubris garlanded by an edge in numbers as well as weaponry and tanks. Indians, after the fall of Khem Karan, consolidated their defense in Assal Uttar.

The soldiers from 4 Grenadiers took refuge in lush green sugarcane fields while waiting for the right time to strike Pakistani forces. Pakistani forces knew themselves that they would soon be meeting an Indian counterattack, and hence were gearing up for a repeat of Khem Karan. By 8th September, India`s broken phalanxes had gathered all possible reinforcements, but were still outnumbered, both in terms of men and tanks.

On September 8, Indians tried to capture Ichhogil canal but were pushed back by Pakistanis. Pakistan also opened gates of the canal to make the advance of Indian soldiers difficult. But this proved to be a fatal flaw, as you`ll see later.

Indians had to devise a strategy to effectively mitigate the threat of Patton tanks. Indian tanks were not only less in number, but also had no chance in front of the modern American tanks.

After Pakistan`s force, consisting of the 1st Armoured Division and 11th Infantry Division, crossed the international border and captured the Indian town of Khem Karan, GOC Indian 4th Mountain Division, Maj. Gen. Gurbaksh Singh immediately ordered the division to fall back and assume a horseshoe shaped defensive position with Asal Uttar as its focal point.
Taking advantage of the darkness, Indian troops flooded the sugarcane fields and lured Pakistanis to attack. Pakistanis took the bait and attacked Indians soldiers hiding in the sugarcane fields on September 10. But soon the Indian strategy paid dividends and the advance of Pakistani tanks was slowed down in swampy ground. Pakistani forces had fallen for the horseshoe trap. Many of their tanks couldn`t move, and in the meanwhile, good old Indian tanks took care of the enemy and destroyed their ranks.

As per an Indian army account, Pakisan lost over a hundred tanks in the battle of Asal Uttar alone. India lost 10.

Havaldar Abdul Hamid, who was later awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his unmatched bravery during the battle of Asal Uttar, was the soldier who took on advanced Patton tanks with his ordinary anti-tank jeep. On September 9, Hamid had destroyed two Patton tanks with the help of his jeep, and had essentially become an eyesore for Pakistani soldiers.

On September 10, 1965, at 0800 hours, a battalion of Pakistani armour supported by Patton tanks attacked the 4th Grenadier positions but was unable to locate the battalion`s defences. Nevertheless, they launched an intense artillery bombardment to soften the target, and by 0900 hours, the enemy tanks had penetrated the forward company positions.

Hamid knew that if the tanks weren`t taken care of, it would all be over soon. In a melee, Hamid saw a group of Pattons heading towards the battalion defences. Without caring for his life, he moved out of the flank with his gun mounted on a jeep. Heavy shelling didn`t deter him and he continued firing, knocking out three Patton tanks back to back before the fourth one killed him.
Courageous Hamid tarnished the reputation of the mighty M48 Patton, forcing Pakistan to replace it with the M60 after the 1965 war

Gen Pervez Musharaff, who later became Chief of Army and President of Pakistan, had also participated in the battle at Asal Uttar. He was a lieutenant then and was leading the artillery attack on Indians in the 16 (SP) Field Regiment, 1st Armoured Division Artillery.

The battle at Asal Uttar led to the creation of Patton Nagar, which is also known as the graveyard of Patton tanks after more than a hundred tanks were either destroyed or captured here. According to military historian Steven Zaloga, Pakistan admitted that it lost 165 tanks during the 1965 war, more than half of which were knocked out during the "debacle" of Asal Uttar

Source: Indiatimes.com

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