In 1971, India waged a momentous war against Pakistan. But before all-out war, an even more significant tank battle was fought on 21 November 1971 by the C Squadron 45 Cavalry, which demolished the Pakistani General A.A.K. Niazi's plans of victory and set the stage for the utter routing of the Pakistani Army.
Equipped with the amphibious PT-76 tanks, the Indian Army's C Squadron 45 Cavalry was unleashed to swim across the River Kabodak, near the Boyra salient (now in Bangladesh), to counter the threat from East Pakistan. On 21 November 1971, the two warring armies clashed in a tank versus tank battle at Garibpur. In one fell swoop, Pakistan's 3 (Independent) Armoured Squadron, consisting of fourteen American M-24 Chaffee tanks, was completely destroyed and two of its infantry battalions were badly mauled. This was followed by the shooting down of three Sabre F-86 jets for the loss of two PT-76 tanks on the Indian side. And thus, the biggest attack planned by General A.A.K. Niazi to teach the Indians and the Mukti Bahini a lesson had gone up in smoke.
This battle was a victory and a decisive one at that. It was a trumpet call to the rest of the world of India's intent to stand up for human liberty and dignity in this war of liberation.
On 3 December 1971, Pakistan declared war. The rest is history.
The Burning Chaffees is a thrilling account of the pivotal battle of 21 November by Brigadier B.S. Mehta.
Note: There is an error on Page 267. Brigadier Mehta was awarded Mention-in-Despatches for his gallant services, and not the MVC. The error is regretted and has been corrected in the new edition.
|Balram Singh Mehta