Sunday, 30 April 2017


Book Review/ The Burning Chaffees

By Anil Bhat


Author: Brig B.S. Mehta (retd)

Publisher: Knowledge World

Pp: 338 pages in hardback

Price: Rs. 1060/-


The 1971 India-Pakistan war , the third one waged by Pakistan, since its painful birth, stands out on many counts. It was a barely two weeks long war fought in two separate theatres that severed off the distant Eastern half  of the then 24 years old  Pakistan and also which liberated that Eastern chunk to become Bangladesh. Two other reasons for the military uniqueness of that war was that it featured amphibious tanks actually fighting afloat and it ended with 93,000 Pakistan armed forces personnel surrendering to Indian Army, after being surrounded  by it from all around. It was this West Pakistani force, aided by local Razakars, which had killed over 3 million Bengalis in the largest ever genocide since the Holocaust and raped up to 4,00,000 women. A determined group of Bengali youth who formed the MuktiVahini (freedom force) were trained by Indian Army and became a valuable asset in operations against the rogue and barbaric Pak army. 

The title of the book refers to Pak army’s Chaffee tanks of American make deployed in East Pakistan.While there are some books and writings on the 1971 Indo-Pak war, including armour actions in the Western sector, this is the first book to focus on the operations of Indian Army’s three armoured regiments deployed in the Eastern sector during that war, beginning with leading the advance of Indian Army into East Pakistan.These regiments were 45 Cavalry (Cav)  and 69 ArmouredRegiment (AR), equipped with amphibious PT-76 and 63 Cav, equipped  with T-55 tanks- both manufactured and sold to India at political prices by the former USSR. 

Another aspect of this book is that it records the combat experiences of young officers and their troops, the ‘cutting edge’ of the nation’s military power.  The junior leaders– blooded in battle- lead, performed, accomplished and also, some died, to bring victory and glory to their unit and the nation. How despite contrary orders, deficiency in planning and paucity of logistics, the miracle of success was achieved,remained, as it often does, under a veil of secrecy. The author, then a young officer, lifts that veil to present an accurate and unbiased account of how 45 Cav, the only regiment raised post- independence with a mixed class composition, led the Indian advance into erstwhile East Pakistan and fought there.

After 45 Cav’s C squadron commander got killed, the author took command. This squadron completely destroyed Pak army’s 3(Independent) Armoured Squadron and badly mauled its two infantry battalions and a company of the reconnaissance and support battalion, at Garibpur on 21 November 1971. The squadron then led the advance of HQ 9 Infantry Division through Burinda – Jessore – Ramnagar - Daulatpur- Khulna until ordered to halt tanks from assaulting across Bhairab River, for capture of Khulna on the afternoon of 16 December 1971.

While war brings out the best in soldiers and junior leaders, in higher echelons it also unfortunately gives way to the worst of double talk, duplicity, and deception. At unit level there is no myth or mystery as every action is transparent and every officer an open book, accepted for his true worth of merit, professional integrity and above all, character. An officer’s spoken reputation precedes him during his service and lives on even after he is no more. In top brass even the tallest may have chinks in their armor and feet of clay.  It is the unit, which can and should be like afortress impregnable to all outside influences. Therein lies the strength of the Indian Army.

The book’s battle account is noteworthy for the wide range of combat situations experienced by tank crews. Some of the nightmares the author relates are destruction of enemy tanks at a range of 30 metreson a foggy winter morning; the reactions of tank crews trapped between date trees while under rocket attack by F-86 Sabres; driving through 800 metres of anti-tank minefield where trailing tanks have become mine causalities; and floating down a tidal river in an amphibious tank, with jammed water propellers and enemy’s 6 pounder coastal guns coming into full view.  Such combat experiences provide valuable lessons to serving personnel. To that extent, the book not only informs and instructs but also entertains and educates the reader about the very basics of men in combat.

There is an interesting account of then Defence Minister ‘Babu’ Jagjivan Ram arriving to address a gathering of over 100 Indian and foreign journalists to brief them about Pak army’s suicidal attack plan. In an unusual display of happiness over the victory of the Indian armed forces, the Defence Minister had brought his wife along. The two together were photographed mounting a destroyed Chaffee tank. This picture fired the imagination of the Indian masses andsubtly conveyed  India’s resolve to invade and destroy the Pakistani forces and ensure the birth of a new nation – Bangladesh. The other picture which reflected the mood of the nation and glorified Indian Army’s success was of Sikh troops doing an energetic Bhangra dance on the Chaffee tank with the Defence Minister standing on it.

The book also exposes Pak army’s barbarism and glaring leadership lacuna. The driver of a destroyed Pak tankcaptured by 45 Cav personnel, was cowering and when given tea by them, broke down cursing his officers and blurting out

their misdeeds.Lt Chandavarkar, the youngest of 45 Cav officers, caught by Pak army, was tied to a tree and for each question that was not answered, he lost a limb or organ. The (Pak) JCO in charge chopped off his ear lobes, fingernails, toes, and fingers and finally gouged out his eyes before shooting him in the chest.

The cruel inhuman conduct of the Pakistani troops in the presence of their officers’ was in sharp contrast to the manner in which Indian Army treated Pak PsOW. The 93,000 Pak PsOWwere pleasantly shocked at the humane treatment they got in their POW camps in India, as promised before their surrender by then Indian Army Chief, Gen, later Field Marshal, SHFJ Manekshaw.

This book, worth reading by general public, must be read by all Indian armed forces serving and retired officers,as well as those of foreign armed forces, particularly Pakistan’s.

1-Jan-2017 / IFP Articles / 0 Comments


No comments found for this entry!

Random Items 

Push for better drainage system

IMPHAL | Apr 29 “Nahakhong Maril Shengba” an initiative to clean Nahakhong Maril of Uripok Wards No. four and five was inaugurated today by Deputy Chief Minister Yumnam Joykumar at the community hall of Uripok Sorbon Thingel in Imphal West. The initiati.....

30-Apr-2017 | Our Staff Reporter | 0 Comments

JAC condemns

IMPHAL | Apr 29 The Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Mapithel Dam Downstream Affected People (MDDAP), Imphal East has strongly condemned for not inviting its representatives in the delegation held to address the grievances of the Mapithel dam-affected vi.....

30-Apr-2017 | Press Release | 0 Comments

Hindi as compulsory national language is unfair to most Indians

By Garga Chatterjee Imagine you are a citizen of the Indian Union. Imagine you are a non-Hindi speaker who does not know Hindi and imagine your friend is a Hindi speaker who does not know your non-Hindi mother language. You two are co-citizens of a repub.....

30-Apr-2017 | IFP Articles | 0 Comments

Police seize liquor at Moirang area

IMPHAL | April 29 A combined team of Moirang police station personnel and commando team of Bishnupur under instruction of the SDPO Moirang raided several hotels at Moirang area today. The team seized assorted qualities of Indian Made Foreign Liquor and.....

30-Apr-2017 | Our Staff Reporter | 0 Comments

Workshop on Entrepreneurship Skill Development concludes

IMPHAL | Apr 29 A five-day workshop on “Start-ups and Entrepreneurship Skill Development” concluded with the valedictory function held today at the Training Hall of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Skill Development, School of Social Sciences, Manipur Uni.....

30-Apr-2017 | Our Staff Reporter | 0 Comments

‘Lamlong Keithel a symbol of integrity’

IMPHAL | Apr 29 Th Shyamkumar, minister MAHUD, Town Planning, Forest & Environment, Horticulture and Soil Conservation today laid the foundation stone for the Khurai Lamlong Keithel (market place) at Lamlong Bazar. A release said attending the functio.....

30-Apr-2017 | Press Release | 0 Comments

People’s participation needed in governance: Letpao

IMPHAL | Apr 29 “Every action of the government is your business and every single penny spent by the government is your money. The government belongs to the people,” IFCD and YAS minister Letpao Haokip said and urged the people not to hesitate to take th.....

30-Apr-2017 | Our Staff Reporter | 0 Comments

Promote tourism for better human relationship, says Dr Ranjan

UKHRUL | Apr 29 Consultative meeting for the successful conduct of Shirui Lily Festival was held at DRDA Hall, Ukhrul today. The consultative meeting was attended by Dr Sapam Rajan, parliamentary secretary Tourism, MLAs from Ukhrul district, ADC members.....

30-Apr-2017 | Our Staff Reporter | 0 Comments

IFC minister inspects Pumlenpat

IMPHAL | Apr 29 IFCD minister Letpao Haokip along with MLA of Hiyanglam AC Dr Radheshyam Yumnam today inspected Pumlenpat and Khoidumpat to assess feasibility of constructing water channel there. According to a release Radheshyam said that vast tract .....

30-Apr-2017 | Press Release | 0 Comments

ZYF lauds govt plan to revive MST

IMPHAL | Apr 29 Lauding the state governemnt’s plan to re-introduce the Manipur State Transport (MST) and to revive the passenger services in order to facilitate the people from far areas and hill districts, the Zeliangrong Youth Front has urged sp.....

30-Apr-2017 | Press Release | 0 Comments

Biswajit urges MSME ministry for more projects

IMPHAL | Apr 29 Minister of Textiles, Commerce and Industries, Th Biswajit Singh drew the attention of the Union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra for taking up more projects under the ministry in Manipur to solve unemploymen.....

30-Apr-2017 | Press Release | 0 Comments

Look Good on the Go-Essential Summer travel tips from beauty diva Shahnaz Husain for Cool Journey

By Ms Shahnaz Husain Time flies when you're having fun with kids , friends and family members on hills and beaches during summer holiday, right? The summer vacations are just around the corner and you must be planning holidays in cool atmosphere in beac.....

30-Apr-2017 | IFP Articles | 0 Comments

Latest Comments