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Also read one first-hand account every day from the brave
soldiers who made the victory possible.

3rd December 1971 Start of the War
4th December 1971
5th December 1971
6th December 1971
7th December 1971
8th December 1971 Karachi attacked by Indian forces
9th December 1971
10th December 1971
11th December 1971
12th December 1971 Russia deploys battleships to deter American intervention
14th December 1971
16th December 1971 Bangladesh liberated, war ends
  • Story will be live on 3rd December
    3rd December 1971 India had declared war
  • Story will be live on 4th December
    4th December 1971 INS Vikrant in the crosshairs
  • Story will be live on 5th December
    5th December 1971 Striking the enemy’s heart
  • Story will be live on 6th December
    6th December 1971 Once bitten, twice shy
  • Story will be live on 7th December
    7th December 1971 The action hots up
  • Story will be live on 8th December
    8th December 1971 INS Vikrant cripples East Pakistan
  • Story will be live on 9th December
    9th December 1971 India gains the upper hand
  • Story will be live on 10th December
    10th December 1971 A landmark in the 1971 war
  • Story will be live on 11th December
    11th December 1971 The threat of the U.S. 7th fleet
  • Story will be live on 12th December
    12th December 1971 The Tigers Roar
  • Story will be live on 14th December
    14th December 1971 Collateral Damage Zero
  • Story will be live on 16th December
    16th December 1971 Bangladesh Is Free!
3rd December 1971

Indira Gandhi declared war on Pakistan

On midnight of 3rd December, 1971 the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi addressed the nation. After Pakistan had bombed various military establishments, India declared war against its neighbour.

INS Vikrant headed over to the Eastern seaboard

At this time, the INS Vikrant was mobilised by the Eastern command with a simple objective – close off the Eastern sector to all of the Pakistani Navy. After all, this was war.

Read the story of the Sweet Sacrifice lodged in an Indian Navy aircraft, as told by Lt. Narula

The Sweet Sacrifice

INS Vikrant with ships in the fleet was harbored in the naturally concealed harbor at Port Cornwallis the northern most island of the Andaman group of islands. Hostilities between India & Pakistan broke out on the 3rd of December, 1971 when we were already on our way. We were expected to be in the striking range the next day. The first sortie of Seahawks took off on 4th of December, 1971 to bomb the harbor and the airfield assets. It was a tense one-hour for all of us, till we saw the planes return over the horizon. When they landed, we noticed that the aircraft of Cdr R S Sodhi had an enemy bullet lodged in it.

That was the moment we realized that we were well and truly at war. The excitement of being in the midst of the action with no thought of our safety was too much. The bullet was extracted from the aircraft and mounted by the shipwright as INS Vikrant’s first memento of war.

Lt.Virendra Narula about Cdr. R S Sodhi

Helicopter Pilot

4th December 1971

Pakistan attacks Jaisalmer, India launches Operation Trident

Pakistan chose to attack India through land routes and capture Jaisalmer, without too much sucess. India launched Operation Trident on Pakistan's port city of Karachi, inflicting heavy damage on the Pakistani side. Ever since, India celebrates its Navy Day annually on 4 December to mark this operation.

INS Vikrant begins its attack

On the Eastern front, INS Vikrant deployed its Sea Hawk squadron to maximum effect. At the same time, the PNS Ghazi sank to the depths under mysterious circumstances.

Lt. Cdr. Avatar Singh recounts how he received information about the imminent attack from PNS Ghazi in the radio room. Read his story

The Secret Signals

Somewhere near Diglipur, Andaman Islands: The INS Vikrant was waiting for the signal to go to war. As the radio officer, the job fell on me to decode the encrypted signals when they came from headquarters. Our mission was to head for Cox's Bazaar and obliterate the airfields of East Pakistan. It was a tense wait, and our ship had to keep radio silence, lest we gave our presence away, for these were dangerous waters. While Pakistan's PNS Ghazi, an advanced submarine on lease from the US was stalking the INS Vikrant, the US Navy's 7th fleet was reportedly heading towards the Bay of Bengal.

Somewhere in the Bay of Bengal: A signal comes through. Decoding it, we find an alert from Command: a submarine has been spotted in our waters, though not the PNS Ghazi (we didn't know it had sunk by then). This is what the 310 'Cobra' Squadron was waiting for – for they were past masters at anti-submarine warfare. I saw plane after plane, on the mission to search and destroy this sub. In the end, it turned out to be a false alert.

Off the Chittagong Coast, East Pakistan Waters: A Pak signal is intercepted: NEXT TARGET VIKRANT. We had long waited for this. Was it a submarine? Was it an air attack? Was it the famed 7th fleet of the US Navy? Or was it just the last ditch attempt at bravado by an enemy about to be vanquished? I decoded the signal and took it to my superiors. Everyone was alerted on board the ship and the next few hours were tense for everyone. Eventually this too turned out to be a false alarm. The enemy's ability to take on the INS Vikrant had long been exhausted.

December 16th, Bay of Bengal: The signal that we had waited for since the start of hostilities on December 4 had finally come through, and it was my job to convey it to my shipmates. Pakistan had surrendered unconditionally, and India had won the war.

Lt. Cdr. Avatar Singh

Radio Operator

5th December 1971

Bombing raids begin on Mongla, Pussur and Chittagong harbour

The Breguet Alizé squadron INAS 310 ‘Cobra’ took flight from the decks of the INS Vikrant to bomb Mongla, Pussur and the Chittagong harbour.

INS Vikrant causes major supply issues for East Pakistani forces

East Pakistan’s resources were squeezed by these night bombing raids and most of the remaining military equipment was no longer airworthy.

One of the air men of the INAS 310 ‘Cobra’ squadron, Cmd. Richard Clarke recollects his adventures when fighting the enemy.

Memoirs of an Alizé pilot

When things began to hot up between India and Pakistan in 1971, I was recalled on temporary duty to my squadron INAS 310 (COBRAS), which was then embarked on board INS Vikrant. During the war I would go on to fly multiple sorties, including an opportunity to sink a ship (the Ondardo) in the waterways near Khulna that was carrying Pakistani troops trying to escape from East Pakistan. On another sortie, we bombed the runway at the airfield in Cox’s bazar and rendered it unfit for flying.

However out of all the sorties that I flew during the 1971 war, the one that is most etched in my mind was the one I flew on the 4th of December (the first day of hostilities). Just prior to the start of war, INS Vikrant was off the Andaman Islands and intelligence was received that the Pakistani Naval Submarine Ghazi had sailed from West Pakistan to the east coast of India. Its mission was to seek and destroy India’s only aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. In the afternoon while ‘Mother’ (INS Vikrant) was weaving her way northwards in the Bay of Bengal, lookouts reported the wake of a submarine periscope far astern of the ship.

Soon afterwards, I landed back on board and I had hardly switched off my engine before the men started ecstatically shaking my hand and thumping me on the back. Just then there was an announcement on the broadcast for my crew and I to go to the Admiral’s bridge. The Fleet Commander, R. Adm. Sriharilal Sarma wanted to be debriefed first-hand on what had transpired. He and his staff looked at me expectantly and waited for me to give them a blow-by-blow account of my exploits. I very sheepishly had to tell the Fleet Commander that there in fact there was no submarine in the crystal clear blue waters below the ripple when I flew over it. But I realised this only seconds before the depth charges exploded. The Fleet Commander’s face showed such disappointment that I wished that the deck below me would part and swallow me up. But in war we roll with the punches and a few days later we heard that Ghazi met her watery grave off Vizag, (see V. Adm. Krishnan’s story).

Commodore Richard Clarke (Retd.)

Pilot INAS 310 'Cobras'

6th December 1971

Bhutan recognises an independent Bangladesh

Bhutan became the 2nd country after India to recognise Bangladesh as an independent state.

The Tiger squadron turns its gun sights to Khulna, Chelna, Mongla and Chittagong

The INAS 300 ‘White Tigers’ squadron, comprising of Sea Hawk aircraft took to the skies. Their target was to destroy East Pakistani targets in Khulna, Chelna, Chittagong and Mongla.

Cmde. Medioma ‘Mike’ Bhada made a bold decision to ignore protocol, read about the secret he kept for 45 years.

The Unplanned Secret Mission

December, 1971, on board INS Vikrant in the Bay of Bengal. Our Mission was to destroy a target in the Chittagong harbor. A division of four Seahawk aircraft armed with rockets took off from the aircraft carrier early in the morning. The Division was led by our Squadron Commander, Lt Cdr SK Gupta, affectionately called Gigi. I was fortunate to be included as one of the four pilots and being the junior most, was No 4 in the formation. Our Mission was to fly low upto the target, to avoid enemy radar, thereafter to pull up and carry out a rocket attack and immediately leave the scene of action. As a ruse, we were instructed to fly in a different direction before heading back for the carrier. We had to maintain strict Radio Silence throughout the sortie.

As the formation approached the target, the Leader waggled his wings to indicate that he was pulling up for his attack. A few seconds later he was followed by No 2, then No 3 and I, as No 4 was the last in the attack. All actions were done with clockwork precision and I had the target in my gun-sight but, irrespective of all the training, practice and drills, I made a cardinal mistake. I used my fore-finger instead of my thumb. As a result I fired the 20 mm guns instead of the rockets. An unforgiveable error. By the time I realized it I had already crossed the minimum height for pull out from the dive. I had no choice but to abandon the attack with all my rockets still slung under my wings. In the mean while the other three aircraft had left the scene of action and were well on their way back. I could not break radio silence to inform the Leader. I also realized that landing back on the aircraft carrier with live rockets could be extremely dangerous for the ship.

In that split second I took a decision to turn back and carry out a second attack on the target, an unplanned secret mission, which I accomplished successfully. There was absolutely no sign of the rest of the formation but I followed the earlier briefing and to my great relief I sighted the Carrier, on schedule. Simultaneously I heard Gigi break radio silence indicating the position of the formation which was orbiting on one side of the ship. I quickly positioned myself and slipped in as No 4.

There after it was all “Operations Normal”. The four aircraft were recovered on board the carrier as programmed.

Except for the fact that the Radar Operators on board the carrier had observed that a “straggler’ was late in joining the formation, no one was the wiser of the incident. I later confided in Gigi and narrated the whole incident. Nothing was said.

Nothing was ever recorded.
Until this moment, 45 years later.

Cmde. Medioma Bhada

Pilot INAS 300 'White Tigers'

7th December 1971

Indian Army pushes into East Pakistan, liberating Moulovi Bazaar

The Indian army begins to push inland into East Pakistan. Jessore, Sylhet and Moulovi Bazaar are liberated and Pakistani forces are forced to escape.

Chittagong harbour closed after INS Vikrant bombs it continuously

Pakistan Navy convoy RK623 gets surrounded in the Bay of Bengal, by the Indian Navy, stopping the escape of high-ranking Pakistani officials. Chittagong harbour is no longer usable due to the constant bombing from INS Vikrant’s air squadrons.

Rear Admiral Santosh Kumar Gupta recalls how he was forced to land on the decks of the INS Vikrant that day with live ammunition.

A Bombshell of a Landing

As a pilot of INS Vikrant's 300 ‘White Tigers’ Squadron, I flew many bombing sorties over the East Pakistan coast in my Sea Hawk fighter jet. In one of these sorties, I managed to drop all my bombs on the target except for two. The bombs, weighing 500 pounds each (nearly 227 kg) are clamped by a mechanical device to the aircraft, and can be released by pressing the bombing button on the control. For some reason, the release mechanism failed to respond to the controls. The live bombs did not release, though I tried both the bomb button and the jettison button.

There is no way that one can land on the deck with live bombs, for the forces that act on the plane when it flies into the arrestor wires could set off the bombs. Were they to explode on deck, not only would they destroy the plane, but also cripple the ship and kill many of the men. I tried desperately to release them over the sea on the way back to Mother, but didn’t succeed. Now there were just 5 mins of fuel left. I had two choices. I could choose to eject from the plane (it would be lost). Or I could ditch it in proximity of the ship, i.e. attempt to land on water (in which case we could try to salvage the aircraft).

But the men on board Mother had other ideas. Trusting my skills as a senior pilot, they decided to take the risk, calculating that there was a high likelihood the bombs wouldn’t go off. I was permitted to land on the deck, but it was a difficult task. Fortunately we held our nerves and my plane landed safely on deck. The bombs didn’t go off and were quickly detached from the plane. The risk had paid off, and everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Without further ado, the defect in the mechanism was looked into and rectified. Armed again with bombs, I was cleared for another mission

R Adm Santosh Kumar Gupta, MVC

Squadron Commander of INAS 300

8th December 1971

Operation Python cripples Karachi

The Indian forces initiated Operation Python, a follow-up to Operation Trident. In a blitzkrieg attack, India crippled Karachi.

East Pakistani forces crumble under targeted bombing raids by INS Vikrant

In the Eastern war theatre, INS Vikrant identifies and bombs targets all over East Pakistan. These bombing raids affect supplies to the East Pakistani forces.

After missing his target, LCDR Ashwani Kumar Mehta got a second chance. And this time, he made the most of it.

The Second Chance

On one of the missions I flew to Chittagong during the 1971 war, I spotted a large tanker berthed next to oil storage tanks. Along with my brother pilot Lt. A K ‘Daffy’ Mehta (later Cdr.), we decided to attack it, as cutting of enemy’s fuel supplies is a sure shot way to cripple mobility. We flew close to the vessel and dropped our 500-pound bombs. As my plane had a camera, I took a photograph before flying back to INS Vikrant.

But I was in for a huge disappointment when the photograph was developed on board. The bombs had missed the tanker by a whisker! I got a scolding from Cdr. Parashar, who as Commander (Air) was in charge of coordinating air operations. But then he gave me a second chance to make good! When we reached Chittagong the tanker was still there. Determined not to miss the target this time, Daffy and I decided to be more careful. Instead of letting loose all my bombs, I dropped only one. If it missed, I had another. Lucky for me, it scored a direct hit, and I could hear Daffy yelling in triumph over the airwaves. I let loose the second and we returned. It happened that Lt. Cdr. Ashok Sinha, who passed us by on his return from a different mission near Chittagong, also saw the hit. Later, when we visited Chittagong harbour at the end of the war to assess the damage, I noticed that the tanker had been split into three.

I think that this was the mission that got me my Vir Chakra. And I owe it all to the second chance given by Cdr. Parashar!

~ LCDR Ashwani Kumar Mehta (Retd), VrC, NM
Pilot INAS 300 'White Tigers'

9th December 1971

India wins the battle of Kushtia, reaching East Pakistan through West Bengal

The Battle of Kushtia commences as the Indian Army reaches East Pakistan through West Bengal. A bloody battle ends in victory for the Indians.

Mangla crippled by INS Vikrant’s air superiority

Meanwhile in the seas, INS Vikrant’s air squadrons continue bombing raids, and Mangla feels the wrath of the Indian Navy’s aircraft.

Flying into enemy fire, Rear Admiral Santosh Kumar Gupta speaks of the dangers he faced as a naval air man.

Facing the Flak

One of the epithets that the INS Vikrant gained was ‘Lady of Khulna Fame’. Here’s part of the story of how the name came to be.

One of the tasks assigned to the INS Vikrant was to bomb the Khulna harbour, an important base of the enemy forces. I was then the Squadron Commander of INAS 300, the ‘White Tigers’, flying the Sea Hawk fighter jets. After war was declared on December 3, 1971 the Sea Hawks and the Breguet Alizes on board INS Vikrant would fly over 300 sorties till the war ended. I personally led 11 such missions to bomb enemy positions in locations like Khulna, Mangla and Chittagong.

I clearly remember one such mission from December 9, 1971.

By then, the enemy’s anti-aircraft guns had acquired greater precision, and were often able to hit our aircraft. Apart from that, the wind conditions those days were not conducive for the Sea Hawks to take off and land. In times of peace, the regulations would not have let us fly the Sea Hawk jets. But this was war and we had to side-step these regulations. We had the confidence and experience that we could take off and land in difficult circumstances. Also not everything would go as per plan- on one such occasion, the bomb release mechanism failed to activate in my aircraft due to which I came back to Mother with two live bombs. These meant that our missions were becoming more dangerous and our skills were being put to the ultimate test.

R Adm Santosh Kumar Gupta, MVC

Squadron Commander of INAS 300

10th December 1971

India takes 1,400 prisoners of war

Over 1,400 Pakistani servicemen are captured and imprisoned by Indian forces in Dhaka. Half of the Pakistani navy has been either captured or crippled beyond repair.

The hidden ship in hostile waters

A routine air reconnaissance mission from the decks of INS VIkrant becomes an attack on a PNS ship that is camouflaged.

Cmde. Bipin Bhagwat tells a tale of trusting gut instinct that saved his life.

Never trust a white flag

It was 11th or 12th December, I can’t remember correctly. The situation was dire. With one boiler running below capacity the INS Vikrant was not up to speed. Combined with the lack of adequate wind on deck, the fleet of Seahawk planes could not be launched. That’s when we received intelligence that the Chief of the Eastern Naval Forces of the Pakistan Navy was trying to make good an escape to Burma.

The Alize squadron was pushed into service, with instructions to hunt down and destroy the boat. Outfitted with anti-submarine sensors, ASW rockets and depth charges, we took off from the decks of Mother (INS Vikrant). Our pilot was Lt. Cdr. Ramsagar and Lt. KS Panwar was the Radar/ESM Operator.

About an hour into our flight, we encountered an island with a canopy of trees that seemingly looked out of place. Upon approach, we realized it was actually a small ship camouflaged using green tree branches. At merely 500 ft above the water level, I spotted the telltale signs of Pakistan naval colours, it was a small PN warship with a wooden boat in tow.

Immediately, our pilot ascended and communicated the position of the PN ship to the Mother (INS Vikrant). When we closed in on the enemy, we were greeted by booming gunfire from the PN ship’s anti-aircraft guns. We received the order to sink the ship with the arsenal we had on-board.

Flying into the enemy fire, we attacked with anti-submarine rockets from a height of around 1000ft. The rockets hit the boat being towed by the PN ship, setting it on fire. The PN ship detached the tow and altered course. We circled around and decided to attack with depth charges (DCs). On our approach, the PN ship hoisted a white flag indicating their willingness to surrender. Wary and aware of their guile, we pressed on with our approach with caution and our hunch was proved right. The PN ship opened up fire once more. We lined up the ship at about 100 feet and dropped DCs (which are dropped in water but very close to the ship, to effect maximum damage) as we were hit by six-seven anti-aircraft bullets.

The bullets caused damage to various parts of the aircraft, including radio communications, electrical and hydraulic services and the cockpit was full of smoke. There was no serious damage to flying controls but we were forced to lower our under-carriage (wheels) and flaps, reducing cruising speed to about 100 knots. Fortunately, none of us was injured, but we lost radio contact and our main direction-finding instrument was not working with Mother still a good 100 miles away or so.

Nevertheless, Lt Cdr Ramsagar stabilized the flight and we saw the PN ship's rear portion sinking while some personnel were jumping out. We decided to fly away to ensure that if we had to ditch it would not be in the vicinity of the enemy ship

Without communications to guide us, we knew more or less where INS Vikrant would be thanks to a previously established ‘safe sector’. We flew back till we found and located the Mother and using Standard Operating Procedure the Pilot made a safe landing. The sons of Vikrant had returned to fight another day.

Cmde Bipin Bhagwat

Pilot INAS 310 'Cobras'

11th December 1971

America intervenes, sends famed U.S. 7th fleet into Indian waters

Jolted by the permutations of the Indo-Pak War, the United States sends its famed 7th fleet towards India’s territorial waters.

Indian Navy prepares to tackle the 7th fleet head on

The Eastern Naval Command receives intelligence of the arrival of the USS Enterprise as the men in charge declare that the Indian Navy is ready to take on the U.S. 7th fleet head-on.

Rear Admiral S Ramsagar relives the tense moments as he led a flight in search of the famed US 7th fleet.

Hunting the hunters

8 December. The war was well underway, and India was close to achieving complete supremacy over the Bay of Bengal, completely cutting off West Pakistan’s ability to support its forces in East Pakistan. The then Defence Minister Shri Jagjeevan Ram made a public statement that India would not hesitate to take the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise head-on if it entered the India waters with its escort vessels (the famous American 7th Fleet). But was it a credible threat, or just a rumour? I was deputed to find out.

It was being said in many channels that the American Pacific Fleet had been ordered to come to Pakistan’s rescue by President Richard Nixon. In view of that intelligence, we were asked to fly south towards the Andaman Islands to detect whether the American fleet was really approaching. Taking off from the deck of Mother, I kept flying higher till I reached 21000 feet above sea level, which was the maximum permissible height for the Breguet Alizé. At that height the oxygen content of the air is less than one fifth of what it is at sea level.

We were scanning the seas using RADAR and passive radar detection equipment called ARRAR. Drawing a blank, we pushed on south till we reached Port Cornwallis, where our RADAR could detect contacts as far as the Malacca Straits. Nothing. Our ARRAR also did not pick up any radar transmission that seemed like the US Navy. With nothing to report, we decided to return. The USS Enterprise wasn’t going to distract Mother today, and she could get on with winning the war.

Much later, we came to know that the USSR’s Admiral Gorchakov had apparently managed to convince the Americans not to get involved in our ‘local' war. He suggested to the US that they switch on their satellite cameras at 8:15 AM. At that time, he made all Russian attack submarines surface for 10 minutes. The US realised that the Soviet subs were deployed in many places around USA & Europe, dangerously escalating the war if they got involved.

Rear Admiral S Ramsagar, AVSM ,VrC, NM (Retd.)
INAS 310 Squadron Commander, 1971 War

VrC,AVSM,NM

12th December 1971

Soviet Russia deploys warships to safeguard against U.S. 7th fleet

The Soviet Navy deploys its own warships into the Indian maritime borders to neutralise the threat of the U.S. Navy.

Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong airfields damaged beyond repair

The airfields at Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong are now beyond repair, stopping all air operations for the East Pakistani forces. The INAS 300 ‘White Tigers’ squadron sinks 9 enemy ships.

Lt. V.K. Datta was returning from a successful sortie when he spotted C-130 transport planes. His decision to not engage them was the correct one.

Wisdom is the better part of valour

One of the most daring pilots of the 300 Squadron during the 1971 war was Lt. V K Datta, known to us as ‘Tarzan’. One day in the war, he had successfully participated in a strike and was on his way to join his formation on the return flight to INS Vikrant. He suddenly sighted a formation of four C-130 aircraft, heading south over land, some 15 nautical miles away. These were clearly American military transport aircraft, so what they were doing in the East Pakistan sector was a mystery. Lt. Datta decided to alert his formation leader.

He was not in a position to use his radio, so he could not speak to the leader. He decided to fly close to him and make hand signals. However, the leader could not quite understand his gestures. The C-130s, visible even then only as small specks, soon disappeared from view. Lt. Datta was very tempted to detach from his squadron and attack them single-handedly. However, taking the situation in hand, wiser counsel prevailed. For one, he was short of fuel. Secondly, if he detached and went after the C-130s, Mother might have moved off her location, which meant he might get lost at sea. With all these factors running in his mind, while he was flying at 600 miles per hour, he decided against temptation.

Long after the war, we came to know that these C-130s were evacuating US personnel and their families from Bangladesh to Singapore.

From the Book ‘Downwind, Four Green’

Pilot INAS 300 'White Tigers'

14th December 1971

The Battle of Hilli leads to the capture of Bogra

As East Pakistan crumbles, the Indian Army blocks off all aid and back up for the enemy forces. Capturing Bogra in the battle of Hilli proves to be a turning point.

286 sorties flown, zero friendly fire from the INS Vikrant

Since the start of the war, the INS Vikrant has deployed 286 sorties, causing zero collateral damage to Bangladeshi people.

Lt. Col. Inder Singh, commander of the battalion prepared a damage report that stated no Bangladeshi targets were destroyed by Indian forces. Read more about it.

Lt. V.K. Datta was returning from a successful sortie when he spotted C-130 transport planes. His decision to not engage them was the correct one.

Collateral Damage? Not on the INS Vikrant.

‘Collateral damage’ is a term you might hear about war, which means the damage caused to civilian property and the killing of non-combatants. During the 1971 war, it was a huge risk that the aircraft launched from the INS Vikrant faced, as Bangladesh is a densely populated country, and our targets were in cities like Khulna, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar. Yet, INS Vikrant emerged from the war triumphant without a blemish.

Towards the end of the war, Pakistan was completely encircled. The Indian Navy had launched an audacious landing at Chittagong, after successful photo reconnaissance missions flown by R Adm Ramsagar & Cmde Bhagwat (see their stories). INS Magar carried the men of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Gorkha Rifles to make the landing and secure the land routes leading from Chittagong to Burma. The men received a hero’s' welcome, and wondered what had happened for them to get such warmth. It was INS Vikrant, of course.

Lt. Col. Inder Singh who commanded the battalion made a report of the damage inflicted by the INS Vikrant’s two squadrons, 300 & 310:

Cox’s Bazaar: The first strike on Cox’s Bazaar on 4th December 1971, led by V Adm S K Gupta, destroyed the Air Traffic Control Tower. Not only did it destroy a vital communications tower of the enemy, but also killed one Moiuddeen Rehman – who with his henchman had been a terror to the locals.

Dulhazari: An attack by R Adm S Ramsagar’s Breguet Alize destroyed a wireless station, killing several enemy officers (see his story). The civilians in the hospital right next door were not affected at all.

Dohazari: A strike by INS Vikrant’s fighter planes inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy’s officers and soldiers, without causing civilian casualties.

Chittagong: Here too a wireless station was destroyed, along with the naval facilities, while inflicting no damage on civilian buildings.

In all, the naviators (naval aviators) of INS Vikrant had flown 286 sorties in 14 days and had inflicted near zero collateral damage. Indeed the pilots could complain that whenever their planes were sighted coming in for an attack, the locals would gather on their roof-tops and cheer wildly!

From the Book ‘Downwind, Four Green’

Pilot INAS 300 'White Tigers'

16th December 1971

Bangladesh is liberated, INS Vikrant plays a starring role in the war

The Bangladeshi Liberation is complete. Mukto Bahini takes control of Dhaka as East Pakistan surrenders irrevocably and Bangladesh is an independent state.

The INS Vikrant played a stellar role on the Eastern front, crushing all hopes of a Pakistani victory.
Lt. Virendra Narula recollects how three heroes saluted the invincible INS Vikrant.

Three Heroes One Mother

It was 28 December, 1971. The war was over and Bangladesh had become independent. The army, air & naval commanders of the eastern theatre wished to pay homage to the INS Vikrant, which was so instrumental to winning the war, and to boost the morale of the men who sailed in it. Even though I only had limited flying experience, I was given the honour to be one of the pilots of this prestigious mission.

We flew an Alouette-III helicopter to Chittagong, where a huge crowd had assembled to give the three chiefs - Lt. Gen. Aurora of the army, VAdm Krishnan of the navy and AVM Dewan of the air force – a heroes’ welcome. With great difficulty we found a clear spot to land. I kept the chopper in readiness for take-off while my flight commander Prabbir Gujral helped the chiefs aboard. As we rose above the ocean, we noticed how AVM Dewan was foxed while V Adm Krishnan was proudly beaming with a wide smile, as one could see nothing but water all around! Finally we spotted the mother ship which was around 60 odd nautical miles into the sea– looking like a matchbox from about 10,000 ft above the sea!

After the chiefs had met the sea warriors and congratulated them, we finally realized that the war was over. But now started another excitement – the race to Madras so we could arrive in time for the New Year’s eve Party!

Lt. Virendra Narula, with Cmdr. Prabbir Gujral