Today marks 52 years since the end of the Indo-Pak war of 1965. On this day, every year, we read about Pakistan’s victory over India in 1965, we read about how the Pakistan Army was able to defend itself against a much larger army Indian Army, but what we don’t usually read about, are the heroes that made it all possible. The war exposed Pakistan’s inadequate standards of military training, its misguided selection of officers, poor command and control arrangements, poor intelligence gathering and bad intelligence procedures, as could be expected from a country that only gained its independence 18 years prior to the war. In spite of all those shortcomings, the Pakistan Army was still able to stand victorious over the larger Indian Army, because the one thing Pakistan did have to defend itself, was the bravery, courage, and patriotism of its heroes, the unsung heroes of the war of 1965 –
Wing Commander Cecil Chaudhry (Sitara-e-Jurat, Tamgha-e-Jurat), who protected the airspace of his country, along with 3 other pilots. They attacked the Amritsar Radar Station in a difficult operation. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat (Star of Courage) for his actions during that mission.
Air Vice Marshal Michael John O’Brian a distinguished and pioneering fighter pilot who participated in the wars of 1947, 1965, and 1971. O’Brian played an important role in setting up the training institutes within the Pakistan Air Force.
Wing Commander Mervyn Middle coat (Sitara-e-Jurat, Sitara-e-Basalat). During the three-week war, Middle coat flew 17 air defence sorties and three photo reconnaissance missions over Indian airbases. For his leadership and devotion to duty, he was awarded the Sitara-i-Jurat, the third highest award in the Pakistani military.
Air Vice Marshall Eric Hall (Hilal-i-Jurat, Sitar-e-Jurat). He commanded the air transport Base at Chaklala as a Group Captain (Colonel) in 1965. With war being imminent, he was conscious of the PAF’s lack of specialist aircraft. Hall suggested the idea of converting C-130 Hercules into heavy bombers. With some modifications, the transport aircraft were made capable of carrying up to 20,000 lbs of bombs. Having conducted trials to prove their efficacy, Hall himself volunteered to lead the first bombing mission over the Kathua bridge on 11 September 1965. He was awarded the Sitara-i-Jurat for his valour and vision.
Fifty-two years later, and just like every year after that, Pakistanis remember the fallen heroes and these brave souls for safeguarding the dreams of millions of people for a sovereign state and the sacrifices made by them for their independence in 1947. Without their bravery, ingenuity, and willpower, the war was all but lost and the dream of Pakistan was lost before it even started. The subcontinent would have seen violence and savagery perhaps even worse than it did at the time of partition.