American flying ace Chuck Yeager believes Pakistan emerged victorious in the 1971 war, since it remained a sovereign nation and was not annexed.
“You touched no nerve-you don’t have that power. Pakistan won. They are a sovereign nation. India did not annex them,” Yeager, who is 93, wrote in a Twitter exchange with noted Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta.
Yeager’s post was in response to Shekhar Gupta teasing him about his role in helping the Pakistani Air Force in 1971. Yeager then said, having seen the war from up close as US adviser to the Pakistan Air Force, East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — fell in three days, and Pakistan stopped India from annexing that part by opening up the western front.
To this, Yeager replied, “Not because he shot an unguarded parked airplane – one that had been used to help his countrymen. But in spite of it.”
Yeager is a celebrated US air force pilot who first earned acclaim for shooting down 13 German planes during World War II, and then for breaking the sound barrier as a test pilot in 1947. His tryst with fame formed the anchor for The right stuff, a 1983 film that covers 15 years of American airpower, based on a book by the same name by Tom Wolfe. Yeager continued in the US air force till his retirement in 1975, four years after he was sent, he said in his book Yeager, to advise the Pakistan Air Force months before the 1971 war.
He retired as a brigadier general, and has written about his plane being “totaled” in a raid by Indian Air Force. In his own words, “I had it parked at the Islamabad airport, and I remember sitting on my front porch on the second day of the war, thinking that maybe I ought to move that airplane down to the Iranian border, out of range of the Indian bombers, when the damned air-raid siren went off, and a couple of Indian jets came streaking in overhead.” He continued, “A moment later, I saw a column of black smoke rising from the air field. My Beech Queen was totaled. It was the Indian way of giving Uncle Sam the finger.”
In 2007, Admiral Prakash, the pilot who attacked the aircraft, wrote about it saying it was an afterthought; “Pulling out of the second dive, through a gap in the fog I caught a glimpse of a row of small transport aircraft lined up on the secondary runway,” he said. “The sight was too tempting. Putting all thought of the Hercules out of my mind, and ignoring the multiple arcs of tracer fire, I swung around in a tight high-G turn and emptied my guns on whatever was visible of the light aircraft,” he added.