KARGIL HEROES RECALL EPIC BATTLE
August 14 (Soni Sangwan)
Crawling up a craggy mountain, 22-year-old Lt Pradhan of 2 Engineers had cleared 125 landmines. But as he searched for the 126th, it went off. Enemy fire made it impossible to evacuate him. For six hours, he lay bleeding, ultimately losing both hands and an eye.
For 48 hours, Major Jaggi of 5 Para lay with his left leg blown off. Only on the third night could the enemy be neutralised. "Dont inform my parents, they are heart patients," he told the doctors.
Amol Kalia was killed in intense hand-to-hand combat, and his body lay with those of six others. "Retrieving them became as important for morale as capturing the feature," says Maj V Pathak. "In the dark, while others gave me covering fire, I put the bodies in sleeping bags, tied them together and slid them down the cliff. When we returned, each man was carrying a body."
Maj Vikas Mehta of 12 J&K Light Infantry spent 30 days atop a snowclad peak at 17,000 feet. The enemy was on a facing peak, and constantly engaged them. Contact with base came once a day through the food carriers. When shelling was too heavy, even this was not possible.
"Sacks of puris and aloo sabzi, carried in plastic shell casings, were our meals. Civilian porters and troops climbed all night to reach us before daybreak. They also brought letters from home," recalls an officer.
The infiltrators were well supplied. When Gorkhas took Point 5287, they found fresh meat ready for cooking. They did it full justice.
"You never had to wake up - because you hadnt gone to sleep. You attacked at night, did sentry duty and completed your ablutions before daybreak," says an officer.
Over the 10 weeks, many fell victim to diarrhoea. Living in holes in the cliff faces, even brushing teeth was a luxury. "The single source of water, the stream, soon became contaminated. Chilblains and pulmonary oedema also affected some," he says.
Not realising that chilblains can degenerate into frostbite and gangrene, the troops of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles would not report them as they thought it cowardly. Officers had to physically check each soldiers feet.
Leading these men was Lt Manoj Pandey, who destroyed four bunkers and killed 11 before falling himself. Commanding officer Col Lalit Rai suffered injuries but held on for 25 hours. When ammunition fell short, khukris flashed. And so the war was won.Courtsey HINDUSTAN TIMES
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