About the book
A Comprehensive account of the war in Bangladesh, unique in that the author has firsthand experience of the operations in which he led his division to victory with distinction, In addition, he has the benefit of personal acquaintance with most of the military commanders on the Indian side, and with some from Pakistan. The narrative is therefore based on authentic information obtained from participated all the Indian generals who Participated in the campaign. He has brought out in ample measure the Pakistani point of view and perception of the war as seen by them and related by them to their opponents in discussions, after their surrender.
General Lachhman Singh has covered the west arena of the war of liberation leading to a decisive victory in Bangladesh in its various aspects including the geopolitical environment, strategy and tactics, partisan warfare, administration and post-victory diplomacy.
The reader gets an eye-witness account, laced with significant anecdotes, which depicts battle situations with all the drama and fog of war. The author has combined meticulous research with extensive and intimate knowledge of the theatre of operations and the various participants in a wide-ranging account. He has brought out lessons of military significance which touch on higher direction of war in our environment.
About the Author
Major General Lachhman Singh Lehl, PVSM, VrC was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in 1943 and retired from the Army in 1978. He is an instructor Gunnery from the School of Artillery and is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College and the National Defence College. He is, at Present, the Vice-President of the War Decorated Association.
He served with the Punjab Mussalman troops till the partition of India and saw active service in Burma in the Second World War. In the Jammu and Kashmir 1947-48 operations, he took part in the battles of Chhamb, Naushahra, Jhangar, Rajauri, Uri and Zojila, where he was wounded. He was awarded the VirChakra for gallantry in the battles for the recapture of Jhangar.
He has held important command and staff appointments and was General Staff Officer Grade I in the Military Operations Directorate during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. In 1971, he commanded a mountain division in Bangladesh and was awarded the param Vishist Seva Medal for outstanding leadership in battle. His book India Sword Strikes in East Pakistan gives detailed accounts of the operations of his division and the overall campaign for the liberation of Bangladesh, while his other book titled Missed Opportumities gives an extensive account of the Indo-Pak War 1965.
Since the publication of the first edition, some of the participants have written to me throwing new light on the operations of their units and formations. I am grateful to these officers for their suggestions which have made the account factually more accurate.
I have added a chapter on the Pakistan Army as I consider it relevant to a better understanding of the events as they unfolded during 1971. I have been fortunate to have the candid views of some of the retired Pakistan Army officers on the draft of the chapter on the Pakistan Army. I wish to record my gratitude to these officers who prefer to remain anonymous.
A number of books have been written by Indian, Pakistani and western authors on the various aspects of the 1971 Indo- Pakistan war. I have made use of the information in such books to make my account up to date. I have made a reference to such publications wherever I have quoted any material from these. I wish to record my thanks to the authors of these-books.
In the end, I wish to thank Lt Gen (retd.) ZC Bakshi, PVSM, MVC, AVSM, MC for his help in compiling the chapter on the Pakistan Army. I am thankful to Maj Gen (retd) SC Sinha, PVSM, Director USI, for kindly reading through the book and offering valuable advice and views on the revised edition. I also take this opportunity to record my gratitude to late Brig NC Mayne, AVSM for his help in compiling the first edition. I did not do so earlier to respect his wish as he wanted to remain anonymous, while serving.
I have undertaken to write a military study of the Bangladesh campaign to bring out its important ingredients based on the personal experiences of participants. The decisive victory of our Armed Forces culminated in the unconditional surrender of the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan to the Indian Army. This campaign gained political pre-eminence and military stature for India in the region. Few who study the campaign can fail to develop a deep sense of respect for the ingenious unorthodoxy our commanders employed in the field.
The book is based on numerous discussions I had with various commanders. I have endeavoured to bring out the environment surrounding the war, the national characteristics, statesmanship and military philosophy of the antagonists and the prevailing geopolitical compulsions affecting the campaign.
In writing about a military campaign with the knowledge of hindsight, it is comparatively easy to assess and judge events in the sure knowledge of what actually happened. But the actual participants had to make decisions based on what information was available and the uncertain reactions of the opposing commanders, whose decisions in turn depended on their intuition.
The purpose of writing this book is to provide the military, political and other elites of our country with a realistic view of the events of war as they occurred in the Indian environment I feel that our elites continue to opt for aloofness from the problems affecting the Armed Forces and national security. This is understandable to some extent as in the euphoria of a glorious victory the public felt that there was no need to look for chinks in our armour, but in the growingly threatening environment around us we must not avoid an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the forces.
I have written this book on the basis of my personal knowledge of most of the military participants on the Indian side and some on the Pakistani side. Most of them had gained their experience in the blood and sweat of World War II when they were comparatively junior officers. They emerged from that struggle knowing what leadership meant from the bottom up and they used that knowledge to good effect. A mass of military literature was made available to them on World War II through books written by opposing participants, and this helped them improve their professional competence.
Somehow our combat officers have shown a marked reluctance to write personal accounts of their battle experiences. I hope that this effort of mine will encourage others to undertake to write such accounts so that our future generations of officers can learn about the problems of war in our environment.
I welcome any corrections of facts which would help record the whole truth. Such a record will assist future historians who may undertake to write a comprehensive history. I feel that if we do not provide them with enough material based on personal knowledge they will be circumscribed by what has been officially written. Such writing is not always objective and is the handiwork of a coterie of loyal staff officers who are keen on boosting the reputations of their commanders.
I believe that an analysis and critique of the 1971 campaign will be of immense value to our future commanders. I have tried to bring out the hopes, doubts and fears of the participants as well as the difficulties they had to overcome. My study may give the impression that we blundered at times, but overall the bold and skilful actions of our fighting commanders surely brought us a decisive victory which is a certificate of their brilliance and capabilities.
If my book can persuade some of our military officers and civilian elites to understand the techniques and trends of modern warfare in our environment I would feel amply awarded.
Preface to Second Edition
The Northwestern Sector
The Southwestern Sector
The Jhenida Sector
The Jessore Sector
The Central Sector
The Eastern Sector
The Sylhet Sector
The Bhairab Bazar Sector
The Chandpur Sector
The Batile Of Dacca
Surrender And Diplomacy
Sketches and Maps
Bhairab Bazar Sector
Battle of Dacca
at the end
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