Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Flooded Battle

A war consists of many, many battles. There are critical battles that play a deciding factor in whether a war is won or lost. During that 1965 war between India and Pakistan, there were many battles that were fought but none like the Battle of Asal Uttar.
The 1965 war featured a battle on the border of the two countries. Immense military resource were mobilized and each country dedicated massive resources at a single point to gain a breakthrough in the defensive line of the enemy. A simple and effective strategy to winning the war.
Tanks rolled from the Pakistan border and crossed virtually unopposed into the Indian territory. In another 20 minutes, they would come across the first Indian town and that’s where they expected the first wave of resistance.
Amir kept his foot steadily pressed on the pedal and the Patton tank rolled forward. The Patton tank was the world’s foremost tank that proved its mettle during World War II. As of this moment, a mighty force of five tank regiments and one infantry regiment were moving through the open land towards their first objective, Asal Uttar. It gave Amir and his comrades confidence that any meager Indian military force stationed there would not have the power to stop over their 200 Patton tanks.
“Stop”, the commander standing on top of the hatch called out. “Khem Karan is in sight”. It was the village before Asal Uttar.
The scrapping of boots could be heard as the infantry soldiers on top of the tank alighted off.
Amir could hear the rumbling of the tank as they rolled towards the village. He thanked Allah that he was not part of the advance unit. They would be the first one to be shot down, through which the Indian military would reveal their position. Then all the regiments had to was rush forward and shoot at the Indian tanks and any anti-tank guns that lay hidden in the town. Their tanks won’t be able to withstand a frontal shot from the 90 mm gun of the Patton tank.
For the next 10 minutes the whole atmosphere was just silent, only the rumbles of Patton tanks could be heard. Amir sat, waiting for the wave of attack from the Indians at the advance unit ahead. His foot was already poised on top of the pedal, waiting to jam it down, charge ahead and break through the Indian defense line.
Two hundred Patton tanks were on their way, the information was passed on to every Indian soldier. It would be a battle like 300 warriors against thousand Persians.  
Centurion tanks, battle tested British tanks, were snuggly hidden from view, waiting for the enemy to attack. Battles were decided on numbers and strengthen and right now, the Indian side lacked both.
Against, five tank regiments, the sparse three tank regiments of India had no chance in open battle. Two of the regiments were of older and lighter tanks - the Sherman and AMX tanks. Only a Centurion tank was formidable enough to stand against them and Avinash sat in one. His eyes were pressed into the scope, waiting for the enemy to appear before him.
Khem Karan was completely abandoned and the enemy had taken it. Civilians were already evacuated to behind the defensive line of the town, Asal Uttar. And now, the only thing that stood between Asal Uttar and the enemy were three tank regiments.
All the Indian tanks were well hidden among the thick sugarcane fields. Sugarcane sticks were roped on the tank’s hull, while the tank’s tracks were hidden by another barricade of sugarcanes.
Avinash and the rest of his comrades in the tank took in the silence and the stress. Like him, they didn’t know if the strategy would work. Horseshoe, all the 135 tanks had formed a horseshoe. That’s how they were going to defeat a force superior in strength and quality. A ‘semi-circular tactic’ to surround the enemy.
Then, the enemy came, the rumbling of the Patton tanks. Sugarcanes was crushed as the Pattons streamrolled on them and then, their swift pace turned into a crawl. The Patton chugged into view with half their tracks sunk into soil, severely affecting their mobility. What the enemy did not expect was the soil to be waterlogged, making it extremely difficult for tank tracks to trudge through.  
“Wait for them”, the unit commander’s voice whispered through the radio. The 105 mm gave them an advantage over the Pattons. They struggled forward, completely unaware of the horseshoe of tanks around them.
“Now”, the whisper thundered from the radio. In unison, the Indian tanks roared out. The frontal unit of Patton tanks blew up into a blaze of fire. Confused and without having time to think in the heat of battle, the Pakistan army did what it only could. It poured more tanks forward. Their numbers were irrelevant as they got bogged down in the mud. The horseshoe trap around them ensured that each and every frontal tank was destroyed. Patton tanks that did try to reverse back found it impossible with the tracks stuck in the soil.
That is not to say, the battle was a cake walk. A tank next to Avinash exploded into metal bits and flames. The terrifying cries of dying comrades could be heard. A shell bounced off from the sloped armour. The Pakistani infantry soldiers that poured into the field were cut down by the machine guns from the Indian tanks.

At the end of the day, the Patton tanks that survived were bogged down in the flooded sugarcane field and were forced to surrender. Pakistan lost 97 of their tanks, India lost only 10.


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