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The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

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The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 12 Aug 2003 17:56

On 7 Feb 68, an An-12 of No.25 Squadron took off for Leh with nearly a Hundred passengers. Halfway to Leh, the pilot Flt Lt HV Singh decided to turn back due to bad weather over J and K. The aircraft was last 'tracked' over the Rohtang pass.

No one has seen or heard from the Aircraft or the 98 passengers ever since

A couple of families of the aircrew argued that the aircraft flew to Pakistan and the crew and passengers were undeclared prisoners.

An old report from Hindustan times and a list of passengers and crew from Amar Jawan is reproduced here.
http://www.warbirdsofindia.com/Crashes/dsearch.asp?serial=62

The mystery is close to being solved when the body of pioneer beli ram was recovered by a trekking team

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/08/02/1059480608118.html
Body of Indian soldier found after 35 years
August 3 2003

Trekkers on a remote stretch of Himalayan glacier have found the partially preserved body of an Indian soldier frozen for 35 years after he died in a plane crash, a mountaineer said yesterday.

The trekkers discovered the corpse, still in an overcoat uniform with personal documents in the pockets, in late July when they explored the sprawling Lahaul Valley bordering Tibet.

They reported the discovery yesterday when they returned to the northern Indian hill station Manali.

"Temperatures on the glacier always remain below freezing and these ice masses shift with time, which explains why some of the flesh and skin and hair on the scalp were preserved," Colonel HS Chauhan, director of the Mountaineering Institute at Manali, told AFP.

The trekkers found aircraft parts nearby, suggesting there could be other bodies covered by the ice. Chauhan said the body was left where it was found and that he had written to the Indian army headquarters to see what to do.

It is believed the crash occurred in early 1968, Chauhan said. The soldier may have been flying to or from Ladakh, the high-altitude Buddhist area of Indian-administered Kashmir near Pakistani- and Chinese-ruled territory.

The identity card identified the soldier as Beli Ram, the son of Hari Chand from the Akhnoor area in Kashmir's southern Jammu region.

Ram joined the Indian army in 1963 and was a non-ranking soldier. He carried a train ticket for a journey from Chandigarh, the north Indian town that is a key railway link to the Himalayas, heading southeast to Meerut in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The date of the scheduled train journey was illegible. Ram also had in his pockets four one-rupee notes.

The area where Ram's body was found is roughly 4,900 metres above sea level. The Himalayas, with its freezing temperatures and inaccessibility, has long been an icy graveyard for those who disappear without a trace.

In one of the most famous discoveries in the Himalayas, a 1999 expedition on Mount Everest discovered the frozen body of British mountaineer George Mallory who vanished in 1924 as he tried to reach the world's highest point.

Chauhan said he was ready to send an expedition to retrieve Ram's remains.

"If asked by the army we are willing to dig into the ice and also look for any more bodies and aircraft debris," he said.

---------------------

Several human interest stories have appeared since then and a general effort seems to be on in an attempt to recover the lost airmen and soldiers.

I intend to keep track of all the reports in this thread . so please keep the thread open and alsopost subsequent news stories and comments here.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 12 Aug 2003 18:03

Aug 7:
India searches for lost aircraft
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3133009.stm

Aug 4: Warm memories of a frozen life : Flt Lt MS Bains
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030805/cth1.htm#15

Aug 6: A Wish realised after 35 Years & Air Force to retrieve plane wreckage
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030806/main9.htm

Aug 7: Forces abandon recce to retrieve soldiers’ bodies
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030807/j&k.htm#5

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 13 Aug 2003 00:49

Aug 3: Soldier's body found in Himalayas after 35 years of death http://www.hindustantimes.com/2003/Aug/03/181_328064,0008.htm

http://www.ndtv.com/morenews/showmorestory.asp?slug=Soldier's+family's+35-year+wait+ends&id=41106

By far the most revealing article is :

35 years after 98 men, their flying machine went down, someone's going up to search

The above article indicates that the aircraft could have been recovered earlier

He says an Italian expedition returned with a belt in 2001. ``They brought it as a souvenir. The belt had a number: 1165466. The Army or the IAF don't issue numbers just like that. May be the number can help.''
Ofcourse they dont - It is for

1165466 Nk Keshav Singh Staff

He points to a standard Army backpack, the pithoo, recovered from the site. It too has a number: 13931132. ``The Army can find out who was allotted this series and then match it with the regiment code. They probably can zero-in on the man.''
Yes a little checking on the net reveals it as
13931132 Sep Chadda Singh AMC

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Umrao » 13 Aug 2003 00:57

A Map of the area giving approximate location would be of great help in understanding the context.

I hope someone in (X,Y) Z tV or jaya tv makes a TV movie/documentary of this episode.

We need to project the hardship of the Jawans, IAF and Navy endure doing their duty day in day out.
Thanks Jagan garu for starting this thread. The rediff article may be also posted here to give a Human touch to the sad episode.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 13 Aug 2003 09:43

Aug 13: Air Marshal Ghadiok's comments on the Incident
http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/aug/12josy.htm

IAF finds parts of AN-12 that crashed in '68
http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/aug/12josy1.htm

The air force has located small portions of the AN-12 aircraft that crashed into Greater Himalayas near Manali in 1968, killing all the 100 soldiers on board. Unconfirmed reports say remains of a body, too, have been found.

A spokesperson for the IAF said the crucial black box of the flight is yet to be found. The IAF and army last week started an exercise to locate the remains, which are believed to be near Rohtang Pass. The efforts followed the discovery of the remains of one soldier by a team of mountaineers near Dhaka glacier last month.

However, the efforts have been severely hampered by the inability to land bigger choppers in the Dhaka glacier area. "It is a moving snow. We can only land Cheetah with a passenger, which is of no use to us," an IAF officer said. So for the time being the IAF has suspended 'chopper operations', the officer said.

"We need to carry equipment and more people to the area. We are waiting for the army team to build a helipad for bigger choppers to land," he said. "The bodies and wreckage has been there for 35 winters, so it is also possible that most of it is covered under heavy snow."

-------------------------
Rediff features with the wife of Sgt Somasundaram

Aug 11 : Help her locate her husband
http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/aug/11spec.htm

Aug 12 : I believe he is in Pak jail
http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/aug/12spec.htm

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby AmanC » 13 Aug 2003 10:06

I was in Manali for three days to cover the story. Unfortunately our Delhi edition does not seem to have used my pieces which have remained confined to Chandigarh edition.
What I found was that the army new about the location of the wreckage way back in 1987 but did not do anything about it. I spoke to the then director of the Himalayan Mountaineering and Allied Sports Directorate, Col Prem Chand, who told me that one of his expeditions had informed him about the wreckage in 1987.
The info was passed on to the secretariat of the Chief of Army Staff but nothing was done about it.
Col Prem Chand called it shocking and disgraceful that the army chose not to go for the wreckage 16 years back. He said the immense media glare this time around has resulted in this salvage operation.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby AmanC » 13 Aug 2003 10:18

Hindustan Times Dated July 13

AN-12 crash site offers little clue
Man Aman Singh Chhina
(Manali, August 12)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pieces of bones, hair with scalp, towels, boots, bedsheets and aircraft parts are some of the remains of the AN-12 transport plane and its occupants — which went down into the Daka Glacier near Rohtang Pass way back in 1968 — that still lay scattered at the crash site.
Col HS Chauhan, who returned from the accident site on Tuesday afternoon, told Hindustan Times that the human remains would be hard to identify because of their small size. "I do not think it will be possible to identify the person to whom these remains belong." He said no second body had been found till Monday.

He said the service numbers of the jawans travelling in the aircraft have been found stitched on woollen jerseys, uniforms and beddings strewn on the glacier. Some identity papers have also been found but these have not been deciphered yet because they are wet.

The Hindustan Times team was shown exclusive photographs of the remains taken by the team members of the expedition which discovered the wreckage in mid-July this year.

According to ID Sharma, the senior mountaineering instructor whose team discovered the wreckage of the aircraft, there is an assortment of items lying on the glacier but no complete dead body was seen apart from that of Pioneer Beli Ram.

Sharma said he saw slippers, blankets, clothing items, boots, dungarees, overcoats and shirts. The aircraft wreckage consists of engine parts, tail, wings, electrical wiring and tyres, which are still intact. The smallest piece of the wreckage is not more then a few inches long while the biggest is a few metres, he said.

"I saw no burn marks on the aircraft's parts which could indicate there was no emergency on board and that the aircraft did not catch fire before hitting the nearly 20,550 feet high mountain, CB-13," he said.

According to officials of the mountaineering directorate, the first team is expected to return from the glacier by Wednesday. However, their return may be delayed because of the closure of the Rohtang Pass-Manali Road.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 13 Aug 2003 11:30

Aman,

Thanks for the report. Star TV also reported somewhat on similar lines. I also caught the bit about some aircraft pieces being "retreaved/reported way back in 19??" but could not get the year. Now I know from your report that its 1987.

However in the Army's defence - Was a positive Id made about the aircraft wreckage in 1987? I assume there was no concrete proof last time (like Beli Ram's remains this time). The whole of northern india and north east has been scene of much flying activity during WW2, and So it is quite possible that in the lack of positive identification, it may not have been feasible to look into it.

The last time this kind of incident took place is what Air Marshal Ghadiok mentioned. A Dakota lost in the 1947-48 Operations with about 38 passengers was found by a sheperd boy in 1980/81. The IAF ultimately recovered all the human remains and cremated them with full honours. At that time there was almost zero media coverage. So it is only fair to assume that the armed forces will act - in the face of +ve evidence, even without public outcry or media involvement

Air Marshal Ghadiok has put forward quite clearly as to the problems faced by the search parties in 68. I heard from one of those who flew then that the search area was much to the east of the current area where the wreck is found. So it is entirely possible that when the first reports were made in 1987, no one made the connection.

IMHO, Nothing short of human remains with some sort of identification numbers/documents or aircraft wreck pieces with positive id would have been a justification to launch a search mission. So till we get more details on this 1987 sighting, it isn't fair to blame the army.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 13 Aug 2003 12:13

June 27: In search of her husband missing for 35 years
http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2003/06/27/stories/2003062706701200.htm

-----------------

Aug 5: Army, IAF clueless on missing AN-12
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=59756

Aug 8:Missing AN-12: Troops to get marching today
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=60064

Aug 8: ‘I was lucky Beli Ram’s flight had no seat for me’
http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=29262
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=59868

Aug 9:And they set off to break the ice, crack the puzzle
http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=29331

Aug 10:AN-12 crash: Picking up pieces of past
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=60110

Aug 12:Search team spots AN-12 debris near Rohtang
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=60336

----------------
Aug 11:Kin of crash victims relive tragedy
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030811/himachal.htm#14

Aug 7: A search for the dead after 35 years
http://www.hinduonnet.com/2003/08/08/stories/2003080802041300.htm

Gives the crew names:Flt. Lt. H.K. Singh, Sqn. Ldr. P.N. Malhotra, Flt. Lt. M.S. Bains, Sgt. R.S. Yadav, Flt. Sgt. Soma Sundaram and Warrant Officer S. Bhattacharjee, a civilian, R.S. Vashisht, an official of the Research and Development Wing

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby pratyush ojha » 13 Aug 2003 16:43

Can I say the An 12 is finally home.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby rajkumar » 13 Aug 2003 17:42

IMHO, Nothing short of human remains with some sort of identification numbers/documents or aircraft wreck pieces with positive id would have been a justification to launch a search mission. So till we get more details on this 1987 sighting, it isn't fair to blame the army.
Why isn't it fair to blame the Army? By all accounts they did not even bother to investigate since 1987.

IMO a lot of blame for the way we treat bodies of Indian service personnel can be laid that the door of "Gita" and it's teachings on the fact that the human body is a temporary holding vessel for the soul etc.

IMO it does not matter that there was a lot of flying activites going back to WWII all over northern India. Any report must be investigated as a matter of course by the MoD. After all even if they were service personnel prior to Independence they were still Indian Armed forces personnel.

In the case of this AN12 we have family members waiting 35 odd years for confirmation. When things could have been sorted out in half that time!!

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Umrao » 13 Aug 2003 17:50

Admitting a mistake is the greatest courage. The IA admins seem not to learn yet.

We need more of Kavita Gadgils to set the system right.

If we can demolish 'Chalta hai' then we are on our way to be super power.

If money was a problem, then private funding could have been sought, just ask DRI to give a small jolt to bollywood. Money will grow on trees just like that.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 13 Aug 2003 17:54

Raj Kumar,

Do you have an idea about the terrain we are talking about here? Do you know how many aircraft have crashed over the years in the himalayan mountains? or how many reports of 'aircraft wreckages' are routinely reported around the country?

I will give you half a dozen locations where you can trek to in himachal and find aircraft wrecks, i wonder how many of the trekkers stumble on these and come back with info that they discovered a 'new' wreck.

The key to the question you raised is that has human remains been reported in 1987? or just aircraft pieces? . Unless there is a confirmed report of human remains or unexploded ordinance, the army will not shed unnecessary manpower in sending a team up a 18000 foot mountain/glacier and identify the wreckage. Its not justifiable to expect them to do so.

Here we are talking about how difficult it is to supply and fight at an altitude in siachen glacier and on another front, we expect the army to routinely send out patrols to check up reports of 'aircraft wrecks'.

And before we start the blamegame, Can you (or others) give me clarifications to the below?

What kind of report was sent? to whom? saying what? was it done formally? has the report specifically mentioned human remains? Was it done to an officer of significant authority? was the airforce consulted?

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Denis » 14 Aug 2003 10:00

[url=http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=29621]<font color =black>From melting snow, emerges the story of another missing soldier</font>
Team recovers belongings of Lance Naik Bhandari; IAF plans to collect aircraft parts strewn across glacier [/url]
Base Camp, Dhaka Glacier: It’s tough going at 16,500 feet. The air’s too thin, the body movements laboriously sluggish. But all that’s temporarily forgotten, everyone too busy staring at a picture emerging from the snows: [color=red]there’s new evidence to show what happened to 98 men and their flying machine 35 years ago. </font>
At the base camp, the Army and IAF search and recovery teams are planning their next move. [color=red]The IAF team, led by Wing Commander Amit Chaudhari, has completed two reconnaissance rounds and now plans to go out and collect aircraft parts strewn on the glacier. </font>
‘‘From what we can see, [color=blue]the plane apparently crashed into the peak CB 13 and then fell on to the glacier.</font> But we have not found a flight data recorder or any concrete evidence to support this,’’ says Chaudhari.
The Army effort’s being led by the Dogra Scouts. Part of the operation will involve extricating Sepoy Beli Ram’s body from the site. Officials say they have also found several body parts.

‘‘We can’t say whether these parts are of one particular individual. We will send it in a separate body bag for experts to check,’’ says Maj K Salil Kumar. [color=black]Army officials say they will not bring back Beli Ram’s mortal remains until it’s properly embalmed.</font>

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby ehsmang » 14 Aug 2003 10:31

Jagan, quite agree with you.

Even with the all the tech available today, the Army and AF are not finding it easy to do their bit.

Anything falling on glacier means it would have been crushed and then enventually dumped into the Beas river. However, I would have expetced remains to be fished out of water downstream. Beli Ram's body was probably on hard ground and not on the glacier.

Terrible!!!

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 14 Aug 2003 13:20

Aug 13: Operation Punaruthan progresses slowly
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030813/cth1.htm#11

Aug 13: DNA test to identify skeletons of plane crash victims
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030813/j&k.htm#3

Army plans DNA tests on Dakka crash victims
http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/holnus/02131418.htm

Aug 11: AN-12 crash: Bad weather hits rescue efforts
http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/holnus/02111508.htm

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby AmanC » 14 Aug 2003 16:35

Jagan,
Lets not defend the impossible. Back in 1987 this kind of media attention, which started after Kargil, was simply not there. On top of it the army was busy playing Brass Tacks games of Gen Sundarji.
I have seen the copy of letter written to the COAS secretariat clearly specifying the place of crash. What more evidence was required? Why do you have to go on defending something which requires to be condemned in every possible manner?
Now theses army brass are going around talking about "true traditions of army" etc etc and blah blah. Where were these traditions in 1987? Why did they allow the bodies to lie there for 16 more years? Let them answer this first and then we'll take the discussion forward.
As far as the place and terrain is concerned, it is not too difficult in these months. There is the occassional spell of bad weather as it happened when I was there but there is no serious problem from May to August end.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 14 Aug 2003 16:41

Aman,

as I said, were any human remains reported at that time in that letter?

Were any clues given as to the aircraft type (large / small / old /) or id?

The place of the crash may not be enough. The original site of crash was expected to be east of the current location from what i have found out. So it would not have tallied.

thanks

Jagan

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby rajkumar » 15 Aug 2003 15:01

Originally posted by aman:
Why do you have to go on defending something which requires to be condemned in every possible manner?
Jagan, I accept everything you are saying about the location/geography/reports etc. those are valid points.

However what I want to see going forward is a standing order issued to the Adjutant General by the COAS that simply states "The AG's department will investigate every reported instance of air crashes etc. invloving armed services passenger aircraft with a view to recovering the mortal remains of any passengers involved"

After all the AG's department is responsible for the welfare of the army's personnel and what could be more fundamental welfare than bringing "closure" to a soilders/sailers/airmen's family.

If its an issue of finances then ask for MoD for it or simply allocate some of the Rs 5,000 odd crore which was returned to the finance ministry by the MoD.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Kuttan » 16 Aug 2003 06:51

From www.newindpress.com

Linked in www.sulekha.com

Jawan's wish to send money home buried under glacier with him

SHIMLA: Lance Naik Kamal Singh Bhandari's wish to send money to his father was buried under the glacier along with him.

His dream of appearing in army first class certificate of education examination has remained frozen for ever.

Documentary evidence of this were found by the army which located on Wednesday a rolled bedding of the soldier from Uttaranchal who was among the 98 Army jawans to be killed in the AN-12 air crash in the tribal Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh 35 years ago.

A money order form was among the documents recovered from the bedding of Bhandari, who belonged to Chamoli area of Uttaranchal, Army sources said.

A book, Bhoot Nath, written by Nana Bhai Bhatt was also found in his belongings, they said.

Another document recovered from the bedding was a geography question paper of Army first class certificate of education examination and annual statement of AFPP fund showing a balance of Rs 253, the sources said.

The finding of the documents of Bhandari came close on the heels of retrieval of the skeletal remains of jawan Beli Ram in the same area.

The Army search team was looking for more bodies of the victims of the plane crash on February 7, 1968 in which 102 people, including 98 Army jawans, were killed. The AN-12 aircraft crashed over Dakka glacier on its way from Chandigarh to Leh after hitting the 20,000 ft high Chandrabhaga-13 peak.

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 21 Aug 2003 20:14

Aug 14: After 35 yrs, Beli Ram put to rest
http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=29661

Aug 20: Army-Air Force cold war over Beli’s frozen body
http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=30021

Aug 21: Second IAF team to search for bodies at 35-yr-old crash site
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/html/uncomp/articleshow?msid=140035

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby putnanja » 27 Aug 2003 03:20

Aug 27: Message in a bottle, to a man who just flew into wilderness
http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=30328

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 27 Aug 2003 14:23

Aug 7 :500 sorties failed to locate AN-12, says engineer
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030809/cth1.htm#27

Aug 23: there was shocked silence in our cockpit.
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=61277

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Re: The An-12 that went missing for 35 Years

Postby Jagan » 27 Aug 2003 19:42

Aug 13: Searching for Lost comarades
http://www.indiadefence.com/AN12.htm


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