The IAF History Thread

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Abhibhushan » 22 Jan 2012 17:56


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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Abhibhushan » 12 Feb 2012 14:17

Tinkering with the trade structure of the Air Force -

A Long and Arduous Journey

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby chiru » 13 Feb 2012 22:05

vintage IAF ad
Image

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Jagan » 14 Feb 2012 05:36


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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby chiru » 14 Feb 2012 15:01

thank you jagan sir

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Aditya_V » 17 Feb 2012 14:29


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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby ramana » 06 Mar 2012 01:51

Operation Cactus:Maldives Story we forgot


Operation Cactus Maldives story we forgot

Author: Sidharth Mishra

The last week’s Notebook on the unsung hero of Tawang got me a lot of bouquets, which were most welcome after the brickbats which have been directed my way ever since I took up cudgels against the so-called anti-corruption warriors.


I stand by my view as the duplicity of these warriors stands exposed. The biggest compliment for last week’s column was the mail from another unsung hero, who defended Indian interests and pride also in a very difficult terrain and in difficult times in another era.

Group Captain Anant Gopal Bewoor lives in retirement in Pune and closely watches the developments taking place in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Maldives. Bewoor, son of as illustrious father General Gopal Gurunath Bewoor, is amused by the mess which has been created by an ‘indecisive’ MEA as Maldives smoulders. In 1988, he was protagonist of a very decisive military operation, which saved the archipelago from a certain coup.

Bewoor recounts that early morning on November 3, 1988, a Joint Secretary in MEA received a call from Maldives that it was under attack from rebels. President Abdul Gayoom was in hiding and the island nation needed military help. The decision was taken to abort the coup and Army, Navy and Air HQs alerted to activate necessary forces.

At Agra, 44 Squadron of IAF, then commanded by Anant Gopal Bewoor, got three IL-76s ready by 10 am and 50 Independent Parachute Brigade got 6 Para Regiment ready as the vanguard, and rest of the Brigade as back up, by 12 noon. While firm orders were awaited, 44 Sqn crew and para commandos made plans on how to get to Hulhule, the island with a runway of just 6800 feet (This runway is now being widened as Indian major GMR has taken over the airport for renovation). Would it be a landing, or a para-drop to capture the runway? Have the rebels attacked the airport? How strong were they, what weapons were they using?

Intelligence was very scanty — rebels were a determined bunch of about 250, armed with medium machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and some inputs spoke of surface to air missiles (SAMs). At 3.30 pm a team came from Air and Army HQs to finalise operation plans which was codenamed Cactus. Unlike IPKF Operation in Sri Lanka, it was to be an intervention without active support from the host nation.

It was concluded that a para-drop was too uncertain an option as the area for drop was an island just about 2 kms long and not more than 500 meters wide. “Dropping paratroopers by day on such a precise target was difficult enough, doing it at night was tactically unsound,” recalls Bewoor. It would have to be a direct landing on Hulhule, with the paratroopers fanning out to capture the complete island and facilitate build up.

Two IL-76, the first commandeered by Bewoor, with 400 commandos on board took-off at 6.03 pm on November 03, 1988 — OP CACTUS was on its way. The ATC was informed that just one aircraft was flying from Agra to Thiruvananthapuram on a routine cargo flight. The second craft remained in formation one km behind Bewoor, maintaining radio silence. Keeping station in that status for four hours was creditable.

Inputs from Maldives were not coming in, it appeared that the rebels had control of vital installations but the President was safe. K-2878 and K-2999 were at 37,000 feet when they passed over Thiruvananthapuram. The ATC got quite disturbed when it realised that K-2878 was going somewhere else instead of landing at his base. They were explained the reasons and asked to maintain secrecy. Most in ATC did not believe that the Indian Armed Forces could react rapidly and stealthily in an operation that stretched more than 3,000 kms across the Indian sub-continent.

The code word for landing was ‘HUDIA’, and the ATC at Hulhule would transmit this word on query. Bewoor descended down to 20,000 ft with the other plane in tow, and contacted Hulhule with four words, “This is Friendly One”. Back came the reply, “Go ahead”. Bewoor queried as planned, “Do you have a message for me?” The ATC replied, “Hudia, Hudia, Hudia.” The correct code and clearance to land had been received.

A nagging doubt, however, remained, was the code word gushed out in relief, or was there a rebel with a pistol at the controllers’ head. The runway lights came on for 10 seconds, the aircraft was aligned and they went off. The controller was afraid of alerting the rebels. This was going to be a nerve wracking approach and landing without runway lights, and that too in the middle of the Indian Ocean right next to the Equator with strong cross winds.

By now the other craft had separated and was orbiting at 3000 ft. The IL-76’s ground mapping radar was picking a large echo because of the shallow coral. In case of para-drop, most paratroopers would have been severely cut by the sharp coral. Bewoor descended using two amber lights against a black background on a moonless night of November 3, 1988. At about 150 meters, Bewoor asked for lights, they came on, and as the tyres kissed on the concrete, the lights were switched off. Most disconcerting for any pilot! Reverse on all four engines, sitting on brakes, K-2878 stopped with three concrete slabs to spare. Bewoor turned the aircraft around, started opening cargo doors, and lowering the ramp for swift exit of troops.

OP CACTUS Phase I had been successfully completed at 7.48 pm. The other craft landed five minutes later, and was horrified to see soldiers crossing the runway during its landing run. Indian paratroopers like to live dangerously. Hulhule island was secured by 10.45 pm. Boats with the President’s rescue party left for Male at just after midnight. While crossing the harbour they fired rockets and hit a passing ship, it was the MV Progress Light escaping with rebel leader Lutfi and Maldivian hostages. Progress Light was intercepted by INS Godavari and INS Betwa in a high seas drama which is a separate story.

The paratroopers made their beach-head on the Western face of Male, and led the rescue party to secure President Gayoom. By 3 am on November 4, they had got President Gayoom safely into the National Security Service building. In house-to-house searches, paratroopers captured some 30 rebels with lots of ammunition and explosives, another 70 rebels came off Progress Light. It was time to tell the world that Indian Armed Forces, with the IL-76s of the Indian Air Force in the lead, had successfully defeated the coup in Maldives.

President Gayoom spoke with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at about 4.30 am. Phase II of OP CACTUS had been completed in less than 24 hours from that first phone call. 44 Squadron flew another three sorties that night bringing in the Para Brigade. The 6 Para remained in Maldives for one year, and on November 3, 1989, K-2878 returned to Hulhule for de-induction.

Later Bewoor was told by IAF and aviation historian Jagan Pilarisetti he was probably the only IAF pilot, alive or dead, to fly 3,500 kms across India, and land blind on an unknown runway at night without normal runway lights, and without any support from friendly forces on ground. Indeed a great Operation to earn a recall!


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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Raja Bose » 06 Mar 2012 03:40

Gp Capt Bewoor has quite a few of his articles featured in the B-R IAF section. He is a really good writer and a thorough gentleman. Had a couple of email exchanges with him a few years back. Unfortunately my promise to build him a model of K-2878 has still not be fulfilled.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Hiten » 09 Mar 2012 14:30

x-posting from the Indian mil avia thread

The Indian Air Force in Wars - Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, Indian Air force [IAF]
This article is a review of the part played by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in, and the background to, conflicts across the sub-continent (mainly post-independence). It is written from an Indian viewpoint. The early history of the IAF started with its formation in 1932 and continued through to its contribution to the Second World War supporting Slim's 14th Army. On Indian independence the Air Force was restructured and supported land operations in the aftermath. Lack of an accurate intelligence picture preceding the Sino-Indian War 1962 led to significant logistics problems for the Indian Army and subsequently to a large proportion of IAF effort being directed to air transport at the cost of the deployment of combat air power. The War for Kashmir 1965 saw the use of Mystere and Vampire aircraft in anti-armour and ­ infantry sorties, with air superiority being sought by dominating the skies rather than attacking airfields. India and Pakistan again went to war in 1971 with India initially operating to limited objectives set prior to the opening of hostilities. The IAF flew more combat sorties compared to their opponents but both air forces lost similar numbers of aircraft. In 1999, in Kashmir, the IAF provided high-altitude helicopter and tactical airlift logistics and communication support, with Canberra, Mig and Mirage providing recce and close air support. The IAF is modernising with 40% of its combat force being 4th generation aircraft and has set its sights on becoming a strategic force.


Read the full post »»

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Rahul M » 31 May 2012 21:32

courtesy : Deepankar Roy from FB.

Image

A Rare Photo of the First Helicopter Landing in Mizoram State in 1962 at ASSAM RIFLES Ground, AIZAWL, MIZORAM
Oh! The Ground has Hardly Changed that Much, other than few Odd Cosmetics Construction Here & There by Assam Rifles

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Jagan » 02 Jun 2012 18:52

Lovely! Thanks for sharing

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby jamwal » 05 Jun 2012 14:38

Uploaded a few photos from Indian Air Force Museuem, New Delhi again after first album got deleted due to some issue. New URL here:

Indian Air Force Museuem, New Delhi

Isn't that helicopter Sirosky S-55 ?

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Bihanga » 06 Jul 2012 20:02

How will we rate current generation of Fighter Pilots of IAF with their veteran counterpart? Since IAF has come a long away in terms of technology, then only piloting skills has its own caliber. In 1965 and 1971 wars, IAF pilots were doing the flight dangerously at very low level as compared to today's figher pilot who are equipped with computers to do the same job. So who are better one guys, veteran or current generation?

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Surya » 06 Jul 2012 22:53

its like comparing tennis or cricket players across generations

you cannot

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Raja Bose » 06 Jul 2012 23:08

jamwal wrote:Uploaded a few photos from Indian Air Force Museuem, New Delhi again after first album got deleted due to some issue. New URL here:

Indian Air Force Museuem, New Delhi

Isn't that helicopter Sirosky S-55 ?


There is a silver S-55 and its copy a Mi-4 at the IAF museum. I once narrowly escaped when one of its rotor blades came crashing down almost on top of my head. Then for a while they would have it displayed without the rotors. Did they allow you to crawl inside the Paki tanks?

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby ManuT » 21 Jul 2012 05:18

Hindustan ki Kasam (1973)

[youtube]jdgRdzNMgwk&feature[/youtube]

One of the better movies on IAF.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Kakkaji » 23 Jul 2012 05:19

'Vijeta' was great too. Can someone please upload it?

TIA

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby rajanb » 15 Aug 2012 18:01

http://livefist.blogspot.in/2012/08/vintage-iaf-tigermoth-comes-back-to-life.html

:D The only a/c which was part of the IAF fleet and which I flew in at the age of seven. The one I flew in belonged to the Madras Flying Club out of Tambaram airport. Nostalgia. *sighs*

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby vivek_ahuja » 28 Aug 2012 07:57

Jagman,

Were any IAF C-119s lost (written-off?) at Thoise between 1962 and 1970? I am trying to get an idea of which aircraft wreck this picture shows.

Image

Thanks!

-Vivek

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Jagan » 30 Aug 2012 06:27

Unfortunately very little is known of C-119 losses/histories.. The northern and northerneastern states claimed many aircraft - and this could be one such. not much help here i am afraid..

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Raja Bose » 30 Aug 2012 06:30

Kakkaji wrote:'Vijeta' was great too. Can someone please upload it?

TIA


Its on YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8tCkKt8Dwc

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby shiv » 30 Aug 2012 08:29

ManuT wrote:Hindustan ki Kasam (1973)


One of the better movies on IAF.


Wonder how they did this scene: watch 5 seconds from here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... wk#t=1341s

The low flying here is simply spectacular. (Just a few seconds)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... wk#t=1376s

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Jagan » 15 Dec 2012 04:07

In case people havent seen this already

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiL_H92K1Tk

"Famous Air Battles of the IAF - Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon" by Anurag Rana

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby vsunder » 14 Jan 2013 02:51

I read the previous post of the Kalaikunda raid in 1965. I was there in Kharagpur in 1971.
This time around there was a continuous presence of Hunters 24/7 it seemed like.
In September 1971 there was an "epidemic" of conjunctivitis on campus that was referred
to as "Joi Bangla" since most people said it was because of the refugee
population from BD. There were some B. Arch students around from 1965 who
all claimed that the dog fights took place over their respective residence hall.
All the stories by the previous poster I have heard before.

In 1971 there were was one worthy who would shine a flashlight into the sky
during the blackout--- his intention being that IIT Kharagpur got a pasting
and we could all go home forever. Flying Officer Lazarus ( of Boira fame)
gave a speech in our Hall day function in Fall 1972 along with Massey
and Ganapathy who were accompanied with their wives.
I remember Lazarus saying that he "was more terrified
addressing a gang of howling enthusiastic IITians than shooting down
some F-86's" at which point we all got up on our feet and gave the three
on stage a very long standing ovation.


IAF De-Havilland Vampires were the first jets to be inducted to any of the air forces
in Asia. I still remember them in yellow camo at IAF station Chakeri. There is
a flying Vampire ( ex Swiss Air Force) costs $600 per hour to operate.
Owner wants to sell it. Its in Orlando FL. The Vampire is a really small plane.
Compared to a F-86 it is tiny. The main fuselage is a little bigger than a
Mini Cooper. Its landing wheels are also small. Here are some videos:

The first vampires land at Palam:( who are the pilots?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szqg_Vkoi7o


A vampire in action, it's engine has a characteristic whine,
you can hear it way before you see it and would be a
good morale booster on a dull day in school, there were so
many dull days. A Fairchild Packet engine would have such a
deep rumble sound like thunder. For flights towards Delhi
and Agra invariably the crew used the Ganga for navigation
and so almost all flights made it over my house
which was right on the banks of the river. I am told
in those early days aircrew used railway lines and rivers
as navigational landmarks.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFbzWYGpFvQ

In the B-24 Liberator post I had made earlier, I noticed
that in the Bharat-Rakshak article by Kapil Bhargava
there is a picture of AVM Rikhy. He was in fact MD of HAL
Kanpur when I was young. His son Paramraj Singh Rikhy
was 4 years ahead of me in school and considered a " very, very clever
boy" I wonder what happened to him? I had even gone inside the
first HS-748 being put together at Kanpur. It was given the name
"Subroto" and it had some red paint on the skin for anti-corrosion
reasons when it was on the assembly line.

Regarding "Kirket". Kirket got us the Gnat if ACM P.C. Lal is to be
believed in his book. The Gnat designer Petter, was a cricket
afficionado and thought India had turned "Communist" and did
not want Folland to sell the plane to India. At a lunch, he kept very quiet
and finally asked P. C. Lal " Do you still play cricket in India?"
Lal immediately responded, Yes we do and the Illustrated London news
of this week has an article on Cricket in India. At which point Petter
became responsive and more reasonable of Gnat sales to India.
This is related in PC Lal's book "My Years in the IAF".

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Hiten » 17 Jul 2013 00:14

x-posting from the mil multimedia thread

Indian Air Force Pilots Training During World War II In Britain - no audio

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3alTlYCuv38

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby ramana » 22 Jul 2013 08:05

AVM Bahadur retired recently and Air Commodore PK Sharma is the new Commodore Commandants of 114 HU


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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby ramana » 06 Aug 2013 01:03


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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Sanku » 04 Sep 2013 14:02

A kick ass account of prisoner escape from Paki land in 72.

An Indian Prisoner of War escape story

Three Indian Air Force officers captured as Prisoners of War by Pakistan during the 1971 War made a daring escape from a Rawalpindi jail. M P Anil Kumar recounts that heroic story.



http://www.rediff.com/news/special/the-great-escape-indias-unsung-war-heroes/20130905.htm

Three Indian Air Force fighter pilots held as Prisoners of War in a jail in Rawalipindi made a heroic escape. They reached as far as the Pak-Afghan border in Pakistan’s Wild West -- within sniffing distance of freedom -- only to realise that they had finally met their match. Or so it seemed.

The three escapees were never feted for their audacious attempt 41 years ago and truly deserve official recognition. Why not honour them at least now, says MP Anil Kumar in the second part of his brilliant account of that Great Escape.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Sanku » 05 Sep 2013 10:14

Posting if full to archive
Three Indian Air Force officers captured as Prisoners of War by Pakistan during the 1971 War made a daring escape from a Rawalpindi jail. M P Anil Kumar recounts that heroic story.

During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, a watchtower stood prominently near the town of Zafarwal (Shakargarh sector, Pakistan). Tantalised, the Sukhoi-7 fighters of Adampur-based 26 Squadron attacked it umpteen times, the Chandigarh-based An-12 transporters carpet-bombed this area to rubble, but the watchtower defied every IAF raid and stood tall till the cessation of hostilities!


On December 10, 1971, anti-aircraft guns shot down the Su-7 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Dilip Parulkar close to Zafarwal. He ejected. In fact, he boasts a rare record of three ejections. You count every ejection as renewed life.

Now sample this: In an IAF blitz on an armour column near Kasur in the 1965 Indo-Pak war, his Hunter aircraft took a hit from turret-mounted machine guns; one round pierced the canopy, bored through his right shoulder, missed the head by a whisker. A shave couldn’t get closer.

His leader advised him to eject; but he bore the pain and landed the Hunter somehow back at Halwara, his jumpsuit saturated with blood. Post-flight inspection revealed that the bullet proceeded to gash the parachute cords, ie, had he ejected, he would have plunged to earth. A cat with nine lives, kind of ‘indestructible’ like the watchtower.

But that December he descended into trouble; he parachuted right into the midst of shellacked locals, who roughed him up to vent their spleen. The savage punches on his head caused amnesia; besides the thrashing, he cannot recall the happenings few days before and after the concussion, even today.

His recollection rolls from the solitary confinement and daily interrogation in the PAF Provost & Security Flight (PSF) in Rawalpindi -- a camp for IAF prisoners of war. On the morning of December 25, Squadron Leader Usman Hamid, the camp commandant, invited the POWs over for celebrating Christmas.

The informal atmosphere gave Parulkar and his 11 co-POWs (Wing Commander B A Coelho, Squadron Leaders A V Kamat and D S Jafa, Flight Lieutenants Tejwant Singh, A V Pethia, M S Grewal, Harish Sinhji and J L Bhargava, Flying Officers Hufrid Mulla Feroze, V S Chati and K C Kuruvilla) to huddle and size up the situation. Tejwant broke the uplifting news of the Pakistani surrender in Dacca (now Dhaka); they rejoiced with a dignified hurrah.

Then on, while they had to sleep in their cells, they were free to mingle and spent time together from breakfast to dinner. Awaiting repatriation, they resorted to books, periodicals, cards, chess, seven tiles, volleyball, gossip, even flying kites to kill time. The Red Cross cranked up, its agents appeared monthly to deliver mail and cartons of goodies. To comply with the Third Geneva Convention, they were paid Rs 57 as allowance.

Flt Lt Dilip ParulkarOnce while playing seven tiles, Parulkar tripped up, his head bumped into a wall and he convulsed. During this syncopal spell, he uttered ‘target’ and ‘boot’ (he lost a boot during ejection); though incoherent, all presumed he had recaptured lost memory, but did not.

The POWs naturally attracted visitors of every feather. The station commander of nearby Chaklala airbase queried pompously whether they were feeling at home. “Very much, Sir, this hoosegow reminds me of my childhood when I was mostly locked up,” Parulkar retorted. Combative, full of beans.

Meanwhile the air was rife with rumours of repatriation but the limbo lasted long. The already stressed living in captivity was further vitiated by ennui and monotony. Out of the blue, Mulla Feroze was repatriated on medical grounds in February ’72 (Pethia too, but later in July). The monthly allowance came handy to host a modest farewell party.

One ambition monopolised Parulkar’s being – to break out and decamp. Actually, he had broached the idea in end-January, and added that the Geneva Convention commanded a POW to escape and resume duties, for good measure, but everybody laughed out of court and dismissed it as bravado. He hard sold his pet scheme again, singling out Feroze’s restoration that the Indian government couldn’t care less about the rest.

The slack atmosphere in the camp simply whetted his appetite. Not the kind to retrace, he co-opted Grewal, and his spirited campaign bore fruit ultimately. The consensus was only the duo of Parulkar and Grewal, the fittest two, should endeavour. If caught, the firing squad would be in business.

Parulkar was inspired by Squadron Leader Roger Bushell who masterminded the flight of allied air force servicemen, which became the theme for the famous flick The Great Escape. Having studied the features of the area, he concluded that unlike the German camp Stalag Luft III, there was no need to dig a tunnel to flee. A barbwire fence separated Cell 4 and the compound of the adjacent PAF recruiting office and petrol pump, and the paved path between the two led to the gate where a corporal was stationed on duty. Dodge the sentries, vault the wall, and you alight on the Mall Road stretch of the legendary Grand Trunk Road.

The first task obviously was to shift into Cell 4. Not just for the relocation, but to meet the other ends too, they had to pal up with the staff, including the guards. Tip for a favour worked in the POW camp too.

Cell 4 was roomy enough to accommodate four cots. Parulkar worked his magic, got Chati, Grewal and himself housed there.

He had hit it off with the camp commandant too. He told Usman he was thinking of touring Europe during the Munich Olympics and that he needed an atlas to map out the sojourn. Some steadfast pestering, and lo, an Oxford school atlas that had seen better days landed on his lap one day. About this time, Usman had to move out for his new assignment as ADC to the Air Chief. Sqn Ldr Wahid-ud-din assumed charge of the camp. In the hurry, the atlas was left behind.

They collectively ruled out the return through Lahore theatre as the front was mined, and would have to wriggle past two armies shooting at each other. It was better to head north, hit the hills, trudge 100-odd kilometres in the easterly direction to touch down somewhere between Uri and Poonch, a less hazardous war zone in their reading. The hardest hurdle of this route was crossing the river Jhelum.

Since the getaway could consume six-seven days, they had to equip themselves with the appropriate survival gear and provisions -- haversack, compass, clothing, footwear, rations, water and cash. The fabric of Chati’s parachute canopy was lopped off to stitch two haversacks. The bladders cropped from the G-suit were configured into water-bags. Dry fruits and condensed milk would provide sustenance. Everybody scrimped to pool the kitty.

Kamat contrived a compass, the whole caboodle of component parts tucked up in a hollowed-out pen; a needle balanced on the head of its ballpoint nib oscillated to point at north. This marvel of ingenuity could be clipped to a pocket without arousing suspicion! (How the needles were magnetised, how the pivot, pointer, etc were devised and pieced together, is a story in itself.)

Getting a Pathan suit tailored was no sweat for a person of ample resource like Parulkar. And fortune smiled on him: his parents sent a parcel containing two shirts and a pair of trousers. The logistics were taken care of.

In the meantime, Harish was bitten badly by the escape bug, but was found wanting in every criterion -- fitness, features, not to speak of his ability to converse in Urdu/Hindi/Punjabi -- but he made up with enthusiasm what he lacked in attributes. He was smuggled in and occupied the fourth bed almost unnoticed.

Parulkar & Co had worked on a window and its grille, had loosened it enough to dislodge it with a shove, but unluckily the guards discovered it at the eleventh hour and refastened it. Their questioning stares were parried with we-don’t-know shrugs.

One morning the camp commandant burst in slapping a newspaper, fumed that a Pakistani POW was gunned down in India, gestured he too could be trigger-happy, threatened tit-for-tat and hotfooted out. The message was loud and clear, but nothing could deter Parulkar. In fact, he was immersed in plotting his next move.

On the wall opposite the barbed wire, he marked a rectangular outline above the skirting-board, to scrape and de-brick the area to burrow a hole whose perimeter would be just enough for one to slither through. While the quartet whiled away the daytime playing bridge, Parulkar and Grewal burned the midnight oil to beaver away with filched tools like table knife, iron nails, screwdriver and scissors, and Harish kept an eye out for spoilers more so because the alley beside the cell was a regular beat of the warders.

They concealed the ‘escape hole’ with a blanket draped over the bedstead, and humoured the sweeper to shirk. Come morning, the debris was whisked off into the cartons.

The duo then dredged out the mortar, detached the bricks one by one, and left the outer plaster intact. The ‘escape hole’ was ready on July 27.

They attempted to escape the next night but could not demolish the exterior. Their exertions produced a gaping fist-sized orifice only! The plaster was not a coat but a thick layer of firm cement. They replaced the loose bricks and cursed.

The escape route[The Rawalpindi-Torkham escape route; courtesy: Google Maps]

Not the hiccup but the fear of detection of the baby-hole was what had them on tenterhooks. Luckily, not a soul – not even those who parked their bicycles alongside the wall – noticed the odd cavity. While the night birds unpacked the toolkit and got down to chipping off the periphery, Harish stumbled on valuable gen: bus service at night.

Given the short haul, they could reach Peshawar before daybreak. He scrutinised the map. The town Torkham on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, it struck him, was only 34 miles from Peshawar. Lurk till nightfall, sneak in to Jamrud along the railway line, hoof it into the hills of Landi Kotal, wend their way to Landi Khana, hah, there you are, nine furlongs shy of the border at Torkham. Could breathe free air before the search-and-nab-contingent got wind of their scent. Voila! Why not skedaddle to Afghanistan?

Since Grewal was laid low by a bout of indisposition, they had to bide their time. The night of August 12 augured auspicious as a few events concurred: since it intervened the holidays of Friday and August 14 (Pakistan’s Independence Day), the weekend endured and a relaxed mood pervaded the camp; Wahid-ud-din retired to a Murree resort; a storm began brewing by evening (would keep the sentries indoors).

The plaster yielded, the trio crept out singly. They threw the Uri-Poonch map about the recruiting centre as red herring. Parulkar glanced at the wristwatch: half past midnight (August 13). The rain was beating down. Soaking in the downpour, shod in canvas shoes, the heroes paced down the windswept Mall Road towards the highway, what they hoped were the first footsteps of their march to freedom.

A scalp disease had compelled Grewal, a Sikh, to razor the locks; the one-inch regrowth lent him a pukka Pathan mien. The threesome, now on a trek to touristy Khyber, assumed their pseudonyms: Parulkar and Grewal were PAF airmen John Masih and Ali Ameer respectively, and Harish, their drummer friend, mutated into Harold Jacob.

They boarded a Peshawar-bound bus an hour later, but the busman kept the engine idling till the vehicle filled up. As he revved up, the conductor tapped Harish’s shoulder and asked for the fare in broken English, not Urdu. That they stood out even in the dead of night shook them into acute self-consciousness. The psychology of an escapee gripped them. Did they have a fighting chance to breast the tape at Torkham?

At the crack of dawn, the bus entered Peshawar city limits. They got off, ambled to a roadside tea shop. Since they wanted to reach Jamrud road before the dawn brightened into broad daylight, they got going on shank’s mare into the marches of Pathan country, where every second adult toted a gun and belted up a bandolier. (Dressed to kill, eh?)

As they took in the sights and sounds, Grewal, their ‘Pathan’, hailed a tonga. The tongawala grilled Grewal, so much so the 10-minute ride on the carriage appeared to last an hour. They were relieved to rid him off their back and head to Jamrud road as indicated by the nosy fellow.

The next strand of their egress was to find the railway line to Jamrud and linger thereabouts until sundown. Jamrud road was lined with shops and habitation; every mortal goggled at them, making them edgy with acute self-consciousness; they had no choice but to keep their head down and to carry on footslogging.

The road forked left, they followed this branch and found the railway line, but the piercing gaze of the onlookers prodded them to backtrack and pursue the old course. They were however elated to discover that the railway ran parallel to the road.

As they totted up two hours of legwork they espied a tollgate where checking was on. Parulkar, the bellwether, took stock: further walking was unsafe. They hovered until a bus arrived, climbed atop and blended with the dozen-odd passengers already ensconced on the roof. The bus, after being searched at five or six checkpoints, rolled in to its destination. Jamrud ahoy!

Back at the camp, Chati made three dummy beds, masked the hole, sanitised the cubicle and strove to feign signs of life in the cell. He flashed thumbs up when the remaining seven gathered for breakfast. They maintained ‘radio silence’ thereafter. What befuddled them was no one bothered finding out why the three were still asleep.

Had the heroes been hooked, was the indifference a mere charade? They chewed on, with bated breath...

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Sanku » 05 Sep 2013 10:15

'Welcome to Khyber' -- an arch greeted at Jamrud, but, ironically, the subtext cautioned the visitors into looking over their shoulder! The barren terrain and the grim tribesmen armed to the teeth lent an air of hostility all around. The cold gaze of the locals rubbed the feeling of being an interloper in. What a welcome to Khyber!

Had better get out of this place pronto. A few steps into their stride, a passer-by warned sternly of waylayers. Minutes later, a small boy grinned, shaped his hand into a pistol and pulled the imaginary trigger. They indulged the kid, mimicked cowboy draws, played peek-a-boo. He asked who they were. “Pakistani.” “Pakistani nahin, Hindustani hain,” he dropped a bombshell, beamed and chugged away. The tremble it triggered registered on the Richter scale. Footing it to Landi Kotal was perilous.

The trio hopped on to a bus. The panoptic view of the harsh environment from the rooftop impelled them into appraisal. Their original plan was to hide daylong and find their way at night. They would not have made it; if the Pathan did not get them, his bloodhound would. The benevolent nudge of Providence?

As they debussed at Landi Kotal, Parulkar glanced at the watch: 0930 hrs. A tad over nine hours since they embarked on the venture. Torkham was mere five miles away. Since they did not know which of the two routes led to Landi Khana, they strolled to a tea stall, chatted up like tourists, sipped the piping hot beverage and tossed the query.

Bewilderment suffused the faces of bystanders; they shook their heads as if they were asked to spell and pronounce feuilleton! Strangely, Landi Khana was known to none, but relief and directions manifested eventually: Four miles, no bus, only taxi, fare 30 rupees. Thirty rupees for four miles? Nope. Shank’s mare.

The townsmen sported a particular type of skullcap. As this accessory might dilute their conspicuousness, Parulkar purchased two, for Grewal and himself (no-no for ‘Anglo’ Harold Jacob). Meanwhile a hailer offered taxi-fare of 25 rupees. Not a bad bargain. As they budged, a bespectacled, bearded, auburn-haired gent accosted them, rapid-fired who, what, where, why, when. Of course, they were two PAF airmen and a chum on tour…

As a small crowd began congregating, the unimpressed man quizzed about Landi Khana; Grewal replied nonchalantly that the place was there on all maps. Why the fuss? Why? Why? Why indeed?

The British built Landi Khana (near Torkham) as the railhead of Khyber Pass Railway but they closed the station in December 1932! Which was why the townspeople were oblivious of the rail terminus. They fell into the man’s trap. The heroes had finally met their match.

The busybody had more ammunition: he accused them to be East Bengalis scooting to Afghanistan. “Have you seen Bengalis ever? Do we look like Bengalis?” the troika shot back, then guffawed aloud for effect in a desperate effort to reclaim fast-losing ground. The audience did not find it funny.

The man, the tehsildar’s clerk, was on Sunday-morning-constitutional. ‘Landi Khana’ raised an internal alarm, and he kept them in his sights since. Apparently, fleeing Bengalis bought the Peshawari topee here, not from Peshawar itself. The topee, to him, was the clincher. At first, he doubted them to be outlanders, but revised his suspicion afterwards to Bengalis.

Whatever, the topee sealed their fate. He marched them under armed escort to the tehsildar.

The clever clerk opened a chapter of misfortunes. The tehsildar quizzed them, remained impervious to the cock and bull story, and bade the gunmen to lock them up in jail. Their goose was seasoned and cooked. Parulkar’s nous envisioned a fate worse than the firing squad. Only a masterstroke could save their neck, and he pulled one out of the topee: he requested the tehsildar to make a phone call, which was conceded to grudgingly.

MS GrewalThe ADC to the Air Chief came on the line. He modulated English to perplex the Pashto-tongued lot, told Usman about being held captive by the tehsildar and entreated him to send his men. Usman told the tehsildar they were indeed Pakistani airmen, to throw them behind bars but not to harm physically.

The guardroom telephone came alive at about 11 o’clock and rang the knell of the mounting suspense. Soon, [back in the Rawalpindi jail] V S Chati heard approaching footfalls, two air force policemen barged in, turned the furniture inside out, kicked the dummies, cast dirty look, stormed out and confabulated, within earshot, with their colleagues.

Why not dump the roomie into the ‘escape hole’, shoot him to show they were vigilant? Chati perspired cold sweat. Since the air chief was already in the loop, a dead body would in no way extenuate the dereliction. Reason prevailed; Chati lived to tell the tale.

The jail was far-off. The cop scoured their personal effects and impounded it including the POW identity cards. As they contemplated the worst in the reeky coop, the tehsildar materialised flanked by a bunch of brawny flunkeys. He, nostrils flared, demanded details afresh. The cop had sneaked and passed on the identity cards; they had to reveal their real selves. That he was outwitted by ‘Hindu POWs’ boiled his blood; he, in a paroxysm of pique, let fly an invectives-laden outburst. Hogtied, he paraded his prize-catch through the town, past his office as well.

The lynch law ruled this lawless expanse. They fretted like an antelope about to be pounced on by a pride of lions. Would he consign them to a bloodthirsty mob?

He handed them over to Mr Burki, the political agent of Northwest Frontier Province (a vestige of British Raj). He and his posse of toughies were chagrined to disbelief when the suave political agent motioned to unfetter. Usman had dialled and urged him to intervene as a personal favour. What a lifeline the call to Usman turned out to be.

They were served a toothsome spread. As they began savouring the five-star hospitality, at about 4 o’clock, a squad of PAF police stomped in. Before the three were manacled, blindfolded and hustled to the PSF in Peshawar, Burki, to tease them, pointed at a close-by range and disclosed the other side as Afghanistan! Ah, freedom was within sniffing distance! Heartbreaking.

Grewal and Harish were detained in individual cells. For the want of an additional cell, an office was hastily furbished into a makeshift clink for Parulkar. His attention gravitated to the brazier’s chimney and vent; he rubbed his hands. If he could enlarge the void, if he could thrust his head out, well.

The irrepressible Parulkar could not resist the temptation to essay another escape. He hoisted a chair on the office-table, clambered it and pounded the loose cement about the vent with a shaft uprooted from the fireplace. Before long, a sergeant discovered the enterprise, swapped coop with Grewal and trussed up the culprit to the door.

Deprived of nightlong sleep, a red-hot Parulkar protested vehemently in the morning, cited chapter and verse from the Geneva Convention and reminded who the victor was. The PSF fell in line.

On his return, Wahid-ud-din let off steam on the seven [other IAF POWs in the Rawalpindi jail from where the trio had escaped], initiated steps to pack them off to the fortress-like jail in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). There, the seven were corralled with the 500-odd army POWs.

Harish SinhjiThe three heroes were turned over to the Rawalpindi camp, where the camp commandant, after a summary trial, sentenced them to 30 days’ solitary confinement. Few days later, they too were transferred to Lyallpur, where the verdict was commuted.

End-November, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then premier of Pakistan, addressed the POWs and declared their repatriation. The returnees were bestowed a hero’s welcome at the Wagah border on December 1, 1972. A grand reception awaited the ten IAF officers at the air force unit in Amritsar. They were flown down to Delhi in the evening where they were toasted and reunited with their kith and kin. Could any homecoming be sweeter?

Epilogue

* What a damn good fist they made of the bid to escape. A smidgen more of the rub of the green, the exploit could have had a storybook climax, and enshrined the feat. Could the escapees have done anything differently? On the Jamrud road, maybe (big maybe) they could have hired a cab away from the prying public, sweet-talked and inveigled the driver into taking offbeat tracks till Torkham, onwards to Kabul, and requested the Indian embassy to reward the driver for his pains.

* The dozen POWs were fighter pilots who had to eject over Pakistan, and some sustained minor to major injuries. While only the three were involved in the escape, every officer, including the unnamed ones in this narration, put their shoulder to the wheel. For example: B A Coelho drew out the compass rose; J L Bhargava’s devoir was to cultivate the staff by spoiling them with Red Cross goodies. And all kept their lips sealed to keep the ‘mission’ under wraps.

Besides, when the nod of assent was given, everybody knew how fraught it was, and the repercussions. They abided unflinchingly. Sample this: As per the script, Chati was to take advantage of the predawn loo-break to slip into D S Jafa’s cell so as to face the blowback together. Second thoughts constrained Jafa to implore Chati to return to his cell in order to simulate normality and provide the three maximum time to make good the escape. Jafa was doubly conscious of jeopardising Chati thus, but Chati willingly embraced that risk. Nothing can beat this as the epitome of teamwork and camaraderie.

Last but not least: The perfunctory “Well done, champ!” abounded and resounded but the three escapees were never feted for their awesome attempt 41 years ago (Vir Chakra was conferred on Grewal but that was for his gallant action prior to the ill-starred sortie). The threesome truly deserves official recognition. Why not honour them at least now through retroactive decoration?

The threesome: Harish Sinhji retired as group captain in 1993, dwelled in Bangalore, tried his hand at carpentry and turned his hand to painting. He succumbed to multi-organ failure in October 1999 (RIP). MS Grewal called it quits as wing commander and plunged into farming in the Terai. DK Parulkar, my battalion commander when I was a cadet at the National Defence Academy, hung up the group captain-uniform in 1987, settled down in Pune, and has since been a man of many parts, juggling the diverse topees of builder, promoter, proprietor and planter.

M P Anil Kumar is a former fighter pilot.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby member_28485 » 06 Mar 2014 17:25

I'm new on this forum so I hope I'm posting this in the right place.

I've been researching the IAF Nos 1 and 2 Squadron deployments in the early years of WW2, especially proscription bombings on the Frontier when they were flying the Hawker Audax.

The Audax seems a peculiar old plane. Some sources say that the bomb-drop involved the navigator sliding under the pilot's seat, and lying prone to access a hatch and a sighting-window. Other sources tell me there was no belly hatch, but the Observer/ Gunner used a crude externally-mounted bomb-sight outside his cockpit coaming.

Is anyone aware of an authoritative source on this question, and the design and flying of the Audax in general?

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby raj.devan » 09 Mar 2014 10:52

The story of Flight Lt. Dilip Parulkar & team's escape from Pakistan was fictionalized into a Hindi movie called '1971' starring Manoj Bajpai.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/200704 ... /main9.htm

Apart from Lakshya, this is another recent war movie that I enjoyed watching.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Jagan » 15 Mar 2014 08:38

raj.devan wrote:The story of Flight Lt. Dilip Parulkar & team's escape from Pakistan was fictionalized into a Hindi movie called '1971' starring Manoj Bajpai.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/200704 ... /main9.htm

Apart from Lakshya, this is another recent war movie that I enjoyed watching.


seriously ? 1971 happens to be one of the worst movies ever and is no way related to Parulkar's story. It really cannot match what Lakshya was ..

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby raj.devan » 16 Mar 2014 13:13

What I liked about 1971 was how it portrayed the sense of loyalty and brotherhood that soldiers have towards their comrades in arms. While a movie like Border brought out the sacrifices that soldiers have to make for the sake of their nation, 1971 brought out how a soldier has to often make sacrifices for the men he has to fight alongside. This in itself made up for the several flaws that the movie had, and made it eminently watchable.

1971 portrays the escape of six armymen, not AF pilots, but the story borrows heavily from Parulkar's escape.

It's also something that reminds us - while we discuss the history of the IAF - that there are still POWs from the Air Force in Pakistan.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Jagan » 16 Mar 2014 18:51

Raj, 1971 was mostly a rip-off of several escape based movies - including "great escape" . was it based on real piece of history ? not really.

raj.devan wrote: that there are still POWs from the Air Force in Pakistan.


More details? How many? Who exactly? You will be surprised when you examine it on a case by case basis that the lists that are published out there are on very shaky ground.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby raj.devan » 16 Mar 2014 23:43

There wasn't much in the way of rip off in 1971... I certainly do not recall any similarities to The Great Escape. You're probably thinking about another movie about Indian Pows in Pak - Deewar - which was an unabashed knock-off from Great Escape.

With regards to the list of POWs in Pakistan, I haven't gone through a case by case study, but there's a list of 30 IAF pilots whom the GOI claimed in Parliament are still in Pakistan.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby shiv » 17 Mar 2014 06:32

raj.devan you do know who this Jagan dude is, don't you

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby raj.devan » 17 Mar 2014 06:53

Of course! His articles and books on India's military history are essential reading on the subject. And it's an honour to have a conversation with him here on BRF - even if its only on the merits of Hindi movies that deal with military history.

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Re: The IAF History Thread

Postby Jagan » 17 Mar 2014 08:23

np raj or shiv.

I am of the opinion that posts should stand on their own merits and not on the qualifications / background of the poster. that said, here is some food for thought about the POW list. this was part of a couple of emails i had composed years ago on the POW list. might as well post it here.



“I am afraid I may hold views that go contrary to popular public sentiment. This is due to the fact that as a weekend researcher I tend to dig a bit deeper into the claims on both sides before deciding on what to believe. I have followed the Indian POWs in Pakistan saga – especially the list of 54 POWs that was widely circulated in the press for over four decades now. I have examined this list name by name – for half of the list refers to Indian Air Force fliers who never returned . (I will focus only on the the Indian Air Force and the lone Indian Navy flier and I cannot comment on the Army names in the list. )

Unfortunately it appears that the mere criteria that they were lost on operations appear to be reason enough that ‘they must be POWs’, despite the fact that quite a few of the names are of those who were lost over our own territory – and one of the names was clearly of a transport pilot who went missing in the An-12 crash of 1967. There may be two or three valid cases in which evidence appeared – but beyond that, a majority of the names just appear to be last strands of hopes that the grieving families were holding on to.

I urge you to look at the fliers in the list – Cdr Ashok Roy is listed as his POW – his Alize crashed in the Atlantic Ocean being pursued by a F-104. How and why was his name added to the POW list? if it was, what happened to his Observer and Radar Operator? Similarly Flt Lt Purohit is listed as POW, but his pilot Flt Lt Naithani and another Navigator Flt Lt Theophilus are notably missing. And it is a fact that their Canberra crashed in our territory but the impact made it difficult to recover remains.

So in the end, an accurate vetting of the list may turn up only half a dozen potential cases. “

I am afraid this is not something that will be taken well – But it is perhaps time for someone to step up and ask as to why the following names were included in the list

5. Sq Ldr MK Jain 5327-F(P) (Aircraft Crashed in territory under our control)
9. Flt Lt Nagaswami Shanker 9773-F(P)
10. Sq Ldr PN Malhotra (Pilot of an An-12 that went missing in 67 – the wreck was traced a few years ago in Himachal)
18. Flt Lt Manohar Purohit 10249(N) 5 Squadron (Canberra that crashed in our territory at Nal – what happened to the other two crew members – why only Flt Lt Purohit?)
19. Flt Lt Tanmaya Singh Dandoss 8160-F(P)
21. Flt Lt Babul Guha 5105-F(P) (65 War loss – why and when was his name was added to this list?)
32. Flying Officer Krishan Lakhimal Malkani 10576-F(P)
33. Flt Lt Ashok Balwant Dhavale 9030-F(P) (He was lost in our own territory )
36. Flt Lt Gurudev Singh Rai 9015-F(P)
37. Flt Lt RS Kadam 8404-F(P)
38. Flying Officer KP Murlidharan 10575-F(P)
42. Naval Pilot Commanding Officer A Roy (Navy Pilot – what happened to his crew men?. Pak sources say the Alize crashed into the sea, how did we deduce he was taken POW?)
43. Sqn Ldr Devaprasad Chatterjee (65 War loss)
52. Flying Officer TS Sethi (65 war loss)

I understand there could be a few valid cases, There was the case of the the radio announcement on Flt Lt Sasoon (Again some debate whether it was Shanti or Chati. Those can be investigated, but to me it appears that a whole host of other names were added just to give it weight. And if someone was missing or believed shot down, it was reason enough to add their names into the list.

There have been articles by Kaiser Tufail that gave resting places of these pilots – shouldn’t someone take it up with Pakistan to identify and repatriate these remains if possible? An enticement to do the same for downed Pakistani fliers should be a good incentive – at the very least mark the final resting places . The Americans are still trying to locate remains of fliers lost in our NE states during WW2 flying the humps – I know of a recent case by British families to identify remains from a bomber shot down over Andamans and give them a proper burial..


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