SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE – ESTABLISHMENT NUMBER. 22 – OPERATION EAGLE – LIBERATION WAR OF BANGLADESH 1971 – GALLANTRY AWARD:
Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India had initiated liberation of Bangladesh during 1971 with military action in Chittagong Hill Tracts. This battle plan is known as Operation Eagle.
‘ POORVI STAR ‘ AWARDED IN INDO-PAK WAR OF 1971 :
On the 3 rd of December 1971, The Pakistani Air Force(PAF) struck a number of Indian airfields. By midnight, India was officially at war with Pakistan. Two weeks later, the war was over. The Indian Army had overrun erstwhile East Pakistan(Bangladesh) and had taken 93,000 POW s. It was one of the swiftest military campaign in recent history.
This War is memorable to me for several reasons. 1. I had actually proceeded to an active combat zone without my personal weapon/gun. 2. I was actually recommended for a ‘Gallantry Award’. I was recommended for ” VIR CHAKRA ” and the award citation did not go beyond the Office of The Director of Medical Services(ARMY), Medical Branch of Adjutant General’s Office, Army Headquarters and did not reach the Military Secretary’s Branch(Army) Ministry of Defence in time and the award was not granted on technical grounds. But 12 years later, my Formation Commander still remembered the role I had played and gave his appreciation in a formal letter. 3. I have shown gallantry without firing a bullet and I had received appreciation from the enemy soldiers that we had captured. I shall narrate my war-time experience in short stories now and then as the information is still ‘ classified ‘.
As an Officer of the Indian Army, I received training in the use of a 9 mm Sub Machine Gun popularly known as ‘ Sten Gun ‘ or ‘ SMG’ (” Carbine, Machine, Sten “) and had always passed in my weapon training tests. It is a devastating close-range weapon. It is a compact, light weight automatic weapon firing pistol ammunition and it would fire without any lubrication. The personal weapon that was issued to me was held in the Unit and is generally taken out for range practice and weapon training. Being a Medical Officer, I also spend a lot of time away from my Hospital and provide medical cover during troop training and exercises. In 1971, as the war clouds started gathering, I started spending more time away from the Hospital where I am actually posted.As the tensions started mounting, my formation was asked to get ready for deploying troops and to get them ready for the war, they had to be moved and re positioned at locations closer to the border.When the airlift of troops began, I was far away from the Hospital and had to board the aircraft with combat ready troops without my personal weapon. Brigadier TS Oberoi, our Commander was present at the airfield during this predawn flight and he was personally supervising very minute details and was making sure that the men were treated well. He gave orders that the troops could not be asked to board the plane until they were served a hot breakfast. He was personally shaking hands and gave encouragement to each one of us. Being a doctor, they were all used to seeing me without a personal weapon and my Brigadier also did not raise any objection when I got into the plane without my gun. After having reached the border location, I was still hoping that I could manage to get a gun for my personal protection. Officially, still there was no war and my expectation was that finding a gun would not be much of a problem. When I had checked and asked for a ‘SMG’ , the gun for which I had prior weapon training, I was told that they had none to issue. I was asked to carry an assault rifle and many Infantry Officers told me that they love the rifle better than the light and compact SMG. I accepted the gun in spite of its heavy weight and bulky ammunition. I was not yet attached to the Battalion with which I would actually participate during the operation. Soon, the basic battle plans were revealed and the most important detail was that we would operate on a ‘ man pack ‘ basis. That means there would be no vehicles and we literally carry every thing on our backs and move as a column and we were cautioned that we would not be resupplied for the first seven days of the war. We should be self-sufficient in all aspects for one whole week which includes fighting the enemy. I had arrived at this border village with my bedding, books, clothes etc., and was not knowing anything about the type of operation that was in store for me. I decided to leave every thing at the regimental Quarter Master Stores and proceed on foot with the men with a back pack. I had my team of medical assistants and I had to assign them to different companies. Then I had the problem of my medical supplies for the battle. I had to carry every band-aid, dressing, pills, medicines that I would need. Nothing else would be supplied in the early and most difficult phase of the war. My medical assistants could only carry the load for their company role. I had to support the Battalion Headquarters and all other support personnel. I took a deep look at my medical supplies. Then I made my decision. I decided that I would rather go for the war with my medical mission and totally forget about defending myself during the war. I made a decision to return my gun , my bulky ammunition and I would be able to serve my men better if I have my medical supplies and I truly need more of it to protect others and there was no room to worry about my personal safety. In the first conference with my Battalion Commander, Col BK Narayan, that was the very first time I had met him in my life, I told him that nothing else really matters to me other than providing and caring for the men during combat and I would be happy to lift an extra load of medical supplies rather than carrying a gun to protect myself. Col.Narayan could immediately understand my decision and in the first battle briefing he had announced that the Adjutant would defend the doctor for the entire duration of the operation. Captain Kottayam Chacko Kurien, an Officer of Jewish faith had accepted this additional responsibility with great seriousness and he had solemnly pledged that I would be the last person to get killed in the Unit during the war in which I had marched everywhere along with the men without my personal weapon.
I had never met Brigadier.TS Oberoi after he had bid me farewell at the airfield. He got a promotion to the rank of Major General and moved to New Delhi and I spent my time on the Himalayan frontier. In 1983, he was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief at Headquarters Southern Command, PUNE and since I was serving under his Command, I sent him a formal letter mentioning that I was seeking release from Army Service.He immediately wrote back to me and I am pleased to quote a few lines from the letter that I had received from him:
1.” Major R. Rudranarasimham of Army Medical Corps………..was closely associated with my organisation during 1971 Indo-Pak War, thus, I would highlight certain commendable traits of this officer during this period of national crisis which certainly deserve befitting recognition on his relinquishing the Army.
2. During the Indo-Pak War the officer was a medical officer with regular troops. He rose to the call of duty and displayed tremendous courage and total dedication to his duty. He carried out the given task with perfect organizational acumen and professional knowledge. He weathered tremendous physical and mental stress with utmost zeal and remained cool and composed during the operations. For this display of gallant qualities in the face of enemy the officer was recommended for a gallantry award but was not among the fortunate ones to receive it………….”
The letter signed by Lieutenant General T S Oberoi, PVSM, VrC dated 14 Feb 1983 is still in my possession and it lets me celebrate the Victory in the 1971 War.
THE PHANTOMS OF CHITTAGONG : THE FIFTH ARMY IN BANGLADESH :
Major General ( Retd ) Sujan Singh Uban, AVSM, the former Inspector General of Special Frontier Force had authored a book titled ‘The Phantoms of Chittagong : The Fifth Army in Bangladesh’. He had narrated the military exploits of his Force while operating in the difficult terrain of Chittagong Hill Tracts during the Indo-Pak War of 1971. He did not discuss the role of Indian Army Medical Corps and the Medical Plan for his Fifth Army in Bangladesh.
THE SPIRITS OF SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE:
U.S. President Richard Nixon, and the Secretary of State Dr. Henry A. Kissinger had opposed this military action to initiate the Liberation of Bangladesh during 1971. However, this political opposition had not undermined the purpose of the multinational military alliance/pact. Soon after the Liberation War, we were happy to extend our cooperation to the Nixon administration and had planted electronic listening devices to gather intelligence inside the occupied territory of Tibet.
Please view the related blog post titled ‘Indira Gandhi – A Flame that Got Extinguished’
1. The Art of Battlefield Medicine
2. Award of Gallantry Awards- Indo-Pak War of 1971.
3. The Medical Plan for Fifth Army in Bangladesh-The Experience of Madhurya in Chittagong Hill Tracts
4. The Fifth Army – The Untold Story from Chittagong Hill Tracts – August 18, 2009
5. The Phantoms of Chittagong – A Story from Chittagong Hill Tracts – August 17, 2009
6. The Spirit of a Jew – Revisiting the Birth of Bangladesh – February 10, 2009
7. India and Iran – What is the Connection ? – January 28, 2008
8.Sangram Medal 1971 – A Story that I Shared with the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services – November 22, 2007
9. Liberation War of Bangladesh – Fallen Heroes on Both Sides – October 28, 2007
Dr. R. R. Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Ex – Service Number. MS-8466, Rank. LIEUTENANT/CAPTAIN AMC/SSC
Medical Officer South Column Operation Eagle 1971
Headquarters Establishment No. 22 C/O 56 APO
- Operation Eagle – Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Operation Eagle – a Letter to Union Minister of State for Defence (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Operation Eagle – Registration of Public Grievance (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- The Battle Plan of Operation Eagle – Permission for Disclosure (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Operation Eagle – a Demand for Justice From Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Operation Eagle – Honours and Awards Representation (bhavanajagat.com)
- Special Frontier Force-operation Eagle-gallantry Award (bhavanajagat.com)
- Bangladesh honours 52 Indians (thehindu.com)