“Bring down the Fire on Me”: Circa 1999 Our Own Tales of Sheer Courage
In the last week of March 2016, many of us were awestruck by the courage and patriotism of Russian Officer Lt Alexander Prokhorenko who when surrounded by ISIS and with no possible means of escape, in ISIS infested Palmyra in Syria, took the decision to call airstrike on his own location by calling in Russian warplanes to obliterate his location.
This Special Forces soldier, was on a secret mission. He has since been hailed as a hero in his native Russia and even nick named the Russian Rambo. He is being awarded the highest bravery award of Russia “Hero of the Russia” by the President Vladmir Putin.
The whole world including Russia’s former adversaries are saluting this act of sheer bravery. Some former US & NATO veterans have openly saluted their enemy officer. Only a man in uniform knows how hard it is to take such a decision where one is willing to sacrifice oneself provided the enemy too is destroyed.
Well this incident has opened up memories yet again where the Heroes this time are not Russian and location is not any foreign land. It is located in our very own India where the Braveheart’s were none other than my course mates Chow and PeeKay and 80 odd officers and men of a fantastic Battalion.
Year 1999. Somewhere in the Drass Sector in Kargil. Peak of offensive against the Pakis in progress to dislodge them from each of the peaks they infiltrated. Time early morning 3 AM. Night of 02/03 July. A fierce attack on Tiger Hill is planned but it was important to divert enemy attention to another feature nearby. Hence this special Battalion is tasked to attack Point 5100- another feature nearby supported by Artillery in a diversionary attack while the main attack at Tiger Hill progresses.
80 brave well trained officers and men that included the Forward Observation Officers Maj Chow and Maj Peekay inched their way on a 75 degree incline, slippery ice, with just 1 meter width, all moving up in one line. As they neared their target, they suddenly realized that they were within 50 meters of a well-entrenched enemy who surrounded them quickly and fired at will and our boys immediately took casualties.
For over many hours they battled their way but were losing men faster than they could afford as Paki’s were sitting on vantage positions and were firing at will. To top it all, Paki’s brought down accurate observed artillery fire on our men, and the shells were causing more destruction. That is when these brave-hearts who were in the line of fire took the decision to bring down own Bofors Artillery fire on their own location.
Just 12 guns of Chow’s unit was in range about 24 kms behind. Chow radioed back to direct fire and gave his own location as reference. The Brigade Major who heard this panicked and announced that the Officer did not know how to read his Map. Chow insisted that they fire on the location that was given. With the enemy 50 meters away he did not have to be told that there is no safety distance that he could play with. He went ahead in a game plan that involved getting killed by his own shell.
For the next two hours, Artillery fire was directed on their own location. Our men, dug fox holes to save themselves from our own shells, and amidst the smoke and fire, Chow and Peekay directed accurate Arty fire on the enemy positions. Each round that landed on their position could be the last round of their life, yet for them the mission now was to save the 80 people with them. During the gaps in the fire, the Battalion quickly evacuated the injured and dead. Our accurate fire surprised the Paki’s. They could no longer direct their own arty fire. They no longer could pick on our soldiers at will. Our men were in the open just covered by our own arty fire. They survived the whole day.
When it was dark again they evacuated all the injured to 20 kms away to an air head, through sheer super human effort. We lost about 18 comrades that day. But for that decision to bring fire on own location many more could have been lost. Luckily, Chow and PeeKay are alive to recount their tale today.
This operation divided the Paki efforts and attention, which eased out pressure for the Battalion tasked to capture Tiger Hill and that was achieved a day later.
PeeKay was awarded a Sena Medal for Gallantry. Chow received splinter injuries and a GOC in C Commendation Card. Many in the Battalion were awarded for their grit and bravery. Chow’s Arty unit was bestowed the Battle Honour “Kargil”.But no one spoke of these incidents till last week when the headlines transported them back in time.
This is their story. This their heroism. Both these brave men, and others involved in the operations today are serving officers and I cannot reveal more. This is my Salute to them. Our Brave hearts.
My wish is – if and only if these incidents were documented for posterity, our Forces could learn from. I also hope our hierarchy could honour these men appropriately for their sheer courage, and honour them befittingly. So that others can imbibe the spirit of ‘Never say Die’ attitude.
Does it take a Russian to die to tell us that we have better ones closer home? And many of those are sitting at Jantar Mantar asking for their just dues.
My Question to You is – Have we as a Nation, let these Brave men down?