Book Review - The Battle of Rezang La




Background

1962 Sino-Indian war happened some 60 years ago. While we rightly celebrate our victories in other wars fought over the last 75 years, the loss of 1962 is not discussed. Despite the loss, the raw courage shown by the Indian armed forces in the absence of modern facilities in extreme whether conditions was bravery of the highest class.

The stories related to this war has always fascinated me. I got good information about the war fought in NEFA during our visit to Tawang and Bumla last year. This book The Battle of Rezang La provides quite a comprehensive account about the war fought in the Ladakh region, especially the Rezang La battle fought by the Charlie Company.
 

Preface

Ram Chander and Nihal Singh were captured by the Chinese soldiers during the battle on 18 November 1962. They managed to escape and survived the battle injuries to reach back to the Indian camp in extreme conditions. When they narrated the details of the war, their truth about the battle was not accepted and the last stand of the Charlie Company was forgotten.

A Ladakhi Shepherd happened to visit the site of Rezang La in the first week of February 1963. He was the first to see entire frozen battle scene. He informed the near by post of Indian Army and finally, on February 10, entire nation came to know about one of the greatest battles ever fought, last moments of which were preserved in the snow.

Before the Battle

The Sino-Indian war began in October 1962 on multiple fronts, in Ladakh and NEFA (present day Arunachal Pradesh). Chinese attacked the Sirijap post of Indian Army, near Pangong Tso, led by Major Dhan Singh Thapa.

Indian Army knew that Chinese would try to capture the Chushul airport, the only airstrip in the Ladakh region. Lt Col H S Dhingra, CO of 13 Kumaon regiment, received orders to deploy men between Pangong Tso and Spanggur Tso (Tso mean lake)

The Charlie Company, led by Major Shaitan Singh, was made up of 120 soldiers who were tasked with defending Rezang La against an invading Chinese army.

The Charlie Company

On October 2, 1962, Charlie Company arrived in Led from Baramulla for acclimatization. On 24 October 1962, Charlie Company leaves by road to south of Chushul. They were tasked to protect the Rezang La section, at 18,000 feet, in -30° C temperature.

As per intelligence, Chinese attack from here was not expected, thus the company was not given MMGs. This proved quite costly in the final battle. The book describes in detail about the Charlie Company, their routine, their preparations for the imminent war, and their exchanges with each other

The Setting

The book takes us to those mountains among those brave soldiers of the Charlie Company and Major Shaitan Singh, who was well respected by his unit and he also treated them as his family.

The harsh terrains of Himalayas were also a big factor and the challenges faced by the units in those harsh terrain is captured quite well in the book.

Indian were definitely caught underprepared when Chinese started their attacks. There were no roads, and soldiers had to walk to reach their camps south of Chushul. Luggage was carried on mules, while Chinese already built tar roads on their side.

The airstrip of Chushul had to be repair after every flight that brought limited supplies. Indian soldiers has .303 rifles whose trigger cannot be operated without removing winter gloves in -30° C.

The Battle

On the early morning of November 18, 1962, the Charlie Company found themselves facing an enemy force that outnumbered them by at least six to one.

Over the next few hours, Chinese army launched 7 waves of attacks one-after-another. Charlie Company kept losing men, but they pushed back the invading Chinese army every single time. The artillery fire and MMGs from the Chinese side proved superior, causing grave damage to the Indian camp.

Charlie Company lost radio contact with the base unit and due to mountain ranges, other units had little idea of the fierce war fought here.

The Aftermath

The Battle of Rezang La was a devastating loss for both sides. The Charlie Company fought valiantly against a much larger enemy force, but in the end, they were outnumbered and outgunned.

The Indian army suffered 114 casualties, while the Chinese suffered an estimated 1,300 casualties.

The impact of this battle was felt throughout the region, as it marked a turning point in the Sino-Indian War.

Despite their loss, the Charlie Company's sacrifice was not in vain. They successfully stopped China's advance and saved the Chushul airport, thus saving entire Ladakh.

Conclusion

When Razang La was discovered on 10 February 1963

  • dead jawans were found in their trenches still holding on to their weapons.

  • every single men was having several bullet wounds facing the enemy.

  • men died with grenades in their hands.

  • they all followed the orders of their Captain - either we win, or we die.

Charlie Company is now officially called the Rezang La Company.

The company was awarded -

  • One Param Vir Chakra: Major Shaitan Singh

  • Eight Vir Chakras: Naib Subedar Hari Ram, Naib Subedar Surja Ram, Naib Subedar Ram Chander, Naik Ram Kumar, Naik Gulab Singh, Lance Naik Singh Ram, Naik Hukum Chand, Sepoy Nursing Assistant Dharam Pal Dhaiya

  • Four Sena Medals: CHM Harphul Singh, Hav Jai Narain, Hav Phul Singh, Sepoy Nihal Singh

  • Battle Honor



One can also find the book Summary here - Tome


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