Soldiers and eye-witnesses recall how a lack of preparedness meant doom, yet the Indian Army fought valiantly with a combat-ready Chinese army.
Hand-to-hand combat with the Chinese
Captain Asha Ram, Bhiwani
“As a two-month old recruit, I was sent to
Rezang La on November 10. I remember that our Company foiled five simultaneous Chinese army's attacks. Since our ammunition was exhausted, we had hand-to-hand combat with the Chinese and killed them with stones, rifle butts etc. Chinese were so impressed by the courage of one Singh Ram who killed many enemies before he was silent with the bullets and that Chinese put a reversed rifle, standing on its barrel and crested by a soldier's helmet, near his (Singh Ram's body).”
Witnessed death on a fateful Diwali night
Hawaldar Nihal Singh, Rewari
“On November 18, 1962, it was Diwali when Chinese attacked our post at Rezang La. I was guarding Major Shaitan Singh with an LMG Soon, our ammunition ran out. Major Singh sustained fatal bullet injuries and I too was injured. After the attack, enemies caught me. I somehow managed to escape and reached my post. It was -30 degree Celsius and winds were at 100 km per hr velocity. Though we lost 114 men but under Major Singh we killed 1300 Chinese troops.”
Our Major died of bullet injuries to the stomach
Capt Ram C Yadav, Rewari
“As the wireless operator of Charlie Company, I was first to inform Major Shaitan Singh about firing and Chinese movement towards Rezang La. Soon Major Singh was out of the bunker but was hit by bullets and died soon after. I buried him to avoid the body being disrespected. I placed the Major's glove there. We left the post to tell the seniors about the battle.
About three months later, I accompanied a party of intelligence sleuths and top army officials to the recover body of Major Singh and others at the Rezang La.”
The end result of the war was disheartening
Dalip Singh, Bhadham, Kurukshetra
“On our way to Delhi, our regiment was directed to stop suddenly at Dimapur. Following the Chinese attack, our first unit moved uphill. The unit was ambushed in the dark. The Chinese were present in strong numbers and our troops with .303 rifles could not face them. Part of the second unit, I went to the Dorang jungles and found many bodies of first unit and we rescued scores of injured troops. It was disheartening to know the end result of the war.” (As told to Vishal Joshi)
Our soldiers were ill-clad for the winter
Chogumbo Lama, Tawang Monastery
“I remember helping ill-clad Indian soldiers keep warm and hide from Chinese soldiers who spared locals but hunted our soldiers down like animals. Our soldiers put up some resistance but they were no match for the well-armed Chinese. There were two reasons why our soldiers were routed: their inferior weapons couldn't be relied upon and they were too frozen to fire without woollens. Army helicopters hovered around, more to bring back the dead and wounded than fight the Chinese.”
Bad roads still plague the Bomdila area
Nipin Tashi, ex-intelligence ops
“During the war, the roads weren't good enough for even jeeps with four-wheel drive. While China is learnt to have built all-weather roads in Tibet across the border, ours are still as bad albeit wider and shorter. The Balipara-Charduar-Tawang to the east of the alignment of Old Chako Road is crucial. The road is being four-laned, but the unstable hills coupled with rainfall invariably cause landslips to push date of completion of work into the future.” (As told to Rahul Karmakar)
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