Operation Meghdoot was launched on April 13, 1984 at Siachen glacier where the soldiers of the Fourth Kumaon Regiment had occupied the icy heights, frustrating Pakistan’s move to capture it.
The heights of the 75-km-long and two-to-eight-km-width glacier range from 15,000 to 22,000 feet, and the temperatures vary from minus 65 to minus 25 degrees Celsius.
Mhow-based Colonel D K Ghosh, VSM (retired), remembered his stint as the Commander of the Army Service Corps of the Leh-based Third Infantry Division during the operation.
Ghosh told Hindustan Times that Operation Meghdoot was the result of coordination between the Indian Army and the Air Force.
Ghosh, who was in-charge of the logistics for the operation, said the soldiers had to be provided with supplies, and the logistics warriors took up the challenge.
“The drop zone at each post was so small that fixed wing IAF aircraft did not have the desired accuracy. So, 40% of the supplies were not reaching their designated spots. This was a huge loss. The heights made it impossible to retrieve the supplies,” the retired army officer said.
“So, the helicopters which would hover just above the ground and drop supplies at these posts were pressed into service,” said Ghosh.
Ghosh’s experience in air-dropping supplies in Nagaland and the eastern sector came in handy.
The Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, which can carry 440-kg supplies in the plains, could take only 110-kg provisions to the posts at Siachen.
The Mi-8 helicopters capable of carrying 2,500-kg supplies could carry only 800-kg provisions, he said, adding flying hours were restricted between 9am and 2pm after which blizzards would make the flying impossible.
At Siachen glacier, the soldiers had to battle against frostbite, pulmonary oedema, gangrene, hypoxia, avalanches and deep crevasses, too.
When the helicopters left the Siachen-based camp, they often had to fly through the parabolic trajectory of the shells fired by Indian soldiers at the enemy posts.
“But the courage shown by the Army and IAF personnel had enabled India to control Siachen glacier even today,” said Ghosh.