13:36 By Vishnu Chandrasenan

It was the dreaded night of December 4, 1971. It was during the pitch darkness of 12.30am. I feared a war, not because the Indian Air Force wasn't prepared, but I hated to see drops of red. They say a true soldier waits for the day to fight in a war. Being a Wing Commander in the Indian Air Force, I always thought of that day, but it engulfed my mind with darkness. I had never told this to anybody; I feared. My eyes almost drifted into a sleep when our Commander sounded the war alarm hooter; Pakistan Army had launched an attack across the Longewala border along Rajasthan with 2800 soldiers. Indian Army, with only 120 soldiers along the line of control, sent an immediate call to the Air Force. I feared, my dream had come true. It was just like I thought; it was pitch darkness outside. We readied in our emergency response reconnaissance team in 15 minutes. My flying machine was a HAL-24 Marut; a bird I always loved right from my pilot training days.

We took off from the tarmac at Jaisalmer base, I could feel the machine vibrate at take off speed; my mind feared the worst. I remembered again that it was pitch darkness; I panicked, but we fighter pilots are taught to be in a controlled form of nervousness. We didn't have the benefit of night vision infrared; we never entered the battle region until permit was granted from the ground team. It followed some of my most feared moments of terror as a pilot; I never know if I cherish these or fear these today. We entered Longewala region after we received control clearance. My commander instructed the formation over the transmission line, I checked up on the horizon.

We were flying at 43 thousand feet, but descended at a steep angle experiencing high levels of acceleration, well enough to even stall our consciousness. I saw several tanks on the Pakistan side burning in red hot fire; we descended and launched an instant air strike along the border. My hand trembled on the fly-by-wire; our attack was too enormous and well planned to precision for the opposition. We killed 200 soldiers, 36 military tanks and destroyed over 100 military vehicles. We had mentally prepared for an aerial war with Pakistan Air Force, but our ground control sourced that they had retreated. So our tasks were a little simpler.

Sweat oozed inside my temperature resistant jacket, my helmet visor fogged up, I could hear cheers from the ground control tower as well as from my fellow flying commanders. I was happy that we won the battle, but I felt an incomplete void. I was informed that two Indian Army soldiers sacrificed their lives. I became part of the most successful mission of the Indian Air Force. We had landed back at our base. Touching down never felt so good. We were greeted with a thunderous applause which I will never forget.

Time flew and today, I always remember that mission when I see the dark open sky, I cherish those moments, but it left a tinkling fear inside me; the fear of the dark; I reconciled; God never gave anything without downsides. I remembered the day when I was on my bed before the war, it was dark, and I feared dark then; I fear dark today.


  1. Really a heart throbbing story

    1. Thank you Rahul. We must salute the amazing pilots of the Longewala war.

  2. i have read many war stories but this had just the magic in it!! keep it up
    i would like to read some more war stories

    1. Thank you so much Satish. Your energy is an inspiration for me.

  3. The story s interesting to read. Keep it up Vishnu. Expecting more from you.

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