Kargil Vijay Diwas: 2 Soldiers Share Their Experience on Fighting The Kargil War
By: DK Badola and Atul Sinha
Published On: July 26, 2018
India is celebrating Vijay Kargil Diwas today, which is a day dedicated to celebrate the bravery of our soldiers who fought the 1999 Kargil War. In a bid to salute them, Impact Guru speaks to Kargil veterans DK Badola and Anil Sinha, who fought the war, keeping their lives at stake to protect their country. They share their experiences on Kargil and life after it.
DK Badola fought in the Kargil War, 1999. He was was serving as a commander in the Indian Army at the time , leading the unit "headhunters." He retired as a Brigadier in 2014.
When a soldier goes to war
If someone tells you that he doesn’t fear going to war, he’s lying. Sam Manekshaw (field marshal) must have said that if a soldier says he’s not scared, either he’s lying or he’s a Gorkha (soldier from the Gurkha regiment) , but I say he’s not even a Gorkha, he’s simply lying.
It wasn’t dying that I was scared of. What worried me was what I would do if my leg or hand gets blown off during war. As your responsibility increases, so does the fear. You do get very scared at the beginning of the war. But as things progress, you start getting a hint of when the bomb is going to drop. So there’s adequate time for you to plan your action. After some time you get used to it and start preparing for what’s to come.
Moving base without weaponry
My unit was called “headhunters.” 50 % of them are Nagas because they are based in the North-East. We left for Jammu and Kashmir on May 21st, 1999. On May 22, we had reached the war zone. We were asked to move to Zainakote and we did not have our support workers or communication sets. We had handed ourselves over to the Gorkha unit which was supposed to relieve us in Jammu.
Unfortunately, we were told to move straight to Dras (town in Kargil district in Jammu and Kashmir) without the communication sets and weaponry. We were told to protect that area and it wasn’t clear as to what exactly the situation was in Dras.
We were under the assumption that some militants had entered the Dras area and occupied some spots. We operated in that area for maybe a month and on June 27, we were told to move on from Dras, to Guerrilla on 28th.
Reaching 9,000 ft.
As we were moving, are weapons were coming in from Jammu to Pantha chowk. My party (unit members) had gone down to Zainakote and gotten the support weapons and radio sets from there. Whenever you cross 9,0000 ft. you are supposed to do acclimatization for at least 5-10 days, but we didn’t get a chance to do so. On June 31st, I was called to the Dras area for briefing on Tiger Hill. We learnt that Tiger Hill was only attacked by a battalion and we were supposed to be attacking with 17 Jats( Jat Regiment in Indian Army) and 2 Nagas (Naga Regiment in Indian Army).
When Tiger Hill stole the limelight
In the media, Tiger Hill was featured as the main war zone in the Dras area. Its peak is a prominent feature and the name is very catchy. However, this is not the area which was heavily occupied. We realized that more than Tiger Hill, it was Point 4875 from which we got a better view of Kargil and beyond. Hence we decided that it was 4875 which was more important.
Losing 7 soldiers in one night
On the third night, the attack was supposed to be made from Tiger Hill and on fourth, from 4875. This was the basic plan. My unit had barely 350 members when the strength is generally 600. On May 28, we had reached Guerilla. Around 9:30 pm, two bombs were dropped on my own firebase and I lost 7 soldiers at one go. My complete firebase which was supposed to support my attack, was destroyed. Captain Vikram Batra (Param Vir Chakra awardee for actions during Kargil war) and his team members were 20 meters away from our enemies and both sides were exchanging gaalis.
A meal after 48 hours of fighting
They had stocked up a lot of food, including soup packets. The food that you see in pictures that we are cooking, is all Pakistani food.That was my first meal after 48 hours. I have had so many people asking me, ‘don’t you fear that the food must have been poisoned?’. But I kept telling them that we didn’t care if it was poisoned or not, we were just so hungry.
Losing loved ones
Death does affect a commander who is leading his team into war. I had one commander alongside me, who lost three soldiers in one night. That’s a traumatic experience for anyone to handle. What plays on our minds is what we will tell our deceased soldiers’ families.
Life after gambling with death
Certain traumatic experiences do play on our minds after war. There should be counselling for soldiers because they are seeing gory incidents and witnessing. But we have none of that unfortunately. After coming back from the Kargil war, my main focus was to rehabilitate all the widows and make them lead a comfortable life again.
When a soldier comes homeCountrymen after 15-20 days forget a soldier’s bravery. After the war, when I was travelling back home, nobody even offered me a seat in the bus. Before the war, I used to get more than 200 letters, thanking me for my bravery and calling me a hero. We as a nation can be ungrateful.
Anil Sinha fought in the Kargil War,1999. He was a helicopter pilot in the Indian Air Force and took a premature retirement in 2010 as Air Commodore.
“Cowards die many a times in their lives, but the brave die once and live forever”
The moment of truth
The greatest honour for any soldier is to be blessed to get an opportunity to fight for his country. When I learnt that I was going to fight the Kargil war, I wasn’t scared. In fact I was happy that I was getting a chance to fight for our country. Soldiers are looking for that chance and when we get it, we rejoice. Wars happen only once in a lifetime.
What made Kargil stand out from the rest
On 17 May 1999, I was airlifted to Srinagar air base and detailed as the TFC (Task Force Commander) to lead the armed Helicopter operations of the IAF. Kargil war was quite unique and different than any other previous wars. Air Power had never been deployed in combat at the icy heights of 15000ft to 18000ft.It was a daunting situation since the aircraft and weapon systems were not designed to be used at such rarer atmosphere and altitudes. The enemy was dominating the mountain peaks and was having a clear advantage of height. They threatened to cut off the only Road/National highway connecting Kashmir with Ladakh.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the most experienced high altitude pilot, having maximum experience of Siachen Glacier flying. My strike team comprised of highly motivated and committed youngsters from Nubra Warriors and Mighty Armours. There was a huge challenge of executing strike missions in an impossible situation where in the machine and weapon systems were expected to be deployed beyond their operational flight envelope. Time was at premium too. Improvisation and innovation was the only answer. Intelligence on enemy position was very scarce. Thus, making the situation even worse.
Preparing for the war
On 25th night, our whole team including technicians was active like a live wire with 440 volts. Preparations were on in total darkness. Aircrew were busy preparing maps, personal weapons pistol browning, AK-56 automatic rifles, bullet proof vests and headbands. All of us wrote one ‘Last Letter’ to our wife/family and kept them in a sealed envelope in our respective rooms.
Motivating the soldiers
TOT (Time on Target) decided was 06:50 hrs. Two targets to be engaged were Tiger Hill at 18,000 ft and Tololing at 16,000 ft. The night passed away in a blink of an eye and it was already time for the mission briefing. This was the toughest task I faced as the strike leader. I didn’t know how to motivate my youngsters to fight until death. I tried to be as fearless as possible and put up a brave face and summed up my briefing by the famous old quote…. “Cowards die many a times in their, but the brave die once and live forever.”
It was amazing to notice that the youngsters were bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. Their morale was over the roof. This Day was going to be the final test of our life- long training and love for our country and we were not to fail….come what may!
The D Day
Both the armed Mi-17 formations lifted off at the designated time. Approaching Tiger Hill we flew lower and hugged the mountain slopes of Sumdo nala to mask our approach and popped up short of the Target. Simultaneously, as part of the coordinated tactics the MiGs roared above the target and made a deafening sound. I acquired the target on my gun sight and pressed the trigger to let go the salvo of 64 rockets. Successively, I pressed the trigger again to release another salvo of 64 rockets.
The sound of victory
There was joy and ecstasy. The mission was accomplished and the enemy was pulverized. The crew members immediately congratulated each other and shared a chocolate to celebrate. Later in the evening weg got confirmed reports and pictures of the target post attack. Our strike was successful. There was also an enemy intercept – “ab hum capture hone wale hain…” (We are about to get captured…)
We were lucky to be alive, however my other formation member ‘Nubra 3’ – Sqn Ldr Pundir, Flt Lt. Muhilan, Sgt Prasad and Sgt Sahu were not so lucky as they were hit by enemy stinger missile.
Musings from a braveheart
The Kargil War taught me a lot of very important lessons of life.I also found true purpose of life- giving, even your Life, without any expectations of a return, gives immeasurable pleasure and satisfaction. We all need to combine together and contribute in our own way and capacity. I have no doubts that we can soon become the strongest country in the world.
We wish our soldiers a happy Kargil Vijay Diwas!
As told to Rukmini Chopra
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