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Great Battles #14 - Asal Uttar 1965 (turn Of The Tide)

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Austerlitz, Nov 14, 2016.

  1. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    ASAL UTTAR 1965 - TURN OF THE TIDE

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    BACKGROUND :

    The 1960s began a difficult decade for India.The euphoria of independence was fading,the economy was shaky,there was a food crisis,the morale of the Indian army had taken a beating after the humiliation of 1962 against China.Nehru had breathed his last in 1964 and his successor -the diminutive Lal Bahadur Shastri was viewed as a compromise candidate ,perhaps even a weak one.Indian legislations to integrate Kashmir constitutionally put political pressure on the Ayub Khan military government.To Pakistani strategic planners the time must have seemed ripe for a military solution to enforce their geopolitical ambitions.

    Pakistan had since 1958 been an US ally in CENTO and recieved over 1.2 billion dollars worth of military aid in equipment and money.This had bolstered the strength of the Pakistani armed forces to very impressive levels ,bristling as it was by 1965 with hundreds of the latest Patton tanks,Sabre jets and 155 mm artillery guns.The Indian army expansion and reorganization begun after 1962 was still in transition,and while the modernization process was incomplete pakistan held a decided advantage .Pakistan had to strike before the Indians could catch up while it still had the chance to impose a decisive victory on her rival.Zulfiqar Bhutto,advisor to Ayub Khan and later PM summed up the situation as the - ''Last chance to take Kashmir by force''.

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    (Pakistan's Grand Strategy)
    Failure of Operation Gibraltar -

    Pakistan tested Indian resolve and its new weapons by probing constantly in the disputed Rann of Kutch area in repeated skirmishes during April 1965 ,this dispute was eventually settled by British mediation. Emboldened by its performance in the Rann of Kutch,from early August Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar - thousands of pakistani soldiers and Commandoes infiltrated into Kashmir with the object of inciting a general uprising amongst the kashmiri population.It was believed the Indian Army would not cross the ceasefire line and merely defend itself.In the event it failed miserably,as locals informed the Indian army of the intruders which acted swiftly to contain them.In a daring attack the Indians crossed the ceasefire line took Haji Pir Pass -the main entry point of the infiltrators.Faced with a huge loss of face , Ayub unleashed his main conventional strategic scheme -Operation Grand Slam with the confident prediction - ''Hindu morale will not stand a couple of hard blows at the right time and place''.

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    (Pakistan's assault - Chamb Sector)
    Operation Grand Slam -

    Pakistan launched a massive combined armour-infantry assault in Chamb sector aimed at capturing the bridge at Akhnoor - the only all-weather lifeline of India's main Infantry division in J & K (with 20 battalions) and then used as a staging point for the capture of Jammu,the main communications and logistics hub connecting India with Kashmir.The meagre indian force holding Chamb consisted of 4 infantry battalions and 1 light tank squadron of amx-13s.These faced a a pakistani assault of 8.5 infantry battalions as well as 2 armoured regiments( equipped with pattons which couldn't be penetrated by the AMX tanks )with a pakistani local superiority of 2:1 in infantry,6:1 in armour and 6:1 in artillery.

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    (I Corps counterattack in Sialkot sector)

    I Corps Offensive -

    Sorely pressed and on the verge of collapse at Akhnoor,India responded by crossing the International Border and launching its own offensive spearheaded by I corps in the Sialkot sector aimed at relieving the pressure on Akhnoor, carrying the war into the Pakistani heartland of Punjab and threatening Sialkot and Lahore, which would force Pakistan to divert its forces.In this it was succesful,as pressure soon slackened on Akhnoor which was held succesfully.As can be seen on the above map Pakistan's great advantage in 1965 was that it possesed 2 large scale offensive maneuvre assets in 6th and 1st Armoured division.the 6th was facing the Indian offensive in Sialkot which contained India's sole I Armoured division.Despite possesing a large overall numerical superiority in Infantry,in the actual battlespace this was reduced to near parity because as many as 38 battalions were tied up in Kashmir and several forces were on the China border.

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    (Indian XI corps Limited Offensive)
    XI Corps Offensive -

    Even before I corps launched its offensive in Sialkot sector,Indian XI corps launched a limited attack on 6th September on the Lahore-Amritsar axis.This formation composed of the 15th ,7th and 4th Infantry divisions launched a three-pronged attack aimed at establishing a forward defensive line on what was ironically considered Pakistan's great defensive asset in Punjab -the Ichogil Canal.This would capture useful territory which could be used as a bargaining tool later,as well as secure a strong defensive line for the Indian infantry against pakistani armoured attack on the canal line.It would also set up a staging area for a possible later offensive towards Lahore by 15 division in conjunction with the Northern offensive by I corps. XI corps expected to be faced by two pakistani infantry divisions - 10th and the newly raised 11th . Unknown to them, the crack pakistani 1st armoured division was waiting for them (its exact location being not known to Indian intelligence)

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    The axis of attacks were -
    15th Infantry Division along the GT road on Amritsar-Lahore axis.
    7th Infantry Division along Khalra-Barki-Bhikkiwind Axis
    4th Mountain Division along Khemkaran -Kasur Axis.

    The only reserve possesed by XI corps was the 2nd Independent Armoured Brigade near Amritsar.This formation was composed of 2 armoured regiments -3rd Cavalry and 8 Cavalry(equipped with AMX-13) . The former was the only Indian armoured formation in the sector equipped with Centurion tanks -the one Indian tank capable of going toe to toe with Pattons.India in 1965 had only 4 regiments of Centurions,and 3 of those were in 1st Armoured division(initially all 4) in Sialkot sector.Indian HQ recognizing AMX equipped brigade wouldn't be combat effective against pattons had reinforced 2nd Armoured Brigade on the eve of the war by transfering one of the four centurion regiments from 1st armoured division in the form of 3rd Cavalry.This proved to be a far-sighted decision.

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    (Initial advance of 4th Mountain Division)
    4th Mountain Division in Khem Karan Sector -

    4th Mtn Div was tasked to capture the Ichogil canal line from Bedian to Lohgarh with one armoured regiment of 9 Deccan Horse( 2 squadrons) equipped with shermans for infantry support.They were tasked also to blow the bridge from Kasur to Khemakaran over the Ichogil canal.

    4th Mtn Div consisted of -
    > 7 Mountain Brigade consisting of 3 battalions( 4 grenadiers,7 grenadiers,1/9 Gurkha was half strength)

    > 62 Mountain Brigade consisting of 3 battalions (9 JAK,13 Dogra,18 Rajputana Rifles)

    > Integral Artillery Brigade with one Field Regiment (25 pounders), two Mountain Regiments (3.7 inch howitzers), one Medium Regiment (5.5 inch Guns) and one Light Regiment (120mm mortars).

    4th Mountain Division began its attack o the 6th making modest progress owing to strong pakistani defences and its superior long range artillery.However oblivious to the Indians,Pakistan had prepared to deal its primary thrust in this sector.Instead of facing a single infantry brigade ,4 Mtn found itself faced by 11th infantry division with 2 infantry brigades plus the elite pakistani 1st armoured division.Sharp pakistani counterattacks made by 11th division whose commander acted with alacrity(using helicopters to assess the situation rapidly) and its tenous defensive position led to a disorderly withdrawal of 4th Mountain Division to Asal Uttar,just North of Khem Karan where it prepared to make its stand against the incoming onslaught.

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    The 2 infantry brigades(7 and 62) of 4th Mountain division regroup around Asal Uttar,hastily preparing defences and laying anti-tank mines on the main tank approach routes.They are supported in the defense by 2 squadrons of 9 Deccan horse (shermans).

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    (Pakistan's Plan)

    Pakistani Plan -

    The Pakistani operational plan was bold and ambitious,and reflected its need for a quick and decisive decision as it lacked the resources for a drawn out attritional struggle. The Pakistani offensive was to be launched in two phases.

    Phase 1 entailed 11 Infantry Division to establish a bridgehead across the obstacle system in the area of Khem Karan. In Phase 2, 1 Armoured Division was to break out from the bridgehead in three axes.

    The first was by 4 Armoured Brigade with two armoured regiments and a mechanized infantry battalion along Valtoha- Fatehabad and then astride the Sobraon branch canal, to capture the bridges of the Beas.This would cut off West Punjab from rest of India and sever XI corps main Line of Communications and supply.

    The second axis was 3 Armoured Brigade with two armoured regiments and a mechanized infantry battalion along Khem Karan-Bhikkiwind-Taran Taran astride Kasur branch canal, to capture Jandiala Guru as also cut off the Grand Trunk road connecting Amritsar with Jallandhar.

    . The third axis entailed providing flank protection by 5 Armoured Brigade with one armoured regiment and an infantry battalion advancing west of axis Kasur – Khem Karan- Bhikkiwind.

    It was planned to take Harike Bridge by 8th September and reach Beas Bridge by the evening of 9th.

    If successful this would cut off Punjab West of the Beas,and allow for the encirclement and destruction of XI Corps by attacks from both flanks and rear,followed by the capture of Amritsar.The road to Delhi –a mere 24 hour drive would be open with no substantial reserves standing in the way. It had the potential to be what has been called India’s ‘Fourth Battle of Panipat’ in the plains of Punjab.

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    The Strategic Importance of Asal Uttar
    Asal Uttar here assumed a position of prime strategic importance,it commanded the approaches to the 2 main Pakistani thrust lines.Importantly,once past the Asal Uttar area the Pakistani armour would have free reign as terrain was flat and the natural river obstacles would only serve to secure the flanks of their armoured thrust.However before asal uttar this was a liability,the Pakistani bridgehead was very constricted hemmed in between the Rohi nallah and Sobraon branch.The frontage of a Pakistani attack around this area was a small 7kms,with not much space for broad outflanking movements.However once past Asal Uttar this would expand very quickly into a 15km frontage around Patti and a large 45 kms on the Tarn Taran area.Once the numerically and qualitatively superior Pakistani armour penetrated into these areas it would be extremely difficult for any Indian defensive to contain them as the space would allow them to use multiple armoured thrusts from different directions which the Indians lacking sufficient armour would not be able to counter adequately.From the Indian point of view thus it was critical that the Pakistanis be stopped cold at Asal Uttar in a forward defensive before the Pattons could break out into the plains.Indian defensive preparations were conducted accordingly.

    NEXT : OPPOSING ARMIES
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
  2. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    OPPOSING ARMIES :

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    INFANTRY :
    Both armies had a common origin and a shared heritage – The British Indian Army , and in many respects were very similar.For the infantry, the Regiment was the basic organizational unit.As in British army practice,in both subcontinental armies the regiments were not actually battlefield formations –that role being assigned to battalions.The regiment’s role was to provide well trained and cohesive battalions to the front.Thus its not surprising to have battalions of the same regiment scattered over multiple fronts.
    The regiments were recruited generally on a regional basis,with regimental histories dating back to the Raj -and the common soldier took immense pride in his regiment.The battalions were grouped into brigades with 9 battalions in 3 brigades per Division in Indian case and 7 battalions in 3 brigades in Pakistani case.(for 4th mtn div,its 3rd brigade was away in another sector)

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    (7.62mm SLR Rifle)

    The basic infantryman in both armies fought bravely and with tenacity,though lacking perhaps a bit in technical proficiency.Both armies used a mix of ww2 british equipment along with new equipment,in the case of pakistan particularly american material.The standard rifle for both armies was the .303 Lee Enfield SMLE ,though in Indian case this had been substantially replaced by the new Self-Loading Rifle (SLR) -a copy of the Belgian FN-FAL while Pakistan had begun equipping its infantry with smaller numbers of AK-56 kalashnikovs.The standard LMG was the german Mg-42 for PA and british Bren LMG for IA.Both sides used WW2 British Vickers in HMG role.For close combat better equipped units in Pakistan's case had the German MP-5 submachine gun.Both sides used the British Sten gun and Sterling carbine.

    In numbers,on the whole India had a large superiority of over 2:1 in infantry but this was heavily diluted in the actual battlearea due to large chunks of troops being tied down in Kashmir,the China Border and border with East Pakistan.In the actual Khem karan area,the reverse was true ! The Indians were at a disadvantage with 5.5 battalions facing 10 pakistani infantry battalions(3 of them Mechanized).

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    (106 mm Recoiless gun)
    The anti -tank stopping power of infantry in this timeframe(before the era of anti-tank guided missiles) was quite low.Both sides relied primarily on handheld Bazookas and Jeep-mounted 106 mm Recoiless rifles as defense against tanks along with mines.Even here Pakistan enjoyed a much greater number of integral anti-tank weapons per infantry battalion than India,thanks to American aid.The Indian infantry battalion largely relied on 6 such jeep mounted 106mm Recoiless guns as anti-tank defense,but these were primarily defensive anti-tank ambush weapons incapable of going head on against tanks and could only take out the pattons at close range.It was in one of these vehicles that Quartermaster Abdul Hamid would perform heroics that would gain him immortality.

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    (M113 APC)
    Pakistani Armoured Divisions were also provided with mechanized infantry on American built M113 APCs -1 mechanized infantry battalion per Armoured brigade.India didn't have any mechanized infantry force.In Asal uttar,3 pakistani mechanized infantry battalions were involved to support the pakistani armoured attacks.These would operate in close conjunction with the armour disembarking the transported infantry squad close to the battle line and keeping up with the armoured advance.

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    (25 Pounder and 3.7 Inch Howitzer)

    ARTILLERY :


    Both countries inherited an effective artillery arm with the excellent tradition of british artillery.On paper India entered the war with 628 artillery pieces and Pakistan with 552 artillery pieces.On the ground,Pakistan had a decided superiority.All of India's guns were WW2 vintage british guns .The bulk being 450 odd QF-25-pounders(87 mm),66 of 3.7 Inch (93 mm) howitzers and around 100 of 140mm british heavy howitzers.Pakistan too deployed 240 odd 25-pounders,72 of 3.7 inch howitzers as well as 72 of 105 mm guns.But its main advantage rested in the excellent american artillery pieces it had acquired - 126 of the 155mm M114 Heavy Howitzers and around 50 of the 203 mm M110 very heavy howitzers with greater range and punching weight than the indian guns.The redoubtable 25-pounder ,a veteran of the second world war was reliable and efficient if somewhat dated and used in bulk by both armies.

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    (M114 and M110)
    Furthermore Pakistani artillery was trained to use the american method of using pre-timed fuzes ,so that projectiles fired at different trajectories would arrive at a target at very short interval for maximum destruction.This also allowed Pakistani artillery to disperse their guns a bit more and they also had better weapon locating equipment.Pakistani artillery performed very well throughout the war causing numerous casualities,particularly in the defensive battles against advancing indian forces.In Asal uttar their performance was to be lacklustre due to lack of proper deployment,co-operation and absence of proper intelligence on Indian positions.In contrast the Indian artillery,having these factors in its favour performed superbly.At Asal Uttar itself Pakistani artillery held a large advantage over India -The Indians could only muster 1 field regiment of 25 pdrs,2 x 3.7 inch gun regiments,1 x 140 mm medium regiment,1 sexton and 1 of 120mm mortar regiment.Pakistan could deploy 5 field regiments( 3 of them self-propelled) as well as 3 medium regiments(with 155 mm) and a heavy regiment with 203mm guns,plus 120mm mortar battery.This gave pakistan a numerical superiority in artillery 2 : 1 vis a vis the defending indian force as well as being superior in calibre.

    CONTD.
     
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  3. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    ARMOURED CORPS :

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    Both armies inherited the conservative style of employment of armour from the british army which had been repeatedly embarassed by the german panzers in mobile combat in ww2.While defensively solid,offensively they often found themselves coming up short.None of the armies had any large scale experience on the use of armour,as all armour units used in North Africa and Italy where Indian soldiers had fought were manned by british personnel.This would be reflected in the often clumsy employment of tanks either spread out like infantry formations ,or attempting to charge enemy positions like horse cavalry of old.(something the british had done very often in north africa).Overall pakistan entered the war with a decisive advantage in armour -pinning its hopes on this arm to rout the indian army.

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    PAKISTAN ARMOURED CORPS :

    Pakistani armoured corps began as a small elite body after partition but rapidly expanded from the mid 1950s when american equipment started flowing in.Pakistani armoured officers had been trained in the USA ,and this would find expression in bold attempts at outflanking on the battlefield which nonetheless were poorly executed due to bad staff planning and diminished crew standards(due to rapid expansion).Armour training was imparted at Armoured Corps Centre and School in Nowshera, with emphasis on offensive and integration with infantry.Standards had been further affected due to the favouritism brought in by the Ayub Khan military government in selection of officers based on loyalty.The officer training curriculum also had irregularities,often lacking an examination on completion.The patton crews were often found technically not proficient/familiarized enough to handle all the sophisticated equipment -particularly the rangefinder targeting mechanism.Pakistan reorganized its armoured corps in the 60s from 10 armoured regiments of 75 tanks each to 18 regiments of 44 tanks.

    Pakistan entered the war with 806 tanks and tank destroyers in 18 armoured regiments.These included 356 M47/M48 Pattons,308 Shermans,96 Chaffee light tanks and 50 M36 Jackson tank destroyers.9 regiments (ones with shermans) were parcelled out among the infantry and the rest -all Pattons formed Pakistan's 1st and 6th Armoured Divisions.At Asal Uttar Pakistan had its disposal 5 Patton regiments,1 Chafee Recon Regiment,1 Sherman Regiment.Facing an Indian tank force of 1 Centurion Regiment,1 Sherman Regiment (lacking a third of its strength)and 1 light AMX regiment(lacking a third of its strength).With an overall 3 :1 advantage in armour and an actual 5:1 advantage (5 patton regiments facing 1 centurion) for an outisde observer it should have been a walkover.

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    M-47/48 PATTON -

    Entering the battle with a formidable reputation,the Patton was considered one of the if not the best tank in the world with highly with a powerful 90mm gun and 2 heavy machine guns,night fighting Infra red capability,and a rangefinder for Long range single shot capability which allowed it to engage enemy armour at 2000 yrds.It had frontal armour upto 120 mm thick which could not be penetrated by the Indian shermans.The 106mm recoiless rifles,shermans,AMX had to rely on close range shots 500 yards from the sides to penetrate the tanks armour.Only the Indian Centurion had the armour and firepower to take on this machine head on.

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    (Both sides used shermans with short barrel 76 mm guns for infantry support and limited anti-tank duty)
    INDIAN ARMOURED CORPS :

    Indian armoured Corps had only begun expansion after 1962,and thus most of the Indian units were more longstanding entities.High level Indian Officers were trained at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy In Britain,with Armoured Corps Training School at Ahmednagar,and further armour training centres in India.Tactics remained conservative,it involved establishment of a firm base from which to launch attacks and which acted as a fall-back position.These tactics provided for solidity in the defense but lack of boldness in offensive operations which could degenerate into frontal assaults.For crew training Indian army at this time mostly relied on British crew training manuals(particularly regarding centurions) with local improvisations .

    India entered the war particularly inferior in the armoured component which could have had disastrous consequences.There were 14 Armoured Regiments in all with 186 Centurions,346 shermans,90 AMX and 90 PT-76.The 4 regiments of Centurions formed the hard core of the Indian armoured force.The Sherman was an obsolete infantry support tank and AMX and PT-76 were light vehicles capable of only reconaissance and support.India's Armoured Formations were 1st Armoured Division and 2nd Independent Armoured Brigade.3 centurion regiments and 2 sherman regiments were in the former and 1 centurion and 1 AMX in the latter.Rest of the regiments were allocatted to the infantry divisions for support like 9 deccan horse to 4th mountain division.

    Each Indian armoured Regiment was composed of 45 tanks in 3 squadrons . Each squadrons had 4 troops of 3 tanks each plus 2 command tanks for 14 tanks per squadron.Regiment has 3 command tanks.

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    CENTURION :

    The backbone of the IAC were the 4 regiments of british made centurion tanks.Sturdy,reliable,accurate and with commendable firepower it is now considered one of the best post ww2 armoured vehicles and became a favourite of both the Indian and Israeli armies(which used them to deadly effect in 1967 and 1973).It was affectionately called 'Bade bhai' (big brother) among Indian tank crews.

    The design emphasized firepower and armour protection -heeding the hard lessons british tank designers faced against heavy german panzers throughout the war.It had very good armour ranging from 50 - 150mm and in 1965 was armed with a deadly accurate 20-Pounder(84 mm) Rifled tank gun(later replaced by the legendary 105 mm L7).It was not as sophisticated as the Patton lacking night fighting capability or rangefinder equipment.

    The Indian Army improvised a simple but effective crew training method which did much to hone the skills of the centurion crews.The Field Miniature Range(FMR) was true to a scale 1:100 ground model including the half-inch square targets that represented enemy tanks.The firing end was a stripped down rifle externally slaved to the main 20-pounder gun on a mounting bracket which was operated by the tank loader.Tank actions would replicate crew drills used in live firing would carry out all tank shoots using this device.The gunner and commander could see the result of the shoot for real on the miniature targets which increased their confidence and proficiency.This method didn't use up costly ammunition rounds but nonetheless provided extensive gunnery training.

    The Indian Centurions developed the 3-round firing technique making full use of the centurions quick firing ability- where a competent gunner could fire 3 rounds in 12 to 15 seconds.At medium and close engagement ranges 600-1200 yrds the flat trajectory of the centurions super velocity ammunition required no range estimation and gunners could just set a mid range and fire away the 3-round set assuring a 90% hit probability.This superb rate of fire at mid-close ranges eclipsed the patton with its complicated rangefinder mechanism which being deadly in long range duels needed technically familiar and proficient crews,and were often unable to react in closer ranges to the unrelenting centurion fire before their tank was taken out .

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    (AMX -13)
    India had 2 regiments of AMX-13 french light tank/tank destroyers in 1965.A cheap light vehicle it had very light armour but a sizeable 73mm gun.Though this could only engage pattons succesfully from the flanks at close ranges.One AMX regiment of 2nd armoured brigade(8 cavalry) joined the battle in the later stages but didn't see heavy action,being largely employed for flank protection.It was mainly the 45 centurions of 3 cavalry that would be the main hope of Indian armour at Asal uttar.

    NEXT : BATTLE OF ASAL UTTAR
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
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  4. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    BATTLE OF ASAL UTTAR

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    ORDER OF BATTLE : PAKISTAN
    1st Armored Division (Maj. Gen. N.A.Khan)
    12th Cavalry (Division reconnaissance regiment, Chaffees)

    Division Artillery
    3 (SP) Field Regiment
    15 (SP) Field Regiment
    16 (SP) Field Regiment
    21 Medium Regiment
    19 (SP) Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
    1 Engineer Battalion

    3rd Armored Brigade
    19th Lancers (Pattons)
    7th Frontier Force (Armored Infantry)

    4th Armored Brigade
    4th Cavalry (Pattons)
    5th Horse(Pattons )
    10th Frontier Force (Armored Infantry)

    5th Armored Brigade
    6th Lancers Pattons
    24th Cavalry Pattons
    1st Frontier Force (Armored Infantry)

    11th Infantry Division (Maj Gen.A.H.Khan)
    15th Lancers I Corps Reconnaissance Regiment
    32nd Tank Delivery Unit (Sherman)

    Division Artillery
    26 Field Regiment
    38 Field Regiment
    12 Medium Regiment
    9 Medium Regiment
    35 Heavy Regiment
    Troop/88 Mortar Battery
    37 Corps Locating Regiment
    3 Engineer Battalion
    25 Signals Battalion

    21st Infantry Brigade
    5th Frontier Force
    13th Baluch

    52nd Brigade(deployed from Kasur-Khem Karan Road to Kasur-Ferozepur Road)
    2nd Frontier Force
    7th Punjab
    12th Baluch

    106th Infantry Brigade
    1st East Bengal
    7th Baluch

    ORDER OF BATTLE : INDIA

    2nd Independent Armored Brigade (Brig. T.K. Theograj)
    3rd Cavalry (Lt. Col. S. Caleb) Centurions
    8th Lancers (Lt. Cpl. P.C. Mehta) AMX-13

    (Third regiment was away in another sector)
    1st (SP) Field Regiment (Sextons)

    4th Mountain Division [Maj. Gen. Gurbaksh Singh]

    9th (Deccan) Horse( Lt. Col. A.S. Vaidya ) Shermans

    7th Mountain Brigade (Brig. Sidhu)
    4th Grenadiers
    7th Grenadiers
    9th Jammu and Kashmir Regiment

    62nd Mountain Brigade(H.Guhilaut)
    1/9th Gorkha Rifles
    13th Dogra
    18th Rajputana Rifles

    (33rd Mountain Brigade was away in another sector)

    Military Symbols in the colour maps - one X on top is brigade, two X division, one perpendicular bar squadron and 2 of those regiment.3 dots denote tank troop.The circular area is divisional defended sector of 4th Mtn division(couldn't find a map with exact positioning of subordinate battalions)

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    The original Pakistani plan envisaged a dawn breakout in strength on the 8th,but a combination of poor engineering preparation and disruptive Indian artillery fire this was delayed by hours.Meanwhile the 4th Mtn breached the rohi nalla to swamp the terrain south and south west of the divisional defended sector to hinder armour operations,strengthened their defences as Gurbaksh Singh rallied his men to prepare to face the coming onslaught.His infantry battalions occupied the centre supported by the divisions anti-tank elements and divisional artillery to the rear with 2 squadrons of deccan horse in support on the flanks.

    8 SEPTEMBER :


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    (Couldn't find maps for all micro-actions sadly,this a part,explained below)
    Deccan Horse holds firm -
    The Pakistanis launched their offensive at 0830 hours on September 08 with a reconnaissance in force with two squadrons of Chaffees and one squadron of Pattons. Under cover of artillery fire, the advancing columns moved within 900 m of the Indian defences. At this point, they were engaged by tanks of Deccan Horse -hull down shermans hidden in the sugarcane fields. The Pakistani armour broke up into smaller groups and tried to infiltrate into the Indian defences.The Pattons were visible to Indian recoilless rifle and tank crews who could see the swaying of the cane as the enemy approached and the upperworks of the Pattons’ turrets,while they themselves remained largely hidden.Opening fire close ranges A.Vaidya's shermans held firm and destroyed 11 tanks for the loss of 4 of their own,after which the pakistani armour withdrew.

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    (Abdul Hamid -The Tankbuster)

    Frontal Assault on 4th Mtn Div :
    Pakistan’s 5th Armoured Brigade then mounted a frontal assault on 4th Mountain Division .The attack was led by a regiment of Pattons, a squadron of Chaffees and a mechanized battalion .The attack made initial progress in the 1/9 Gorkha rifles sector but was eventually contained.The 4 Grenadiers faced repeated heavy attacks at 12:00 am and from 2:00 PM.Despite some of their trenches being overrun, the battalion with its anti-tank gunners comprising Subedar M.Chand and Havildar A. Hamid
    knocked out four tanks and stopped the advance
    .

    Maj.Gen Rajendra Nath writes about the Pakistani tactics(which showed american influence) -
    ''The way Pakistan was using its armour to assault our defended areas came as a great surprise to us, for we had never used our armour in peace time exercises or in war in such a bold and audacious manner. The Pakistani method of attack on our defended areas needs to be described in some detail. A typical tank assault would commence with the approach of light tanks boosted by Shermans or Patton tanks. They would feel for the gaps in our defended areas and probe our flanks to find out the extent of our defences while their artillery would keep our suspected positions engaged so that our anti-tank guns were not very effective. After this reconnaissance, some of their tanks would move to a flank partly to lure our tanks and partly to divert our artillery fire. Then Pakistan’s armour would assault our positions followed by their infantry in armoured personnel carriers. The tanks would assault with six to eight abreast firing their secondary and main armament and would be followed by the Infantry who would dismount from their armoured personnel carriers and attack our positions. All this time, their artillery would be neutralising our positions. Another method of assault was that Pakistan’s assaulting tanks, normally six to eight abreast well spread out, would charge our positions firing their guns but stop short of our positions, just outside the range of our anti-tank guns. Meanwhile, other follow up tanks would come up and try to envelop the defences and over run them from right or left flank. Their aim was generally to frighten our infantry and over run our positions.

    A combination of above tactics had been tried by Pakistani forces against both 62 and 7 Brigade units who had gone on offensive on 6th September and captured Pakistan’s forward positions. Before these units could dig in, the Pakistan had used their armour and infantry boldly in assault which had unnerved some of our troops, for we had not taught or practised such tactics in our army till 1965. However, our troops had discovered that Pakistan’s armour assaults would fizzle out whenever our infantry stood its ground using its anti-tank guns and was supported by our artillery. The units of 4 Division were now getting accustomed to Pakistan’s pattern of armour and infantry assaults and so were giving a good account of themselves.''


    First Blood for Centurions :
    This phase is shown in last map.Around 2:30 pm pattons of 6Lancers sought to envelop the Indians with a flank attack along the western axis aimed at Chima to roll up the defences of 4thMtn from the rear and get into its artillery area.Here they were confronted by the centurions of B squadron of 3rd cavalry under maj Belvalkar.In a fluid meeting engagement at close ranges the centurion proved its mettle knocking out 5 pattons and 1 chafee.Daffadar Wasan singh's lead centurion drew first blood with 2 patton kills.After this setback the pakistani armour withdrew .

    [​IMG]
    ''Press hard and get all the bastards before they turn back and run'' -Maj. Belvalkar over radio

    Further North Pakistani tanks had reached Valtoha Railway station by 5:00 PM but were unable to consolidate their hold.They were overextended having left behind their infantry support which had been pinned down by indian artillery and machine gun fire,and snipers in the sugarcane fields.A move eastwards towards chima was blocked by B squadron and 3rd Cavalry's A squadron was now moving in block to any forward movement.At this point Brigadier Bashir withdrew both his regiments(24c and 6L) to leaguer(reform,restock,refuel) at Khem karan -a controversial decision that has been criticized but was nonetheless consistent with british ww2 armoured practice.Indian sources claim the withdrawal was also precipitated by the movement of A squadron's Centurions towards 6L and the deployment of C squadron on the open flank of 24C by Lt.Col Caleb.commander of 3 Cavalry.(A squadron however found the ground in front too soft and boggy for armour movement and withdrew back into the centre behind B squadron as a reserve ).These movements are shown in the map below.Overall the day had been a good one for the Indian defenders who had held firm despite some nervous moments,and every unit had played its part.The myth of the invincibility of the Patton had been shattered which raised the morale of the indian tank crews.

    [​IMG]

    9 SEPTEMBER :

    Night attack on Rajputana Rifles -

    At about 2:00 am after midnight,Pakistani pattons utilizing their infra-red equipment supported by mechanized infantry made a heavy assault on 18RajRif defended battalion sector.Brigadier Guhilaut,commander of 62nd Mtn Brigade had ordered the battalion to hold on even if forward trenches were overrun.The Pakistani tanks had to pass through mines and endure concentrated fire of five artillery regiments, which were firing on the unit’s frontage. This fire was supplemented by unit mortars and recoiless guns.Lt.Col Raghuvir Singh.commanding officer of 18RajRif set a personal example - when Pakistani tanks overran the positions defended by the forward deployed companies,leaving his command post and heedless of his personal safety he moved past 3 enemy tanks and under intense artillery bombardment reached the forward companies and reestablished contact with them.By 0330hrs Pakistani infantry advanced in APCs, but during their probing they encountered a minefield and withdrew.The Pakistani attack fizzled out as they failed to dislodge the determined defenders.

    At dawn the PAF tried to soften up indian positions along with heavy artillery bombardment,but this didn't have the desired effect on the well-dug in defenders.The IAF was also subdued and failed to cause any appreciable physical destruction of the enemy armour,but one interdiction strike on a supply train destroyed ammunition stocks and reduced the ammunition of the pattons to 30 rounds per tank causing logistical strain.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    (Indian Infantry and artillery)

    All- Day Attacks on 4th Mtn Division -

    After dawn heavy attacks fell on 4 Grenadiers which fought back spiritedly under Lt.Col Bhatti.Two tanks were blown up on the minefield and another was destroyed by the recoiless guns of 4 Grenadiers.In the afternoon tanks and infantry again assaulted 18RajRif which fought back supported by divisional artillery and the tanks of Deccan Horse.Several pakistani tanks were lost ,many tank commanders directing their vehicle with their head and torso exposed above the cupola fell victim to accurate small arms fire.Finally by 10:00 pm the pakistani armour withdrew.Casualities were heavy on both sides..The pakistani armour was facing steady heavy attrition,while the indian infantry too was being depleted.XI corps ordered 4 battalions to be broken up for the time being into smaller units to hold the line.

    [​IMG]
    (On the flanks - explained below)

    On the Flanks - Calm before the storm
    On the flanks ,the day had been relatively quiet.6L attempted a broad flanking move along the Eastern axis but found out as A squadron had the previous day,the ground too boggy.Several tanks became immobilized and easy targets .Nonetheless some elements of its vanguard again reached Valtoha but later withdrew,there was no serious fighting -the day being characterized by cautious probes.
    Meanwhile Brigadier Theograj,commander of 2nd Ind.Arm Brigade had arrived with his other regiment 8 Cavalry with AMX (minus 1 sq) and assigned it to flank protection.A massed pakistani armoured attack was now expected as by now its all its armoured regiments were accross the bridgehead.Since the centre was stoutly held by the infantry and Deccan Horse and the Eastern axis too boggy for large scale armour movement it left only the western axis from Bhura Karimpur towards mahmudpura as the most probable route for such an attack.Theograj and Caleb prepared the centurions of 3 Cavalry to meet such an attack with an elaborate ambush meant to catch the advancing Pak armour in a crossfire.But the attack didn't come on 9th september,possibly due to insufficient preparation on the pakistani side.It would come the next day.

    [​IMG]
    (Brigadier Theograj encourages his men)
    CONTD.
     
  5. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    [​IMG]
    (Deployment -10 September)

    10 SEPTEMBER :

    Deployment -

    The pakistani plan was to pin down 4th mtn and Deccan Horse with 5th Arm.Brigade(24c,6L,1FF) and launch a sweeping envelopment on the Bhura Karimpur - Mahmudpura Axis with 4th Armoured Brigade(4C,5H,10FF) with 3rd Armoured brigade(1 armoured regiment,1 mechanized infantry battalion) in reserve (along with 11th division infantry) for expolitation and mopping up after the breakthrough.Brig .Theograj deployed the 2 AMX squadrons of 8C on the flanks . Theograj and Lt Col Caleb positioned the centurion squadrons in 2 concentric horseshoe shaped semi circles designed to bring the firepower of the entire regiment to bear on the incoming enemy armour in a devastating crossfire,while also providing defense in depth.B and C squadrons formed the first semicircle from dholan to chima with mahmudpura in the centre.The A squadron formed the 2nd semicircle.Areas were flooded on the approach routes to further bog down the pattons.

    [​IMG]
    (Abdul Hamid's Last stand)
    Final attacks on 4th Mtn Division -
    5th armoured brigade with Pattons and Mechanized infantry in 4 Grenadiers sector in the morning and managed to break through the forward positions.Havildar Hamid who had already destroyed 4 tanks on 8th september stood his ground as pattons charged charged his defended locality and managed to knock out 3 more before being killed by a 4rth tank in a feat of heroics for which he posthumously recieved the Param Vir Chakra -India's highest gallantry award.6Lancers made a final attack on 7 Grenadiers in the afternoon but this too was halted.
    [​IMG]
    (4Cavalry in the trap)
    The Trap is sprung -
    The main pakistani armoured attack began at around 8:30 am when lead elements of Pakistan 4 cavalry approached Dholan,but were engaged by camouflaged centurions of C squadron which quickly knocked out 4 pattons. Maj. Sandhu,commander of C squadron positioned himself at Lakhna on one of the rooftops from where he tracked the movements of enemy armour and was able to provide a continous stream of information to HQ on enemy movements,and they acted accordingly.
    Few tanks approaching Madar were shot at by A squadron deployed in the 2nd semicircle and a patton and APCs were destroyed.

    ''Whoever remains cooler under stress for a longer time will win.Identify,take good aim and shoot'.God be with you.'' -Lt.Col Caleb over radio

    The 2nd Squadron of 4 cavalry charged Mahmudpura but were caught in an ambush from the flank by 2nd Lt R.P.Joshi's troop of centurions and were decimated losing 9 pattons and 2 Recoiless guns in minutes.The pattons were helpless,most of them couldn't detect the centurions or never even got a shot off before falling to the centurions 3 round technique.Based on the information provided by Maj Sandhu,A Squadron readjusted its position and set up an ambush for the incoming 3rd Squadron of 4Cavalry which was battered in the crossfire.A troop of AMX from 8C also joined the fray from the flank.Naib Risaldar Jagdeo Singh destroyed 3 pattons in his centurion here.

    [​IMG]
    (Camouflaged Centurion)

    4 Cavalry was in desperate straits.It was squeezed on all sides by A and C squadron and had taken devastating losses.Its sister regiment in the 4rth Arm Brigade - 5th Horse was held up by the centurions of B squadron and a troop of AMX supported by massed artillery fire.Petrol and ammunition was low,it could neither move forward nor back.The infantry had been left behind as usual and had been pinned down by Indian artillery fire.The devastating impact of the concentrated fire of the Indian artillery particularly the sextons and 140mm guns commanded by P.C.Jesus can be gauged from an intercepted communication .Maj Gen.Nasir Ahmed Khan,Commander of 1 Armoured Division (GOC) watching the disintegration of his division from the air in a helicopter spoke directly to the 4th armoured Brigade Commander (BC)-

    BC: ‘It’s not possible for us to advance any further due to stiff resistance. Heavy enemy shelling has completely pinned us down.’
    GOC: ‘It is most important that the advance is continued. Therefore, in the name of Islam, Pakistan and Hillale Jurat, I command you get up and go forward.’
    BC: ‘I will do my best but as things are I do not know how the hell I am going to do that. This bloody enemy artillery is knocking the hell out of us and I am afraid at the moment that I can’t do any better then this.’
    GOC: ‘Move forward to your objectives forthwith.’
    BC: ‘I cannot move; Indians are ahead of me.’
    GOC: ‘Come and see me immediately.’
    BC: ‘Where do I come? I don’t know.’
    GOC: ‘Move straight on and turn right.’
    BC: ‘Do you know where I am? If I turn left the Indians get me, if I turn right the artillery gets me. Where do I come and how?’
    GOC: ‘Turn right till you hit the road, follow it and you will find me at milpost 36.’


    In a desperate attempt to galvanize his men Maj.Gen Nasir attempted to meet up with his beleagured subordinates physically.But his Command troop was ambushed by 4 Grenadiers with recoiless guns.Brigadier Shammi,the divisional artillery commander was killed and Nasir Khan seriously wounded.The pakistani attack now rudderless,came to a standstill and collapsed after this.After dusk all Indian guns opened up in heavy bombardment of the trapped pakistani armour shattering the morale of the survivors completely,and desertion became common.Cut off,unable to retreat due to no petrol ,having lost physical communications with HQ and being steadily decimated 4 cavalry Regimental commander informed HQ barring relief he would surrender on the next morning.

    [​IMG]
    (Surrender and Retreat of Pak armour)

    11 SEPTEMBER :

    Endgame -
    In the morning of 11th the Indian centurions closed in from all sides,under fire pakistani crewmen and infantry broke, abandoned their vehicles and fled.A squadron commander Maj Vadera was able to capture 9 Pattons in perfect working condition and an APC.A few hours later regimental commander of 4cavalry surrendered with his surviving squadron commanders and ranks,found hiding in a sugarcane field.

    Pakistani 3rd armoured brigade withdrew,being transferred to sialkot sector where Indian pressure was becoming serious.The remnants of 4rth armoured brigade also withdrew.The mauled 5th armoured Brigade was left behind as a covering force.The battle was over.

    [​IMG]

    NEXT: AFTERMATH -ANALYSIS
     
  6. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    AFTERMATH AND ANALYSIS

    [​IMG]
    AFTERMATH :

    In the debacle at Asal uttar Pakistan lost 97 tanks including 75 of the latest pattons.The Indians lost 14 tanks(10 of Deccan horse,4 of 3 cavalry) and some damaged.Equivalent of 2 armoured regiments were wiped off the Pakistani order of battle -with 4 cavalry being physically wiped out as a formation.The Pakistani dream of capturing Punjab with a Fourth Panipat was shattered ,rather in a reverse Panipat its elite strike formation was defeated and Pakistan lost the initiative in the war .And it came at a place fittingly called Asal Uttar (The befitting reply).For the rest of the war the Pakistan Army would be busy mounting a desperate defense to save Lahore from the Indian Army which now had the momentum.Never again would Pakistan be in a position to achieve a decisive victory over India,after 1965 the disparity of forces would grow rapidly and would culminate in the defeat of Pakistan in 1971 and birth of Bangladesh.In this regard Asal Uttar may be regarded as one of the most ,if not the most decisive battle in the history of the Indian Republic.

    Nearly a hundred pakistani tanks were assembled after the war near the battle site which came to be known as 'Patton Nagar.'Foreign military attaches were invited to the display.While American military attaches were shocked at the destruction of so many of the new pattons,the british attache was admittedly delighted at the performance of the Centurion.The German military attache remarked that the ''Pakistani army's plan had been bold,but perhaps only the German army could execute such a plan''.

    The defenders at Asal Uttar were hailed as the 'Saviours of Punjab' and 3rd Cavalry added to its name the sobriquet 'Patton Wreckers'.5 Maha Vir Chakra and 1 Param Vir chakras were awarded as well as many gallantry medals .The local civilian population too rallied behind the army providing shelter in their homes,food and often acting as scouts in which capacity there were fatalities.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    (Maha Vir Chakra Recipients)

    [​IMG]
    (Param Vir Chakra Recipient - Havildar Abdul Hamid)
    On top the 5 MVC recipients - From Left to right(top to bottom) - Maj.Gen Gurbaksh Singh (CO -4th Mtn Div),Lt.col Raghuvir Singh(CO - 18RajRif Battalion),Lt.Col A.Vaidya(CO - 9 Deccan Horse Regiment),Brigadier T.K.Theograj (CO - 2nd Ind Arm Brigade),Lt.col S.Caleb(CO - 3rd Cavalry Regiment).Detailed information can be found on Indian army Official Website - MVC recipients section.

    ANALYSIS :


    Going into the battle Pakistan had all the advantages - it had enormous numerical superiority in armour and artillery,and advantage in quality as well.They had armoured infantry,night fighting equipment and helicopters available to the commander to observe the battle.Despite this the attack failed conclusively.

    CONCENTRATION OF FORCE :
    The pakistani armour was for the greater part of the battle used piecemeal,which retreated after taking losses.Never in the battle were all the Pakistani armoured regiments committed to the battle simultaneously,though the constricted nature of the bridgehead may have been a cause of this.The Indians repeatedly brought the full concentration of their artillery on needed sectors and in the final tank ambush centurion regiment achieved the most desired result-being able to bring nearly the entire firepower of the regiment on an advancing enemy through excellent deployment.

    CO-OPERATION :LACK OF INFANTRY SUPPORT
    This was probably one of the biggest reasons.The 11th Mtn divisions infantry brigades never entered the fight in a serious capacity which should have been used to try and clear the indian infantry after the armour failed repeatedly in its frontal charges.The infantry-armour co-operation between the mechanized infantry and the pattons was worse,with the former being left behind and getting pinned down with regularity leaving the latter isolated and even if the tanks made a gain,they were unable to consolidate it due to lack of infantry.Here i think the structure of the Pakistani armoured division was also faulty.It had 5 patton (and another chafee recon regiment) regiments in 3 brigades but this was only supported by 3 mechanized infantry battalions .That is just 1 infantry battalion to support 2 whole armoured regiments.The proportion of infantry was just too low to succesfully carry on the momentum of a penetration,and due to very low numbers were easily pinned down repeatedly.Here an example of the German Panzer Divisions can be taken.They began the war with a very large proportion of tanks ratio over 2:1.As the war wore on and more powerful anti tank defences were encountered in russia by mid-war the proportion had become 1:1 and by late war reversed to 2:1 in some cases.In the Panzer divisions of the post-war Bundeswehr we can see armoured brigades themselves have a ratio of 1:1 in them,but the armoured division also has an integral Panzergrenadier brigade too.German experience showed them the necessity of increased amount supporting infantry when the tanks were faced with dogged infantry supported by tanks,anti-tank weapons and artillery as at Asal Uttar.

    COMMAND FAILURE :
    Pakistani Staff planning for the operation was quite poor.The engineering preparations were insufficient causing delays in areas which were within pakistani territory and should have been pre planned given the long standing offensive plan.Logistics was shabby,with tanks often running out of petrol.Squadron commanders usually retreated after facing any heavy resistance.Brig Bashir withdrew his regiments from forward areas to leaguer on succesive days.Towards the end of the battle there was widescale desertion and surrender.There was no intermediate Corps HQ between Division and Army HQ which led to poor co-ordination between 1st Armoured Division and 11th Infantry Division.Towards the end of the battle - Chief of Army Staff Muhammad Musa arrived to personally micromanage the battle.As a result despite a brilliant strategic plan there was dismal execution.Indians were lucky ,they had been outfought as far as strategic concentration was concerned but when it came to executing the plan on the ground,the brave ranks and junior officers of the Indian army performed extremely well in foiling the Pakistani offensive despite huge odds.

    DILUTION IN TRAINING :
    Agha amin,a retired pakistani officer and analyst noted that the rapid expansion of the Pakistani armoured corps from 1958 may have affected the individual crew standards where not all the lessons may have been fully absorbed.The Indians who had not begun serious expansion after 1962 were still in the process of just expanding the armoured corps when the war broke out and thus the armour regiments were more cohesive.

    USE OF TERRAIN :
    Another key factor in the battle.The Indians contained the Pakistani bridgehead with a forward defense at Asal Uttar ensuring the short frontage of the battlefield would mean a frontal battle against a prepared indian defense,and the pattons would be unable to break out into the open plains where their mobility would be decisive.They also purposedly breached the canals in several areas to bog down pakistani armour and channel them into killzones.Finally excellent use was made of the sugarcane fields to hide the Indian armour and recoiless gun teams in ambush positions which prevented the Pattons from engaging in long range duels where they would have an advantage.At close ranges the patton's advantage in rangefinding equipment and heavy armour were nullified.

    [​IMG]
    (Jubiliant Civilians atop pattons)

    Sources -
    Battle of Asal Uttar - P.K.Chakravorty
    XI Corps and Battle of Asal Uttar - Maj.gen Rajendra Nath
    Osprey -Patton vs Centurion
    The Patton Wreckers - Brig. Khutub Hai & Brig.Arjun Singh
    Battle of Asal Uttar -Agha Humayun Amin.


    ................................................................................................. X-----------------------------X ..............................................................................................................
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
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  7. vstol jockey

    vstol jockey Colonel MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    Game changing technologies are usually low cost and simple to operate. This has been proven in nearly every war till date including the Russian AF Syrian campaign using old dumb bombs as precision strike bombs using SVD-24 computers.
     
  8. Vyom

    Vyom Captain IDF NewBie

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    Effing amazing description... !!! almost lived the battle through words... @Austerlitz bravo..
     
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  9. Grevion

    Grevion Professional Think Troll IDF NewBie

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    Brilliant!! @Austerlitz
    It was a treat to read really.:tup:
     
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  10. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    Thanks for the feedback,appreciated.:biggthumpup:
     
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  11. Agent_47

    Agent_47 Admin - Blog IDF NewBie

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