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Battle of Asal Uttar - 56 years ago

Hephaestus

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The Battle of Asal Uttar was one of the largest tank battles fought during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. It was fought from 8 to 10 September 1965, when the Pakistan Army thrust its tanks and infantry into Indian territory, capturing the Indian town of Khem Karan 5 km from the International Border. The Indian troops retaliated, and after three days of bitter fighting, the battle ended with the Pakistani forces being repulsed near Asal Uttar. Factors that contributed to this were the fierce fight put up by the Indian army, conditions of the plains, better Indian tactics, and a successful Indian strategy.

This battle is compared with the Battle of Kursk in the second world war for how it changed the course of the India-Pakistan war of 1965 in India’s favor. War historians, including Dr. Philip Towle, regard the Indian resistance near Khem Karan as one of the key turning points of the war, one which tilted the balance of the war in favor of India. Peter Wilson states that the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the battle of Asal Uttar was one of the greatest defeats suffered by Pakistan forces in the course of the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.

On September 10, 1965, three Indian armored regiments with 45 old American M4 Sherman tanks, 45 light French-built AMX-13 tanks, and 45 British-built Centurion tanks were arrayed outside the village of Asal Uttar in the western Punjab province of India. These tanks had set up defensive positions in a “U” formation and were superbly camouflaged by tall un-harvested sugarcane stalks. The Indian force was assembled to attempt to stop the invading Pakistani armored drive. The Pakistani force contained no less than 300 of the new American M47 Patton tanks along with a few M24 Chaffee Tanks. The 46-ton Patton was considered one of the best and most modern designs of the time and included a 90mm main gun that outranged the Indian tanks. The Indian tanks were largely outgunned (the Shermans and AMX-13s only having 75mm main guns) as well as grossly outnumbered by a factor of no less than 2:1. Four inches (100mm) of steel armor plating on the Patton’s made them proof to all but the most close range or lucky shots

Advancing into an Indian artillery barrage, the Pakistani armor fell into the Indian trap. Much like the Americans at the Battle of Bunker Hill the Indian gunners held fast until they could ‘see the whites of their enemy’s eyes”. Opening fire from their camouflaged hiding places at ranges of as short as five hundred meters the smaller Indian tanks was able to penetrate the Pakistani Pattons from all angles and shortly set dozens on fire. The Pakistanis left the field in disarray, leaving almost a hundred tanks behind. The Indians lost 32 tanks but gained a powerful victory, which led to a stalemate and a ceasefire that ended the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War on September 22nd.

Another tactical victory was luring the Pakistani tanks into areas with soft soil which completely ruled out a quick retreat for their tanks.

The battle also witnessed the personal bravery of an Indian soldier Abdul Hamid being honoured with the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military award, for having knocked out seven enemy tanks with a recoil-less gun.

Participating in the battle was a young Lt. Pervez Musharraf, in the Pakistani 1st Armored Division. He later became the president of the Pakistani state. Today the site of the battle is referred to as Patton Nagar (Patton City) after a large number of Patton tanks were captured there.

The battle is described as one of the greatest tank battles since the Battle of Kursk in the second world war. Pakistan’s invading force, consisting of the 1st Armoured Division and 11th Infantry Division, crossed the International Border and captured the Indian town of Khem Karan. Considering the situation, GOC Indian 4th Mountain Division (Maj. Gen. Gurbaksh Singh) immediately ordered the division to fall back and assume a horseshoe shaped defensive position with Asal Uttar as its focal point.

In the night, the Indian troops flooded the sugar cane field, and the next morning, the Pakistani tanks of the 1st Armoured Division, consisting mainly of M-47 and M-48 Patton tanks, were lured inside the horse-shoe trap. The swampy ground slowed down the advance of the Pakistani tanks and many of them could not move because of the muddy slush. Ninety-nine Pakistani tanks mostly Pattons, and a few Shermans and Chaffees, were destroyed or captured while the Indians, by their account, lost only 10 tanks during this offensive.

Despite the initial thrust of the Pakistani Army into Indian territory, the battle ended in a decisive Indian Victory. The commander of Pakistani forces Maj. Gen. Nasir Ahmed Khan was killed in action. According to military historian Steven Zaloga, Pakistan admitted that it lost 165 tanks during the 1965 war, more than half of which were knocked out during the “debacle” of Asal Uttar.

The battle also witnessed the personal bravery of an Indian soldier, Abdul Hamid, who was honored with the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military award, for knocking out seven enemy tanks with a recoilless gun.
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This battle led to the creation of Patton Nagar (or “Patton City”) at the site of the battle. This is because a large number of Patton tanks fielded by the Pakistani forces were either captured or destroyed at the scene.
 

PanzerKiel

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Just some points from my side regarding PA 1 Armored / 11 Div ops.

PA failed to exploit the unprepared defences of 4 MD after their rout. This gave them time to put up a hasty defence first which then transformed into a deliberate one.

5 AB's initial push managed to find the gap south of the rail line leading towards Khem Karan (6 Lancer's action) which was not exploited and the regiment was called back. IA then managed to plug this gap. Overall, 5 AB's failure was their bad recce of the front which deprived them of any knowledge of IA defences and their gaps.

4 AB then again attacked in a void. First, they themselves were not a potent enough force to force a defensive reaction on 4 MD. Their outflanking move failed in the sense that they bumped again into 4 MD. Again, bad recce....its nothing out of the world, just procedural mistakes...and in this case, as it turned out, bad map reading skills on the part of 4 AB commander who was twice corrected by the CO of under commander MIB but even then did not pay any heed to it.

Moreover, 4 and 5 ABs always started their attacks late in the day, which left precious little day time to operate. Moreover, both brigades made it their business to give up their daily gains after last light and retire to their respective leaguers. They fought for the same area each day.

I am always full of admiration for GOC WC, Gen Harbaksh, for the role he played in 65 War. As commander of almost all the IA troops who took part in 65 war, he proved his mettle. He was always found wherever IA was about to break. He made his personality felt and did not feel shy in visiting the critical sectors of his front whenever there was a need. This thing was found lacking on PA's side. In case of Khem Karan as well, for me, GOC WC played the role of no less than a Strike Corps which strengthened 4 MD.

Some analysis of Khem Karan battle...
It was good tankable terrain, though the tall grass obstructed observation at times.

There was a clear lack of judgement and anticipation on the part of PA commanders.

Southern approach, which was empty and founded by 6 Lancers, was not exploited.

Infantry-tank cooperation was a serious issue.

Poor wireless discipline as well, one PA armored unit continued to transmit everything in clear, without code.

The PA bridgehead was one big mismanaged operation in which almost everything went wrong.

No articulating HQ in the form of a Corps HQ to control and coordinated the ops of 1 AD and 11 ID.

No artillery was used for the attacks against 4 MD defences even though two divisional artillery and one Corps artillery brigades were available.

PAF was not utilized against 4 MD defences.

PA operation in total ignorance of IA strength and defences. It was due to procedures related to recce not being followed.



Now coming to the 4 MD attempts to retake Khem Karan once 1 AD moved out and 11 ID settled for defence.

This time, IA made the same mistake which PA did. Hurling tanks against fixed defences.

PA missed another golden opportunity when 2 IAB was suddenly called to support IA 15 Div. 2 IAB remained away and returned after 48 hours, a fact not seen by PA.

Khem Karan was finally defended by PA's one infantry brigade and an armored brigade.

For IA, it was now a matter of prestige to re-capture Khem Karan. However, there were no reserves with 11 Corps or WC for this task. Therefore, 4 Sikh, which was sorely tired after its capture of Barki, was pulled out and launched in an infiltration op. 2 Mahar was also launched.
CO 4 Sikh was even reminded of 12 Sep, the date of Battle of Saraghari, by GOC WCso that he would make a supreme effort.

CO 4 Sikh initially objected to his unit's op due to...
-ordered to infiltrate the same night on which he arrived, without any rest.
-He had not fully assembled is unit yet.
-Unfamiliar AOO.
- He was given just one night to go through PA infantry brigade supported by an armored brigade.

4 Sikh was subsequently decimated since PA opened fire at close range. 4 Sikh managed to hit a cauldron which was ringed by PA dug-in tanks, SP guns and infantry. Many became POWs. Almost 200 all ranks of 4 Sikh participated in this attack.

IA tried one last, major and desperate attack on 21/22 Sep before the ceasefire.

However, IA had again faulty int regarding PA defences. PA also had dug-in all tanks which proved difficult to eliminate. IA armor, again, was again in support role of infantry instead of leading the infantry. This time, PAF intervened and took our IA artillery gun positions first. IA lack of training in night operations was also evident since they continuously used star shells and flares which provided PA gunners with good indications of IA troops.
....and also, as usual, there was no sign of IAF, which should have intervened massively.
 

Pak Nationalist

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Just some points from my side regarding PA 1 Armored / 11 Div ops.

PA failed to exploit the unprepared defences of 4 MD after their rout. This gave them time to put up a hasty defence first which then transformed into a deliberate one.

5 AB's initial push managed to find the gap south of the rail line leading towards Khem Karan (6 Lancer's action) which was not exploited and the regiment was called back. IA then managed to plug this gap. Overall, 5 AB's failure was their bad recce of the front which deprived them of any knowledge of IA defences and their gaps.

4 AB then again attacked in a void. First, they themselves were not a potent enough force to force a defensive reaction on 4 MD. Their outflanking move failed in the sense that they bumped again into 4 MD. Again, bad recce....its nothing out of the world, just procedural mistakes...and in this case, as it turned out, bad map reading skills on the part of 4 AB commander who was twice corrected by the CO of under commander MIB but even then did not pay any heed to it.

Moreover, 4 and 5 ABs always started their attacks late in the day, which left precious little day time to operate. Moreover, both brigades made it their business to give up their daily gains after last light and retire to their respective leaguers. They fought for the same area each day.

I am always full of admiration for GOC WC, Gen Harbaksh, for the role he played in 65 War. As commander of almost all the IA troops who took part in 65 war, he proved his mettle. He was always found wherever IA was about to break. He made his personality felt and did not feel shy in visiting the critical sectors of his front whenever there was a need. This thing was found lacking on PA's side. In case of Khem Karan as well, for me, GOC WC played the role of no less than a Strike Corps which strengthened 4 MD.

Some analysis of Khem Karan battle...
It was good tankable terrain, though the tall grass obstructed observation at times.

There was a clear lack of judgement and anticipation on the part of PA commanders.

Southern approach, which was empty and founded by 6 Lancers, was not exploited.

Infantry-tank cooperation was a serious issue.

Poor wireless discipline as well, one PA armored unit continued to transmit everything in clear, without code.

The PA bridgehead was one big mismanaged operation in which almost everything went wrong.

No articulating HQ in the form of a Corps HQ to control and coordinated the ops of 1 AD and 11 ID.

No artillery was used for the attacks against 4 MD defences even though two divisional artillery and one Corps artillery brigades were available.

PAF was not utilized against 4 MD defences.

PA operation in total ignorance of IA strength and defences. It was due to procedures related to recce not being followed.



Now coming to the 4 MD attempts to retake Khem Karan once 1 AD moved out and 11 ID settled for defence.

This time, IA made the same mistake which PA did. Hurling tanks against fixed defences.

PA missed another golden opportunity when 2 IAB was suddenly called to support IA 15 Div. 2 IAB remained away and returned after 48 hours, a fact not seen by PA.

Khem Karan was finally defended by PA's one infantry brigade and an armored brigade.

For IA, it was now a matter of prestige to re-capture Khem Karan. However, there were no reserves with 11 Corps or WC for this task. Therefore, 4 Sikh, which was sorely tired after its capture of Barki, was pulled out and launched in an infiltration op. 2 Mahar was also launched.
CO 4 Sikh was even reminded of 12 Sep, the date of Battle of Saraghari, by GOC WCso that he would make a supreme effort.

CO 4 Sikh initially objected to his unit's op due to...
-ordered to infiltrate the same night on which he arrived, without any rest.
-He had not fully assembled is unit yet.
-Unfamiliar AOO.
- He was given just one night to go through PA infantry brigade supported by an armored brigade.

4 Sikh was subsequently decimated since PA opened fire at close range. 4 Sikh managed to hit a cauldron which was ringed by PA dug-in tanks, SP guns and infantry. Many became POWs. Almost 200 all ranks of 4 Sikh participated in this attack.

IA tried one last, major and desperate attack on 21/22 Sep before the ceasefire.

However, IA had again faulty int regarding PA defences. PA also had dug-in all tanks which proved difficult to eliminate. IA armor, again, was again in support role of infantry instead of leading the infantry. This time, PAF intervened and took our IA artillery gun positions first. IA lack of training in night operations was also evident since they continuously used star shells and flares which provided PA gunners with good indications of IA troops.
....and also, as usual, there was no sign of IAF, which should have intervened massively.
Why was PAF not committed to the operation? Was it overstretched to support the ground troops? Even when the armored thrust was taking attrition, why was PAF not engaged then? Was proximity the factor that could have resulted in collateral damage?
 

Huffal

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We dare India to try again, been more than half a CENTURY. :pakistan:
Wanna know something funny?

Through out history between Pakistan and India, the indians kept making out the Patton was the best tank in the world and nothing could destroy it from the front.

But if you look at what india fielded... They had the centurion mk7 with the QF L7a1 105mm Rifled gun with APDS which could slice through the front hull and turret of the m48 at range. Not to mention how the tank had a stabiliser allowing it to fire on the move with much better accuracy.

The AMX 13 the indians were fielding could penetrate the lower front hull (?) of the m48 as well. The 75mm could do that...
 

M. Sarmad

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To quote Brig (R) Shaukat Qadir, the founder of the think tank Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI):

"The (1965) war from both sides reads like a comedy of errors. Both sides had opportunities they failed to capitalize on..."
 
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adelphi

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As historian continued...a few days later there was a battle of chawinda where scores were settled.
Sharing a personal experience ...... one day a captured Indian tank with elephant markings (probably porus ka hathi) appeared in front of my house. As a young curious lad I dashed towards it and had the privilege of having a swing with its barrel first.
A few months later the tank started housing a squadron of local F-16s (drug addicts) who used to take refuge inside during their daily drug fuelled sorties. It (tank) was also rumored to have accommodated few love birds as well. As a result the hatch was locked from outside by authorities.
A few years later a dhobi (laundry) moved next to it. On a bright sunny day he thought that best use of captured Indian tank would be to hang his daily washings on it to dry. The practice continued until one day an Army General on his way to PMA noticed and as a result the tank was taken back from the city of Field Marshall who led the country during the war.
Not sure what else could be done to it but I must admit it served well.
 

White and Green with M/S

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Not to derail with your BS. But, weren't you the one's who were trying & got pushed back.
We did lots of mistakes during war of 65 but we level the score few days after in the battle of Chawinda, you did also lots of mistakes during the 65 war, fails and success is a part during the war
Wow! What was your gain in Battle of Chawinda?
But, let me add another - "Battle of Phillora"
Destroy your 500 tanks kills half of your attacking force, and you retreated as result
 

PanzerKiel

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Why was PAF not committed to the operation? Was it overstretched to support the ground troops? Even when the armored thrust was taking attrition, why was PAF not engaged then? Was proximity the factor that could have resulted in collateral damage?
That's bad planning on our part, PAF was simply not asked for any support, we even didn't use our famous artillery in this entire operation... So all the attacks went in without artillery and air support.
 

iLION12345_1

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Too many people compare the tanks they two forces were using, let me tell you, it didn’t matter. The battles that india won and the battles that Pakistan won both largely came down to better planning on one sides part and poor planning on the other. You could flip the tanks or make them the same and I highly doubt the outcome would have changed Given how badly Pakistan planned what it lost and how well it planned what it won (and vice versa of course).
 

vishwambhar

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Not to derail with your BS. But, weren't you the one's who were trying & got pushed back.

Yes Pakistan launched offensive and declared to have dinner in Delhi but ended up defending Lahore..... now doesn't this give India a more score towards victory???
 

adelphi

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Wow! What was your gain in Battle of Chawinda?
But, let me add another - "Battle of Phillora"
Same what was achieved by Indians. I can also add "Battle of Lahore" where a commanding officer (Maj.-Gen. Prasad) fled with a muddy face & uniform only to be asked if he was a general or ardali (helper) on his return.
 

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