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Pakistan M-24 Tanks decimating Indian PT-76 Tanks

Signalian

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Seeing the recent doom and gloom of 1971 war threads on the forum, i looked around for something unique, though not completely sure, if this material has been posted before.

The history and service of M-24 Chaffee light Tank is very vague in Pakistan Army. Most accounts tell the under-utilization of M-24's and how the Indian T-55 tanks took a toll of M-24's. Even online search and wikipedia gives a account of Indian PT-76 destroying M-24 and PT-76 being "superior" to M-24.

The M-24 was armed with a 75mm main gun had light armor protection, it was around 19 Tons in weight and had a 4-5 man crew. It was suitable for armed recon tasks, not really direct combat with other tanks.

Here is an account how an ambush in 1971 war, in East Pakistan thwarted a major attack by Indian forces, its narrated by Major(R) Agha H Amin in the book, “The Pakistan Army Since 1965”.
It shows a Tank Ambush at Kushtia by a Pakistani Squadron Commander and Pakistani Company Commander Dislocated aims of an Indian Corps Commander.

Summary:

Pakistani M-24 Chaffee Tanks along with infantry support ambushed Indian forces and M-24's destroyed 5 out of 6 Indian PT-76 along with completely mauling an Indian Battalion with no losses to Pakistani tanks.

Strength:

Pakistan: 29 Cavalry (M-24 Tanks) + 1 Company 18 Punjab
India: 45 Cavalry (PT-76 Tanks) + 7 Infantry Brigade

Battle of Kushtia
Pakistani 9th Infantry Division was assigned with a squadron of 29 Cavalry for the defence of Hardinge Bridge (4) This squadron was commanded by one Major Sher ur Rahman. (5) At this stage 57 Brigade was in the process of withdrawing across the Hardinge Bridge to Nator in 16 Division area. Manzoor tasked Sher ur Rahman along with an infantry company
commanded by Major Zahid (18 Punjab) to delay the Indian force which was reported by the para-miltary Razakars to be on the way to Kushtia. Sher ur Rahman, as I many years later heard first hand from many soldiers of 29 Cavalry who had fought with him at Kushtia was no Manzoor! He selected an ambush site along with Major Zahid the infantry company commander inside Kushtia. The main road passed across a high embankment at this site and there was some open face on both flanks while some trees and buildings provided concealment and firing positions to Sher ur Rahman’s two tank troops (6) and Major Zahid’s infantry company. The ground on both sides of the road was boggy limited manoeuvre options of Indian tanks leading the 7Infantry Brigade advance. The Indian tanks (two troops) leading the advance reached the outskirts of Kushtia at 2 p.m. and deployed outside the towns built up area.

As per the Indian armoured corps historian precisely at this point in time the Indian 2 Corps Commander Raina along with GOC 4 Mountain Division arrived in a helicopter
and “chided the commanders on the spot for their unnecessary caution when there was no enemy who was, in any case, on the run. He told them not to waste time on battle procedure but press on with tanks because there was no requirement to lead with infantry through the town”.(7) The Indians commenced advance tanks leading and infantry very close behind. The first shot as per one 29 Cavalry veteran was fired once the sixth and the last Indian tank was in range and an infantry company (of 22 Rajput) was also within small arms range. The scene after this was one of total chaos. Most of the infantry company was gunned down within no time and as per Major General Gurcharan Singh Sandhu “within a few minutes the battalion (22 Rajput) ceased to exist as a fighting force” and “stragglers kept trickling away until the next day”. (8)

The Indian tank corps historian states that “The first shot from a Chafee (29 Cavalry) split open the fifth tank down the line”.

Only one out of six Indian tanks escaped the ambush. The battle was over! All that the Indian 7 Brigade Commander now did was to organise a defensive position with his second battalion behind a canal close to Kushtia. Gurcharan admitted and this was stated by many 29 Cavalry veterans that “Pakistani tanks made contact with the canal and engaged the attackers. At last light they blew up the canal bridge and withdrew to Paksay”. (9)

Reaction of Indian Corps Commander

I will simply quote Indian military historians in describing this part of the battle!

Gurcharan Singh gives the following picture. “The Corps Commander received the news of the mishap on return to his headquarter. He over-reacted and ordered 4 Mountain Division to halt its advance along the Faridpur axis and contain the enemy along Madhumati with one battalion.
The rest of the division (i.e some two infantry brigades) was to back track to Kushtia, capture and clear the Hardinge Bridge. Two tank troops of 45 Cavalry were ordered to move from 9 Division to make up its “A” Squadron in Kushtia. Kushtia was bombed and strafed by
the IAF on 10 and 11 December. Pakistanis had evacuated it during night 9-10 December (4). Division concentrated outside the town by morning of 10 December. Elaborate
plans were made for a divisional attack on 11 December, when the town was found clear”.(10)

I am quoting Praval a more balanced historian since some Indians may find Gurcharan’s more forthright criticism unpalatable! Praval states “Unfortunately Barar and Raina over reacted to the reverse. During the evening the former ordered 41 Brigade top move from Jhenida to Kushtia. Later during the night Raina told Barar to move the third Brigade too also, leaving a battalion on the Madhumati.
Thus by evening of 10 December the whole Indian division assembled in front of Kushtia”!(11)


References

(1) Page-145-Witness to Surrender-Siddiq Salik-Oxford University Press-Pakistan-First Published in 1977-Third Impression-Oxford University Press-Pakistan -1998.

(2) Page-145-Siddiq Salik-Op Cit.

(3) Page-439-The Indian Armour-History of Indian Armoured Corps-1941-1971-Major General Gurcharan Singh Sandhu- Vision Books-New Delhi-1993.

(4) Page-141-The Pakistan Army-1966-71-Major General Shaukat Riza (Retired)-Services Book Club-1990.

(5) I first heard his name while talking with my squadron commander Captain Azam Niazi in October 1984 while serving in 29 Cavalry. I had been attached with this unit
since around 25th September (following another attachment period with 15 SP from 09 August 1984 to 25th September 1984) due to some disciplinary problem with my commanding officer in 11 Cavalry. Azam said that he joined the unit because he had been deeply impressed by Sher ur Rahman’s exploits in 1971 War. The time spent with Azam was memorable and we made good use of it by hunting around the Degh Nala and the marshes around Qila Sobha Singh and Dhamtal. At that time, thanks to Durga Devi and Terry Tyrant seemed imminent and 8 Armoured Brigade was deployed close to the border.

(6) Page-439-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit.
I have relied on the Indian general’s description in stating that the ambush force consisted of two tank troops!

(7) Page-439-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.

(8) Page-439-Gurcharan Singh -Op Cit.

(9)Page-441-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.

(10) Page-441-Ibid.

(11) Page-331-The Indian Army Since Independence-Major K.C Praval-Lancer Books-New Delhi-1992.

(12) Page-142-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

(13)Page-179-Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership-Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan-National Book Foundation-Lahore-1973.

(14) Page-179- Fazal Muqeem-Op Cit.

(PDF) Tank Ambush at Kushtia. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319650130_Tank_Ambush_at_Kushtia
 

Signalian

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Arsalan

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The link for the complete article is here:

http://www.defencejournal.com/2000/nov/kushtia.htm

@Signalian

It remains a classical case where the Junior Leadership showed determination and grit when the senior leadership was at odds with them.

I believe this has been discussed earlier too:

https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/tank-ambush-at-kushtia.143936/

@Dubious @Arsalan

Request merge the same if okay with @Signalian
Will keep this running separately for a few days.
 

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