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HomeDEFENCEThe inside story: Mashkoh– Kargil as I saw it # 14

The inside story: Mashkoh– Kargil as I saw it # 14

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GOC 8 Mountain Division, Maj Gen Mohinder Puri had tasked 79 Mountain Brigade with 17 Jat, 13 Jak Rif and 2 Naga for the attack on Point 4875 and Pimple Complex. By now, we had good knowledge about the detailed layout of the enemy positions. Point 4875 was a massive ridge that ran north-south with spurs emanating towards east, and west. It consisted of Pimple I, Pimple 2, Whaleback, South Spur, Point 4875, Flat, Twin Bumps and Rocky Knob. The feature was probably occupied by one company strength (approximately 80 men). Pimple 1, Pimple 2 and Whaleback made one complex and hence was given to 17 Jat for capture. South spur, Point 4875 and area Flat made another complex which was given to 13 Jak Rif for capture. Twin Bumps and Rocky Knob made another complex and was assigned to 2 Naga for capture.

Brigade Attack Plan

The commander 79 Mountain Brigade, Brig RK Kakkar, gave out his attack plan in the presence of the GOC 8 Mountain Division. All the other three commanding officers of 17 Jat (Col Umesh Singh Bawa), 13 Jak Rif (Lt Col YK Joshi) and 2 Naga (Col Dinesh Badola) were also present. The commander gave out his proposed plan of attack in which he wanted the whole Pimple Complex and Point 4875 to be captured in one night only. During the discussion, I had suggested that at least three nights be given for capturing Pimple Complex. But then the GOC intervened and said: “in all the previous attacks we had experienced that you can achieve maximum gains only on the first night and later it becomes tough to capture the objective in the second night or subsequently”. I argued that ideally, it would be appropriate to capture the objective in one night, but when the enemy is well-entrenched, and the terrain is so rugged on the top, it may not be feasible to capture all three objectives in one night. After deliberate discussions for some more time, the GOC finally agreed to give us two nights for the first phase of the brigade attack, instead of the three nights that I was asking! When the actual attack commenced, it took us four nights to finally capture the objective.

One should always encourage discussions amongst the senior and subordinate leaders to arrive at a workable plan. Once the plan has been finalised, all leaders should put in their best towards the successful implementation of the same. There should be a belief at all levels about the mission success, and then only it will trickle down at the lowest level for successful execution. The commander finally amended his plan and gave out his outline plan of attack for the capture of Point 4875 complex as under:

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Phase 1– The attack was to commence at 2000 hours on 04 Jul 99.17 Jat to capture Pimple Complex consisting of Pimple1, Whaleback and Pimple 2 by 0600-hour 06 Jul. 13 Jak Rif to capture south spur, Point 4875 and area Flat Top by 0600 -hours 06 Jul.

Phase 2 – The attack was to commence at 2000 hours on 07 Jul 99. 2 Naga to capture Twin Bumps and Rocky knob by 0600 hours on 08 Jul.

One team of 21 Special Forces (SF) was to infiltrate along nallah and establish a block behind the enemy positions to prevent any re-enforcements reaching the objective, during the assault.

Brigade firebase: 12 Mahar was to provide a brigade firebase from Point 4540 and simulate an attack from the eastern side to deceive the enemy of the actual direction of attack, which was planned from the south-western and southern side. These firebases were augmented with a large number of automatic grenade launchers (AGLs), medium machine guns (MMGs), rocket launchers (RLs) and anti-tank guide missiles (ATGMs). A large amount of ammunition was also dumped at the location. The establishment of a firebase also effectively prevented the movement of enemy reinforcements to Point 4875 complex, thereby isolating it and interdicting the primary route of reinforcements. It was primarily done to engage the enemy from this direction to deceive the enemy as part of the deception plan.

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In my heart of heart, I wanted my battalion to capture Point 4875 instead of the Pimple complex because my six martyrs’ dead bodies were still lying in front of the Saddle, which was part of Point 4875. I had promised my troops that we would capture Point 4875 as revenge so that we can retrieve our soldiers’ dead bodies. It would have given my troops some sense of purpose. But I did not want my commander to make this change at the last moment and create confusion. He may have had his reasons while allotting the tasks to the battalions. So, I kept quiet and accepted the plan as it was. After all, once 13 Jak Rif captured point 4875, we could still retrieve our dead soldiers from there.

With this started the planning for an attack. What was the task? The task was to capture the Pimple Complex. It was clear and straightforward, “to capture Pimple Complex consisting of Pimple1, Pimple 2 and Whaleback”.

A different course of actions was explored on how best to accomplish the task- with the available troops, resources and other supporting assets. Various courses of action were considered like attacking from the south-western approach or eastern approach or north-western approach. On analysis, the northwest approach was discarded being the longest and due to time and space factors. It was finally decided to use a combination of the south-western and eastern approach. Hence, it was decided to tackle Pimple1 and Whaleback simultaneously in phase 1 and then tackle Pimple 2 through Whaleback.

Once the course of action was determined, further planning required detailed information gathering to facilitate the preparation of a thorough plan. After this, we started our detailed recce and preparations. Company commanders along with battery commander and artillery OP were sent to the vantage point to have a good view of the objective area. I made out my outline plan for the capture of Pimple Complex after wargaming various options with my company commanders.

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After the commanding officer gave a broad outline plan, the planning process was delegated down the chain to company commanders who evolved their tactics within the overall strategy and task. Participation by crucial commanders at all levels was encouraged to developing a bold and innovative method. It ensured far more effective implementation and execution of the plan on the ground. While I, as battalion commander, supervised the entire planning process by my company commanders, I also identified the weaknesses in the plan which the company commanders might have missed. It enabled me to fill those gaps before execution. During the planning process, accepting good advice, and constructive criticism is essential for a leader to come up with a balanced plan. It was decided after a lot of deliberations and discussions that we need to approach the objective from two different directions at the company level, to prevent the enemy from reinforcing a defended locality and giving us multiple options for progressing the operations.

Once the detailed plan was made, it was then to be briefed to commanders at all levels. Likewise, the company and platoon commanders also briefed their troops taking part in the operation. It was ensured that the plan was presented simply and clearly so that the soldiers understood it well. A simple plan which can be assimilated easily is crucial to success. When plans and orders are too complicated, men may not grasp them well. And when things go wrong, it can result in total disaster. Therefore, the plans and orders must be simple, clear and concise. 

During the planning process and briefing, even the junior-most commander and soldier must be encouraged to ask questions and clarifications. If the troops are not clear about the plan, it will affect the execution of the same. Leaders must take the time to explain every detail so that everyone understands it. Keep the plan simple is the mantra!

During the operations, things will never go as planned. Therefore, various contingencies that could be war-gamed and plans made accordingly to deal with such contingencies. A good plan must enable a high probability of success and reduce as much risk as possible. Detailed contingency plans should be made so that everyone knows what to do when things go wrong. After great deliberations, the plan was formulated that was simple and easy to understand and execute.

To know more about the Kargil war, read the book “Mashkoh: Kargil as I saw it”.

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Brig Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM
Brig Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM
Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM a PhD in Public Administration retired from the Indian Army as Brigadier. He is an infantry officer and author of a book called Mashkoh: Kargil as I saw it. He was awarded Vir Chakra during the Kargil conflict in 1999.


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