Major Shaitan Singh
1962 is a sad year for the Indian Army. The Indian army was badly mauled by the Chinese dragon. The Policies of Nehru and Gandhi bore fruit and the neglect of the armed forces led to a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Chinese. In the eastern region the Chinese just over ran the feeble Indian defences.The failure to use the Indian Air Force in the operations will forever remain a black mark on the political and military leaders of the era led by Nehru, Krishna Menon and General Thapar.
However there was a silver lining to this sordid affair in the west. By the west I mean the battle in Ladakh. This area is at a height of 12000ft + and the Indian troops were hastily flown in biting cold. They did not have proper clothing to combat the cold and were armed with the vintage .303 rifles. But morale was high and the younger group of officers was determined to fight back.
The Chinese struck in two waves but there was no easy headway for them and at a number of places their offensive bogged down with heavy causalities. The Indian who were in a defensive position took a heavy toll of the Chinese who attacked in waves.
The Chinese were particularly held up at Chusul airfield where Major Shaitan Singh and his platoon of Garwalis( 13 Kumaon) held position against repeated Chinese attacks. The Chinese now brought in light tanks as they had been unable to dislodge the Indian s. Facing the chinese with their 303 rifles the Indian fought well but the Chinese with greater fire power , with their tanks finally were able to over run Chusul, but causalities were heavy. Major Shaitan Singh was awarded the highest Military award after independence, the Maha vir chakra and the entire platoon paid with its life in holding the Chinese.
It is a matter of great regret that General Thapar the Indian chief of general staff was confused and could give no advice to the beleaguered troops facing the Chinese. The political leadership led by Nehru was shell shocked and were at their wits end. In such a scenario the fight put up by the Indian army in the Ladakh deserves mention as an act of great bravery and gallantry. Indian’s must never forget this battle and remember the heroes who laid down their lives in fighting the Chinese.