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THE WINNING SPIRITS

THE WINNING SPIRITS


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By recapturing Tiger Hill the soldiers won more than the case of Scotch promised by Gen. Malik

In shell-battered Dras, it was time for celebration on July 4. On that Sunday morning the Indian soldiers had recaptured Tiger Hill after a fierce battle with the intruders. In operation bunkers the officers shook hands, hugged one another and rang up the Corps Command in Srinagar and Army Headquarters in New Delhi to convey the good news.


Seeking divine help: Soldiers praying before the final assault on Tiger Hill
The smiles turned into guffaws 24 hours later, when they were told that the Pakistani Television had denied the very existence of Tiger Hill. At this rate, said an officer, Pakistan would say that there was no Kargil, Dras, Batalik and Turtuk once the infiltrators were routed. "It is like saying that after the 1971 war East Pakistan never existed," quipped another.

The capture of the highest peak in the sector has been crucial to the army's plans ever since Tololing was snatched in June. Tiger Hill has been the subject of discussion in the mess of the 56 Brigade, headquartered at Dras. When Tololing was captured, army chief General V.P. Malik presented a bottle of Scotch to Brigadier Amar Aul, commanding officer of the brigade, and promised a case of Scotch for the brigade when they captured Tiger Hill.

The sheer height of the Hill provided the best observation point for the infiltrators; from there they could scan the 56 Brigade headquarters and the Srinagar-Leh National Highway, and relay the information to Pakistani soldiers across the border.

Further, Tiger Hill leads on to Mushko Valley where the infiltrators have occupied not only the peaks but also the lower reaches and parts of the valley itself. Since Mushko is closer to the Line of Control, Pakistan has been keeping the infiltration points well supplied. Control of Tiger Hill will give India the vantage observation point to attack Pakistani positions in Mushko and surrounding peaks.

As the cover fire bottled the infiltrators up in their bunkers, the 18 Grenadiers, the second battalion of Naga Regiment and the eighth battalion of Sikh Regiment completed the work of setting up base camps half way up the mountain. The assault team had 200 men from the three elite units, backed up by their colleagues who looked after signals, rearguard, supplies and ammunition thread. Each raider had 10 men behind him.

Such was the determination of the advance party that most of the Grenadiers abandoned their rations to carry extra fire power. Some of them did not eat for the full 36 hours of the operation. Their first meal was the dates left behind by the intruders!

While the Alpha, Charlie and Ghatak companies of the 18 Grenadiers attacked the rear, the Nagas were on the left flank, and the Sikhs on the right. The assault began at 5.15 p.m. on July 3 with Bofors guns booming. By 7 p.m. three rocket launchers joined the action. Thirty minutes later, shells from across the LOC pounded the road to the foothills of Tiger Hill and the soldiers rushed to safety. They were back to their positions soon with one more rocket launcher.

Meanwhile, the Grenadiers had moved up towards their target. There was little resistance on the way, as the sky show confined the infiltrators to the safety of their bunks. By 4 a.m. the soldiers confronted the infiltrators at the hill top; 10 intruders were killed while 2 escaped. Five soldiers also lost their lives in the fight.

By 6.50 a.m. on July 4 three shell bursts announced that Tiger Hill top had been captured. Within 24 hours Gen. V.P. Malik had given instant battlefield honour to the Grenadiers, making them the second regiment after Rajputana Rifles to get this honour in the Kargil battle.

The achievement has not made the soldiers complacent. At the time of reporting they were gearing up for the battles ahead. And to down the very special Scotch from the chief!

COURTESY: THE WEEK
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Date: 09.09.2004 03:24
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