The Indian Air Force now wants to debunk the conventional narrative that the famous battle of Longewala was primarily won by the gallantry shown by the 120 infantry soldiers led by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri during the 1971 war. This narrative was reinforced by J.P. Dutta’s Border, released in 1997. Sunny Deol played Chandpuri in the film.
A new book, The Epic Battle Of Longewala, written by Air Marshal Bharat Kumar (retd.) and endorsed by present IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, contends that it was actually airpower alone that decisively won the battle against Pakistan’s major armoured thrust at the border outpost in Rajasthan on December 5-6, 1971. As per the book, a meagre force of just six Hunter ground-attack jets based at the Jaisalmer airbase destroyed or damaged over 40 Pakistani tanks in successive attacks.
Incidentally, Chandpuri was decorated with the country’s second-highest wartime gallantry medal, Maha Vir Chakra, for the way he and his Punjab regiment soldiers held their post till the Hunters could arrive on their bombing missions. He became a brigadier, and passed away in 2018.