Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh | Strange Military Stories

What Indian Air Force was in 1947 and to what glory it has reached in 2017 is all because of Marshal of Indian Air Force Arjan Singh.A fighter pilot, a war hero, reformist, a philanthropist and a legend, Arjan Singh died a  hero on 16 September in Research and Referral Army Hospital. A five star general, who always glad to his uniform. 

Marshal Arjan Singh was born on 15 April 1919 in Lyallpur, Punjab now Faisalabad in Pakistan in a distinguished military family. His father was a Lance Daffadar in the Hodson's Horse at the time of his birth, and retired as a full Risaldar of the Cavalry, serving for a time as ADC to a Division Commander.Arjan Singh was commissioned in the nascent India Air Force as a pilot officer in December1939 at the age of just 19 years.

 On 15 August 1947 Arjan Singh led the first fly-past of independent India over the Red Fort. He proved his leadership qualities in the two operational tenures on the Burma Front during the Second World War, first as a Pilot officer with Tigers Squadron and subsequently as the Commander of the same Squadron.As a consummate Squadron Commander, flying Hurricane fighters in defence of Imphal in1944, beseiged by the Japanese, he had displayed masterly leadership. In an unprecedented step,the then Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asian Command, Lord Mountbatten, had personally awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross on the battlefield for his leadership and performance in defeating the Japanese. Arjan Singh held many important posts in the IAF before taking over as Air Marshal in August 1964. 

The Pakistan Air Force was led by his batchmate from Cranwell, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, at the time. During the skirmish at Kutch in early 1965, the two chiefs had established contact and agreed on keeping the two airforces out, to prevent any inadvertent escalation. But once Pakistan had launched Operation Grandslamto cut off Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India by launching a military attack inAkhnoor in September 1965, the then army chief, General J N Chaudhuri, had met him at VayuBhawan and suggested that the Pakistani assault would best be stopped by the IAF.

Arjan Singh and Chaudhuri had then gone to meet the defence minister, Y B Chavan, whofamously gave them the go ahead. As Arjan Singh later recounted, Pakistan had a qualitativelysuperior force that included modern fighters such as F-86 Sabres and F-104 Starfighters.The Indian Air Force had Mysteres, Vampires, Ouragans, Hunters, and Gnats in its inventory.We were fighting against all odds as they had air-to-air missiles and we just had afew Russian MiGs that were not used much in the war.In the subsequent weeks though, the IAF had established its air superiority, with deep-penetrationattacks against enemy targets, including the farthest Pakistani airfields like Peshawarand Mauripur. Arjan Singh continued to believe that the1965 War ended in a stalemate despite India being in an advantageous position. 

When the talk about cease-fire started, I had advised Shastriji (Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri),who was under enormous international pressure, against accepting it, he later recounted.On the other hand, Pakistan was losing its aircraft at a fast rate and was keen on accepting the ceasefire. However, because of international pressure and other considerations,India agreed to the ceasefire. For his meritorious services during the 1965Indo-Pak War, Arjan Singh was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan. On January 15, 1966,he became the first officer of the IAF to be promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal,at par with a General. 

In 2002, on the occasion of Republic Day,Arjan Singh was granted the honorary rank of Marshal, the highest military rank attainable.Before him only two Army chiefs, K M Carriappa and Sam Manekshaw, were the only five stargenerals of same rank. He continued to serve the country in various capacities even after retirement in July 1969. In 1971, he was made India's Ambassadorto Switzerland and in 1974, the High Commissioner to Kenya. He also served as a member of theMinorities Commission and as the Lt Governor of Delhi.Arjan Singh in a true sense not only modernized Indian Air Force but also lived for the welfareof air warriors. He is a legend and legend live forever even in death. May his soul rest in peace. Jai hind! 

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