Heroes of 1962 war in Arunachal: Wing Commander Arnold S Williams

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Many Arunachali old-timers recall the 1962 Sino-India conflict with fear and anger. The Chinese forces entered deep into Arunachal Pradesh along many axes like Taksing-Limeking, Mechuka/Manigong-Tato, Gelling-Tuting, Kibithoo-Walong axes and the main Tawang-Bomdila-Rupa axis. Many readers are not aware of fierce battles fought by our brave soldiers. One such story is the story of Wing Commander Arnold S Williams, one of the few Indian Air Force pilots honoured during the war. Many experts still say that the outcome of the 1962 Sino-India war could have been different if the Indian Air Force was used extensively.

Squadron Leader Arnold S Williams was posted to No 105 helicopter unit and his unit was deployed for operational support to the Arunachal Pradesh area during the Sino-India war of 1962.

In the years preceding the Sino-India war of 1962, the Indian government, led by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, adopted the infamous Forward Policy against the Chinese. The Forward Policy was enforced by certain misinformed political and military leaders who wrongly assessed that the Chinese would not retaliate. During these operations before the war on 12 October, 1962, Squadron Leader Williams had flown several sorties in the helicopter by day and night to evacuate casualties from forward posts in very difficult terrain.

The actual 1962 Sino-India war started on 20 October, 1962, with a massive multi-front, multi-directional attack with superior forces armed with automatic weapons. On 20 October itself, Squadron Leader AS Williams was ordered to gather information about enemy positions prevailing at one of our army posts in NEFA which had been subjected to heavy attacks by the Chinese forces. To carry out the task, he flew the helicopter over difficult terrain at high altitudes where it is difficult to manoeuvre helicopters due to less air density. But the helicopter was damaged by heavy anti-aircraft fire by the Chinese.

In order to save the aircraft from further damage, he skilfully manoeuvred it towards the nearest helipad at another nearby post. Unfortunately, the helicopter developed engine troubles as a result of the damage caused by enemy fire and he was forced to crash land it two miles from the helipad. Recovering from the crashed helicopter, he trekked to the nearest army post under difficult conditions and passed on the important information to the army commanders. Later he was evacuated to his own unit.

Throughout the entire battle, Squadron Leader Arnold S Williams displayed the highest sense of duty, leadership and courage in the best traditions of the Air Force. For his exceptional courage, tenacity and gallantry during the war, Squadron Leader Arnold S Williams was awarded the third highest gallantry award of the nation, Vir Chakra. Later, Squadron Leader Arnold S Williams rose to the rank of wing commander and retired. Salute to Wing Commander Arnold S Williams!  (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)