The Sino-Indian war of 1962 goes down in our history books as nothing more than India's disastrous defeat to the Chinese. However, there was one bright spot for the country during the war which is still remembered as the greatest last stand ever taken by any battalion in the country's history.
We are talking about the the battle of Rezang La that took place on November 18, 1962. Led by Major Shaitan Singh Bhati, 120 jawans of the Charlie Company of the 13th Kumaon battalion fought and killed nearly 1300 Chinese men and successfully pushed back the enemy troops after a hard-fought battle.
The Charlie Company of the 13th Kumaon battalion was protecting the airfield in Chushul (which was important if India had to hold on to Ladakh) when the Chinese troops attacked the area on the morning of November 18, 1962. It was a group of more than 5000 Chinese soldiers holding position against 120 Indian soldiers. What followed was heavy firing from both the sides. Unlike the Indian soldiers, the Chinese were loaded with heavy artillery support but the Indian soldiers knew that there was no going back. They decided to fight the enemies with their bare hands when their ammunition finished and killed nearly 1300 Chinese soldiers. And all of this was done under the fearless supervision of Major Shaitan Singh.
Out of these 120 bravehearts, 114 were martyred, five were taken as Prisoners of War (POW) by the Chinese (but they later escaped) and one was sent back by the Major so that he could narrate the story of their heroic stand to the world.
Singh was among the 114 martyred Indian soldiers. He was wounded by a sniping Chinese MMG when he was fearlessly moving from one platoon to another passing his commands and encouragements to his troops. He continued to fight with his fellowmen which was followed by a heavy machine gun fire from the Chinese. In order to keep him safe from the Chinese army, one of his fellowmen tied Singh's wounded body to himself and rolled down the hill and placed him between boulders where he died. Singh's body was found frozen, still gripping his weapon, in February 1963 at the same place he was positioned by his comrade.
Major Shaitan Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his unprecedented leadership, courage and determination, with five Vir Chakras and four Sena medals that were awarded to his fellow army men.
All this happened at a height of 16,000 feet in the freezing cold against the heavy attack from the enemy. But the Charlie Company of the 13th Kumaon battalion didn't give up. For every man lost by us, the enemy lost four to five. And it's commendable! It is no hidden fact that India's defeat in the 1962 war was tragic but the sacrifice of Major Shaitan Singh and his men will always be remembered for their supreme courage and devotion towards their duty.