Last Journey of PNS Ghazi

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It was night of 3rd December 1971. Late Roshan Lal, my constant  companion during our survey assignments and I had reached a forest bungalow in Chittor district of Andhra Pradesh. We were sitting on dining table waiting for dinner to arrive. There was no electric connection in the forest bungalow. The caretaker had arranged candle light so we were to have "candle light dinner". I was struggling with my 2 band Murphy transistor radio trying to pick up news. Suddenly heard an announcement that Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi will address to the nation.

Within minutes she was on air and we heard her saying "I speak to you at a moment of great peril to our country and our people. Some hours ago, soon after 5.30 pm on the 3rd December, Pakistan had launched a full scale war against us…….Today a war in Bangladesh has become a war on India….I have no doubt that by the united will of the people, the wanton and unprovoked aggression of Pakistan should be decisively and finally repelled…..Aggression must be met and the people of India will meet it with fortitud, determination, discipline and utmost unity."
Earlier during the day which I can never forget, we were traveling in a Jeep from Bangalore towards Madras, as it was called then, on the National Highway passing through Chittor and Vellore Districts. Our objective was to select radio relay station sites for connecting Bangalore with Madras. We had visited some sites in Chittor and now we were looking for a possible site to link Tirutanni in Tamil Nadu. One possible location selected after studying Survey of India topographical maps was a place south of National Highway. We had to take our Jeep off National highway some 20 Kms to hill top close to a hamlet. It had rained earlier during day and streams were full of water. Our Jeep got struck in one of the streams and it is here our trouble started. As a part of our equipment, we were carrying a box containing Thedolite, a cylindrical shell for keeping Survey of India contour maps, a compass, tripods etc. One of villagers, who appeared to be leader, had heard on radio that a Pakistani sub marine was suspected to be plying off   Andhra coast. He was telling villagers that we were Pakistanis carrying bomb with us.  About 100 people gheroed us for more than an hour. We were unable to explain that we were Government of India officials as crowd understood only Telegu.

Luckily a school teacher was passing by. He enquired from crowd about commotion and came forward to speak to us in English. We explained to him our mission then only crowd understood and   melted away after realising their mistake. The teacher took us to his well kept house and offered us nice hot cup of coffee and some hot snacks. The villagers were now very keen that we select the site in their village. We visited the proposed site but finally did not find it suitable. Later we came to know that Pakistan submarine Ghazi was sunk by Indian Navy off Vishakapatnam coast on midnight of 3/4th Dec. This incident keeps coming back to my thoughts every year on Bangla Desh liberation day which is celebrated as Vijay Diwas in India.

Lighting candles on Vijay Diwas at India Gate

The History of PNS Ghazi

USS Diabloa was acquired by Pakistan from the USA on Lease in 1964 and renamed PNS Ghazi. This Tench Class Submarine was laid down on 11th August 1944, at Portsmouth Navy Yard in The USA. She was Launched on 1st December 1944 and  Commissioned as USS Diablo (SS-479) on 31st March 1945; designated (AGSS-479), 1962 She was decommissioned and struck from the US Naval Register. She was transferred (leased) to  Pakistan under terms of the Security Assistance Program and Commissioned as PNS Ghazi on  1st June 1964. She was lost with all members on  4th December 1971.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,570 tons., Submerged: 2,414 tons; Length 311′ 8"; Beam 27′ 4"; Draft 15′ 3"; Speed, Surfaced 20.25 knots, Submerged 8.75 knots; Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10knots; Submerged Endurance, 48 hours at 2knots; Operating Depth, 400 ft; Complement 7 Officers 69 Enlisted; Armament, ten 21" torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 5"/25 deck gun, two 20mm guns, two .30 cal. machine guns; Patrol Endurance 75 days; Propulsion, diesel-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks Morse main generator engines, 5,400HP, Fuel Capacity, 113,510 gal., two Elliot Motor Co. main motors with 2,740HP, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.

PNS Ghazi (former USS Diablo) [Courtesy: NavSource]

PNS Ghazi was pride submarine of Pakistan. It was first deployed in Arabian Sea off Bombay Coast in 1965 War. The Captain had claimed to have fired 4 torpedoes on the INS Brahmaputra on 22 September and "heard" 3 hits. Ghazi returned to Karachi on 23 September, where he was decorated for having "sunk" the Indian frigate Brahmaputra. In fact the Brahmaputra had not been attacked as claimed by Pakistan and was fighting fit.

Sinking of Ghazi-Indian Version

Ghazi was again deployed during 1971 during Bangla Desh war. Situation in East Pakistan was deteriorating. India was building world opinion against Pakistan atrocities in East Pakistan. Pakistan anticipating possible support of Mukti Bahini by Indian forces moved Ghazi on 14th November 1971  to Bay of Bengal, what turned out be her last journey. The   objective was to mine Vishakapatnam (vizag) port where aircraft carrier Vikrant along with other ships was harboured. PNS Ghazi reached Bay of Bengal on 20th November.  Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, the flag officer Commander- in- Chief of the Indian Navy’s Eastern fleet had decided to move INS Vikrant aircraft carrier away from Vizag as he anticipated possible attack by Ghazi on Vizag Harbor. Vikrant had already sailed away to an unknown location 10 days before the Ghazi began searching for her near Vizag, It was decided that a number of deceptive measures would be put  in order to fool the enemy into the thinking that the Vikrant was near Vizag.  The Indian Navy intentionally breached security by making an unclassified signal in the form of a private Telegram allegedly from one of sailor of Vikrant asking about the welfare of his mother who was "seriously ill". The Indian Navy’s deception plan worked and Ghazi moved towards Vizag.

In his book ‘No Way But Surrender – An Account of the Indo Pakistan War in the Bay of Bengal 1971’, Vice Admiral N Krishnan, the then Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, states:

"The RAJPUT sailed before midnight of 3/4 December and, on clearing harbor, proceeded along the narrow channel. Having got clear, the Commanding Officer saw what he thought was a severe disturbance in the water, about half a mile ahead. He rightly assumed that this might be a submarine diving. He closed the spot at speed and dropped at the position two charges. It has been subsequently established that the position where the charges were dropped was so close to the position of the wreck of the GHAZI that some damage to the latter is a very high probability. The RAJPUT, on completion of her mission, proceeded on her course in order to carry out her main mission. A little later, a very loud explosion was heard by the Coast Battery who reported the same to the Maritime Operations Room. The time of this explosion was 0015 hours. The clock recovered from the GHAZI showed that it had stopped functioning at the same time. Several thousand people waiting to hear the Prime Minister’s broadcast to the nation also heard the explosion and many came out thinking that it was an earthquake"

Historical Photo showing Lieutenant General A.A.K. ‘Tiger’ Niazi, Commander of the Pakistan Army  signing the Instrument of Surrender in the presence of Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora. Standing from left is Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, Air Marshal H.C. Dewan, Lieutenant General Sagat Singh and Major General J.F.R. Jacob.

The sinking of PNS Ghazi was achieved  by Lt.Cdr Inder Singh of the INS Rajput as well as the man behind the scene Vice Admiral N Krishnan. Pakistan lost its pride sub marine along with commanding officer of the Ghazi, Zafar Mohammed Khan and 82 member crew.

Pakistani Version

Pakistan however has maintained that Ghazi sank when the mines it was laying were accidentally detonated. Another theory is that the explosive shock from one of the depth charges set off the torpedoes and mines (some of which may have been armed for laying) stored aboard the submarine.

Sinking of Ghazi helped Indian Navy to completely blockade movement of Pak Navy towards Chittagong thus achieved major advantage over Pakistan Navy.

Ramesh Lalwani, New Delhi

Author: Ramesh Lalwani- New Delhi

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