not the Beatles invasion or the James Bond film debut that the media is now
pushing and not the Cuban Missile Crisis that they will be pushing very
memories of October 1962 are quite different.At the time I was a 19-year old Pfc stationed in WestPac.I still remember our Company First Sergeant,
a WW2 vet and also a veteran of both Tsingtao in 46 and the Chosin Reservoir in
1950.He ordered us to line up at the
battalion supply hootch and draw our cold weather gear so that we could in his
words: <i>“go climb the Hee-ma-lie-ya
mountains and defend Injia’s democracy from those g*dd*mm*d ChiCom sons of beeches who were at it
again”</i>.This was soon after
the Battle of Thag La Ridge.We never went
of course.We were stood down a day later, as the situation resolved itself with a complete Chinese victory.That was a good thing for us as most of the
fighting took place at elevations well above 14,000 feet.
heard or thought much about it for decades.My recollections were reborn lately because there is some interest in
the press regarding the possibility of future Chinese naval hostilities with
Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaya and the Philippines over territorial claims to
the Senkakus, Spratlys, Paracels, Scarborough Shoal, Pratas Atoll, and the
underwater reefs of the Macclesfield Bank.And sure enough, India is in the
game.The state-run oil company ONGC
Videsh is in an oil exploration partnership with Vietnam in the
South China Sea in an area claimed by China.There has also been
some Indian military agreements with Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and the
Philippines. And there have been a full slate of articles earlier this year on
Indian defense spending including the Agni-V ICBM with range to Peking, which some
in the Indian press have tagged the “China Killer”.But some other Indian press gurus are going
the opposite way calling for Hindee-Chinee-Bhai-Bhai (brotherhood).Prior to 62 the two countries had a peaceful
relationship since the Silk Road and thousands of years before that.So I suspect a lot of the war talk is just talk
and hopefully may never amount to anything.
those press accounts resparked my interest in that 62 war, and one day browsing
in Andy’s fave bookstore in Denver I picked up an old copy of Neville Maxwell’s
book “India’s China War”.A hard read as
the author spends well over half of the book discussing internal Indian politics and also the 19th century British border surveyors.But the hard read gets better in the second half. There he goes into the
incompetent strategy of the Indian leadership, both civilian and senior army generals.
Needless to say, Maxwell has an infamous
reputation in India as two of the Indian leadership he criticizes were Jawaharlal Nehru and
Krishna Menon, fathers of Indian independence.
However Maxwell’s claims were backed up by some of the Indian Army generals involved.They tell a tale of the best troops in the
Indian Army, including crack Gurkha battalions, sent from sea level jungles to
16,000 feet in light summer khakis with just a basic load of ammunition.No resupply.Deployed to untenable positions by armchair bound brass who never saw
the terrain and apparently did not understand contour lines on a map.Little to no supporting artillery and zero air
support.Junior generals and colonels
who had fought well and bravely in Burma and North Africa as young Lieutenants
and NonComs, but in 62 were relieved of command because of their concern for
their troops and their objections to the imposed tactics and the horrendous
logistics situation. No military intelligence, just a national police run civilian
intelligence agency more concerned with detection of suspected military coups that never happened, and whose Director told the
Prime Minister and Defense Minister what he thought they wanted to hear (Hmmm, sounds familiar!).Other generals
gave good advice that was ignored, they were considered unreliable because they were non-Hindu Sikhs
or Parsees, or because they were Anglo-Indian or too pro-Sandhurst.A Chief of General Staff of the Indian Army
with no combat arms experience deep selected over much better candidates for
the job because he was a high caste Brahmin like Nehru and a distant cousin.This was a real cautionary tale.
the Chinese Army was warmly clothed, well supplied, and not having to struggle against the terrain on the flat Tibetan plateau. They built their own roads as they fought
their way down into India.America never
sent me and my company and our First Sergeant there to aid the Indians.But according to Maxwell, America did send a
great deal of arms and ammunition though it got there too late.And we sent an Air Force C130 squadron to
help the Indian Army move troops around, but there were no close by airfields anywhere
near that part of the Himalayas.And supposedly we
sent a Carrier Task Group steaming towards the IO but it too stood down before
passing the Straits of Malacca.So much
for our help. But at the time America was just waking up to what was happening
in the Caribbean and not focusing on Asia.A good thing as we did not need a war in Asia.We never needed one and should have heeded that a few years later.
...we stand in solidarity with the Istanbul protestors' and their fearless ferocity in pursuing a free citizen's right to a frosty mug of beer.
And pretzels; there must also be pretzels.
As Patrick Henry once said; "I know not what course others may take, but I will have a pint of the bitters and a scotch egg and take a Manhattan to that fine-looking redhead at the second booth from the door with my compliments."