Eagles Over Bangladesh – Book Review

Eagles Over Bangladesh: The Indian Air Force in the 1971 Liberation War

By: P. V. S. Jagan Mohan & Samir Chopra

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Synopsis:

In December 1971 Bangladesh was born. Its birthing was among the most painful of any new nation: it had suffered a brutal genocide conducted by its former countrymen from West Pakistan, and a war for liberation fought between the indigenous Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) and the Indian Armed Forces on one side, and the West Pakistani Armed Forces on the other. Open war broke out on the Western and Eastern fronts in December 1971. The war ended quickly, with the West Pakistani Army surrendering in Dacca two weeks later. A significant factor in facilitating the Indian Army’s rapid progress to Dacca was the Indian Air Force (IAF) which proved itself to be a formidable fighting force. Eagles over Bangladesh: The Indian Air Force in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War recounts the IAF offensive over Bangladesh, commencing with the raids on Dacca on the first day of the war, and moving on to the final coup de grace delivered on the Governor’s House in Dacca. It aims to fill in the gaps regarding a military conflict that took place almost four decades ago.’

Book Review:

We all know the role of Indian Air Force (IAF) during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. This book ‘Eagles Over Bangladesh’ is an excellent description of IAF involvement in the Eastern Sector during the war. This is a very well researched book that presents history at its very best. Hats off to the authors for undergoing the daunting task of collecting the facts from various sources, cross check them and produce them in an interesting manner. 

In the beginning, the book describes the condition of IAF after the 1965 war, and how a need for improvement was felt direly. Following that, a detailed description is given about what was done to fulfill the need. 

The book presents a very good account of the backdrop of the state of two air forces involved and the chain of events that led them to their current state. It also explains how the different political factors played their part in the war. The book chronicles the day-to-day events that transpired over the skies of India and then ‘East Pakistan’ border during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and describes why India had to get involved in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. An extensive set of references have also been provided at the end of each chapter. The appendices at the end of the book provide information and details of medal winners, flying sorties, aircraft strengths and losses etc.

‘Eagles Over Bangladesh’ describes very vividly the preparations, strategy and valour shown by our fighter pilots including the operations that were carried out like the initial photo recces, combat air patrols, airfield raids, troop movement, close air support etc.

The book contains a lot of technical details but, at no point of time, it felt boring. The book is as fast-paced as the action of Air Force Pilots. The best part is that the book is an unbiased account of the events that happened and the authors have made a very conscious effort to describe the war in an impartial yet very engrossing way giving respect to the bravery and acumen of personnel involved from both sides. Every soldier fights for his country and thus deserves due respect. 

A very well written and structured book. A must-read for those who take pride in India’s defence system and are interested in knowing the IAF and its glorious history.

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