Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon
Paramvir Chakra is the highest medal for gallantry of Indian Military. Since 1947, Indian defence forces have participated in various campaigns all around India and world. India fought three wars with Pakistan in 1948, 1965 and in 1971 and one war with China in 1962.
Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon was born on 17 July 1945 at Rurka Isewal village in Ludhiana District. He was the son of Warrant Officer Hon. Flight Lieutenant Trilok Singh Sekhon of the Indian Air Force. As any normal Sikh child, he was raised with the virtue of gallantry and sacrifice by his parents. He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force on June 4, 1967 as a Flying Officer.
In December 1971, Pakistan attacked 14 air fields all across North India to pre-empt the Indian Air Force. At this time Nirmaljit Singh was posted at the forward base in Kashmir with the squadron named Flying bullets. His plane was an obsolete Gnat. Their airfield was attacked on 14th December 1971. Only available pilot at this time at Srinagar Base was Nirmal Jit Singh. Flying from Srinagar on December 14th, Sekhon single handedly took on all six PAF Sabres.
Although eventually overwhelmed, he managed to take score confirmed hits on two of them, and damage on rest of them. Once the Pakistan Sabres ran away he managed to land his Gnat just before his death due to bullets piercing through his body. Param Vir Chakra (the nation's highest gallantry award) was posthumously awarded to Flag Officer N.J.S. Sekhon. This is the only Param Vir Chakra awarded to an Indian Air Force Personnel. Flight Officer Sekhon's award was in recognition of his lone and fatal defence of Srinagar Air Base during an air raid during the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest military award in India, for exemplary courage and heroism in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. During the war he was with the No. 18 Squadron, "The Flying Bullets" flying the Folland Gnat fighter aircraft based at Srinagar.
He remains the only air force pilot to be awarded the Param Vir Chakra.
On 14 December 1971, Srinagar airfield was attacked by a wave of six PAF F-86 jets. Flying Officer Sekhon was on readiness duty at that time. Soon the enemy aircraft started hovering over the airfield. Strafing of various targets on the ground followed. Attempting to take-off with enemy aircraft overhead and the runway under attack was suicidal. However, Flying Officer Sekhon, unmindful of his safety, flew his Folland Gnat to engage the two attacking Sabres. In the air battle that ensued, he secured a direct hit on one Sabre and set another ablaze. The latter was seen heading away towards Rajauri, trailing smoke and flame.
At this juncture four more Pakistani Sabres came on the scene and surrounded his aircraft. He chose to give a fight again. In the dog fight that ensued at tree-top level, he held on against the numerically superior enemy for some time. Eventually, his aircraft was hit and he was killed. But Flying Officer Sekhon had achieved his objective. The Pakistani aircraft fled from the scene of the battle, without pressing home, the intended attack on Srinagar airfield and its surrounding areas. The bravery, flying skill and determination displayed by Flying Officer Sekhon, earned him the highest wartime gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra. His skill was later praised in an article by Salim Baig Mirza, the pilot who shot him down.
Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon is remembered for his gallantry and his statues have also been installed in many cities in Punjab (India).
A marine tanker built in 1985 was named "Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, PVC".
The citation for the Param Vir Chakra awarded to him reads: Fg Offr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon 18 Squadron 10877 F(P)
Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was a pilot of a Folland Gnat detachment based at Srinagar for the air defence of the valley against Pakistani air attacks. In accordance with the international agreement dating back to 1948, no air defence aircraft were based at Sirinagar, until the outbreak of hosti- lities with Pakistan. Flying Officer Sekhon was, therefore, unfamiliar with the terrain and was not acclimatised to the altitude of Srinagar, especially with the bitter cold and biting winds of the Kashmir winter. Nevertheless, from the outset of the war, he and his colleagues fought successive waves of intruding Pakistani aircraft with valour and determination, maintaining the high reputation of the Folland Gnat aircraft. On 14th December 1971, Srinagar Airfield was attached by a wave of six enemy Sabre aircraft. Flying Officer Sekhon was on readiness duty at the time. However, he could not take off at once because of the clouds of dust raised by another aircraft which had just taken off. By the time the runway was fit for take-off, no fewer than six enemy aircraft were overhead, and strafing of the airfield was in progress. Nevertheless, in spite of the mortal danger of attempting to take off during an attack, and in spite of the odds against him. Flying Officer Sekhon took off and immediately engaged a pair of the attacking Sabres. In the fight that followed, at tree top height, he all but held his own, but was eventually overcome by sheer weight of numbers. His aircraft crashed and he was killed. In thus, sacrificing himself for the defence of Srinagar, Flying Officer Sekhon achieved his object, for the enemy aircraft fled from the scene of the battle without pressing home their attack against the town and the airfield. The sublime heroism, supreme gallantry, flying skill and determination, above and beyond th call of duty, displayed by Flying Officer Sekhon in the face of certain death, set new heights to Air Force traditions.
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The Bravest Of The Brave by Ravinder Gill
Indian Air Force (IAF) has air warriors in its ranks to fulfill aspirations and the objectives reposed by the nation. History of IAF is replete with innumerable instances of unflinching commitment and dedication to the security and prosperity of our great country, written with the sweat and blood of the devoted air warriors. Every citizen of our great nation is indebted to this great force in some form or the other, be it confronting the enemy or standing up to render timely help to its brethren in need, be it the earthquakes, floods or tsunamis. The saga of the men in blue started from its inception as the Royal Indian Air force (RIAF) on 8 October 1932. On April 1 1954, Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee OBE took over from Air Marshal Gerald Gibbs, as the first Chief of Air Force, at that time he was just about 43 years old.
It is the told and untold stories of the heroes of the IAF that makes this path so exciting and humbling for those who follow in their footsteps. This article salutes one of the bravest of the brave of IAF, the first and so far the only recipient of Param Vir Chakra (PVC) posthumously. The Param Vir Chakra is the highest gallantry award given to the Indian Armed Forces. Since Independence Only 21 Awards were made, as many as 14 of these are posthumous Awards.
Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon (aka Nimmy), son of Master Warrant Officer (Hon. Flt. Lt.) Trilok Singh Sekhon, was born on 17 July 1943 at Rurka Isewal village in Ludhiana District, Punjab. As a normal Sikh child, he was raised with the virtue of gallantry and sacrifice by his parents. He joined IAF as a pilot officer on June 4 1967. My father has served with MWO Trilok Singh Sekhon at Air Force Station Halwara for over 3 years. As an 8 year old child, I had the privilege of meeting Flg. Off. Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon at a Squadron near Rajpura where my father was posted. This only happened few months before the 1971 Indo Pak war. At that time he was posted at Ambala.
Flying officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon was a pilot of a Gnat detachment (18 Squadron “The Flying bullets”) based at Srinagar for the air defense of the valley against the Pakistani air attacks. From the very outbreak of the hostilities he and his colleagues fought successive waves of the intruding Pakistani aircraft with velour and determination, maintaining the high reputation of the Gnat aircraft.
Early Morning on the 14 of December 1971, Srinagar Airfield was attacked by a wave of six enemy Sabre jet aircrafts. Flying Officer Sekhon was on Operational Readiness Platform (ORP} duty at that time. However, he could not take off at once because of the clouds of dust raised by another aircraft which has just taken off. By the time the runway was fit for take-off, no fewer than six enemy aircraft were overheard, and strafing of the airfield was in progress. Nevertheless, in spite of the moral danger of attempting to take off during an attack, and inspite of the odds against him, Flying Officer Sekhon took off and immediately engaged a pair of attacking Sabres. He succeeded in damaging and knocking off two of the enemy aircraft. In the fight that followed, at tree top height, he all but held his own, but was eventually overcome by sheer weight of numbers. His aircraft crashed and he was killed. But his struggle was not in vain. The Sabre jets, unable to press home their attack on the town and its airfield, immediately retreated and fled the scene.
The sublime heroism, supreme gallantry, flying skill and determination far and beyond the call of duty displayed by Flg. Off. Sekhon in the face of certain death have set new heights to Air Force traditions. Thus, sacrificing himself for the defense of Srinagar, Flying Officer Sekhon was awarded “Param Vir Chakra” (the nation’s highest gallantry award) posthumously. Even his skill was later praised in an article by Salim Baig Mirza, the Pakistani pilot who shot him down. Jai Hind! Jai Jawan!!
Over the years many statues of Sekhon have been put up in various parts of the country. A marine tanker built in 1985, 45,485 DWT was named “Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, PVC”. It is the longest ship name in the world. Also, the junction roads to Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Ambala and Ferozepur were named Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon Chowk. I salute this great son of mother India. I think the true respect for the men and women in the armed forces is not making and telling cheap jokes about them. Let us pay our homage by taking a pledge today not to do it any more.
Salute to Khalsa Warrior Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon
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- Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon's citation of the Param Vir Chakra at Bharat-Rakshak.com.
- File Photo of Marine Tanker Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Shekhon, PVC
- Tribute on Bharat-Rakshak
- A tribute of Nirmal Jit
- At Sikh History
- Profile of Sekhon on Tribune India
- Flying Officer Sekhon's last moments, as seen through Flt Lt Mirza's gunsight