Arjan Singh, iconic war hero of 1965 Indo-Pak, no more

Sep 18, 2017 10:05 IST
President Obama greets Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force

Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force passed away on 16 September 2017 in New Delhi, after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 98.

Singh breathed his last at the Army's Research and Referral hospital in Delhi. He is survived by a son and a daughter. His wife passed away in 2011.

The Defence ministry condoled his death by saying that it marked an end to a glorious era of the IAF.

About Arjan Singh

• Singh was born in 1919 in Lyalpur in Punjab in undivided India. He was the fourth generation of his family to join the British Indian armed forces. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had served in the cavalry.

• He officially joined the Royal Indian Air Force at the age of 19.

• He led No. 1 Squadron, Indian Air Force into combat against the Japanese during the Arakan Campaign in 1944 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in the same year for successfully completing the feat.

• Singh also flew close support missions during the Imphal campaign and later assisted the advancing of the allied forces to Rangoon, currently known as Yangon.

• On 15 August 1947, when India became independent, Singh led the fly-past of over 100 aircraft over the Red Fort.

• The Marshal led the Western Air Command after independence and took charge as the Indian Air Force Chief in 1964.

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• He served as Chief of the Air Staff from 1964 to 1969, a period when IAF was on a brink of change. It was also when the1965 war with Pakistan began.

• He has been the only Chief of the Air Staff to have headed the Air Force for five years as opposed to the regular tenure of two and a half to three years.

• For his distinguished service in commanding the IAF during the Indo-Pakistani War, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour, in 1965.

• In 1966, he became the first IAF officer to be promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal of the Air Force. He took retirement from his services in 1970 at the age of 50.

• Post his retirement, Singh served as the Indian Ambassador to Switzerland and Vatican. He was also appointed as the High Commissioner to Kenya from 1974 to 1977.

• He also served as a member of the National Commission for Minorities and The Government of India from 1975 to 1981.

• He was the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi from December 1989 to December 1990.

• In 2002, he became the first and only officer of the Indian Air Force to be promoted to five-star rank as Marshal of the Indian Air Force, equal to the army rank of Field Marshal.

Leaders across the political spectrum hailed Singh’s contribution in leading the Indian Air Force and transforming it into one of the most powerful air forces globally and the fourth biggest in the world.

President Ram Nath Kovind while paying his condolences to the great icon said that Singh had won the nation's gratitude for his military leadership in the 1965 war. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said on the occasion that India will never forget his excellent leadership in 1965 when the IAF saw substantial action.

Modi also stated that the determined focus of Singh on capacity building in the IAF added great strength to India's defence capabilities.

Besides this, other prominent dignitaries including Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and other Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad condoled the death of Singh.

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