SONAM WANGCHUK: An Unsung Hero who registered India’s first victory during the Kargil war ’99

source: Indian Express

The Indian army is a kaleidoscope of leadership, sacrifice and undaunted courage. Brave sons of the nation, in olive green gear, adorn the pedestal the Indian Army stands upon. Sonam Wangchuk is one such hero who deserves every bit of respect, owing to his contribution to the motherland.

Major Sonam Wangchuk belongs to the beautiful land of Laddakh. Beneath a smile that melts hearts and a demeanour that that exudes warmth, lies the heart of a lion. His name speaks volumes of exemplary leadership and unadulterated courage displayed in the Kargil war, where he led his 30-odd soldiers to their first victory without any artillery support.

Back in 1999, Sonam Wangchuk was a Major in Indian Army’s infantry regiment, the Ladakh Scouts. Also known as the “Snow Warriors” or “Snow Tigers”, the Laddakh Scouts specialize in mountain warfare, carrying out reconnaissance missions and setting up observation posts for army regiments operating at high altitudes.

While on a vacation with his family at his home in Khakshal, Leh on May 26, 1999, Major Wangchuk was informed that he had to resume duty. He gladly rose to the clarion call, promising his son Riggyal that they would celebrate his birthday together on June 11.

Two days later, Major Wangchuk reported at Handen Brok, a BSF base camp in the Chorbat La sub sector of Batalik. This was the last stop before the Line of Control, from where recon patrols were sent out into the mountains.

Unaware of the extent of Pakistani infiltration into the Indian soil, Wangchuk and his team left on their next mission to establish their post on an 18000 feet high ridge just inside the Indian side of LoC. Climbing the steep mountain adorned with sharp, slippery glacial rocks, in the freezing sub-zero temperatures of Ladakh was a huge challenge.

While ascending towards the LoC, they were ambushed by enemy firing, where a NCO was killed. Major Wangchuk understood the need of the hour and kept climbing, to prevent the infiltrators from occupying the strategically superior position. One jawan was left behind to take back the body of the slain soldier and send information to the base about the ambush.

Acting as the shield to his team, carefully dodging bullets and ducking behind boulders, Wangchuk and his team finally made it to the ridge in three hours. He suddenly spotted a group of intruders trying to scale the ridge from the Pakistan side and decided upon a counter ambush. They patiently waited till the enemy came within range and then attacked them from the flank. Four infiltrators were killed, and their ammunition were seized.

Next day, Wangchuk and his team set out to clear the Chorbat La axis of all enemy intrusions. At 18000 feet of thin air, no artillery support and minimum time to plan their approach, the team kept going till they had accomplished their very dangerous mission. The LoC was finally under Indian control and the war cry of the Ladakh Scouts, Ki Ki So So Lhargyalo (The Gods Will Triumph) echoed far and wide, into the mountains.

Adorned with only their wireless and survival rations, Wangchuk and his men remained for over a week to snap shut the infiltration point, preventing subsequent infiltration, and hence giving the Indian Army a much-needed strong foothold in the Batalik region.He was later rightfully honoured with the Maha Vir Chakra.

SripBros is proud to have let the world know of his display of leadership and courage when he was not expected to fight the war, sans adequate ammunition. Yet, he successfully braved all odds and notched up the first crucial win for the Indian Army in the Kargil conflict.

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