The battle of Shiromoni: a textbook example of combined war

The 1971 Liberation war of Bangladesh was comparatively short-lived but included some of the finest examples of modern-day warfare. As the Indians joined on the 3rd of December, Bangladesh theatre saw increased usage of heavy weaponry and tactics. Many of the 1971 battles remain important due to their unique strategies and tactics involved, often employed by the Indian army. The battle of Shiromani is one such. A fierce all-around battle fought in the Khulna region of Southern Bangladesh, at least 35 military schools today have included the war strategy in their curriculum.


During the British era, Jashore was considered the last line of defense against a Japanese invasion. After 1947, Jashore became a frontier region and was heavily defended. Jashore airbase and adjacent areas had about 35 Tanks, 150 large caliber guns, five thousand regular soldiers, and about 400 specially trained commandoes. Pakistan army considered Jashore to be vital for East Pakistan defense and it was the entry point towards Dhaka and Port city of Khulna. Moreover, the Eastern Command of the Indian Army was situated just about 100 kilometers in Kolkata. Pakistanis were confident and proud of their defenses around Jashore, which they nicknamed ‘Stalingrad of the East. Their defense line stretched from Darshana, Chuadanga to the Kushtia-Jashore area. However, they left the ‘invincible’ city without a fight by 6th December and retreaded southwards to Khulna. `


There were two reasons for this, One, Pakistanis lost the battle of Garibpur to the Indian army, and second, they thought Khulna might be an escaping point just in case the war was lost. As the 7th fleet of the US navy was coming towards the Bay of Bengal, Pakistani Commander Hayat Khan chose Khulna as a vantage point. Khulna was an industrial city and Shiromani, the designated battleground was surrounded by rivers on several sides. It was a perfect point for die-hard battle and Pakistanis left no stone unturned. Bunkers, barbed wires, mines, and tanks were set up for one last showdown. Muktibahini, on the other hand, lacked the types of equipment needed to fight heavy armor, but their Indian colleagues had tank and air support to provide, alongside foot soldiers. From 10 to 13th of December, Shiromani was continuously pounded by Indian guns and aircraft. However, Muktibahini’s intelligence report stated the Pakistanis were to be fully prepared even after the continuous bombing of three days.


On the 14th of December, Major Mahendra Singh of the Indian Rajput division, alongside some Muktibahini forces, attacked Shirmoni. 26 of 28 allied vehicles were wiped out in hours, and at least 250 Indian soldiers died. Seeing the ferocity of Pakistani defense, the attackers retreated. However, it was just the beginning of a combined attack so fierce that the Pakistanis will be decimated in a day or two.


Divided into 7 columns, Muki Bahini surrounded Pakistani position by 16th December. By this time, Dhaka fell but Hayat Khan and his soldiers decided to keep on fighting. A combined attack of tanks and guerillas, alongside an air strike, was directed towards the enemy position. Eventually, the attack led to hand-to-hand combat among allied and Pakistani forces. However, surrounded by all sides by the joint command, Hayat Khan eventually gave up the defenses and surrendered. The battle of Shiromoni remains a fine example of a combined air-tank-artillery-infantry battle. Also, the struggle shows the efficiency of the Joint Indo-Bangla command as they were able to defeat one of the finest units of the Pakistani invaders. The strategies and tactics remain a point of study in many defense schools even to this date.


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