An Indian Jewish POW in Pakistan

Among the bomber casualties of the 1971 war.

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Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi,

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Aafreedi Navras.jpg
Arutz 7
Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Moses Sasoon was born on July 15, 1942 in Bombay (now known as Mumbai), India. He came from one of the three Jewish communities of India, the Baghdadi. The Baghdadi community consisted of Jews from West Asia, mainly from Baghdad, who came from time to time in the 19th century as traders or as
Sasoon was commissioned in the Indian Air Force (IAF) on June 22nd, 1963.
seekers of fortune under the patronage of individuals who had preceded them, and who established large business houses or industrial establishments.

This community also produced some of Indian cinema's earliest female actors. These Jews were collectively known as Baghdadis, though several of them came not from Baghdad itself but from other Iraqi cities, or Syria, Yemen, Iran and Afghanistan. They settled mainly in Mumbai and Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), though a few settled also in Pune, Maharashtra.

Sasoon was commissioned in the Indian Air Force (IAF) on June 22nd, 1963. In 1971 a war broke out between India and Pakistan. During the night of December 4th and 5th, 1971, Indian Canberras struck Pakistani airfields, both in the west and in the east (now Bangladesh). In thirty-five missions, 202 1,000-pound bombs were dropped. Eight Canberras attacked Masroor airfields from 20:30 onwards.

The first Indian bomber casualties of the 1971 war occurred on this night, when two of the Canberras failed to return after raids over Mianwali and Masroor. Canberra IF-916 on the Mianwali raid was apparently intercepted by a Mirage, while the Masroor aircraft (IF-923) was believed to have been hit by ack-ack (anti-aircraft) fire.

The first Canberra bomber launched on the night between December 4th and 5th 1971 against Pakistani airfields and installations had Flt. Lts. L. M. Sasoon and R. M. Advani as the crew. Mission 135 had as its target the heavily defended Pakistani airfield of Mianwali with a TOT (time over target) of 20:00. Their launching base was Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, with the north-Indian town of Ambala as a staging base.

Four Canberras struck Mianwali in Punjab, Pakistan. While Mission 135 failed to return, all the remaining aircraft successfully attacked the targets in spite of the heavy fire reported by the crews. They encountered no air-opposition from the Pakistanis, but Mission 135 was apparently brought down by an enemy interceptor over Mianwali.

At the very time when Mission 135 was attacking Mianwali, Flt. Lt. P. S. Negi and Flight Officer R. S. Cheema of 35 Squadron, also based at Agra, were attacking Sargodha Airfield. Fg. Offr. (now Group Captain) R. S. Cheema, VM recalls:

Flt. Lt. Sasoon had decided to give his name as "Shanti" in case he was captured.

From IP onwards and particularly when we pulled up to 7,000 feet I could see the ack-ack firing from Sargodha airfield. In fact, the tracer acted as a beacon for us. One could align exactly along the runway with reference to its barrage ack-ack fire. There was no air opposition over Sargogha airfield. We dropped eight 1,000 lbs bombs over the airfield. [We] descended comfortably to 500 feet AGL (above ground level) and headed home for recovery base. During the entire duration we heard no calls from Mission 135, which was air-borne at the same time. Both Sasoon and Advani were highly competent and thorough professionals. But their tragic loss did not deter us or affect our morale in any way. We later started calling the bombing missions to Pakistani targets routine 'milk runs'.

 
The Indian authorities were later informed by the government of Pakistan that an aircraft had crashed near Khushab on December 4, between 20:00 and 20:30. The wreckage was located at the village of Nana, 15 to 18 miles from Khushab. The pilot and navigator were both killed, and their bodies were buried at the site.

However, a Pakistani radio broadcast of 21:30 on December 5, 1971, reported that a Flt. Lt. Shanti had been captured. It is known that Flt. Lt. Sasoon had decided to give his name as "Shanti" in case he was captured. Flt. Lt. Sasoon is still on the list of persons "Missing in Pakistan", and his wife Sylvia Sasoon still waits for him.

While Pakistan continues to maintain that there are no Indian prisoners of war in its jails, India believes that there are at least fifty-one.

Copyright © 2007, 2008 by Navras Jaat Aafreedi

Notes and References
The information in the article has been drawn largely from Squadron Leader R. T. S. Cheema, The IAF Memorial Book, undated. The author of this book was the crew of Canberra IF-916. Courtesy: United Service Institution, Rao Tula Ram Marg, New Delhi, India.

Government of India, Official History of the 1971 India-Pakistan War, Publications Division, New Delhi, undated

P.C. Lal, My Years with the IAF, Lancer Publications 1986.

K.K. Nayar, Amar Jawan, India Book House 1997.

Fricker John, Postmortem of an Air War, Air Enthusiast, May 1972.

Pushpindar Singh, Journal of an Air War, Air Enthusiast, Apr 1972.

Pushpindar Singh, The Battle Axes No 7 Sqn I.A.F., 1942-92, undated

No. 20 Sqn War Diary, Lightning Strikes , Unpublished





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