HOMAGE: TRIB­UTE TO AN ICON

The Late Mar­shal of the Air Force Ar­jan Singh, a rare gift of God to the na­tion, is trag­i­cally no more with us; but his mem­ory will live on for­ever!

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - By Air Mar­shal B.K. Pandey (Retd)

On the evening of Septem­ber 16 this year, Mar­shal of the Air Force Ar­jan Singh Padma Vib­hushan, DFC, an iconic fig­ure and one of most cel­e­brated sol­diers of in­de­pen­dent In­dia who was and con­tin­ues to be the pride of not only the In­dian Air Force (IAF), but of the na­tion as well, passed away at the age of 98 at the Re­search and Re­fer­ral (R&R) Hos­pi­tal of the In­dian armed forces lo­cated in Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi. He was ad­mit­ted in the R&R Hos­pi­tal ear­lier in the day fol­low­ing a car­diac ar­rest.

Born on April 15, 1919 in Lyalpur, a city in Pun­jab of un­di­vided In­dia, now Fais­labad of mod­ern day Pak­istan, he com­pleted his school ed­u­ca­tion from Mont­gomery. At the age of 19 when he was still in col­lege, he was se­lected for train­ing as an air force pi­lot at Royal Air Force (RAF), Cran­well. On suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of train­ing in 1939, he was com­mis­sioned as an of­fi­cer and was posted in No 1 Squadron of the In­dian Air Force (IAF) where he flew West­land Wapiti bi­planes and took part in op­er­a­tions against the tribal forces in the North West­ern Fron­tier Prov­ince. Grad­u­at­ing to Hawker Hur­ri­canes, dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, he flew bat­tle­field air sup­port mis­sions dur­ing the Im­phal Cam­paign and pro­vided air sup­port for the ad­vance of the al­lied forces into Ran­goon in Burma. For his role in suc­cess­fully lead­ing the Squadron dur­ing com­bat, in 1944, he was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross (DFC), a rare hon­our for a young pi­lot in the IAF. In 1947, he took over com­mand of Air Force Sta­tion Am­bala, a premier fighter base and then in 1949, moved on to head Op­er­a­tional Com­mand at Delhi which was later re­named as West­ern Air Com­mand (WAC) . He headed WAC for a to­tal of seven years spread over two tenures, thus set­ting a record for lead­ing for the long­est pe­riod, the most im­por­tant Com­mand in the IAF.

Af­ter the Sino-In­dian con­flict of 1962 in which the IAF was not em­ployed, he was ap­pointed as the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff and in 1963 as the

Vice Chief of the Air Staff. On Au­gust 01, 1964, he was pro­moted to the rank of Air Mar­shal and ap­pointed as the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) of the IAF. Un­der his in­spir­ing lead­er­ship, the IAF came out with glory in the war with Pak­istan in 1965, the very first large scale con­flict the IAF of in­de­pen­dent In­dia was in­volved in. The rank of the CAS was up­graded and Ar­jan Singh be­came the first of­fi­cer in the his­tory of the IAF to hold the rank of Air Chief Mar­shal. On re­tire­ment from from ser­vice in July 1969, he was ap­pointed Am­bas­sador to Switzer­land. Sub­se­quently, in Jan­uary 2002, he was con­ferred the rank of the Mar­shal of the Air Force in recog­ni­tion of his un­par­al­leled con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tion. So far, he has been the only of­fi­cer of the IAF to hold this five-star po­si­tion.

Dur­ing his three-decade long ser­vice with the IAF, he worked re­lent­lessly to nur­ture and strengthen the foun­da­tions of the ser­vice, dis­played ex­em­plary lead­er­ship and emerged as a role model for ev­ery air war­rior. Dur­ing his ca­reer, he had flown more than 60 dif­fer­ent types of air­craft and had played a ma­jor role in trans­form­ing the IAF into one of the most po­tent air forces in the world. In recog­ni­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his ex­cep­tional and dis­tin­guished ser­vice as also his self­less de­vo­tion and con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tion, in 1965, he was con­ferred the sec­ond high­est civil­ian award of Padma Vib­hushan by the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia. Even af­ter hand­ing over charge of the IAF, he con­tin­ued to serve and sup­port the or­gan­i­sa­tion through the cre­ation of a Trust funded en­tirely by his per­sonal re­sources, for the wel­fare of serv­ing and re­tired per­son­nel of the IAF and their fam­i­lies. To hon­our and per­pet­u­ate his mem­ory, in a touch­ing ges­ture on its part, the IAF has named a newly es­tab­lished air base at Pana­garh in West Ben­gal as “Air Force Sta­tion Ar­jan Singh”.

The Late Mar­shal of the Air Force Ar­jan Singh, a rare gift of God to the na­tion, is trag­i­cally no more with us; but his mem­ory will live on for­ever!

Dur­ing his three­decade long ser­vice with the IAF, he worked re­lent­lessly to nur­ture and strengthen the foun­da­tions of the ser­vice

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