Lieutenant Colonel Dhan Singh Thapa was an Indian Army officer who is famous for being the recipient of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) for his strategic action and contribution at the north of Pangong Lake during the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
Dhan Singh Thapa was born on Tuesday, 10 April 1928 (age 77 Years; at the time of death) in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. His zodiac sign was Aries. he was born in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh in a Nepali family.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
His father’s name was P.S.Thapa.
Wife & Children
After getting a permanent commission as a lieutenant on 29 September 1956, he was promoted to the rank of Captain on 21 February 1957. He was in the 8 Gorkha Rifles (1949) regiment. He fought Sino-Indian War in 1962. He was given the responsibility of Operation Leghorn.
Dhan Singh Thapa is known for his brave and strategic actions against the Chinese Army during the Sino-Indian war in 1962. Thapa was given the charge to safeguard the Chushul Airfield (southeastern Ladakh, famous for Pangong Lake) along with 28 soldiers called D company. Sirijap (a small plain area in the southern part of the Aksai Chin region that is controlled by China but claimed by India) and Yula areas of Himalayas were guarded by the 1st Battalion. An outpost of around 48 square kilometers was established to protect the Chushul Airfield. In the meantime, 3 posts around the Chushul Airfield were elevated by the Chinese Army.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Forward Policy”
During the Sino-Indian war declaration, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru formed a “Forward Policy” that included strategic measures against China. The measures included the establishment of a number of small posts fronting the Chinese borders, and Thapa was leading one of the posts.
The increased activities of the Chinese Army
The First Battalion of the Indian Army set up 3 posts surrounding the Sirijap where the Chinese Army increased their activities in October 1962. On 19 October 1962, China precisely deployed a huge infantry fronting the Indian Army and made it evident that an attack on India was impending. Dhan Singh Thapa predicted the attack and directed his soldiers to dig fast and deep trenches.
In the early morning at 4:30 am on 20 October 1962, the Chinese army attacked the Indian soldiers with heavy artillery and mortar. Major Dhan Singh Thapa and his men had no counter support of artillery and mortars from the Indian Army; accordingly, Major Dhan Singh Thapa and his men hanged fire. The Chinese confronted for at least two and a half hours, and around 600 armed forces of China entered Indian borders. The Chinese Army constantly attacked the Indian troops by artillery that killed several Indian soldiers. Dhan Singh Thapa with his men were shooting the Chinese invaders with light machine guns (LMG) and rifles. All the communications within the outposts and the battalion with the D company were impaired that allowed the Chinese to reach within 50 yards of the Indian outpost. Indian soldiers had the only option to struggle with small arms and hand grenades to halt more harm.
Boosting the morale of the soldiers
Major Dhan Singh Thapa, along with his second-in-command Subedar Min Bahadur Gurung, kept moving from place to place, from one post to another to balance the positions and spirit of the Indian soldiers during the Chinese attack. The Gorkhas attacked with hand grenades and small rifles to counter incendiary bombs of the Chinese Army. Subedar Gurung was buried under the bunker when it collapsed over him; however, he managed to pull himself out of the debris of the collapsed bunker and killed several Chinese troops until he was eventually killed.
Major Dhan Singh Thapa was struggling with the remaining seven soldiers when the Chinese Army attacked them with heavy machine guns and bazookas. Indian navy entered the scene with two storm boats to find out the status of Sirijap 1. These boats were sent by the battalion headquarters. These storm boats attacked the Chinese army; however, during the clash, one boat sank, while the other badly damaged. All the inmates in the sunk boat died, while the other boat sailed by Naik Rabilal Thapa ran away.
Major Dhan Singh Thapa killed many Chinese troops in a hand-to-hand fight in the deep trenches. Later on, Thapa was arrested by the Chinese military officials. The information that Sirijap 1 had no survivors was given by Naik Rabilal Thapa to the Indian officials.
Prisoner of War (POW)
The Chinese Army captured the last three survivors of the Indian battalion as the prisoners of war (POW), and Dhan Singh Thapa was one of them. The Indian military officials declared all the Indian troops’ victims of the war. It was much later that the Indian Army officials received the information that Thapa and his three men were alive and were taken as a POW by the Chinese Army; this information was also announced by the Chinese agencies on the radio.
When the list of prisoners of war was announced on the radio by the Chinese Army officials, everyone in India was happy and surprised to hear that Major Dhan Singh Thapa and his three soldiers were alive. Thapa was prisoned by the Chinese Army because he killed many Chinese troops and refused to make statements against the Indian government and its army. At the end of the Sino-Indian war in November 1962, Thapa was released by the Chinese military.
Param Veer Chakra
Major Dhan Singh Thapa was honored with the ‘Param Vir Chakra,’ the highest gallantry award in India, for his brave actions on 20 October 1962. The award citation read-
Major Dhan Singh Thapa was in command of a forward post in Ladakh. On 20 October it was attacked by the Chinese in overwhelming strength after being subjected to intensive artillery and mortar bombardment. Under his gallant command, the greatly outnumbered post repulsed the attack, inflicting heavy casualties on the aggressors. The enemy attacked again in greater numbers after heavy shelling by artillery and mortar fire. Under the leadership of Major Thapa, his men repulsed this attack also with heavy losses to the enemy. The Chinese attacked for the third time, now with tanks to support the infantry. The post had already suffered large numbers of casualties in the earlier two attacks. Though considerably reduced in number it held out to the last. When it was finally overrun by overwhelming numbers of the enemy, Major Thapa got out of his trench and killed several of the enemy in hand-to-hand fighting before he was finally overpowered by Chinese soldiers. Major Thapa’s cool courage, conspicuous fighting qualities and leadership were in the highest traditions of our Army.”
—Gazette of India Notification.
Bound by the military pledge
Major Dhan Singh Thapa so adhered to his official duties and patriotism that once he had to attend an urgent inspection of his unit, and he was not feeling well and couldn’t even move. However, he completed the inspection procedure of his unit while driving the car himself. Actually, he ordered his 4 soldiers to help him reach the car.
On 30 April 1980, Dhan Singh Thapa retired from the Indian Army. Thapa settled down in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India) after retirement. For a short period, Thapa served as a director with Sahara Airlines (Now Jet Airways (India) Ltd, an Indian, international airline based in Mumbai, India). After retirement, he delightedly attended almost every Indian Army function. Thapa attended his last Republic Day parade despite renal disorders.
Dhan Singh Thapa died on 5 September 2005 at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
- There are many roads that are dedicated to Dhan Singh Thapa, which are named after him in Shillong, Assam, and Nepal.
- In 1984, The Shipping Corporation of India (a Government of India enterprise that works under the Ministry of Shipping) named a cargo vessel (an Oil Tanker) after Thapa’s name. This cargo vessel was phased out after serving for 25 years.
- After the death of Major Dhan Singh Thapa, his statue was built at Param Yodha Sthal in Delhi (a place where the busts of all the 21 recipients of the ‘Param Vir Chakra,’ India’s highest military honor, are made).
- He loved playing football, playing cards & board games, and watching movies.