Remembering a defender of the Nation from Mysore
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Remembering a defender of the Nation from Mysore

December 11, 2021

By Maj. Gen. S.G. Vombatkere, VSM

When I joined the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, in January 1961, for the 1st of the four 6-month-terms pre-Commission training, I was assigned to Imphal Company of ‘C’ Battalion. A Gentleman Cadet by the name of G.V. Prasanna Rao was also billeted in the same wing.

I remember Prasanna Rao as a gentle, ever-smiling person. Also being from the South myself, there was an almost immediate rapport between us. He was a Kannadiga, his family originally from the erstwhile Mysore State. We were together for the 18-months from January 1961 to June 1962, when Prasanna Rao was commissioned as Second Lieutenant (2Lt) and posted to the Fourth Battalion of the Grenadiers Regiment — “4 Grenadiers”, in military parlance. Sadly, that was the last time I saw him.

In October 1962, Prasanna Rao was commanding a company of 4 Grenadiers troops in NEFA (as it was then called), in the Khinzemane Sector. I was still in IMA, in my Final Term of training, due to be commissioned in December.

Chinese military action had grown increasingly aggressive until, on 20th October 1962, China’s PLA invaded India both in NEFA and in Ladakh. India’s defensive action in NEFA was named “Operation Leghorn.” The iconic battle of Rezang La in Ladakh’s Chushul Sector saw ‘C’ Company of 13 Kumaon fighting to the last man and the last round, and finally resorting to fighting with bayonets. The heroic Rezang La battle has rightly occupied media space, and the battles fought in NEFA have not attracted as much attention.

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As news trickled in regarding the military operations, we Final Termers in IMA were fired with the idea of joining the troops on the fighting front, hoping that we would be immediately sent to units in the field. But that was not to be, because on 20th November, China’s PLA unilaterally declared ceasefire and withdrew.

It was soon after, that we learned of Prasanna Rao’s heroic stand along with his fine Grenadiers troops. Being in command, Prasanna Rao chose to defend his post, which came under attack on Saturday 20th October, by far superior numbers of a PLA battalion supported by heavy mortars. Following repeated attacks which were repulsed at heavy losses to themselves, a soldier manning his light machine gun was killed. Thereupon, Prasanna Rao himself manned the LMG and died fighting at his post like a true soldier, in the highest traditions of the Grenadiers Regiment and the Indian Army — with just 4-months of military service, precisely 5-days after he passed his 22nd birthday.

We were so proud of our gentle, ever-smiling Prasanna Rao, our dear colleague who had been posthumously awarded Maha Vir Chakra for gallantry in the face of a vastly superior enemy. It was only when Prasanna Rao was awarded MVC, did I get to know the expansion of his initials “G.V.” as Gopalakrishna Venkatesa” from his MVC Gazette Notification.

The heroism of 4 Grenadiers led by their iconic Second Lieutenant G.V. Prasanna Rao, MVC (Posthumous), is not widely known. We need to also remember that every Grenadier soldier of Prasanna Rao’s Infantry Company was a hero in his own right — they all died fighting for our nation.

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The engraved epitaph for the Rezang La battle applies equally for the heroes of NEFA: “How can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his Gods?”

The lad from Mysore, trained as an officer-leader-soldier of the Indian Army, had died fighting for his country, making us proud. But sadness remains even 59-years later, when Prasanna Rao would have been 81-years-old, had he lived on. And so also it would be, only more so, for his nephew Srinivas Rao, who now lives in Pune, and his other surviving relatives.

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Remembering a defender of the Nation from Mysore”

  1. Anantha Raju says:

    Jai Hind Jai Hind Jai Hind
    From the movie Patton. The General addressing the cadets said No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He made the other enemy die for his.
    So many ultimate sacrifices.
    Mera Bharat Mahaan

  2. Ashish Patro says:

    Really proud of G. V. Prasanna Rao ji. A photo of his would be really appreciated so that people actually know and remember the great soldier

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