Pakistan has been the beneficiary of two major U.S. military aid programs. The second, that was initiated after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, is better known because of the F-16s. The first, which delivered the F-104s, F-86s as well as the Patton tanks, however, was much larger in scope and scale and enabled the Pakistan Army and Air Force to modernize both in their thinking and equipment.
Just a year after Independence, for the first time Pakistan requested the US for military assistance. A delegation consisting of the Defense Secretary, Iskander Mirza and Major General Iftikhar Khan, the first Pakistani C-in-C designate of the army, visited the US. But the request was declined due to the Kashmir War. Two years later a second formal request was made by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan during his tour of the US. The Americans were now prepared to supply up-gunned M24 Chaffee tanks of Second World War vintage but Pakistan was unwilling to reciprocate by participating in the Korean War and the offer died.
However, a year later, after much lobbying prior to and during a month long tour of Washington by Major General Shahid Hamid, the Master General of Ordinance, Pakistan was allowed to purchase US $ 26.5 million worth of reconditioned tanks and spares. Starved of equipment and struggling to keep its Second World War vintage armoured fighting vehicles serviceable, this purchase was a shot in the arm for the Pakistan Armoured Corps.
However, to get a complete military assistance program to flow, a concentrated push was still required by both Iskander Mirza, the defence secretary, and General Ayub Khan, the C-in-C. Following some high level meetings both internally and with the Americans, the gap between what the United States was offering and what Pakistan wished for slowly narrowed. The Pakistan Army was aware that accepting aid from the US would bind the country into an alliance. Lieutenant colonels and above serving in the general headquarters were asked to give their opinion. No information is available on the consensus but in 1954, Pakistan signed a military assistance agreement with the US. The same year the relationship was further sealed with Pakistan joining the South East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and a year later, the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO).
US military assistance was earmarked exclusively for units designated as MAP forces, which were to be deployed to protect the western approaches to the country and for intervention in the Middle East in accordance with US requirements. Military aid supplied under the program was not to be used by non-MAP forces i.e. those deployed against India, such as troops on the Kashmir border, the Indian border in general or in East Pakistan
The United States initially agreed to USD 171 million in direct military aid, and it seems that expectations of further assistance were not high. The report on the “Second Conference of Commandants of GHQ Training Establishments, 1955” records that:
“The Conference was warned to be on guard against loose talk regarding United States Military aid. It would not automatically solve all our problems for us, nor would the consequent expansion do more, in the first instance, than make good deficiencies in existing formations.”
The actual extent of US military assistance was kept a closely guarded secret, but it ultimately ended up at around $600 million administered through the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Pakistan.
With the induction of the lend-lease equipment, the army had achieved its first goal of converting the armoured corps into an all tracked force and in 1954; it held manoeuvres for the first time on a scale larger than it had ever done so far. During these manoeuvres, the 3rd Armoured Brigade performed well. One of the foreign guests invited to witness the exercise was General Anthony McAuliffe, Commander-in-Chief of US Forces in Europe. He was probably somewhat surprised to see these Shermans that the US Army had discarded being operated so well, and was deeply impressed by their maintenance.
By the middle of the 1950s, Rawalpindi was a busy station professionally as well as socially, and with a major US Military Assistance Programme under negotiation, it was buzzing with political activities. At the end of 1953, an Army Planning Board under Major General Yahya Khan was established along with US advisers, to deliberate on the reorganisation of the Pakistan Army, its plans and commitments. An American Military Survey Mission arrived in Feburary 1954 and three months later, the US and Pakistan signed a Mutual Defence Agreement. Under this agreement, the US would assist Pakistan in equipping five and a half divisions – one armoured and four infantry divisions and an additional armoured brigade. The US Military Assistance Program (MAP) divided the army into two entities: the MAP forces and non-MAP forces. US military assistance was earmarked exclusively for units designated as MAP forces, which were to be deployed to protect the western approaches to the country and for intervention in the Middle East in accordance with US requirements. Military aid supplied under the program was not to be used by non-MAP forces i.e. those deployed against India, such as troops on the Kashmir border, the Indian border in general or in East Pakistan.
By October 1954, the MAAG established itself within the headquarters of the Pakistan Army, and their families were accommodated in Chaklala Garrison. The Army’s slice under the agreement would equip one armoured division, an additional armoured brigade and four infantry divisions and was referred to as the 5-and-a-half Division Plan. The Pakistan Armoured Corps was to receive 504 medium tanks and 220 light tanks for reconnaissance out of which the first consignment of 110 M24s Chaffee recce tanks started arriving in 1956. They were relics of the Second World War and the Commander-in-Chief General Ayub Khan complained to the US about the war surplus being diverted to Pakistan. However, it is a fact that the M24s were a significant improvement on the armoured cars and Stuart tanks that had previously been in service with the light armoured regiments. The 504 medium tanks comprising of M47/M48 Pattons were received over a period of eight to nine years ending in 1963 but the 110 remaining recce tanks were never delivered.
The MAAG in Pakistan not only wielded great influence, they also supervised at every level. When officers returned from courses in the US, the MAAG even tried to control their postings on the pretext of properly utilizing the aid
The British India Army had practically no experience in employing armoured divisions. To support the war effort, orders were issued in India at the early stages of the Second World War, for the raising of four armoured divisions, but only one saw active service with the PAIFORCE. The rest were disbanded due to a shortage of equipment, and the focus shifted towards training and equipping armoured brigades for operations in Burma. Given this background, it is not surprising that the Pakistan Army was reluctant to accept the offer by the US of an armoured division. According to a report by a US Congressional Committee, the Pakistan Army was “[…] inclined to have tanks scattered in relatively small units at various locations (while the US believed) that a tank force organised as an armoured division concentrated at a single location would be more economical and more effective.” The aim of Exercise AGILITY conducted in 1956 was to determine how relevant such a heavy armoured force would be in Pakistan’s operational environment. However in what may have been a case of “the cart before the horse”, the decision to form an armoured division may well have been strongly influenced not by appreciating the strategic and operational role played by a large mechanised formation, but by the American offer to construct a modern division-size cantonment at Kharian.
The raising of the 1st Armoured Division with a balanced structure was a quantum leap both for the Pakistan Army as well as the armoured corps, placing it ten years ahead of the Indians. It was conceived as a heavy armoured division, not on the US Army pattern of floating combat commands, but the more rigid organization of brigades that the Pakistan Army was familiar with. Apart from one heavy and two light armoured brigades, it had an artillery brigade, an armoured recce regiment, a self-propelled air defence regiment and all the trappings of the combat support and logistics units.
The formation of an armoured division was the first step that the Army took towards creating a combined arms mechanized force. Concurrent to the raising and reequipping of the armoured regiments, between 1956/57 the 1st and 7th Frontier Force were motorized. In the process, these battalions encountered the same problems that the cavalry faced when it was mechanized at the outbreak of the Second World War and had to conduct cadres to train the soldiers on mechanical transport, communication, and anti-tank weapons. Gradually more Frontier Force battalions were added to the list and in 1960, the 7th Frontier Force was the first to be equipped with M113 armoured personnel carriers and designated as an armoured infantry battalion. The selection of the Frontier Force Regiment for providing battalions for conversion to armoured infantry was due to the shared historic links with some of the cavalry regiments like the Guides, 11th, and 12th Cavalry that dated back to the PIFFERS. However, the fact that General Musa who was promoted to C-in-C had worn the badges of the Frontier Force Regiment may also have been a factor. Alongside establishing the armoured infantry, a number of self-propelled artillery regiments were also raised.
The issue of M47s to the regiments of the armoured brigades commenced while they were at Rawalpindi. When Wajahat Hussain joined the regiment on his return from Staff College in 1956, he found “[…] a completely changed atmosphere with the induction of the US Aid. This was generating a great activity in the intensive conversion […] to new and better equipment. Undoubtedly, it was a great improvement in the regiment’s capabilities. In its wake, going through the complicated American maintenance system, along with constant inspection and monitoring by members of the US MAAG Group, who were located next door, right in the middle of GHQ, they were constantly breathing down our necks.” Technically, the role of the MAAG in Third World nations allied with the US was to assist in the training of conventional armed forces. However, the MAAG in Pakistan not only wielded great influence, they also supervised at every level. When officers returned from courses in the US, the MAAG even tried to control their postings on the pretext of properly utilizing the aid.
At the macro level, they supervised the large construction programs undertaken for the Pakistan Armed Forces by the US Army Corps of Engineers and strictly ensured that the equipment being supplied to the Pakistan Army was not transferred to non-MAP forces. At the micro level, they closely monitored the conversion to US equipment and its maintenance. They revamped the system of maintenance by introducing to the army and the armoured corps the concept of Centralized and Squadron Maintenance Teams (CMT & SMT). Apart from an annual inspection that could last over three days, they periodically visited the garages with gauges in hand. One facet that irritated them was that instead of strapping the pick axes, shovels, crowbars, sledge hammers, etc. onto their brackets outside the tank, the Pakistani tank crews locked them inside for safe-keeping. Occasionally, the visits by the members of the MAAG could turn unpleasant. Col Hollingsworth was a highly decorated and experienced cavalry officer who got along very well with the officers of the armoured division at Kharian but could be very abrasive. During an inspection of 19th Lancers at Kharian, he cross examined an inexperienced troop leader on the maintenance of the M47 tank. When the troop leader replied incorrectly, Hollingsworth started shouting, “These chaps are f___ing up these tanks”, and after an argument with Nasrullah, (the commanding officer), he stormed out of the garages.
During the Second World War, Hollingsworth was recognized by General Patton as one of his two best armoured battalion commanders. He retired as a lieutenant general and was one of the ten most decorated US generals of all times. He headed MAAG Pakistan in its early years and could also walk into the office of the commander-in-chief at any time. In a condolence message on his death, Major General Shabbir Hussain Shah, EME, stated, “I knew the Gen during his days in Pakistan as a young Colonel in the USMAG. What a man! What a soldier! He was a true friend of Pakistan”.
The MAAG, in general, was cooperative and on occasions supported the Pakistan Army in their hard task of obtaining from the US Government the equipment it needed. The MAAG also turned a blind eye to the syphoning-off of training ammunition by the army for building up its war reserves. While the ammunition for training was provided at a lavish scale, non was provided for operations. Therefore, the army diverted 50 percent of the training ammunition into its General Staff Reserves, but gave a certificate that all the ammunition had been expended at the ranges.
The equipment arrived spasmodically and General Ayub complained to the Americans about the slow pace of delivery. The Pakistan Army felt that neither was sufficient quantity forthcoming for the army to be equipped quickly, nor was the aid planned equipment-wise or unit-wise so that uniformity could be maintained. This produced a great strain on the army, and affected its administration and operational efficiency. On the other hand, the Americans understood that Pakistan was having difficulty in raising the additional forces to properly use all this equipment and that acceleration of deliveries would add to these difficulties. The Americans had a point since providing equipment is only the first stage. Before a unit or formation is operational, crews have to be trained technically and tactically, maintenance procedures have to be streamlined spares and ammunition stocked, field exercises conducted, etc. However, in spite of the slow pace of delivery, the Pakistan Army in general and more specifically the armoured corps were better off in equipment, ammunition, and stores than they had ever been since Independence. Jeeps and trucks were plentiful, and there was even a helicopter for the GOC. Brigadier Zahir Alam recollects, “In the armoured corps these were the days of plenty of everything, tanks, vehicles and ammunition. Captain ‘Bunty’ Sarwar and I, when the range was allocated to the Centre for recruits training, sometimes used to draw half a truck of tank ammunition, take it on the ranges and fire it off, and there were no questions asked.”
From the time when the Pakistan Armoured Corps started expanding in 1955, within ten years it had tripled in size, and could boast of 18 armoured regiments including what were termed as Tank Delivery Units but were in fact caderized regiments equipped with the older Shermans. Ten were equipped with Pattons, five with Shermans and three with M24 Chaffee fielding a total of 762 tanks with 279 in reserve. Across the border, India had been neglecting its armed forces during the 1950s, and had added only four regiments to its original 12, of which four (three were with the armoured division) had new Centurions which proved to be a match for the Pattons. Thus, the Pakistan Armoured Corps had not only achieved parity, but also surpassed the Indians.
However, the “milking” of manpower for the new raisings placed a great stress on the old and established regiments and effected their combat efficiency. In addition, the officer corps was inexperienced. The Americans had trained hundreds of junior officers from all arms and services in technical and tactical disciplines but the senior leadership had no formal training in the employment of armoured formations. The major exercises that were conducted during the buildup to the 1965 War, focused more on practicing / refining of Standard Operating Procedures at the unit and subunit level and less on how to generate and enhance the combat power of armoured brigades and the armoured division. It was a weakness that would stall our offensive at Khem Karan.