Showing gratitude towards India’s First paratrooper Lt. Col A.G. Rangaraj for his significant role played in the 1950-53 Korean War, South Korea has decided to honour him. July 2020 he will be celebrated whole through South Korea as the ‘Korean War Hero for the month’. Rangaraj, is a decorated soldier and recipient of the Maha Vir Chakra, who commanded the 60 Para Field Ambulance — a medical unit of the Army which is now known as 60 Para Field Hospital — which has extended treatment of more than two lakh patients during the Korean war.
The decision to honour this unsung star has been taken by the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean war next year.
As per the reports,
“During the month of July 2020, Lt Col A.G. Rangaraj’s photo will be put up in the war memorial and other public places in Korea,” said Colonel Lee In, the defence attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in New Delhi.He further said, “This gesture is a token of appreciation from the heart of Korean people for the sacrifices made by the participating nations”
Former South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak had said in 2010,
“Korea was fortunate to have India, the source of an ancient and noble civilization, as a friend during the war. The medical unit headed by Col A. G. Rangaraj valiantly rushed to the aid of wounded soldiers in the face of a fierce crossfire. For its distinguished service, the unit received citations of merit from the Korean government on a number of occasions. Had it not been for the devoted services and sacrifices of the Indian people, Korea would not have become what it is today.”
The United Nations members including the US, India, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Turkey, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Norway supported South Korea during the war, triggered by a North Korean attack.
However during the fight, India did not get militarily involved, rather it offered medical help for war-affected soldiers and civilians by arraying the medical unit in South Korea for the duration of the war.
The first Indian airborne formation was 50th Parachute Brigade which consisted of British, Indian and Gurkha parachute battalions. Lt. Col. AG Rangaraj, MVC, of the Indian Medical Service and RMO of the 152 Indian Para battalion, was the first Indian along with Havildar Major Mathura Singh to make a parachute descent.
With the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950, the UN sent out a call to the free world for assistance. India decided not to get involved militarily but contributed a medical unit, the 60 Parachute Field Ambulance (60 PFA) which served in Korea for a total of four years. 60 PFA was involved in providing medical cover to the forces of the UN Command as well as the ROK Army and local civilians, and earned the title, “The Maroon Angels”. The unit also looked after the North Korean POWs.
Some of the achievement of the unit during the war are legendary. Like during the Operation Tomahawk in March 1951, the second-largest airborne operation of the war, a dozen medics had para-jumped along with 4000 US troops and had carried out 103 operations. In November 1950, when the Chinese attacked the UN lines, the parachute ambulance unit had to evacuate, but they had no transport to carry their medical equipment. During that time they stumbled upon an ancient steam locomotive, filled the boilers with water using buckets, and got it running despite having no experience on trains, finally returning to safety before the last bridge on the track was blown.
The 12 members of the unit who participated in the airborne operation were also awarded the American Parachutist Badge. On their return to India, the unit was awarded the President’s Trophy by the first President of the Republic of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad on 10 March 1955 at Agra, the first one of its kind and the only one to date. The troops of the unit were also awarded 25 Mentioned-in-Despatches.