3 minute readBook Review: …So That Others May Live

The cover of the IAF's new book on humanitarian operations.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is launching a book on Thursday, detailing the history of their experience of humanitarian, supply and special operations.

StratPost managed to have a look at the effort, access to some of the images in the book, as well as an Editor’s Cut video about the subject of the book. Ta ta ra ta ra….

The book itself is a large-sized glossy, and at more than 200 pages of pictures and text, would make a valuable addition to any aficionado’s bookshelf. We always find history fascinating and the pictures are to die for (Did you know the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) had the Chakra (wheel) from the Ashoka Pillar as a roundel before the tricolor roundels were adopted?). But we still have a small bone to pick with the IAF over the pictures. More on that in a bit.

We’ve all read and heard of the horrors of partition, and how the trains of the Indian Railways became an enduring part of the narrative of displacement and evacuation. Come August 15th of 1947, as the Spitfires, Tempests and Harvards flew over the unfurling tricolor in Delhi, the Dakotas of RIAF’s No. 12 Squadron were already on the job, too, and ended up evacuating 30,000 refugees.

A few months later, some 6,000 refugees in Poonch created a landing strip for the RIAF’s Dakotas, which later evacuated them from the area after Pakistani forces invaded Jammu and Kashmir.

The book looks at the early experience of the IAF’s operations across terrains, altitude and conditions. The second chapter on nation-building also includes some background images of the IAF’s operations during the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

But the really stunning images are of the IAF’s air relief operations to Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.

An entire chapter follows on the entire range of rescue operations conducted by the IAF. Floods, cyclones, earthquakes, the 2004 Tsunami that hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal as well as the cloudburst that struck Leh, last year are all subjects of this chapter. The IAF shows off an admirable skill set that includes treacherous mountain rescue operations, as well.

The IAF’s first international mission was as part of the Allied Occupation Force in Japan, in 1945. IAF Spitfires were transported to Japan as part of the British Indian Division onboard the British carrier, HMS Vengeance.

The chapter on foreign missions also looks at the IAF’s first deployment to the Congo in 1960 and its return there, a few years back. This is a mission it plans to conclude shortly, because of the domestic requirement for the assets deployed there.

From a reporter’s point of view, the final chapter on the future of the IAF doesn’t give much away. But overall, the book is still useful as a reference on the IAF’s operational history of humanitarian, relief and other non-war missions. There is no question that the book can help in enhancing the perception of the service rendered by it.

The IAF plans to have the book available for sale over their website. But we’d also recommend they get in touch with Flipkart, to enable better access and availability. Should you buy it? They haven’t listed a price but one imagines it’ll be expensive. Another idea could be to publish a smaller, paperback edition, as well, to make it more accessible. This is a book for someone truly interested in the IAF. And as we said, the imagery is to die for.

Which brings us to our quibble with them. The quality of the images published in the book demand due credit be given to the respective photographers in the captions. And any imagery sourced from other departments should also be mentioned as such. The IAF hasn’t done it, but it would’ve been nice.

Have a look at some of them.

Saurabh Joshi

Saurabh Joshi

Saurabh is a journalist based in New Delhi, India who has worked in print, television as well as internet news media. Besides defense and strategy, his past assignments have ranged from reporting terror strikes to elections. He has studied journalism and law at the University of Delhi. 

  1 comment for “3 minute readBook Review: …So That Others May Live

So what do you think?