Till date, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been honoured with 21 Maha Vir Chakra medals – the 2nd highest military award in India. Only one of them was awarded posthumously. 


In 1965, Indian and Pakistani air forces came into conflict for the first time. On 6th September, 1965, the PAF launched attacks at the Indian air bases at Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara. In response, the IAF decided to retaliate against the PAF base of Sargodha. 


At the time, excluding Soviet air bases, Sargodha was widely acknowledged to be the most fortified airbase in the rest of Asia. Despite this, the IAF went ahead with a daring daylight raid on the 7th of  September. 


Right from late night of 6-Sep, IAF Canberras, Mysteres and Hunters rained mayhem on the Sargodha base inflicting heavy damage. A 13-aircraft contingent of Mystere IVa’s of 1 Squadron was involved in the raid. 


Out of the 13, two aircraft were lost. One, flown by Flt. Lt. UB “Babul” Guha was destroyed by a sidewinder missile from a PAF Sabre. But the fate of the other Mystere, piloted by Sq. Ldr. Ajjamada B. Devaiah was unknown. 


He was reported missing in action. With no reports of his capture by the enemy, Sq. Ldr. Devaiah was presumed killed in action. In 1979, an official account of the 1965 air war was published under the aegis of the PAF. 


Despite being highly partisan in nature, the writer, John Fricker, did report a rather unusual occurrence. A Lockheed Starfighter F-104, the pride of the PAF in 1965, was shot down by an IAF Mystere IVa – a considerably older and inferior aircraft – on 7-Sep, 1965 near Sargodha.


A year later, this came to the attention of Grp Cptn. OP Taneja, the CO of Devaiah’s unit. Taneja was also aware of a PAF Starfighter pilot shot down & captured in 1971 who, during interrogation, had stated that he was also shot down by an IAF Mystere in 1965. 


Combining the various sources, the fate of Sq. Ldr. Devaiah came to light. The brave pilot was the last in the formation as the IAF Mysteres retreated after the attack on Sargodha. It was his plane that Flt. Lt. Amjad Hussain, flying the Starfighter, picked up as the target. 


Hussain fired a Sidewinder missile at Devaiah’s aircraft but the wily IAF pilot evaded it. His plane however was possibly hit by gun fire from Hussain. It most likely left him with a damaged radio, cutting off contact with his mates ahead. 


Low on fuel, flying a damaged aircraft and with no communication, it is difficult to surmise what went through Devaiah’s mind. Possibly, he figured that he was the only thing standing between the deadly Starfighter and his mates flying home. 


Throwing caution to the wind, Devaiah, in his transonic Mystere, took on the supersonic Starfighter. In an incredible display of combat, Devaiah overcame the drawbacks of his inferior machine and against all odds, landed the KO punch. 


The blast of his 30 mm cannon left Hussain’s aircraft damaged beyond recovery. The PAF pilot ejected and narrowly escaped with his life, later winning a Sitara-e-Jurat, Pakistan’s 3rd highest military honour. 


Devaiah’s stricken aircraft crashed near Hinduana village, Pak Punjab. The Mystere was not built for low level ejections. Either Devaiah was unable to eject or ejected very late. In any case, the impact killed the brave pilot. 


The local villagers recovered his body, reported practically undamaged, and quickly buried the same. OP Taneja, after piecing together the missing pieces of the fate of his lost comrade, lobbied hard with the IAF top brass to recommend Devaiah for a MVC. 


In 1988, nearly 23 years after his incredible bravery and tragic loss, Sq. Ldr. AB “Tubby” Devaiah was honoured with the Mahavir Chakra, received by his widow, Smt. Sundari Devaiah