Admiral SM Nanda – The Man Who Bombed Karachi: A Memoir

The book by Admiral SM Nanda, The Man Who Bombed Karachi: A Memoir, is an autobiography by an Indian Naval officer who retired as the Chief of Naval staff (CNS) and is often remembered for his most remarkable and vital role played during the planning and execution of maritime operations which led to the historical victory of India over Pakistan during the 1971 conflict. The author, who was the then CNS during the 1971 conflict with Pakistan, is the most qualified person to bring out the various aspects of the successful operations carried out by the Indian Navy on both the Western and Eastern theatres during the conflict.

The book brings out a structured narration by the author of his childhood at Manora Island off Karachi where he was born. The initial chapters of the book, takes the reader from his childhood to the youth of the author at Minora, where he studied, and on completion of his high school, worked at the Port and Pilotage Department prior joining the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) and commissioned as an acting sub lieutenant in the Royal Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RINVR) on 11 Oct 1941.

The author gives a detailed account of his experiences during his distinguished career in the Navy, which lasted 32 years and also about his subsequent tenure as the CMD of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI). The reader gets firsthand information on the ‘Royal Indian Navy Mutiny’ which is brought out in great detail in Chapter 3 of the book while narrating the author’s tenure at the Signal School, HMIS Talwar, at Bombay. The book also provides brief account of the author’s experiences with eminent personalities while he visited various countries during his tenures onboard various Naval ships. Chapter 9 of the book gives an insight on the evolvement of the nation’s capability in ship building, as the author narrates the numerous hurdles which he had to face as the Managing Director, Mazagon Docks, and how he successfully accomplished the assigned tasks.

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The book also provides numerous achievements of the author during his tenures as the Flag Officer Commanding Indian Fleet (FOCIF) and FOC-in-C West.  Transformation of a single day celebration of the Navy day to a weeklong ‘Navy Week’ celebration consisting mega events including review of the Indian Fleet by the President of India in 1969 is one among them. On page 158, the author states that, 45 warships, India’s first submarine (the Khanderi), five Coast Guard ships and eight merchant ships were on parade during the fleet review on 28 Dec 1969. The reader could be confused after learning that the Indian Coast Guard was formally constituted only on 01 Feb 1977.

The book narrates in detail, the evolvement of the 1971 conflict with Pakistan, the elaborate preparation planning and execution of the Naval power during the conflict and how effectively these culminated in the victory of the nation thereby rendering Navy a formidable force which was neglected till then. Chapters 12 to 15 of the book take the reader deeper into the conflict which offers interesting reading even to a layman with the help of simple, clear sketches and photographs. The sea battle which was fought in both Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal are discussed in detail with interesting narrations.

In the section ‘Way ahead’, towards the later part of the book, the author also brings out suggestive measures for the future Indian Navy. It is felt that, the book has largely succeeded in providing a deep insight to the achievements of Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda(Retd.) PVSM, AVSM. The reader however may derive a feeling that, the author has also endeavored, to a certain extent; to clarify certain details pertaining to his reputation, especially his post retirement life.

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