- Pride of Indian Air Force at India-Pakistan 1965 war
By Lt Col Boppana Shashidhar(Retd)
Madikeri. 08 September 2020. This is the story which started 55 years ago, on 07Sep1965 during the 1965 India-Pakistan War. A senior flying instructor, Squadron Leader Ajjamada Boppayya Devayya was part of an aircraft strike mission which went to Sargodha airfield in Pakistan. He was attacked by an enemy aircraft. He shot down the enemy pursuer’s plane but in the process his aircraft was damaged and he went missing and was presumed dead in Pakistani territory. Information regarding his valiant act and death near Sargodha was shared by the Pakistani authorities 23 years later. His body remains buried in Pakistan at Sargodha.
Squadron Leader Ajjamada Boppayya Devayya MVC is the only Indian Air Force Officer to be posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC). The Maha Vir Chakra is the second highest wartime gallantry award and is less in precedence only to the Param Vir Chakra.
Despite actually being a standby in case one of the first 12 aircraft dropped out, he joined the air battle. Devayya was intercepted by a PAF F-104 Starfighter flown by Pakistani pilot Flt. Lt. Amjad Hussain. Devayya successfully evaded the Starfighter’s attacks. But the faster aircraft caught up with him and damaged his plane. Yet Devayya attacked the Starfighter and struck it. The Starfighter went down while the pilot Hussain ejected from his seat and parachuted. It is not known what happened to Devayya. The IAF Mysteres were short on fuel and efficiency. The Mystere aircraft was destroyed and it is assumed that Devayya died on Pakistani soil.
Devayya was born on 24 December 1932, at Coorg, Karnataka. He was the son of Dr. Bopayya. In 1954 he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a pilot. During the outbreak of the 1965 war, he was an instructor at the Air Force Flying College. He was posted to No.1 “Tigers” Squadron and flew the Mystere IVa fighter bomber.
As IAF was not aware of what had happened to Devayya so it first recorded him missing and later declared him dead. Later, a British writer, John Fricker, was commissioned by the Pakistani Air Force to write an account of the war derived from Pakistani sources in 1979. What lead to Devayya’s actual death still remains a mystery. It was revealed much later by Pakistan that Devayya’s body was found almost intact by villagers not very far from Sargodha and buried.
From Fricker’s work, the IAF realised what had truly happened and in 1988 announced that the Maha Vir Chakra was to be awarded to Devayya posthumously. This is the only posthumous Maha Vir Chakra that the IAF has received.
Mrs. Devayya accepted the posthumous Maha Vir Chakra awarded to her husband in 1988, nearly 23 years after the war. On 7 September 2009, the private bus stand circle in Madikeri in Kodagu was named after him.
A bronze statue was unveiled at Madikeri replacing a bust of his. A very proud moment for all Indians, Defence personnel and particularly for the Kodavas. His wife and two daughters graced the event in addition to Air Marshal KC Cariappa (Son of Field Marshal Cariappa), Ex Servicemen and District and Political dignitaries. Salute to the valiant Fighter Pilot!