Somnath Sharma: India's first Param Vir Chakra

Major Somnath Sharma was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his bravery in the Kashmir operations in November 1947.

Fighting the enemy forces at the Srinagar airport, he knew that if the enemy advanced any further, the airport would be lost and Kashmir would become a province of Pakistan; the airfield was the only lifeline between the Valley and the rest of India.

His last wireless message to the headquarters stated: 'The enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round.'

Soon after, Somnath Sharma was killed by a mortar.

The citation for the award reads thus: 'Keeping his nerve, he skillfully directed the fire of his section into the ever-advancing enemy. He repeatedly exposed himself to the full fury of enemy fire and laid out cloth airstrips to guide our aircraft onto their targets in full view of the enemy. His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defence were such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy outnumbering them. Major Sharma set an example of courage and qualities seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army.'

He was born as the eldest son of an army family. His father General A N Sharma, who retired as the first director general of the Armed Medical Services after Independence, was often in non-family postings.

At the age of 10, Som enrolled at the Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehra Dun and later joined the Royal Indian Military Academy. Somnath also fought in World War II under Colonel K S Thimmayya (later the army chief) in Burma with the British Army. 

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