Details/Information for Canadian Forces (CF) Operation Pakistan – 1971 Evacuation

CF Overseas Operations have most often operated within the construct of an international mandate. As such, the International Information is presented first in order to provide the context of the Canadian Operation (displayed second). Eventually, all rotations associated with the particular Canadian operation will also be displayed.

International Information

International Operation Name: Pakistan – 1971 Evacuation

International Mission Name: Pakistan – 1971 Evacuation

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Asia

Location: Pakistan

Dates: 7 December 1971 - 13 December 1971

Mandate: To evacuate Canadian and foreign nationals from East and West Pakistan as a result of the India-Pakistan War

Narrative:

Tensions between India and Pakistan increased in 1971 as a result of India’s support for Bengalis seeking independence for the province of East Pakistan – now Bangladesh. Small-scale skirmishing escalated until 3 December, when Pakistan launched a co-ordinated assault against Indian Air Force bases in western India. That led to an outbreak of war that lasted until a cease-fire was declared on 16 December.

On 7 December, the Canadian Prime Minister authorised the Canadian Forces to evacuate both Canadian and foreign nationals from Pakistan. The first evacuation effort was by a CC-137 Boeing from 437 Squadron, which left CFB Trenton early on 8 December for Karachi and Islamabad, West Pakistan, via Tehran. Once the crew received the necessary clearances from both India and Pakistan, they flew to Karachi on 10 December and, with ‘official’ room for only 212 passengers, actually took off for Teheran with 234 evacuees. (Adults were asked to hold children on their laps.) This same aircraft then flew to Islamabad on 12 December, picking up a further 215 evacuees. These too were taken to Tehran. At the request of the United Nations, a CC-130 Hercules from 436 Squadron already in Bangkok on an around-the-world training flight was also diverted to evacuate UN personnel and foreign nationals from East Pakistan. Although assured of safe passage, on 6 December it had to turn back when only ten minutes from Dacca because the airport there had been attacked less than an hour before and could not receive any aircraft. Another attempt on 7 December was aborted because of anti-aircraft fire in the area.

On 11 December, the Hercules flew to Calcutta, India. There it remained until the crew had been given apparent permission to fly to Dacca by both Indian and Pakistani authorities. However, when the pilot contacted Dacca control, he was advised that he would be shot down if he proceeded to land there. The flight returned to Calcutta and then to Bangkok later in the day, and continued on with its original mission two days later.