THEIR road to victory was never a bed of roses. Totally defeating the entire Army of terrorists, true sons of the motherland proved their strength to the entire world. They were the smartest.
For the Army this achievement was a massive team work. For them no one would have survived if not for the other. For them living and surviving is nothing but a miracle. Breaking the heavy resistance of the ruthless Tiger terrorists, the turning point was the fall of the `No Fire Zone' - the last resort of the LTTE existence.
"The courage of a soldier, to move forward while his fellowmen fall dying on either-side facing the severe resistance from the enemy is always a miracle.
This was the strength, the platform that made us come this far," Major General Kamal Gunaratne, General Officer Commanding 53 Division said. "To win a war we should be able to place trust on those who would put our orders into action. It comes only if the entire team is well trained and skilful. Fortunately, due to the clear vision of our Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka the country is gifted with a disciplined skilful Army," he said.
Of this crucial mission troops of the 5 - Gemunu Watch (GW) regiment battalion performed a highly commendable job. The 5 GW is a battalion that forms the Air Mobile Brigade along with 5 - Vijayaba Infantry and 6 - Gajaba regimental battalions under the Sri Lanka Army 53 Division. The Air Mobile Brigade is extensively trained to breach enemy lines when it is tough and unbreakable for the forwarding infantry troops. During their successful forward march the 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva which cornered the terrorists towards the 'No Fire Zone', had to face a growing resistance of the LTTE while crossing the Vellayamadam general area in late April. According to the ground situation by then troops of the 58 Division would have undergone severe difficulties during this vital cross over.
Sheer guts and willpower
"The dedication and sacrifice of the average soldier is the top most reason behind any successful operation. They need to be recognised and appreciated," said Colonel G.V. Ravipriya, Commander of the Task Force 8 functioning under the 53 Division's command.
"A Commanding Officer must have proper communication with his men to encourage them and boost up their morale," he further said.
Major General Kamal Gunaratne ordered the 5 GW battalion to take a foothold in the enemy earth bund that hugged the West side of the stretch the 58 Division troops were to take. "On the day we were deployed the initial step was to reconnaissance the approximately 2.5 km long LTTE earth bund and find the most appropriate position for us to launch the attack," Lieutenant Colonel Rohan Palayangoda, Commanding Officer of the 5 GW battalion said while explaining their tremendous efforts. Moving cautiously in the night, crawling at times, avoiding getting detected by the enemy in 250 - 300m in area covered with water is quite inexplicable. "We had to find a solution for the water problem. That night itself my battalion started putting up temporary stands with covers of used artillery," Lt. Col. Palayangoda explained. In this open field the soldiers at times did not even have a proper place to cover themselves. For their luck, the 5 GW battalion found a well grown tamarind tree.
Making shafts they ferried their ammunition during night time and hid them further in the front closer to the enemy line where they were planning the assault. Since they launched the assault in the mid-night of the next day the furious fight lasted for well over 6-7 hours until the 5 GW battalion successfully breached 600m of the enemy earth bund. "When we were getting hold of the bunkers the LTTE blasted them using remote controlled devices. It was quite a threat at that crucial point," he added.
Breaching was not the sole task. The battalion had to hold the line until the infantry troops of the 58 Division go forward. Holding this part of the earth bund, which was around 250m from the Vellayamadam junction, amidst heavy attacks from the LTTE with rains of mortar and artillery pounding on them, could only be done by true heroes who loved their motherland most.
The 6 - Gajaba regiment battalion (GR), under Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Mohan Ratnayake faced a crucial point during a severe attack in early April. On return that morning the 6 GR battalion was getting reorganized to take over their Forward Defence Line.
"During a confront in Puthukuduirrippu North general area we were getting seriously sandwiched between the enemy attacks," Lt. Col. Ratnayake said. Captain Pradeep Marasinghe the officer in charge of the Alpha company and Lieutenant Nishantha Arunasiri the officer in charge of the Charlie company joined with their CO to explain their success.
"We were fighting from the lagoon front and our CO warned us that there could be a breach in between our two groups," they added. Immediately planning to withstand the enemy they organized two four man teams in `L' shape enabling effective counter attacks.
"The fight started around 9.30 in the night and it continued till 4.30 - 5 the next morning. We were able to link up with some of the battalions of the 58 Division and at the end the LTTE got trapped. It caused maximum attrition to the enemy," CO Lt. Col. Ratnayake explained.
Corporal Nalin Bandara of the Charlie company and Lance Corporal Dayan Kumara, who gave a tough resistance to the enemy added more giving a clear picture of the true spirit of our brave soldiers.
"At times finding a cover to protect ourselves from the enemy, shooting was very difficult as the land we fought was flat field," they said. "When we crossed the shrub lands, LTTE had set land mines on the path knowing that we would definitely follow it. So, we had to go across the thorny shrubs but still kept our momentum," they added explaining the reality behind this victory.
Finally this battle killed more than 200 terrorists including top leaders like Theepan.
Crossing the lagoon
The sixth Sri Lanka Light Infantry troops, of the 55 Division, under Commanding Officer, Major Manada Yahampath was given the task to cross the waterway that connects the Nanthikadal lagoon and the sea. The Army Commander directed Brigadier Prasanna de Silva, General Officer Commanding the 55 Division to face this task. With his innovative thinking and enduring courage, he exactly knew how to meet the challenge.
The pearl colour of the sand made every single movement visible even in the dark in addition to the unpredictable tide of the sea.Under the command of Brigadier Prasanna de Silva the 11th Genumu Watch battalion of the 59 Division was already in action making the path towards the northern bank. Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Thisantha Fernando under the 593 brigade commander Lt. Col. Sujeewa Senerath Yapa had already gone about 150 - 200 metres in the approximately 300 metres long sand dune.
"This sand dune exists only during a specific time of the year and during the time we were crossing sea water broke our line at several places," Brigadier Prasanna de Silva added.
Flanked by the 11GW battalion, the 6 SLLI was given the task to get a strong foothold in the northern bank. Receiving the instructions from their GOC on the May 5, the 6 SLLI team landed in Mullaitivu on May 6. Having less than a day to study ground situation Major Yahampath had to deploy his team to take over the rest of the mission.
A suicide mission
"LTTE was utilizing their entire fire power in direct action," Mjr. Yahampath said explaining the tough resistance they faced. Being a full moon day their movements were quite obvious to the LTTE against the pearl coloured sand and the LTTE was continuously firing from 122mm artillery guns based in the Farah III ship wreckage. The mission was impossible during the day time. "We had to dig trenches in the sand dune but the sand walls of the trenches broke. So we had to use logs and metal sheets to keep the walls steady," Mjr. Yahampath added. No vehicle could move in this path and hence it was the soldier who carried the logs to the front. Crossing the lagoon mouth was a mission performed solely on the courage and determination of each and every soldier of these battalions.
Eventually ending the tedious crossing over, 6 SLLI battalion reached the northern bank and had another 20 metres width of waterway to cross to reach the enemy line. Troops settled themselves in the beach side of the northern bank.
"Beyond the waterway we found there was a mine field laid by the LTTE to protect their line," Platoon Officer Samathapala who commanded the team said.Samathapala, along with three 8-man teams crossed the waterway and hit the LTTE bunker line without even considering the danger of the mine field.
"Until we hit their line the LTTE was totally unaware that our presence was that close," he said. The three eight man teams were led by Sergeant Priyantha, Corporal Pushpakumara and Sergeant Dayawansa. "All three teams made the first assault," they started explaining the story.
"There was a LTTE cadre hiding inside a barrel-like thing placed in a comparatively high level and that was made of bullet proof thick metal plates," Samathapala added. Troops could only destroy the attack by reaching this point and throwing grenades into this hollow compound.With continuous reinforcements our valiant troops faced 4-5 waves of heavy enemy attacks but ultimately chased them to their second line by the wee hours of the next day. Feeling the threat the LTTE tried a suicide boat attack on the lagoon front that never succeeded in bringing down the morale of our soldiers.
With this expansion the 12 SLLI battalions under the command of Lt.Col. Wasantha Herath was given the task to advance towards the east eventually clearing the causeway that made a safe passage for the trapped civilians to escape. Lt. Col. Thisantha Fernando with his 11 GW battalion marched forward with continuous support from the 4th battalion of the Special Forces hugging the beach until they linked with the 58 troops on May 16 in the Vellamulliwaikkal general area.
This severe thrust on the LTTE obviously weakened their power, thus making their leader Prabhakaran and his notorious gang to live the last few days of their lives in fear of death.
They also feel the pain, agony and stress while moving forward when their fellowmen are falling dead on either sides. This is a victory succeeded solely on the blood, sweat and tears of our brave young men to whom the Country and the people are ever grateful. (Courtesy:Sunday Observer)