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Poignant Tale of IAF Pilot Ajjimada Devayya Who Got Maha Vir Chakra After 23 Years

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.



Some stories bring a lump to one's throat. Such is the tale of Squadron Leader Ajjamada Boppayya Devayya. To date, he is the only Air Force Officer to be awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously so far. The Maha Vir Chakra is the second highest wartime gallantry award.

During the 1965 India-Pakistan War, Sqn Ldr A B Devayya (called 'Wings of Fire') was part of a strike mission (on the Pakistani airbase Sargodha) when he was attacked by an enemy aircraft. He shot down the enemy plane which was an F-104 Star Fighter but in the process his aircraft got damaged and he went missing. Nothing much was known of this feat and the officer was listed missing in action. 23 years later, in 1988, he was posthumously awarded a retrospective MVC for his feat, when facts came out of a book on the official history of the PAF which acknowledged the dog fight between the Mystere and the Starfighter.



Sargodha was the main base of the Pakistan Air Force and almost 50% of the front line aircraft were positioned at this strategic base. The IAF received instructions to neutralize the Base and mounted 31 attacks on 7 September 1965 during the Indo- Pakistan war. The Indian attack was led by Mystere IVA and Hawker Hunters. Both these planes were inferior to the PAF which had the F 104 Star fighter and the F 86 Sabre jet, These had been gifted by the United States which considered Pakistan an ally in the fight against communism as Pakistan was a member of the Baghdad Pact and SEATO.

The mission with which Boppayya Devayya was a part attacked Sargodha. It was successful and all pilots returned except for Devayya. Nobody knew what happened to him. He was declared missing and presumed dead later on.

Even now in the modern age chivalry has a place. This was recognized by the man who was involved in the dog fight. He was Flt Lt Amjad Hussain who was flying the F-104. He admitted later, that his plane had been destroyed by a Mystere IV.

The Pakistan Air Force had also asked British writer John Flicker to write the history of the 1965 war and the contribution of the Pakistan Air Force. After diligent research, he also mentioned that there was a dog fight between a Mystere and an F 104 and the Mystere had been able to down the starfighter. But for this, the valor of Sq Ldr Devayya would have gone unnoticed. What led 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.



After the official history of the Pak Air Force was published and the account of Flight Lieutenant Hussein came out, Air headquarters began to do their own research. All the pilots who had taken part in the mission were questioned and an exact picture of what happened was pieced together.

It appears that when the Mystere was bombing Sargodha, an F -104 appeared and fired a sidewinder missile which was dodged by the Mystere pilot Squadron Leader Devayya. The F-104 was a much superior plane than the Mystere but squadron leader Devayya did not lose heart and fired his guns at the F-104 and was able to hit it. Flight Lieutenant Hussein baled out but before that, he fired one more missile which hit the Mystere. Devayya could not eject and probably died in the plane when it crashed. Flt Lt Hussein later in the war while attacking the Indian Air Force Base at Amritsar was shot down and taken POW by the Indian army.

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After the investigation by the Air headquarters, the Air Force concluded that the Mystere pilot Squadron Leader Devayya had shown great bravery in opposing and shooting down in F- 104 and the government approved the award MVC to him for exceptional bravery..

Last word

in 1987, the War Studies Division of the Ministry of Defence saw Fricker’s book and one of its members, the then Air Commodore Pritam Singh paid attention to the details. Singh had also seen action in 1965 as a young pilot. He carried out meticulously research and was able to piece the fact that even at that time the Pakistan radio in a broadcast had admitted the loss of an F -104.

A retired Air Commodore, Kaeser Tuffail of the PAF has also written about this incident in his blog Mystery of the Downed Mystere, where he mentions how locals gave Sq Ldr Devayya a burial.

Finally, in 1988, Sq Ldr AB Devayya was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for an act of unparalleled courage and bravery. His 51-year-old wife Sundari Devayya who received the news that her husband was missing at the age of 29, had spent 23 long years without the country recognizing her husband’s sacrifice. When her husband died she had two daughters aged one and two and it was a matter of joy to them that their father was a hero.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 03, 2021:

Tom, your comments are most welcome. You have raised some pertinent points and the IAF and the Indian government must answer why the body of Devayya was not exhumed and brought back. I feel this is the typical Hindu attitude bordering on defeatism, which they have inherited for the last 900 years. Also, the failure of the government from Morarji Desai downward regarding follow-up on the POWs in Pak jails cannot be excused. Greater blame on the Army Chiefs ( that includes the latest specimen General Rawat). This is again related to the genes of the Hindu mind articulated by the Editor in Chief of Indian Express Frank Moraes an Anglo Indian who talked of the "meek and mild " Hindu. The failure to get OROP sanctioned as per the resolution of two houses of parliament is something that rankles and to think the various COAS have just sat and gone.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 03, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, Frickers had to write the book from a PAF point of view and a lot of it is fiction.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 03, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, John Fricker was commissioned by Pak AF to write the official history and he was paid good money for it. Obviously, he had to write the book in a way that showed the PAF having the upper hand. We have analyzed the PAF performance and though their AD was good they lacked offensive spirit and thus with superior aircraft gifted by the USA failed miserably. He tried to cover up the shooting of the F-104 by saying that the pilot rammed the Mystere, which was not the case.

tom on February 03, 2021:

john fricker made exaggerated claims ,he brtish pilot and editor died many years ago,kaisr claims two sidewindersand canonn fire failed,paf pilot hit devayyas plane deliberately

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