Place of birth : Bankura Dist(WB)
Last Rank : Surg Lt
Unit : INS Khukri
Arm/Regt : Indian Navy
Operation : Indo-Pak War 1971
Awards : Vir Chakra
Martyrdom : December 9, 1971
Surgeon Lieutenant Sudhansu Sekhar Panda hailed from Bankura district of West Bengal and was born on 08 Jan 1943. He joined the Indian Navy as a medical officer after completing his graduation in medicine.
Indian Naval Operations (Indo-Pak War): 09 Dec 1971
When the Indo-Pak War of 1971 broke out, Surg Lt SS Panda was serving as a medical officer aboard INS Khukri, a Blackwood-class frigate of Indian Navy. It was part of the 14th Frigate Squadron of the Western Fleet, consisting of five ships with other four ships being INS Kirpan, INS Kalveti, INS Krishna and INS Kuthar. The 14th Frigate Squadron had the responsibility of hunting and neutralizing enemy submarines in the North Arabian Sea. The Indian Naval radio detection equipment identified a submarine in the vicinity of Diu harbour on 03rd Dec 1971. Unfortunately, one of the flotilla’s ships INS Kuthar developed a problem and on around 05 December, it was escorted back to harbour. Following this, INS Khukri along with INS Kirpan were dispatched to take on the threat of the enemy submarine.
In the late evening of 9th December, INS Khukri was attacked by the Pakistani submarine PNS Hangoor which fired torpedoes at it, causing devastating damage. What made the Indian vessel an easy target for enemy torpedoes was the presence of experimental sonar equipment aboard that had been specially deployed for research. The limitations placed by this equipment had drastically slowed down the movement of INS Khukri to the submarine-detectable speed of 12 knots. Also, INS Khukri‘s sonar set had a detection range up to 3,000 yards, whereas PNS Hangor could fire from distances of nearly six kilometers.
The captain of INS Khukri, Capt Mahendra Nath Mulla evaluated the situation within minutes and issued orders for its abandonment. There were two massive explosions inside the Khukri and the ship went dark. It lost all power and began to tilt steeply to its right (Starboard) as chaos followed the order of ‘abandon ship’. Surg Lt SS Panda in complete disregard for his personal safety, went down to the ship's sick bay to ensure that the sick and wounded personnel were brought on deck for evacuation. In the meantime, the ship was hit by another torpedo and despite the fact that he was aware that the chances of his survival were decreasing every second, he continued to evacuate the sick and wounded to the upper deck. INS Khukri sank within minutes, taking 176 sailors and 18 officers, and the ship’s captain, to their watery graves in the Arabian Sea. During the last minutes of his life, Surg Lt SS Panda showed extraordinary courage, helping save as many of his men as he could and not abandoning his vessel. A total of 67 men could be saved, which included 05 officers, 01 midshipman and 61 other crew members.
Surg Lt SS Panda was given the nation’s third highest gallantry award, “Vir Chakra”, posthumously for his commendable courage, leadership and supreme sacrifice.
The citation of Vir Chakra awarded to Surg Lt SS Panda reads:-
Surgeon Lieutenant Sudhansu Sekhar Panda was the medical officer on board INS Khukri, which sank in the Arabian Sea after a Pakistani submarine attack. On 9 December 1971, when the ship was hit by enemy torpedo, Surgeon Lieutenant Panda, in complete disregard for his personal safety, went down to the ship's sick bay to ensure that the sick and wounded personnel were brought on deck for evacuation. In the meantime, the ship was hit by another torpedo and despite the fact that he was aware that the chances of his survival were decreasing every second, he continued to evacuate the sick and wounded to the upper deck. In so doing, he made the supreme sacrifice. Throughout, Surgeon Lieutenant Panda displayed courage and devotion to duty of a high order.