CHENNAI: During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Indian Navy attacked Karachi as part of Operation Trident. It severely damaged Pakistani infrastructure and boats. Oil installations were set on fire. The fire blazed on for days. Pakistan ran short of both arms and fuel but India sustained no casualties. This endeavour is commemorated every year in the name of Navy Day on December 4. On this occasion, Tara Rao, daughter of Commodore KP Gopal Rao who commanded Operation Trident, spoke of her father’s gallantry and contributions to the Indian Navy.
Tara shared, “It was his father’s death anniversary on December 4, the night of the war. My father prayed and surrendered everything to God for the success of the Operation. He was determined to fight the war and said he was ready to join his father if that was God’s will. According to him, life or death, both were fine, but the war had to be successful. On his way back, the first thing he did was to visit the Somnath temple for thanksgiving.”
Born on November 13, 1926, in Madurai into a family of very eminent lawyers, Gopal Rao joined the Indian Navy in 1950 to pursue his love for the ocean and fascination with warships. Having shown excellence in the early stages of his service, he was appointed as the commanding officer of every ship and organisation he was posted in since 1968. He also used his power to make reforms. Tara shared, “ Earlier, naval officers used to go to Russia for training on a class of ships called the Petyas. My father suggested to the Chief of Naval Staff that this training could be done in India. So, he set up the Petya Training School in Vizag, making a change when it was much needed.” The officer was awarded the Vishishta Seva Medal in January 1971 for this effort.
A trailblazer in many fields, Gopal Rao also became the first commanding officer of INS Kadmatt. Tara said, “ He brought INS Kadmatt from Russia. Fifty years later when INS Kadmatt came to Madras, he visited the ship. He walked all around the ship, briskly climbed the steps, went up to the bridge and visited the commanding officer’s cabin. It is the only time in the history of the Indian Navy that the first Captain of a ship has visited the same ship after a period of 50 years.” Tara described her father, the Maha Vir Chakra awardee, as a man of humility. It is officers like Gopal Rao and their dedication to the country that keeps us safe. He was laid to rest with full military honours on August 9, 2021 in Chennai.