Why was the Taj Mahal covered during the 1971 war with Pakistan?

Answer by Rattanbir Singh:

I am so utterly, completely flummoxed by this question that I could not bring myself to believe that I was actually seeing it before my eyes! It also dispelled my impression of the internet as an eradicator of ignorance! Sadly, even Wikipedians have fallen for it:
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Taj Mahal covered to protect it from possible Pakistani air attack( War is getting close)
Page on sify.com
Sadly, but not expectedly, the Facebook people also fell for it:
In 1942 the Taj Mahal was covered in… – Australia India Institute
Scaffolding of Taj Mahal during World War II & Indo-Pak Wars
Seems the Pakistanis have been far more sensible than us on this one, thought the level of ignorance is more or less comparable.
Would PAF have bombed Taj Mahal in 1971 ?
Good OP you chose to remain Anon for asking this question. There is still some hope that you too had some inkling about the ridiculousness of it all!

The covering of Taj Mahal, if at all it happened, had nothing to do with protecting the edifice of eternal love, and in the time it was done, the term tourism industry was still a couple of decades away from birth. It was solely and merely to deny a reference point to the enemy for finding his way to Agra Airfield. Now this will require some explaining about the technology and tactics of air warfare.
The Tactics of bombing
The world war from the point of view of the allies gave rise to the concept of Total War though quite by accident. The Germans on the verge of losing the Battle of Britain chose to start bombing civilian targets in an attempt to break the morale of British forces – hence the attacks on civilian London and other British cities.

The Allies, particularly the British, returned the compliment, firstly in the spirit of Tit for Tat to placate their public and secondly due to the distance to the heart of Hitler’s Germany; the scarcity of pilots and the vastness of Nazi controlled Europe.

A lot of experimentation took place about bombing techniques to match the technology of the aircraft, the ordnance and the terrain where the attack was to be launched. Broadly speaking, these were

  •         Conventional Bombing Dive bombing
  •         Strategic Bombing  – Carpet Bombing

Effect of Bombing

  • Loss of Morale
  • Logistic disruption
  • Denial of equipment
  • Disrupt ability to carry out offensive ops against own territory
  • Close air support against overwhelming enemy strength
  • Disrupt forming up area activities

Take a look at the pictures below to get an idea.


That brings me to the technology aspect.
The limitations of Technology
Radar had been invented but its reach was limited. The emphasis was on airborne protection viz. Heavy Bombers accompanied by Fighter Escort to do the dog fighting for warding of Nazi interceptors during day / night sorties. In case of stealth raids, such as the ‘Dam Burster’ raid on the Ruhr, The Dam Busters (1955)  the bombers flew at tree top level to evade the radars and climbed to bombing height at the last moment that is when they were over the targeted dams.

The pilots flew with the help of military maps (scale 1:1000000) clipped to their thigh or spread across the navigator’s working space.

The speed of flight was slow enough for the pilot and navigator to see outside the window and navigate by the use of ‘Continuous Map Reading’.
The bombs of the past were literally ‘deadweight’ meaning that there was no way to control its flight path to the intended target except a practical knowledge of physics relating to gravity, motion and momentum etc.

Secondly, the bombs required some time to get armed or else they would not explode on impact. On the other hand if the bombs were to be armed on the aircraft itself, it would literally make it a sitting duck to even the smallest hit by Anti Aircraft Fire (AAC AAC). Thirdly there has to be a gap between release and impact or a low flying aircraft would almost always be right above the exploding fireball and boom –  Don’t weep for me dear mother of mine! In technical terms it is known as Bomb Range – The horizontal distance a bomb will travel from release to impact.
Attack Planning
Post World War – II, the technology of Fighter Bombers (faster, smaller, more agile and powerful) gained more traction for various reasons not germane to this thread.

Air Raids were, and continue to be planned in advance. The pilots would be given the route in and the route out according to the intelligence reports on the presence of AAC AAC  Batteries, Airfields harboring interceptor squadrons and Radar surveillance.

There is a ‘Time on Target’ and there is a ‘Landmark’ for the ‘Pull Up’ to initiate the bombing attack. Illustrations of the ‘Bomb Run’ are given below:

The Reality Exposed.
If at all the Taj Mahal was camouflaged, and they did a heck of a poor job of it, it would be to prevent the building from shining in the moonlight. There was Full Moon starting 2 Dec 1971 and the ‘romanceful’ Moon presided over the nights all through the war upto 17 Dec 1917. Take a look:   Moon Phases Calendar for December 1971
Therefore the reason for the camouflage, if at all it happened, was to deny the raiders a reference landmark to find their way to the ‘Blackouted’ airfield!
I still seriously doubt camouflage took place. Take a look at the picture below. It was taken by my late father in 1965 while returning from one of his raid sorties – no camouflage!

Now look at the pathetic attempt below to camouflage the Taj Mahal in 2001 by the Archeological Society of India in 2001 – a year when even hand held GPS were commonly available in the market!!!!

…Perhaps more to make a quick buck on the side than to protect Shah Jahan and his Hearthrob!
On the other hand, I ask all readers to contemplate and comment as to why the building of the PARLIAMENT OF INDIA; the RASHTRAPATI BHAWAN, the GOLDEN TEMPLE, AMRITSAR among scores of other vital buildings in the flight path of the Pakistani Raiders were not camouflaged during any of the wars????
A word about the Foe
I expect many howls of protest with reference to the recent ‘beheading’ of Indian troops by the enemy in response to what I am about to say –  In war, the Pakistani Air Force of the past was a noble foe!

Not one bomb fell on the civilian areas of Amritsar and I am a witness to it since I was studying in St. Francis School, Amritsar during the 71 war period. As a child I saw several dog fights over Amritsar, much to the consternation of my late father – himself a fighter pilot and veteran of three wars – not one Pakistani pilot of a shot down Starfighter, Mirage or Canberra bomber, crashrf his flaming aircraft into the city of Amritsar in a suicidal fit to get even.
Then there was the Hague Convention which both sides respected completely…
In short wake up all  –  perceptions are mostly deceptive !
Thanks Anon for making me neglect a much more important Quora project to address this query!

Why was the Taj Mahal covered during the 1971 war with Pakistan?


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