In December '71 Pakistani planes began to conduct raids into Indian territory. Wing Commander Harcharan Singh Mangat, who commanded a fighter bomber squadron on an airfield at the western front swiftly retaliated. He led his own men into battle and also alerted the anti-aircraft gunners, who struck back forcefully.
On the 4th December, his squadron took off to attack enemy targets. The wing Commander who led a formation of four aircraft was struck thrice, he continued on his way, unpertrubed, 200 kilometers deep into enemy territory, another aircraft was struck directly and badly damaged. Wing commander Mangat immediately ordered a pull out and with some adroit manoeuvring made it back to base , despite the damage sustained by the aircraft.
Wing Commander Mangat continued with his missions into Pakistan after this. The information he gathered was of immense help to the Indian defence strategy.
He was awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his flying skills and presence of mind.