Rear Admiral Illangakoon
Very coincidentally, the following account appeared in the Island of 15.3.2012, in the installment of the article seiries by Shamindra Ferdinando where the performance of Rear Admiral Illangakone who is invited as the Cheif Guest for this year's College Athletic Meet is described.
The period in question is June 1990 when the chips were down after the peace efforts of President Premadasa failed and the LTTE had taken the upper hand.
"Saving troops under siege at Mítivu
by Shamindra Ferdinando
LTTE takes upperhand in Vanni
Although the army managed to save Batticaloa, the situation in the Northern Province remained extremely dicey, with the LTTE stepping up attacks on Kokavil, Mankulam, Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass detachments, which had been inaccessible overland along with theMullaitivu detachment since the onset of eelam war II.
It would be pertinent to discuss LTTE attempt to overrun the army detachment at Mullaitivu in early August. The LTTE would have easily succeeded if not for a sea borne rescue mission launched by the army.
OPERATION 'SEA BREEZE'
The then Lieutenant Commander Lakshman Illangakoon, Commanding officer of the SLNS Kandula (Landing Craft Medium) had been tasked with landing troops required for the rescue mission.
Illangakoon, currently navyís eastern commander recalled the circumstances under which the rescue mission was launched. Having arrived in Trincomalee to take stock of the situation, Maj. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa had summoned a meeting at the Plantain Point, Trincomalee to explore ways and means of launching a rescue mission. The navy had been represented at the conference by the then eastern commander Rear Admiral F. N. Q. Wickremaratne and Lieutenant Commander Illangakoon. Dashing Illangakoon was there in his capacity as the Commanding Officer of the Landing Craft. Illangakoon said: "As we had never attempted a large scale sea borne assault under similar conditions, Major General Kobbekaduwa wanted to engage close air reconnaissance of the targeted area before the troops moved in." Having excused himself from air surveillance mission, Rear Admiral Wickremaratne instructed Illangakoon to accompany Major General Kobbekaduwa on the reconnaissance mission. Shortly thereafter they were airborne from the nearby China Bay airfield. Having flown over the besieged Mullaitivu base in the afternoon, those conducting the operation had decided on a spot south of Mullaitivu to land troops. The army had agreed with Illangakoonís suggestion to carry out a mock landing north of Mullaitivu to facilitate the actual landing at first light. The navy had been seriously concerned about the operation as it lacked any experience in conducting amphibious assault on the Mullaitivu beach. Illangakoon said: "I felt a mock landing could give us the much required time and space to secure a beachhead. We monitored LTTE units, particularly those equipped with rocket propelled grenades rushing towards the beach when the ship deployed to carry out the mock attack advanced towards the beach. But soon they realised it was nothing but a deceptive maneuver and turned towards the direction of Kandula carrying troops. We were soon being fired upon. On the instructions of the army, navy gunners opened fire, though initially the navy was reluctant. The navy felt that the battle between the raiding party and the LTTE was too close for comfort. But the army insisted we fired at those resisting the beach landing." The sea borne troops comprised Special Forces and Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI). The senior officer in charge of the operation was Major General Kobbekaduwa. Some of the countryís elite officers and veterans of many battles throughout the war, namely Gamini Hettiarachchi and Jayavi Fernando were on the ground. They were joined by Major General Kobbekaduwa and Janaka Perera. Special Forces and SLLI fought a series of battles before they reached those under siege at Mullaitivu"