Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Most Remembered Indian Soldier

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Most Remembered Indian Soldier

Sam Bahadur, also known as Field Marshal Shamsherji Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, MC, was a brave Indian military leader. He was the first Indian Army officer to achieve the five-star rank of field marshal. He served for four decades and participated in five wars, including World War II, as a member of the British Indian Army. Sam Bahadur passed away on June 27, 2008.

Sam Manekshaw became the 8th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army in 1969. During his time in charge, Indian forces fought and won against Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. As a result, Bangladesh was liberated in December of that year.

Manekshaw was born to Parsi parents in Amritsar, Punjab. His father, Hormusji Manekshaw, was a doctor, and his mother, Heerabai, moved to Punjab from Valsad, a small town on the Gujarat coast.

Manekshaw completed his schooling in Punjab and Sherwood College, Nainital. At the age of 15, he did well in the School Certificate examination of the Cambridge Board. He wanted to become a gynecologist in London, but his father refused to send him at that time. As an act of rebellion, Manekshaw took the entrance examination for the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Most Remembered Indian Soldier

He passed and became one of the first 40 cadets to be accepted on October 1, 1932. He graduated from the IMA on February 4, 1934, and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army. After India became independent, the British Indian Army became the Indian Army.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, after taking over as chief of army staff, attended a function on June 8, 1969, to celebrate the centenary of Sherwood College. During the event, he reflected on how his years at the college had prepared him for war. The college had taught him to be independent, persistent, and dislike his enemies.

Captain Manekshaw served in Burma during World War II with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment and fought in the Sittaung River campaign. He was recognized for his bravery on the battlefield and received an honorable mention. Prior to this, he was commissioned and assigned to the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Scots, a British battalion, before being posted to the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment, also known as the 54th Sikhs.

Manekshaw completed a Staff Course at Command and Staff College, Quetta, in 1943. He was then a brigade major of the Razmak Brigade and later joined the 9th Battalion, 12 Frontier Force Regiment in Burma during World War II.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Most Remembered Indian Soldier

After the war, Manekshaw was sent to Indo-China, where he worked on General Daisy’s staff. He helped repatriate over 10,000 former prisoners of war (POWs) after the war ended before going on a lecture tour to Australia for six months in 1946. Following his return, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and served as a first-grade staff officer in the Military Operations Directorate.

After India was divided in 1947, Sam Manekshaw’s unit, the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, became part of the Pakistan Army, which was later renamed the Frontier Force Regiment. As a result, Manekshaw was assigned to the 16th Punjab Regiment and then given command of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Gorkha Rifles.

Manekshaw was required to stay in army headquarters as a lieutenant colonel in the Military Operations Directorate during the tumultuous events of Partition. Unfortunately, he missed his chance to command an infantry battalion.

However, he was later promoted to brigadier and became the first Indian Director of Military Operations. The position was later upgraded to Major General and then to Lieutenant General. It is known as the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO).

During the Partition of India in 1947, Manekshaw used his planning and administrative skills, and later his battle expertise during operations in Jammu & Kashmir between 1947 and 1948. He commanded an infantry brigade before being appointed as the commandant of the Infantry School at Mhow.

After India was divided, Manekshaw’s original regiment, the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, became part of the new Pakistan Army. Consequently, he became Colonel of 8 Gorkha Rifles, his new regiment. He later commanded a division in Jammu and Kashmir. Manekshaw also served as the commandant of the Defence Services Staff College.

However, he got into trouble for speaking his mind with the then Defence Minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, and a court of inquiry was ordered against him. The court cleared Manekshaw of all charges. 

A war broke out between India and China during a possible official announcement. Lieutenant General Manekshaw was promoted and stationed at Tezpur to take over IV Corps as its GOC.

A year later, Manekshaw became the army commander and was appointed to lead the Western Command. In 1964, he moved to Calcutta to become the GOC-in-C of the Eastern Army. He successfully handled a Nagaland insurgency, earning him the Padma Bhushan Award in 1968.

On June 7, 1969, Manekshaw succeeded General P.P. Kumaramangalam as the 8th chief of the army staff. He transformed the Indian Army into an efficient fighting force and significantly supported the Mukti Bahini rebels against West Pakistani forces.

In April 1971, Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India, asked Manekshaw if he was ready to go to war with Pakistan. However, Manekshaw refused, pointing out that his single armored division and two infantry divisions were deployed elsewhere.

He also highlighted that only 13 of his 189 tanks were fit for battle, and they would be competing for rail carriage with the grain harvest at that point. Moreover, the Himalayan passes would soon open up, leading to heavy flooding due to the upcoming monsoon in East Pakistan.

During a meeting with Indira Gandhi, the chief offered to resign after the cabinet was asked to leave the room. However, she declined his resignation and sought his advice on the upcoming conflict. The chief suggested that victory could be guaranteed if he was allowed to prepare for the conflict on his terms and set a date for it. The Prime Minister agreed to his terms.

Manekshaw led the Indian Army to victory against the Pakistan Army in December that year. The war lasted less than two weeks, during which more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. This led to the unconditional surrender of Pakistan’s eastern half, resulting in the birth of Bangladesh as a new nation.

When the Prime Minister requested Manekshaw go to Dhaka and accept Pakistani forces’ surrender, he declined. Instead, he suggested that Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, his army commander in the East, should be given the honor.

Manekshaw received the Padma Vibhushan award in 1972 and was later promoted to the rank of field marshal on January 1, 1973, which was a significant achievement as only two army generals in independent India had achieved this rank.

Manekshaw retired from active service on January 15 January 15, 1973, after serving for almost 40 years. He spent his retirement with his wife in Coonoor, which is a civilian town close to Wellington Military Cantonment, where he had previously served as commandant of the Defence Services Staff College.

Manekshaw was highly respected among the Gurkha soldiers and was honored by the Nepalese Army as an honorary general in 1972. Unfortunately, he passed away on June 27, 2008, at the Military Hospital in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, at the age of 94.

December 16 and December 16 are celebrated annually as “Vijay Diwas” to commemorate the victory achieved under Manekshaw’s leadership in 1971. Additionally, President Pratibha Patil released a postage stamp featuring Manekshaw in his field marshal’s uniform.

Manekshaw was well-known for his straightforwardness. He once stated, “A ‘Yes man’ is a dangerous man. He is a menace. He can become a minister, a secretary, or a Field Marshal, but he can never become a leader nor ever be respected. He will be used by his superiors, disliked by his colleagues, and despised by his subordinates. So discard the ‘Yes man’. “