The Indian Army has been replete with spine-chilling tales of valor, the indomitable spirit in the face of adversity, and unparalleled devotion towards one’s motherland. However, no military general in Independent India’s history has ever captured the nation’s veneration as Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw did.
Today, on his 13th death anniversary, we reminisce the life and ideals of the military stalwart.
Tracing roots of a glorious military career:
Sam Manekshaw was born in Amritsar, Punjab to Parsi parents, Hormusji Manekshaw, who was a doctor by profession, and Heerabai, who moved to Punjab from the small town of Valsad on the Gujarat coast.
He completed his schooling in Punjab and Sherwood College, Nainital with a distinction in the School Certificate Examination of the Cambridge Board at the age of 15.
In retaliation to his father’s refusal to send him to London for becoming a gynecologist, he took the entrance exam for enrollment into the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun. He became part of the first intake of 40 cadets of the IMA by successfully clearing all rounds in the first attempt.
This was just the onset of a glorious military career that spanned over 4 decades.
A life replete with unparalleled feats:
Sam Manekshaw, India’s most celebrated military general and a Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army, soon after he graduated from the IMA on 4th February 1934.
In October 1938, Manekashaw who was already fluent in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, and English qualified as a Higher Standard army interpreter in Pashto.
Of India’s greatest war hero, ‘Sam Bahadur’:
– Role in World War-ll:
Sam Manekshaw escaped death by the skin of his teeth by sustaining multiple bullet injuries.
He received a Military Cross for his brave encounter while he was stationed in Burma, during the 2nd World War when he was shot in the stomach by a Japanese soldier while spearheading a counter-offensive against the Japanese army.
– Countered unruly Pakistan in Kashmir, in 1947:
In 1947, Manekshaw was the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force). Before he moved on to his new appointment on 22 October, Pakistani forces had infiltrated Kashmir.
Thereafter, the ruler of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh appealed for help from India. On 25 October, Manekshaw accompanied by the secretary of the States Department to Srinagar, V.P. Menon carried out an aerial survey of the situation in Kashmir.
During a briefing in Delhi, post the signing of the Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja, Manekshaw suggested immediate deployments of troops to prevent Kashmir from being captured. On the next morning, Indian troops were sent to Kashmir, and Srinagar was occupied just before Pakistani forces reached the city’s outskirts.
– The hero of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971:
During the 1971 war, as a Chief of Army Staff, Field Marshal Manekshaw led the Indian Army which resulted in the liberation of Bangladesh in 13 days.
A man of his words, Sam Manekshaw had the tough gut and charisma to bluntly state to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that the Indian Army wasn’t ready for war in April 1971. One of the chief architects of India’s 1971 victory against Pakistan, when the India-Pakistan war finally broke out in December 1971, Manekshaw delivered India one of its swiftest and most remarkable military victories.
The military titan departs, leaving a void in the hearts of civilians:
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw left the world aged 94, on 27th June 2008 etching his name in history as one of the greatest soldiers and minds India has ever seen.