Manekshaw: an extraordinary profile
Monday, 30 June 2008

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, Padma Vibhushan, Military Cross, was born on April 3, 1914. In his distinguished career, Field Marshal Manekshaw rose to the army chief in 1969 and under his command, Indian Forces concluded a spectacular victorious campaign during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was the first of only two Indian military officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal of the Indian Army.


Manekshaw was born in Amritsar, Punjab. After completing his schooling in Amritsar and Sherwood College, Nainital, he joined the first batch of 40 cadets at Indian Military Academy, Dehradun on 01 October 1932. He passed out of the IMA in December 1934 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Indian Army with commissioned officer number IC-0014. He held several regimental assignments and was first attached to the Royal Scouts and later to the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment.


Manekshaw's military career spanned four decades, from the British era and World War II, to the wars against China and Pakistan after India's independence in 1947.

During World War II, Manekshaw saw action in the Burma campaign on Sittang river as a Captain with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment and has the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battle front itself. During World War II, he was leading a counter-offensive against the invading Japanese Army in Burma. As he charged forward with his men, a Japanese soldier suddenly emerged from the bushes and fired at him, wounding him seriously in the stomach. Major General D.T.Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and was aware of his valour in face of stiff resistance from the Japanese. Fearing the worst, Major General Cowan quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross".

Having recovered from those near-fatal wounds in Burma, Manekshaw went for a course at Staff College, Quetta and later also served there as an instructor before being sent to join 12 Frontier Force Rifles in Burma under General (later Field Marshal) Slim's 14th Army. He was once again involved in a fierce battle with the Japanese and was wounded for a second time. Towards the close of World War II, Manekshaw was sent as Staff Officer to General Daisy in Indo-China, where after the Japanese surrender, he helped rehabilitate over 10,000 POWs. He, then, went on a six-month lecture tour to Australia in 1946 and after his return served as a First Grade Staff Officer in the Military Operations Directorate.

Manekshaw showed acumen for planning and administration while handling the issues related to the partition in 1947 and later put to use his battle skills during the 1947-48 Jammu & Kashmir Operations. After command of an Infantry Brigade he was posted as the Commandant of the Infantry School and also became the Colonel of 8 Gorkha Rifles, which became his new regimental home, since his original parent regiment, The 12th Frontier Force Regiment went on to join the new Pakistan Army on partition, and also of 61 Cavalry. He commanded a Division in Jammu & Kashmir and a Corps in the North East, with tenure as Commandant of Defence Services Staff College in between. As GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, he handled the tricky problem of insurgency in Nagaland and the grateful nation honoured him with a Padma Bhushan in 1968.


Manekshaw became the eighth Army Chief when he succeeded General Kumaramangalam on 07 June 1969. His years of military experience were soon put to the test as thousands of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan started crossing over to India due to the turbulent situation there. The situation got worse, and soon erupted into a full-scale war in December 1971.

During this war, Manekshaw displayed uncommon ability to motivate the forces, coupling it with a mature war strategy. The war ended with Pakistan's unconditional surrender, and the formation of Bangladesh. He masterminded the rout of the Pakistan Army in one of the quickest victories in the recent military history.


For his distinguished service to the nation, the President of India awarded him a Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and conferred upon him the rank of Field Marshal on 01 January, 1973. Manekshaw became the first of the only two Indian Generals to be awarded this prestigious honour, the other being the late Field Marshal KM Cariappa. Manekshaw retired a fortnight later (although technically Field Marshals of the Indian Army never retire because the rank is conferred for life), on 15 January 1973, after completing nearly four decades of military service.

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