Sam Manekshaw

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Field Marshal
Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw
File:Sam Manekshaw.jpg
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
8th Chief of Army Staff
(pictured wearing general's insignia ca. 1970)
Chief of Army Staff (India)
In office
8 June 1969 – 15 January 1973
Preceded by General PP Kumaramangalam
Succeeded by General Gopal Gurunath Bewoor
Personal details
Born (1914-04-04)4 April 1914
Amritsar, Punjab, British India
Died 27 June 2008(2008-06-27) (aged 94)
Wellington, Tamil Nadu
Spouse(s) Silloo Bode
Military service
Nickname(s) Sam Bahadur
Allegiance  British India (until 1947)
 India (after 1947)
Service/branch  British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service 1934–2008[1]
Rank Field Marshal of the Indian Army.svg Field Marshal
Battles/wars World War II
Indo-Pakistan War of 1947
Sino-Indian War
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
Bangladesh Liberation War

Field Marshal Shamsherji Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, MC (4 April 1914 – 27 June 2008), popularly known as Sam Bahadur ("Sam the Brave"), was an Indian military leader who was the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the five-star rank of field marshal. His distinguished military career spanned four decades and five wars, beginning with service in the British Indian Army in World War II. Manekshaw rose to become the 8th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army in 1969 and under his command, Indian forces conducted victorious campaigns against Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that led to the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971.[2][3]

Early life and education

Manekshaw was born in Amritsar, Punjab to Parsi parents, Hormusji Manekshaw, a doctor, and his wife Heerabai, who moved to Punjab from the small town of Valsad on the Gujarat coast. After completing his schooling in Punjab and Sherwood College, Nainital, and achieving a distinction in the School Certificate examination of the Cambridge Board at the age of 15, he asked his father to send him to London to become a gynaecologist.[4] When his father refused to send him until he was older, in an act of rebellion, Manekshaw took the entrance examination for enrollment into the Indian Military Academy (IMA)[5] at Dehradun. He was successful and as a result became part of the first intake of 40 cadets on 1 October 1932. He graduated from the IMA on 4 February 1934 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army (which later became the Indian Army after Independence).[6]

After taking over as chief of army staff, at a function on 8 June 1969 to mark the centenary of Sherwood College, Manekshaw recalled that his years at the college had prepared him for war as they had taught him to live alone and independently, to fight without relent, tolerate hunger for long periods and to hate his enemy.[7]

Military career

Manekshaw's military career spanned four decades, from the British era and World War II, to the three wars against Pakistan and China after India's independence in 1947. He held several regimental, staff and command assignments. Manekshaw went on to become the 8th chief of the army staff, led the Indian Army successfully in a war with Pakistan and become India's first field marshal after independence.[6]

On commissioning, as per the practices of that time, Manekshaw was first attached to the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Scots, a British battalion, and then later posted to the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment, commonly known as the 54th Sikhs.[7][8]

World War II

During World War II, the then-Captain Manekshaw saw action in Burma in the 1942 campaign on the Sittaung River with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment,[9] and had the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battlefield. During the fighting around Pagoda Hill, a key position on the left of the Sittang bridgehead, he led his company in a counter-attack against the invading Japanese Army and despite suffering 50% casualties the company managed to achieve its objective. After capturing the hill, Manekshaw was hit by a burst of light machine gun fire and was severely wounded in the stomach.[10] Observing the battle, Major General David Cowan, the then commander of the 17th Infantry Division spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and, having witnessed his valour in the face of stiff resistance, rushed over to him. Fearing that Manekshaw would die, the general pinned his own Military Cross ribbon to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross."[9] The official recommendation for the MC states that the success of the attack "was largely due to the excellent leadership and bearing of Captain Manekshaw". This award was made official with the publication of the notification in a supplement to the London Gazette on 21 April 1942 (dated 23 April 1942).[11] [12] Manekshaw was evacuated to Rangoon and on arrival was close to death, having been hit by seven bullets in his lungs, liver and kidneys. It was Sher Singh, his orderly, who evacuated him from the battlefield. When the surgeon asked what had happened to him, he replied that he was "kicked by a donkey". Over Manekshaw's protests to treat the other patients, the regimental medical officer, Captain G M Diwan, attended to him.[13][14]

Having recovered from his wounds, Manekshaw attended the 8th Staff Course at Command and Staff College, Quetta, from 23 August to 22 December 1943. He was then posted as the brigade major of the Razmak Brigade, serving in that post until 22 October 1944 when he was sent to join the 9th Battalion, 12 Frontier Force Regiment in Burma, as part of General William Slim's 14th Army. Towards the end of World War II, Manekshaw was sent to serve on General Daisy's staff in Indo-China where, after the Japanese surrender, he helped repatriate over 10,000 former prisoners of war (POWs). He then went on a six-month lecture tour to Australia in 1946, and after his return was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, serving as a first grade staff officer in the Military Operations Directorate.[6][7]

Upon the Partition of India in 1947, his parent unit – 12th Frontier Force Regiment – became part of the Pakistan Army (rechristened Frontier Force Regiment), and so Manekshaw was reassigned to the 16th Punjab Regiment, before being posted to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Gorkha Rifles, which he was detailed to command. The tumultuous events of partition required Manekshaw's retention in army headquarters as a lieutenant colonel in the Military Operations Directorate, though, and because of this he subsequently missed his chance to command an infantry battalion as he was later promoted to brigadier, becoming the first Indian Director of Military Operations.[6] The appointment of Director of Military Operations was upgraded first to major general and later to lieutenant general and is now termed Director General Military Operations (DGMO).[15]

Indian Army
Flag of the Indian Army
New Delhi
History and traditions
Indian military history
British Indian Army
Indian National Army
Army Day (15 January)
Equipment of the Indian Army
Chief of Army Staff
Ranks and insignia
Para Special Forces


While handling the issues relating to Partition in 1947, Manekshaw demonstrated his acumen for planning and administration, and later was able put his battle skills to use during operations in Jammu & Kashmir in 1947–48.[16] After commanding an infantry brigade, he was posted to the Infantry School at Mhow as the school's commandant and also became the colonel of 8 Gorkha Rifles (which became his new regiment, since his original parent regiment, the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, had become part of the new Pakistan Army at partition) and 61st Cavalry. Manekshaw then commanded a division in Jammu and Kashmir. A stint at the Defence Services Staff College followed where he served as the commandant. It was here that his outspoken frankness got him into trouble with the then Defence Minister, V. K. Krishna Menon. A court of inquiry was ordered against him. The court, presided over by the then-Western Army Commander, Lieutenant General Daulet Singh, exonerated Manekshaw. Before a formal 'no case' could be announced, war with China broke out. Manekshaw was then promoted to lieutenant general and moved to Tezpur to take over IV Corps as its GOC.[17]

A year later, Manekshaw was promoted as army commander and took over the Western Command. In 1964, He moved from Shimla to Calcutta as the GOC-in-C of the Eastern Army.[18] As GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, he successfully responded to an insurgency in Nagaland for which he was later awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1968.[19]

Army chief: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

On 7 June 1969, Manekshaw became the 8th chief of army staff when he succeeded General P P Kumaramangalam. As chief of the army staff, he rendered yeoman service to the nation by forging the Indian Army into an efficient instrument of war.[20] His years of military experience were soon put to the test as India decided to help the Mukti Bahini rebels against West Pakistani forces.[citation needed]

Towards the end of April 1971, Indira Gandhi, who was Prime Minister of India at that time, asked Manekshaw if he was ready to go to war with Pakistan. Manekshaw refused, saying that his single armoured division and two infantry divisions were deployed elsewhere, that only 13 of his 189 tanks were fit to fight, and that they would be competing for rail carriage with the grain harvest at that point of time. He also pointed out that the Himalayan passes would soon open up, with the forthcoming monsoon in East Pakistan, which would result in heavy flooding.[13] When Indira Gandhi asked the cabinet to leave the room and the chief to stay, he offered to resign. She declined to accept it, but sought his advice. He then said he could guarantee victory if she would allow him to prepare for the conflict on his terms, and set a date for it. These were acceded to by the Prime Minister.[21]

When the Indian Army finally went to war in December that year, under Manekshaw's leadership, it proved victorious against the Pakistan Army. The war, lasting under a fortnight, saw more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers personnel taken as prisoners of war, and it ended with the unconditional surrender of Pakistan's eastern half, resulting in the birth of Bangladesh as a new nation.[citation needed]

When the Prime minister asked him to go to Dhaka and accept the surrender of Pakistani forces, Manekshaw declined, magnanimously saying that the honour should go to his army commander in the East, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora.[22]


Service British Indian Army Indian Army
Rank UK Army OF1a-2.png UK Army OF1b-2.png UK Army OF2-2.png UK Army OF3-2.png UK Army OF4-2.png UK Army OF5-2.png UK Army OF6-2.png Brigadier of the Indian Army.svg Major General of the Indian Army.svg Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.svg General of the Indian Army.svg Field Marshal of the Indian Army.svg
Lieutenant Captain Major Lieutenant
Colonel Brigadier Brigadier Major
Field marshal
Date 1934 1935 1940 1943 1945 1946 1947 1950 December 1957 November 1962 8 June 1969 3 January 1973


Honours and post-retirement

A statue of Sam Manekshaw in Pune Cantonment

For his distinguished service to the country, the President of India awarded Manekshaw a Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and conferred upon him the rank of field marshal, a first, on 1 January 1973. He became one of the only two army generals of independent India to be awarded this prestigious rank; the other being Kodandera Madappa Cariappa who was awarded in 1986. Manekshaw retired from active service a fortnight later on 15 January 1973 after a career of nearly four decades, and settled down with his wife Silloo in Coonoor, the civilian town next to Wellington Military Cantonment where he had served as commandant of the Defence Services Staff College, at an earlier time in his career. Popular with Gurkha soldiers, Nepal fêted Manekshaw as an honorary general of the Nepalese Army in 1972.[24]

In May 2007, Gohar Ayub, son of Pakistani Field Marshal Ayub Khan, claimed that Manekshaw had sold Indian Army secrets to Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 for 20,000 rupees, but his accusations were dismissed by the Indian defence establishment.[25][26]

Following his service in the Indian Army, Manekshaw successfully served as an independent director on the board of several companies, and in a few cases, as the chairman.[27] He was outspoken and hardly politically correct, and when once he was replaced on the board of a company by a man named Naik at the behest of the government, Manekshaw quipped, "This is the first time in history when a Naik (corporal) has replaced a Field Marshal."[24]

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw


Manekshaw died of complications from pneumonia at the Military Hospital in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, on 0030 hours, 27 June 2008 at the age of 94.[28] He was laid to rest at the Parsi cemetery in Ootacamund (Ooty), Tamil Nadu,[29] with military honours, adjacent to his wife's grave. He was survived by two daughters and three grandchildren.[citation needed]

Reportedly, his last words were "I'm okay!"[13]

That year on 16 December, celebrated each year as "Vijay Diwas" in memory of the victory achieved under Manekshaw's leadership in 1971, a postage stamp depicting Manekshaw in his field marshal's uniform was released by President Pratibha Patil.[30] However, she, the PM or other leaders from the political class did not turn up at his funeral,[31][32] nor was a national day of mourning declared.[33] In 2014, a granite statue was erected in his honor at Wellington, in the Nilgiris district, close to the Manekshaw Bridge on the Ooty-Coonoor road,[29] which had been named after him in 2009.[34]

Awards and decorations

IND Poorvi Star Ribbon.svg
IND Paschimi Star Ribbon.svg IND Raksha Medal Ribbon.svg IND Sangram Medal Ribbon.svg
IND 25th Anniversary Independence medal.svg
Military Cross.jpg
Padma Vibhushan
Padma Bhushan
Military Cross

Famous quotations

On the military knowledge of politicians: "I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerrilla from a gorilla, although a great many resemble the latter." [32]

On being asked what would have happened had he opted for Pakistan at the time of the Partition in 1947, he quipped, "Then I guess Pakistan would have won (the 1971 war)" (these comments were made in jest) [35]

On being placed in command of the retreating IV Corps during the Sino-Indian War of 1962: "There will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued."[36]

About the Gurkha: "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha."[6]

You received three at this age; when I was of your age, I received nine bullets and look—today, I am the commander in chief of the Indian Army." – During the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War when he met an injured soldier in army hospital with three bullet wounds[37]

Speech at IMA: One thing remains the same,your task and your duty. You are required to ensure the security of this country against any offence.What is that means for you? That means, that you should have to fight, a fight to win. There is no room for losers, if you lose don't come back.[citation needed]

During the 1962 War, he sent a box containing bangles & a letter saying, "If your men do not wish to fight, this is the best medal you can wear." This was sent to the CO of a battalion who did not wish to enter into conflict with the Chinese. However, in the coming weeks the CO & his battalion proved their grit by battling it out with the Chinese & conducted many successful operations. When Manekshaw learned this, he sent a letter back to CO saying "Please send back the box containing bangles, as this is not for you & your men."[38]

A 'Yes man' is a dangerous man. He is a menace. He will go very far. He can become a minister, a secretary or a Field Marshall 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'.[39]

See also


  1. Indian military officers of five-star rank hold their rank for life, and are considered to be serving officers until their deaths.
  2. Obituary—Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
  3. "Saluting Sam Bahadur". |first= missing |last= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. *Excerpt from his first personal TV interview, hosted at IBN Live
  5. Manekshaw, Sam. "Speech given at World Congress organized by Zoroastrian College". Retrieved 2 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Sood, S.D. (2006). Leadership: Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Noida, Delhi: SDS Publishers. ISBN 81-902828-4-0. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Veekay's History Book". Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Singh, Depinder (2002). Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, M.C. – Soldiering with Dignity. Dehradun: Natraj. pp. 237–259. ISBN 81-85019-02-9. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Compton Mackenzie (1951), Eastern Epic, Chatto & Windus, London, pp. 440–1
  10. Sam Bahadur: A soldier's general, Times of India, 27 June 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  11. London Gazette, Issue 35532, pg 1797 (date 21 April 1942). Accessed on 3 June 2011.
  12. Recommendations for Honours and Awards (Army)—Image details—Manekshaw, Sam Hormuzji Franji Jamshadji, Documents online, The National Archives (fee required to view pdf of original citation). Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Obituary: Sam Manekshaw". The Economist (5 July 2008): 107. Retrieved 7 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Tarun (2008), p. 2
  15. Singh, Depinder. Soldering with Dignity. Natraj Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 978-81-85019-02-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "'Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away?'". Kashmir Sentinel. Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Singh, Depinder. Soldering with Dignity. Natraj Publishers. p. 10. ISBN 978-81-85019-02-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Singh, Depinder. Soldering with Dignity. Natraj Publishers. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-81-85019-02-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Singh, Depinder. Soldering with Dignity. Natraj Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 978-81-85019-02-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Manekshaw".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Manekshaw, SHFJ. (11 Nov 1998). "Lecture at Defence Services Staff College on Leadership and Discipline" (Appendix V) in Singh (2002)Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, M.C. – Soldiering with Dignity.
  22. "Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw dead".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "veekay's history book". Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 Mehta, Ashok (27 January 2003). "Play It Again, Sam : A tribute to the man whose wit was as astounding as his military skill". Outlook. Retrieved 15 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. PTI (3 June 2005). "1965 war-plan-seller a DGMO: Gohar Khan". The Times of India (website). Bennett, Coleman & Co. Retrieved 20 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. PTI (8 May 2007). "Military livid at Pak slur on Sam Bahadur". The Times of India (website). Bennett, Coleman & Co. Retrieved 20 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Leadership: Sam Manekshaw, 2006, ISBN 81-902828-4-0, SDS Publishers
  28. Pandya, Haresh (30 June 2008). "Sam H.F.J. Manekshaw Dies at 94; Key to India's Victory in 1971 War". New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2008. Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, India's best-known soldier and the architect of the country's victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan that gave birth to Bangladesh, died in Wellington, India, on Friday. He was 94. The cause was pneumonia, India's Defence Ministry said in a statement.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. 29.0 29.1 Thiagarajan, Shanta (3 April 2014). "Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw statue unveiled on Ooty–Coonoor road". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. IANS (18 December 2008). "Stamp on Manekshaw released". The Hindu (website). The Hindu group. Retrieved 10 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Pandit, Rajat (28 June 2008). "Lone minister represents govt at Manekshaw's funeral". Times of India. Retrieved 15 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. 32.0 32.1 DNA – India – NRIs irked by poor Manekshaw farewell – Daily News & Analysis
  33. "No national mourning for Manekshaw". The Indian Express. 29 June 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "Manekshaw Bridge thrown open to traffic". The Hindu. 10 March 2009. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Lakshmi, Iyer (28 June 2008). "A soldier's general". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 13 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "Sam Manekshaw, soldier, died on June 27th, aged 94". The Enconomist (website). 3 July 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw Quotes". Army Quotes. Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. ABHAYMILESTOGO; Antim. "GREAT QUOTATIONS FROM INDIAN GENERAL SAM MANEKSHAW (1914–2008)". ABHAYMILESTOGO. Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. "Sam Manekshaw Quotes". WikiQuote. Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Daulet Singh
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Command
Succeeded by
Harbaksh Singh
Preceded by
P P Kumaramangalam
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command
Succeeded by
Jagjit Singh Aurora
Preceded by
P P Kumaramangalam
Chief of Army Staff
Succeeded by
Gopal Gurunath Bewoor