Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw is, without a doubt, the most popular and colorful military leader in India: magnificently mustachioed, charming, and decisive.
Better known as Sam Bahadur, or Sam the Brave, he led the nation to its first decisive victory in 1971. He was India’s first Field Marshal, and remains, even today, the most admired and idolised of our Army Chiefs.
He was a charismatic personality. Vigour, dash, and elan – he has them all, the typical signs of a great soldier. It was just impossible not to feel overawed in his presence.
When he served as a captain with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment in Burma in 1942, he witnessed action on the Burma Front as part of the 17th Division of the 14th Army.
While leading his battalion as a Company Commander against the invading Japanese, a raging battle on the Sittang Bridge near Sittang River in Myanmar kept both the sides on their toes. The young company commander, got wounded at Sittang Bridge on February 22, 1942, when as a result of machine gun blast nine bullets riddled the stomach of Captain Manekshaw while engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
Despite his injuries, he was staring straight into the face of the enemy, managing his troops effectively, and fought until the battle was won. Such was Sam’s zeal to serve that it took him out of the face of death and stood against all enemies.
When the Divisonal Commander Major General, Sir Richard Cowens, heard of Sam’s bravery, he rushed to the battle site, took off his own Military Cross and pinned it on Sam’s chest as he was not expected to live more and the Military Cross is not awarded posthumously. Despite nine bullets in his lungs, liver, and kidney, he recovered and sailed back to India is one of the last ships just before the Japanese overran Burma.
As Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Manekshaw helped achieve ‘jointness’ among the three Services. This was evidenced by the coordinated and synergized operations that resulted in Pakistan’s military rout in 1971.
Without doubt India’s finest war-time chief, he was also a noble warrior who looked upon his enemies with respect. He also asked the officers not to misbehave with Pakistani women.
Manekshaw’s planning of the 1971 campaign was brilliantly measured, and it showed his well-rounded leadership qualities.
During his later part of his life, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw settled down with his wife in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. At the age of 94, he died of complications from pneumonia at the Military Hospital in Wellington, Tamil Nadu.
1914: Sam Manekshaw was born.
1932: Became one of the 40 cadets to be selected in the first ever batch of Indian Military Academy (IMA).
1934: Passed out of IMA and was made Second Lieutenant in the British Indian Army.
1935: Became Lieutenant.
1939: Got married to Silloo Bode.
1940: Became Captain.
1942: Received Military Cross for his Gallantry.
1943: Became Major.
1945: Became Lieutenant-Colonel.
1946: Became Colonel.
1947: Became Brigadier. Was also the Colonel-in-Charge of the operations when Pakistan invaded Kashmir.
1950: Became Brigadier in the Indian Army.
1957: Became Major General.
1963: Became Lieutenant General.
1965: Became Commander of the Eastern Command during the Indo-Pak war.
1968: Received Padma Bhushan Award.
1969: Became General.
1971: Steered India to victory during the second Indo-Pak war.
1972: Received Padma Vibhushan award.
1973: Became Field Marshal.
2008: Died at the age of 94.
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