Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, MC "Sam Bahadur" (lit. Sam the Brave) (3 April 1914 – 27 June 2008) was an Indian Army officer. His distinguished military career spanned four decades and five wars. Manekshaw rose to be the 8th chief of staff of the Indian Army in 1969 and under his command, Indian forces "concluded" a victorious campaign led by C-in-C Bangladesh Forces General M. A. G. Osmani during Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 that sparked the Indo-Pakistani Conflict.
Sam Manekshaw was the first of only two Indian military officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal in the Indian Army (the other being Field Marshal K M Cariappa).
Early life and education
Manekshaw was born in Amritsar, Punjab to Parsi parents, Hormusji Manekshaw, a doctor, and his wife Heerabai, who moved to the Punjab from the small town of Valsad on the Gujarat coast. After completing his schooling in Amritsar and Sherwood College (Nainital), he asked his father to send him to college abroad to study medicine. When his father refused, in an act of rebellion, he applied to join the IMA and as a result became part of the first intake of 40 cadets at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, on 1 October 1932. He passed out from the IMA on 4 February 1934 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Indian Army. He held several regimental assignments and was first attached to the 2nd Bn The Royal Scots and later to the 4/12th Frontier Force Regiment. Upon Partition, his Parent Unit 4/12 FFR became part of the Pakistan Army, so Maneckshaw transferred to the 8th Gurkha Rifles
Manekshaw's military career spanned four decades, from the British era and World War II, to the three wars against China and Pakistan after India's independence in 1947.
World War II
During World War II, Manekshaw saw action in Burmain the 1942 campaign on the Sittang River as a captain with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, and had the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battle front itself. He was commanding his battalion's 'A' Company in a counter-attack against the invading Japanese Armyand despite suffering 50% casualties the company achieved its objective, Pagoda Hill, which was a key position on the left of the Sittang bridgehead. After capturing the hill, he was hit by a burst of LMG bullets and was severely wounded in the stomach. Major General D.T. Cowanspotted 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 to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross." 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". The award was made official with the publication of the notification in a supplement to the London Gazette of 21 April 1942 (dated 23 April 1942).
Manekshaw was almost pronounced dead when brought to Rangoon hospital with nine bullets in the lung, liver and kidneys. The military surgeon was reluctant to operate, seeing his hopeless condition, though Manekshaw was conscious. When the surgeon asked what had happened to him, he replied that he was "kicked by a donkey".
Higher commands and offices
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 end of World War II, Manekshaw was sent as staff officer to General Daisy in Indo-Chinawhere, 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 relating to Partition of British Indiain 1947, and later put his battle skills to use 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 Gurkha 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 at partition) and 61 Cavalry. He commanded a division in Jammu & Kashmir and a corps in the North East, with a tenure as commandant of Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) in between. As GOC-in-C Eastern Command, he handled the tricky problem of insurgency in Nagalandand the grateful nation honoured him with a Padma Bhushan in 1968.
Army Chief: Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971
Manekshaw became the 8th chief of army staff when he succeeded General Kumaramangalam on 7 June 1969. His years of military experience were soon put to the test as thousands of Hindu refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan(Bangladesh) started crossing over to India as a result of it was conflict with West Pakistan (Pakistan). The volatile situation erupted into a full-scale war in March 26th 1971.
During the Bangladesh war of liberation a short Indo-Pakistani border conflict erupted at the western front. This opened the chances of India to declare war against Pakistan. The war ended with Pakistan's unconditional surrender, and the end of the Bangladesh liberation struggle. More than 45,000 Pakistani soldiers and 45,000 civilian personnel were taken as POWs. He masterminded the rout of the Pakistan Army in one of the easiest and quickest surrenders in recent military history.
Honour and retirement
For his distinguished service to the country, the President of India (then V. V. Giri) awarded him a Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and conferred upon him the rank of Field Marshal on 1 January 1973. Manekshaw became the first of the only two Indian Army Generals to be awarded this prestigious rank; the other being the late Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa. Manekshaw moved out of active service a fortnight later on 15 January 1973 after completing nearly four decades of military service, 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.
In May 2007, Gohar Ayub, son of Field Marshal Ayub Khan claimed that the retired Indian Army Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw had sold some of 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.
Following his time in active service in the Indian Army, Manekshaw successfully served on the board of directors for numerous companies, and was Chairman of several of them as well
He died of complications from pneumonia at the Military Hospital in Wellington, Tamil Nadu on 0030 hours, 27 June 2008 at the age of 94.
He was laid to rest in Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu, with military honours, adjacent to his wife's grave. He is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren.
Reportedly, his last words were "I'm okay!"