Sam Manekshaw, a legendary figure in Indian military history, was the first Indian army officer to become Field Marshal. He served in the Indian Army for over four decades and was instrumental in shaping its modernization and professionalism. His life and contributions to the Indian Army continue to inspire generations of soldiers and leaders.
Born in Amritsar, Punjab, Manekshaw completed his schooling in Punjab and later graduated from the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. He was commissioned into the British Indian Army in 1934 and served in the Burma campaign during World War II. He saw action in several key battles, including the Battle of Imphal, and was awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry.
In 1962, Manekshaw served as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command during the Sino-Indian War. He was critical of the government's handling of the conflict and clashed with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon over military strategy.
Manekshaw became the Chief of Army Staff in 1969, and during his tenure, he implemented several key reforms aimed at modernizing the Army. He revamped the training manuals at the Infantry School in Mhow and played a pivotal role in putting down the Naga insurgency.
Manekshaw's greatest achievement came during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. When crisis broke out in East Bengal, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked Manekshaw if they were ready to go to war. He refused, saying that the Army was not yet battle-ready and with Himalayan passes flooding, it would be too difficult. But he made it clear to Indira Gandhi that he would lead the Army on his own terms, else he was prepared to resign. Knowing his capability, Indira agreed and gave him a free hand to plan his strategies. Manekshaw's strategic planning and tactical brilliance were instrumental in India's victory, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh. His use of Mukti Bahini guerrilla fighters and his leadership were vital in securing the Eastern front.
Manekshaw was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1972, the second-highest civilian award in India. In 1973, he was appointed Field Marshal, the highest rank in the Indian Army. He was the first Indian Army officer to achieve this rank.
Manekshaw passed away on June 27, 2008, at the age of 94. He was known for his wit and sense of humour and was beloved by his subordinates and colleagues. He remains a national hero and a symbol of India's military prowess. His leadership and professionalism continue to inspire generations of soldiers and leaders in the Indian Army.
In conclusion, Sam Manekshaw's life and achievements are a testament to his unwavering commitment to the Indian Army and the country. His contributions to modernizing and professionalizing the Indian Army have left a lasting impact, and his leadership during the 1971 War is a shining example of tactical brilliance and strategic planning.
His famous radio message to Pakistan on December 9, 1971, "Indian forces have surrounded you. Your Air Force is destroyed. You have no hope of any help from them. Chittagong, Chalna, and Mangla ports are blocked. Your fate is sealed," became a defining moment in the war.
Even after Pakistan's surrender, Manekshaw remained humble and sent Lt. Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora to sign the treaty. He believed in giving credit where it was due and was a true team player.
His legacy continues to inspire and motivate the next generation of soldiers and leaders in the Indian Army, and he remains a national hero and an inspiration to all.