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Sam Manekshaw: India’s First Field Mashal

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, popularly known as Sam Manekshaw, was a Parsi by blood but a Gorkha by heart. He was a legendary military officer who went on to become one of the most revered and distinguished military leaders in the history of independent India. Sam Manekshaw was India’s first army officer to be promoted to the rank of Field marshal. He served four decades as a military officer. He saw five wars in his career, beginning with his service in the British Indian Army in World War II and ending with the Indo-Pak War of 1971, which culminated in the creation of Bangladesh.

Early Life and Education

Sam Manekshaw was born in Amritsar, Punjab, into a Parsi family with a rich tradition of military service. His father, Dr. Hormusji Manekshaw, was a military doctor. Manekshaw’s formative years were marked by a sense of discipline and duty, attributes that would shape his future military career. He received his early education at Sherwood College in Nainital, where his leadership qualities began to emerge.

Personal Information

Full name Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw
Date of Birth April 3, 1914
Father’s Name Dr. Hormusji Manekshaw
Mother’s name Mrs. Heerabai Manekshaw
Spouse Silloo Bode
Children Sherry, Maja, Shyam
Occupation Military officer, First Field Marshal of India

 

Military Career

Year Milestone
1932 Joined Indian Military Academy (IMA)
1932-1945 Served in various theaters during World War II
1947-48 Played a significant role in the First Kashmir War
1962 Served as Chief of Staff during the Sino-Indian War
1965 GOC-in-C of the Eastern Command during the Indo-Pakistan War
1969 Appointed Chief of the Army Staff
1971 Led Indian military to victory in the Indo-Pakistani War, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh
1973 Promoted to the rank of Field Marshal, the first to achieve this while in active service
Post-1973 Served as Military Advisor to the Prime Minister
2002 Authored autobiography “Soldier’s General”
2008 Passed away on June 27, 2008

Awards and Honours

– Military cross (1942)

– Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM)

– Padma Bhushan (1968)

– Padma Vibhushan (1972)

– Field Marshal Rank  (1973)

 

How He Got The Name Sam Bahadur?

Prior to Independence, the Gorkha regiment used to be headed by a British officer. Post Independence, Sam as the first Indian officer to head the Gorkha regiment. According to his interview excerpt,  when he met the Gorkha soldiers for the first time he asked a soldier’s name and asked the soldier if he knew what is their officer’s name, after thinking for a while, the soldier exclaimed, Sam Bahadur and that was it. The Gorkha soldiers lovingly named him Sam Bahadur, which stuck with him for the rest of his life.

Sam was in the pioneer batch of IMA, meaning he was among the first military officers to have graduated from the prestigious Indian Military Academy and had a distinguished military career where he fought five wars and displayed exemplary courage and bravery, earning numerous awards and accolades. One of the famous incidents is that he led his soldiers to a victory at the Sittang Bridge despite being injured. Major General David Cowan, Commander in Chief of the 17th Infantry Division, saluting Manekshaw’s bravery, pinned his own military cross onto Manekshaw, proclaiming, “A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross”

Another famous incident from his life is when Indira Gandhi asked him prior to the 1971 Bangladesh war about readiness, to which he replied, “I am always ready Sweetie.” He referred to Indira as sweetie or sweetheart because of their Parsi connection.

Sam cheated death on a few occasions, both on the battlefield and away from it. As a young captain, while posted in Burma and fighting against the Japanese in 1942, he was critically wounded with about nine bullets but he fought on and was rescued by his soldiers.

His service was extended by six months on a special order of the president in 1972. Although unwilling, he continued out of respect for the president.

He died of pneumonia at the military hospital in Wellington. No politician came to his funeral, nor was a national day of mourning declared.

 

Read more: Nirmala Sitharaman: The First Female Finance Minister of India

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