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Honouring the Legend: Inspiring story of Sam Manekshaw

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's contribution to the military, as well as his wit and humor, have made him a beloved figure not just among soldiers, but also among the general public, says Girish Linganna

Honouring the Legend: Inspiring story of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
First Published Apr 3, 2023, 11:01 AM IST

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, also known as 'Sam Bahadur' was one of the most decorated Indian Army officers, who served the country with distinction for over four decades. He was a towering figure, whose strategic planning and leadership skills earned him widespread respect and admiration, not just among his fellow soldiers, but also among the general public.

Born on April 3, 1914, in Punjab's Amritsar, Manekshaw came from a Parsi family and was the fifth of six children. He grew up in a religiously eclectic environment, with his father being a doctor, his mother a homemaker, and his grandfather a priest.

At the age of 22, Manekshaw joined the British Indian Army as a second lieutenant and was commissioned into the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, which was later renamed the 8th Gorkha Rifles. He saw action during the Second World War in Burma, where he was wounded twice and decorated for bravery.

After India's independence in 1947, Manekshaw was transferred to the Indian Army, and in 1948, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He played a vital role in the Hyderabad Police Action, which resulted in the annexation of the princely state of Hyderabad to India. He was also involved in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48, where he commanded a battalion on the Jammu and Kashmir front.

Manekshaw's brilliance as a military strategist was evident in the 1962 Sino-Indian War, where he was the Director of Military Operations. He famously warned the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Defense Minister Krishna Menon about the ill-preparedness of the Indian Army, but his warnings were ignored. The humiliating defeat that India suffered in the war led to Manekshaw's promotion to Major General. He was later appointed as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command.

It was during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 that Manekshaw's leadership skills came to the fore. He was appointed as the Chief of the Army Staff in 1969, and in 1971, he led India to a decisive victory against Pakistan, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.

Manekshaw's contribution to the military was immense. His strategic planning, combined with his ability to motivate and inspire his troops, enabled him to turn the tide of the war in India's favour. He was a master of tactics and was often seen at the frontlines, leading his troops from the front.

Honouring the Legend: Inspiring story of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

Manekshaw was a charismatic leader, who was loved and respected by his fellow soldiers. He was often seen engaging with his troops, listening to their issues, and providing them with moral support. He was known for his wit and humour, and many of his quotes have become part of military folklore.

One of his most famous and widely quoted lines was his response to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when she asked him about the readiness of the Indian Army to go to war with Pakistan. He reportedly replied, "I am always ready, sweetie!". This response became a hallmark of his no-nonsense, yet witty approach to leadership.

Manekshaw's military acumen and leadership skills earned him several awards and honours. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian award, in 1972, for his services to the nation. He was also awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India, in 1968. 

In 1973, Manekshaw was appointed as the Field Marshal of the Indian Army, becoming the first-ever Indian military officer to hold this rank. After his retirement from the Army in 1973, Manekshaw served as India's ambassador to several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and Kenya. He was also associated with several charitable organizations and continued to inspire generations of soldiers through his speeches and interactions.

In his later years, Manekshaw became a national icon, with his quotes and anecdotes being widely shared on social media. His contribution to the military, as well as his wit and humour, have made him a beloved figure not just among soldiers, but also among the general public.

He passed away on June 27, 2008, at the age of 94, leaving behind a legacy of bravery and leadership in the military. Even today, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's legacy lives on, and he continues to inspire generations of soldiers with his bravery, leadership, and dedication to the country. His life story is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Indian soldier and is a source of inspiration for every Indian.

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