Sam Manekshaw: The Iconic Field Marshal of India
Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, also known as Sam Manekshaw, was an extraordinary military leader who played a pivotal role in shaping India’s destiny during one of its most critical phases. With a career spanning over four decades, Manekshaw’s remarkable leadership, strategic acumen, and indomitable spirit earned him a special place in the annals of Indian military history. In this comprehensive article by Academic Block, we will explore the life, achievements, and contributions of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
Early Life and Education
Born on April 3, 1914, in Amritsar, British India, Sam Manekshaw belonged to a Parsi family known for its service in the military. His father, Hormusji Manekshaw, was a doctor in the British Indian Army, and his mother, Hilla, was a homemaker. Sam’s early life was marked by discipline, values, and a deep sense of patriotism instilled by his parents.
Manekshaw’s education began at Sherwood College in Nainital, where he developed a love for sports and an indomitable spirit. His keen interest in military affairs led him to enroll in the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun in 1932. His journey from a young cadet to a legendary military leader had just begun.
The Early Military Career
Manekshaw’s early years in the military shaped his character and prepared him for the challenges that lay ahead. Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment, he soon found himself embroiled in the tumultuous events of World War II. He served in Burma, Iraq, and the Middle East, gaining invaluable experience and recognition for his leadership abilities.
During the Burma Campaign, he displayed his strategic thinking and exceptional leadership, which earned him his first Military Cross for gallantry. His fearless nature, innate sense of humor and camaraderie with his troops made him a beloved figure among his men.
The Leadership Style
One of the key attributes that set Sam Manekshaw apart as a leader was his inclusive and humane approach to leadership. He was known to address his soldiers as “my boys” and ensured their well-being and morale remained high. His famous “Sam Bahadur” persona made him a symbol of authority, trust, and a source of inspiration for the soldiers under his command.
Manekshaw’s leadership style was characterized by a profound understanding of the human element in warfare. He recognized the importance of empathy, trust, and open communication in building an effective fighting force. His soldiers knew that they will be never left behind. This approach was instrumental in creating an unbreakable bond between the troops and their commander.
The Role in the Indian Independence Movement
Manekshaw’s service during World War II brought him in close contact with India’s struggle for independence. It was during this period that he developed an acute sense of national identity and commitment to India’s future. His growing interactions with leaders of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, deepened his understanding of the political landscape of the time.
Manekshaw’s experience during the Quit India Movement and his association with the Indian National Army led by Subhas Chandra Bose further reinforced his belief in the importance of a strong, unified India. He saw the military as a means to safeguard and strengthen the voice of the citizens and the Nation. During the partisan of India, he choose to stay in India, a democracy, instead of Islamic Ideology based Pakistan. Without knowing that, this decision of his, would later change the destiny of both the Nations.
The Indo-Pak Wars
Sam Manekshaw’s most defining moments as a military leader came during the three Indo-Pak wars, where his strategic brilliance, courage, and leadership steered India to victory.
The First Indo-Pak War (1947-48): The first war between India and Pakistan broke out in 1947, following the partition of British India. The Pakistan Army launched an invasion of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the help of Afghan tribals, paid mercenaries, and army regulars under disguise of non state actors. Manekshaw, by then a Brigadier, played a crucial role in organizing and leading Indian forces against the Pakistani aggression.
His tactical acumen was evident when he designed the plan for the recapture of the strategic Hajipir Pass. The operation was a resounding success and showcased his ability to coordinate and execute complex military operations. Indian army then asked 24 hour time from its government to clear the invaders completely. But, then prime minister of India (Jawaharlal Nehru), going against the advice of Indian military, decided to approach United Nations to find the peaceful solution.
The Second Indo-Pak War (1965): The 1965 Indo-Pak War, also known as the Second Kashmir War, saw Manekshaw as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command. He played a vital role in planning and executing Operation Riddle, an audacious attack on Pakistan’s military installations that significantly weakened their capabilities.
The 1965 war soon witnessed considerable international involvement and diplomacy. Several countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, sought to mediate and broker a ceasefire between India and Pakistan. The United Nations again passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire and negotiations to resolve the conflict.
On September 22, 1965, pacifist government in India agreed to a ceasefire, and the war officially ended. The Tashkent Agreement, brokered by the Soviet Union and the United States, was signed on January 10, 1966, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, between Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan. This agreement reaffirmed the ceasefire and outlined the principles for resolving the Kashmir dispute through peaceful means.
Manekshaw’s leadership during the 1965 war was again instrumental in protecting India’s territorial integrity and repelling Pakistan’s aggressive designs. It was during this conflict that he sustained injuries and was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his exemplary leadership. Though denied this time, destiny was not going to hold him back for long. Soon, again Islamic republic of Pakistan initiated another war with India, a war that wrote his name in the world history of Heros.
The Third Indo-Pak War (1971): The Liberation War of Bangladesh, His War Sam Manekshaw’s journey through the ranks of the Indian Army was marked by hard work, dedication, and a commitment to excellence. In 1969, he became the first Indian military officer to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal, the highest military rank in the Indian Army. This honor was a testament to his outstanding service and leadership. However, Manekshaw’s most significant contribution came during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
The root cause of the 1971 war lay in the deep-seated political, linguistic, and cultural differences between East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan). Following the partition of British India in 1947, East Pakistan and West Pakistan were geographically separated by more than a thousand miles of Indian territory. The people of East Pakistan, primarily Bengali-speaking, felt marginalized and discriminated against by the government in West Pakistan, where Urdu was the dominant language. Both Pakistani politicians as well as the Pakistani army, considered Bangladeshi people as short, dark and inferior. Ridiculing them and their language (Bangla) from public forums was common in Pakistan. Democratic rights of the Bangladeshi people were trembled, as Pakistan considered them too inferior to govern themself. This led to series of demonstrations by students and local political units. Though peaceful, Pakistani army crushed these demonstrations with brutal force. Thousands were killed, and more were imprisoned.
Tikka Khan (Muhammad Musa Khan Hazara) was then Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff posted in the Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). He ordered his troops to silence any form of dissident at any cost. This inturn led to terrible consequences for common people of Bangladesh. Pakistan’s suppression was so brutal that, General Tikka Khan earned the nickname “Butcher of Bengal”. Pakistan army choose mass Rapes as the weapon of terror.
Due to the gross human right violations, millions of refugees fled to India a safer land for their children. India, led by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, became deeply concerned about the situation in East Pakistan and decided to support the Bengali struggle for peaceful existence with dignity. India provided sanctuary, training, and support to Mukti Bahini, the Bengali resistance fighters. Diplomatic efforts were also made to rally international support for Bangladesh’s cause, and India attempted to resolve the crisis through peaceful means. However, Pakistan was adamant in not recognizing people of Bangladesh as equals, thus the diplomatic efforts yielded no results.
On December 3, 1971, Pakistan initiated another war on India’s western border, primarily in the western state of Rajasthan. This attack, codenamed Operation “Chengiz Khan”, was intended to divert India’s attention from the crisis in East Pakistan. In response, India formally entered the conflict on the side of the Bangladeshi nationalists.
The war on the eastern front (East Pakistan) involved Indian armed forces, Mukti Bahini, and Bangladeshi civilians. Under the able leadership of Sam Manekshaw, The Indian Armed Forces executed a well-coordinated and swift military campaign, including the Eastern Command’s Operation “Cactus Lily”, which involved simultaneous attacks on multiple fronts. Pakistan soon realized its mistake, as now they have to face a well trained professional Indian army instead of helpless civilians.
Manekshaw, as the Chief of the Army Staff, played a pivotal role in planning and executing the military operations. He used to command his troops from the warzone itself. His exceptional leadership, astute strategic thinking, and his ability to inspire his troops were instrumental in India’s decisive victory. The Indian Armed Forces, under his guidance, achieved a resounding success in just 13 days. The turning point of the war occurred on December 16, 1971, when the Pakistani military in Dhaka (now Dhaka, Bangladesh) surrendered to the forces of India. The exact number of Pakistani soldiers who surrendered in Dhaka on that day is not precisely documented, but it is estimated to be in the range of 93,000 to 97,000. This was one of the largest surrenders in military history and a pivotal moment in the war that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh as an independent country. This event marked the end of Pakistan’s brutal control over East Pakistan and the birth of the independent nation of Bangladesh.
Sam Manekshaw was praised worldwide not only for his able leadership in the theater of war, but also for his humane treatment of 93,000 prisoners of war. All the prisoners were returned unharmed, to Pakistan, after it signed the document of surrender. His believe in the honorable military traditions of India is evident from his quotes like, “Once the enemy lay down his weapons, his life and his dignity become your responsibility” and “your guns can bring you victory, but your kindness can bring you lasting peace”.
The Diplomat in Uniform
Sam Manekshaw’s contribution to India extended beyond his role as a military commander. His diplomatic skills and ability to navigate complex political landscapes were evident during the 1971 war. In the run-up to the war, Manekshaw had to manage the delicate task of coordinating with the Indian political leadership, including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and ensuring that the military was ready for the conflict. His ability to strike a balance between military objectives and political considerations was commendable.
Furthermore, Manekshaw’s interactions with foreign diplomats and leaders, such as U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, showcased his diplomatic finesse. He ensured that India’s objectives in the war were communicated effectively on the global stage, securing international support for India’s cause.
Even after his retirement from active service, Sam Manekshaw continued to serve the nation in various capacities. He was appointed as the Chairman of the Indian Red Cross Society, where he played a significant role in the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
Manekshaw’s legacy also includes his role as a military advisor and commentator. He shared his wisdom and insights through lectures, writings, and interviews, providing valuable guidance to future generations of military leaders.
Retirement and Later Life
After his retirement from active military service in 1973, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw settled into a peaceful and well-deserved retirement. He continued to inspire and guide the armed forces through his writings and speeches. His memoir, “Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times,” provides valuable insights into his life, leadership, and the challenges he faced.
Manekshaw’s later life was marked by his commitment to the welfare of veterans and his involvement in various charitable activities. He remained a beloved figure among the Indian military community and the public at large. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw passed away on June 27, 2008, at the age of 94, in Tamil Nadu, India. His death marked the end of an era in the Indian military, but his legacy continues to inspire generations of leaders and remains an integral part of India’s military history.
His respect in the world community can be judged by the President Barack Obama’s statement on the death of Sam Manekshaw, he wrote “I offer my deep condolences to the people of India, on the passing of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. He was a legendary soldier, a patriot, and an inspiration to his fellow citizens. Field Marshal Manekshaw provided an example of personal bravery, self-sacrifice, and steadfast devotion to duty that began before India’s independence, and will deservedly be remembered far into the future”.
Legacy and Influence
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s legacy is not limited to his military achievements but extends to his influence on future generations of military leaders. His leadership style, which emphasized empathy, teamwork, and a deep sense of responsibility, continues to be a source of inspiration for military officers worldwide. The Indian Army, in particular, holds him in the highest esteem and often seeks to emulate his values and principles. His legacy is also an important part of military history, and his life serves as a beacon of hope and determination for the nation.
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s life and career are a testament to the power of leadership, perseverance, and patriotism. His indomitable spirit, unwavering commitment to India, and exceptional military acumen make him a towering figure in the country’s history. His contributions during the Indo-Pak wars and the creation of Bangladesh are enduring symbols of India’s military strength and resolve.
As we remember the life of this extraordinary leader, we must also celebrate the values he embodied—integrity, empathy, and unwavering dedication to one’s country. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s legacy continues to inspire and guide future generations of leaders, not only within the military but across all spheres of life, as a shining example of what true leadership entails. Please provide your comments below, it will help us in improving this article. Thanks for reading!
|Date of Birth : 3rd April 1914|
|Died : 27th June 2008|
|Place of Birth : Amritsar, British India|
|Father : Hormizd Manekshawji Manekshaw|
|Mother : Heerabai Manekshaw|
|Spouse/Partner : Silloo Bode|
|Children : Sherry, Merwan and Maja|
|Alma Mater : Sherwood College in Nainital, India|
|Professions : Military Officer|
Famous quotes by Sam Manekshaw
“I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerrilla from a gorilla, although a great many of them in the past have resembled the latter.”
“I’m always ready, sweetie.”
“The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.”
“If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t have joined.”
“Leadership is not by rank or designation; it’s by the quality of one’s actions and the consequences they produce.”
“Gentlemen, I have arrived, and there are no petrol pumps here.”
On the courage of soldiers: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”
“Never tell a good soldier he doesn’t know his job. But don’t fail to tell him it’s a secret.”
“The safety, honour, and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare, and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort, and safety come last, always and every time.”
“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”
“In our country, we believe in the idea of camaraderie. It’s an old concept. It has been inherited from our ancestors. You live together, you eat together, and you die together.”
“You make war when you have to, and in our line of work, when we have to, we do it, and we do it well.”
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”
Facts on Sam Manekshaw
Early Life and Education: Sam Manekshaw was born on April 3, 1914, in Amritsar, British India. He came from a Parsi family with a strong tradition of military service. He attended the prestigious Sherwood College in Nainital and later joined the Indian Military Academy.
Distinguished Military Career: Manekshaw was commissioned into the British Indian Army in 1934. He served in various theaters during World War II, gaining combat experience in Burma, Iraq, and the Middle East.
Military Cross: Manekshaw earned the Military Cross during World War II for his gallantry and leadership in battle.
First Field Marshal of India: He was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal in 1973, becoming the first Indian military officer to achieve this distinction.
Role in Indo-Pak Wars: Manekshaw played pivotal roles in both the 1965 Indo-Pak War and the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. His leadership during the 1971 war resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.
Emphasis on Morale: He was known for his emphasis on troop morale and earned the affectionate moniker “Sam Bahadur.” His leadership style was characterized by empathy, open communication, and a strong sense of camaraderie with his soldiers.
Humor and Wit: Manekshaw was known for his quick wit and humor, which endeared him to both his troops and the public. His one-liners and anecdotes remain popular to this day.
Awards and Honors: He received several prestigious awards, including the Military Cross, Padma Bhushan, and the Param Vishisht Seva Medal. His military achievements are celebrated in India’s military history.
Memoirs: Field Marshal Manekshaw wrote his memoir, “Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times,” in which he provided insights into his life, career, and the historical events he witnessed.
Charitable Activities: After retirement, he served as the Chairman of the Indian Red Cross Society, contributing to humanitarian efforts and charitable activities.
Passing: Sam Manekshaw passed away on June 27, 2008, at the age of 94. His death marked the end of an era in the Indian military, but his legacy continues to inspire generations of leaders and the public.
Sam Manekshaw’s family life
Marriage: Sam Manekshaw was married to Silloo Bode. She was his wife and a significant presence in his life. They had a close and enduring relationship.
Children: The Manekshaws had three children – two daughters named Sherry and Maja, and a son named Merwan. His children have maintained a relatively low profile in the public eye.
Academic References on Sam Manekshaw
“Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times” by Brig. Behram M. Panthaki. This book is a memoir written by Sam Manekshaw himself, offering a first-hand account of his life, career, and the events he witnessed. It provides a unique perspective on his experiences.
“Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Makers of Indian Military” by Dr. D. K. Palit. This biography by a renowned military historian offers an in-depth exploration of Sam Manekshaw’s military journey, his leadership, and his role in shaping the Indian military.
“Leadership in the Indian Army: Biographies of Twelve Soldiers” by Major General Ian Cardozo. This book includes a chapter dedicated to Sam Manekshaw, providing insights into his leadership and contributions to the Indian Army.
“Conquer or Perish: A Biography of Indian Army’s Legendary General” by Shakeel Anwar. This biography delves into Sam Manekshaw’s life, military career, and the various wars he participated in, including the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
“Leadership in War: Essential Lessons from Those Who Made History” by Andrew Roberts. This book includes a section on Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and his leadership during the 1971 Indo-Pak War, highlighting the strategic decisions and contributions that shaped the outcome of the conflict.
“Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Makers of Indian Military” by Dr. R. K. Mehta. Another biography that provides insights into Manekshaw’s life, military service, and leadership style.
“Bangladesh: The Birth of a Nation” by Lawrence Lifschultz. While not solely about Sam Manekshaw, this book offers historical context and insights into the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, in which Manekshaw played a pivotal role.
“Sam Bahadur: An Icon of Leadership” by Colonel (Dr.) V. K. Sood (Journal of Defence Studies, 2019). This academic article delves into Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s leadership style and his influence on the Indian Army.
“Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: A Man of Wit, Wisdom, and Leadership” by Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan (Vayu Aerospace and Defence Review, 2012). This article reflects on Manekshaw’s leadership qualities and his contributions to the Indian military.
“Leadership Lessons from the Life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw” by Lieutenant Colonel Piyush Bharadwaj (Indian Defence Review, 2018). This article examines the leadership lessons that can be drawn from Sam Manekshaw’s life and career.
Awards and Honors
Throughout his illustrious career, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw received numerous awards and honors, which reflected his exceptional contributions to the nation and the Indian Armed Forces. Some of the notable awards and honors bestowed upon him include:
Military Cross: Awarded for his gallantry during World War II, by Britan.
Padma Bhushan: Received for his outstanding leadership during the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
Order of the British Empire (OBE): Conferred upon him during his time in the British Indian Army.
Legion of Merit (United States): Awarded for his contributions during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
India-Pakistan War Medal: Awarded for his service in both the 1947-48 and 1965 wars.
Liberation War Honor (Bangladesh): Conferred in recognition of his role in the creation of Bangladesh.
Param Vishisht Seva Medal: A prestigious military award for exceptional service.
The Man and His Wit
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was not just a honorable military leader; he was a man of humor, charisma, and a unique personality. His wit and humor endeared him to those around him, and his anecdotes and one-liners remain popular to this day. Some of his famous quotes and stories reflect his quick wit:
“If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”
During a visit to a military hospital, he asked a wounded soldier, “What happened to you?” The soldier replied, “I was fighting the enemy, sir.” Manekshaw quipped, “No wonder you got shot!”
On receiving his Field Marshal’s baton, he remarked, “It took Pakistan 25 years to become a Field Marshal. It took me 38 years. But remember, I am the first Field Marshal.”
When asked by a young officer what he would have done if he had not joined the army, Manekshaw replied, “I would have been a chef.”
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