Monday, July 7, 2008


This article was extracted from and posted in this blog as a tribute to FM Manekshaw who died on Friday 4, 2008 of pneumonia in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, India at the age of 94.

The architect of India's heroic victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw was born in Amirtsar, Punjab on 3rd April 1914. After completing his schooling in Amritsar and Sherwood College (Nainital), he joined the first batch of 40 cadets at Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehra Dun on 1st October 1932. He passed out of the IMA in December 1934 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Indian Army. He held several regimental assignments and was first attached to the Royal Scouts and later to the 12 Frontier Force Rifles.

During World War 11, he saw action in the Burma campaign on Sittang river and has the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battle front itself. During Worl;d War 11, he was leading a counter-offensive against the invading Japanese Army in Burma. As he charged forward with his men, a Japanese soldier suddenly emerged from the bushes and fired at him, wounding him seriously in the stomach. Fortunately, Major General D.T. Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to his 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 on to Manekshaw saying, "a dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross".

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 close of World War 11, Manekshaw was sent as Staff Officer to General Daisy in Indo-China where, after the Japanese surrender, he helped rehabilitate over 10,000 POWs. He then when 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 related to partition in 1947, and later put to use his battle skills 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 Gorkha Rifles (his regimental home) and 61 Cavalry. He commanded a Division in Jammu & Kashmir and a Corps in the North East, with a tenure as Comandant of Defence Se5rvices Staff College (DSSC) in between. As GOC-in-C Eastern Command, he handled the tricky problem of insurgency in Nagaland and the grateful nation honoured him with a Padma Bhushan in 1968.

Manekshaw became the 8th Army Chief when he succeeded General Kumaramangalam on 7th June 1969. His years of military experience were soon put to the test as thousands of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan started crossing over to India as a result of oppression unleashed from West Pakistan. The volatile situation got worse, and soon erupted into a full-scale war in December 1971.

During the military campaign, Manekshaw showed uncommon ability to motivate the forces, coupling it with a mature war strategy. The war ended with Pakistan's unconditional surrender, and the formation of Bangladesh. More than90,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken as POWs.

For his selfless service to the nation, the President of India awarded him a Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and conferred upon him the rank of Field Marshal on 1st January 1973. Manekshaw became the first Indian General to be awarded this prestigious rank, which is mainly honorary. Manekshaw retired on 15th January 1973 (14 days after being conferred the rank of Field Marshal), after completing nearly four decades of military service.


I was privileged to have listened to his talk on Military Leadership, while a student at Defence Service Staff College, Wellington, India in 1984. He was then retired, but is a regular speaker at the college.

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