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Saluting a war hero

PANKAJA SRINIVASAN

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw passed away on June 27, 2008. His deeds of gallantry and bravery are the stuff legends are made of.

Sam Manekshaw was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1968 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1972.

Photo: PTI

Reminiscing: On his 90th birthday, the Field Marshal looks at his pictures at a photo exhibition in New Delhi.

Ask any one in the armed forces, and they will tell you about incredibly heroic deeds of these men in uniform. Against all odds, these brave soldiers have stood their ground and defended their country, sometimes with their lives.

Brave deeds

There was one such brave man, braver than most. And, he was conferred with the Indian Army’s highest rank, that of the Field Marshal. He was Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw MC, also fondly called Sam Bahadur in the ranks of his beloved Gurkha Regiment. Manekshaw was commissioned in 1934 and was in active service till 1973 after which he moved into Coonoor in the Nilgiris to settle down there (Field Marshals never retire).

It is exciting hearing about his exploits in the nearly 40 years he spent in active service. Like the time he was given up for dead. It happened in Burma during the Second World War when enemy fire almost killed him. He was shot in the stomach six times. But, he held on and right there on the battle field, the Military Cross (MC) was pinned onto his chest. It is an award given for gallantry during active operations against the enemy. Manekshaw again faced the Japanese, again in Burma and was again wounded!

But, he was perhaps best remembered for the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, which ended not only with a resounding victory for India, but also gave birth to a new nation, Bangladesh. Sam Manekshaw was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1968 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 (a rare civilian distinction to a serving military officer). In January 1973 he became independent India’s first Field Marshal.

There are many stories associated with Manekshaw. He was celebrated for his great wit and humour. He was also known for being a stickler for time, order and discipline. He was humane too and could be approached by anybody (many, many soldiers will vouch for this). He and his wife Siloo Manekshaw lived in Coonoor in their home they called Stavka. And, right till the end they remained upright, dignified and much loved by all those who came into contact with them.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw died on June 27, 2008.

Long service


Manekshaw’s military career spanned four decades and five wars. Whether it was the Partition in 1947, the Jammu and Kashmir Operations in 1948 or insurgency problem in Nagaland, he saw plenty of action in his lifetime. In 1969, he became the eighth Chief of Army Staff.

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