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FM Sam Manekshaw

In Picture: Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw (wearing rank of a General)

Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw also known as Sam Bahadur was the 7th Chief of Army Staff of the Republic of India. Sam was known to be a man of wits and one who was never scared to voice his opinion. He is famously known for the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 which is also known as the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Rank of a Field Marshal

In Picture: Shoulder Rank of Field Marshal

Field Marshal is the highest rank personnel of the Indian Army can be appointed too; this rank can only be conferred to an Army Chief for exceptional service to the country during wartime. The rank is said to be held by the bearer until their death hence Field Marshal’s never retire. Sam was the first to have been appointed as a Field Marshal on 1st January 1973 and apart from him only Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa has held the appointment ( he retired way before Sam but was conferred the rank later on 15th January 1986).


Sam was one of the most decorated if not the most decorated Indian army officers of his time with a total of 18 decorations adoring his chest.

⮚ Civilian Decorations - Padma Vibhushan

⮚ Military Decorations - General Service Medal 1947

⮚ Poorvi Star

⮚ Paschimi Star

⮚ Raksha Medal

⮚ Sangram Medal

⮚ Sainya Seva Medal

⮚ Indian Independence Medal

⮚ 25th Independence Anniversary Medal

⮚ 20 Year Long Service Medal

⮚ 9 Year Long Service Medal

⮚ Military Cross

⮚ 1939-45 Star

⮚ Burma Star

⮚ War Medal 1939-1945

⮚ India Service Medal

⮚ Burma Gallantry Medal

War of 1971

The people of East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) were suffering tortures and atrocities and were treated unfairly and were seen to be inferior to the people of West Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan were demanding for autonomy of the state.

India in the meantime had decided to assist in the formation of the new nation of Bangladesh. During a Cabinet meeting Sam was asked if India was ready at the moment to go for a war against Pakistan to which Manekshaw said he could guarantee a defeat as the mobilisation of troops would take a while and soon the Himalayan passes with start flooding with the onset of monsoon. After which he even offered to resign as the Army Chief because he did say what the cabinet wanted to hear but Indira Gandhi refused and asked him for his advice instead. Sam said he can guarantee a victory if he is allowed to work at his own terms.

Research and Analysis Wing under R.N. Kao took to supplying arms and training the Mukti Brahimi which was a militia of Bengali nationalists. They were great help in harassing the Pakistani Army officers stationed in East Pakistan.

The war started on 3rd December and India had managed to cut all contact between East and West Pakistan. Indian Air Force blocked the Air Space and there was Naval Blocked by Indian Navy. Manekshaw then radioed a message to the Pakistani Troops and gave them the option to surrender. The famous message being "Indian forces have surrounded you. Your Air Force is destroyed. You have no hope of any help from them. Chittagong, Chalna and Mangla ports are blocked. Nobody can reach you from the sea. Your fate is sealed. The Mukti Bahini and the people are all prepared to take revenge for the atrocities and cruelties you have committed... Why waste lives? Don't you want to go home and be with your children? Do not lose time; there is no disgrace in laying down your arms to a soldier. We will give you the treatment befitting a soldier".

Finally on the 16th of December 1971 the war came to an end with the signing of the Pakistani Instrument of Surrender by Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi from Pakistan’s side and Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora from India’s side. Indira Gandhi insisted on Sam attending the ceremony but he said the honour belonged to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-C). The Pakistani Instrument of surrender was the biggest surrender in history of war with 93,000 troops.

Sam made sure the POWs were treated with dignity and also made available for each of them a copy of the Quran Sharif and place for prayers. Many even say the POWs would sleep in the army barracks whilst our troops slept outside.

Story of the Military Cross

Sam back then serving as a Captain with the 12th Frontier Force Regiment of the 4th Sikh Battalion was severely wounded in Burma in 1942 at the Sittang River. The company was counter attacking against the Imperial Japanese Army and despite suffering 50% Casualties were able to capture the hill successfully. But after the same Manekshaw was hit by burst of a light machine gun. Major General David Cowan the Commander of the 17th Infantry Division saw Manekshaw in a severely wounded condition and fearing he would die he pinned his own Military Cross Ribbon on him saying, “A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross”. Sam’s kidneys lungs liver and intestines had been injured and 7 bullets were removed from his body later at the hospital.

Coup Episode

Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, was worried that Sam being so influential might end up with him staging a Coup and taking over the government. As the Congress party had split and Gandhi had become PM with the support of the Communists, she was even more conscious of the surrounding and there was a wind of news about a possible Coup during 1969. Indira asked Sam directly about his intentions to which he replied with “My daughter when she comes from convent sings the nursery rhyme, `You mind your business, I mind mine. You kiss your own sweetheart, I kiss mine’. I do not interfere with politics and politicians. Few years later Sam once said he had nothing to do with the Government and would not take anything given to him by the Government to which Gandhi replied with, “But Sam you took the appointment of a Field Marhsall “to which Sam said, “That’s my birthright”.

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