Army Chief: Time for Bharat Ratna for Field Marshal Cariappa
Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said the late Field Marshal KM Cariappa deserves to be awarded the Bharat Ratna. "If others can get Bharat Ratna, I see no reason why Field Marshal KM Cariappa shouldn't be a deserving personality for same," General Rawat said. But who was Field Marshal Cariappa? In this timeline, we trace the life of a true Indian legend.
Kodandera Madappa Cariappa was born on January 28, 1899 in Madikeri (now in Karnataka). He belonged to the Kodava martial clan. He was educated at the Presidency College in Madras (now Chennai) He was among the first Indian cadets to graduate from the Daly Cadet College, Indore. He was subsequently commissioned into the Carnatic Infantry at Bombay (now Mumbai).
In 1923, Cariappa was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1923, captain in 1927, major in 1938, lieutenant colonel by 1942, and then brigadier in 1946. While in the British Indian Army, he fought in World War-II in Mesopotamia (Iraq), and in Burma. In 1942, he became India's first army officer to be given command of a unit.
For his services to the British Indian Army, he was awarded the General Service Medal, Indian Independence Medal, Order of the British Empire, 1939-1945 Star, Burma Star, War Medal 1939-1945, Indian Service Medal and Legion of Merit.
In 1947, just prior to partition, he oversaw the division of the Indian military between Pakistan and India. In 1947, he became the first Indian to undergo a training course in Britain's Imperial Defence College. He was in-charge of the army's Western Command which led operations in Kashmir during the 1947 India-Pakistan War. In 1949, he became first Indian commander-in-chief of the Indian army.
As commander-in-chief, Cariappa spearheaded the task of turning the army into a truly nationalistic force. In 1951, US President Harry Truman conferred the 'Order of the Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit' to Cariappa, the first such award given to an Indian general. In 1953, Cariappa retired from the Indian Army and served as High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand till 1956.
Even after his retirement, Cariappa remained involved in the Indian military's affairs. During the 1965 and 1971 wars, he visited the forces to boost their morale. In 1986, the government anointed him Field Marshall, a five-star rank which is the highest honor in the Indian Army. Sam Manekshaw was the only other person to be conferred the award. Cariappa passed away in 1993.
During the 1965 war, Cariappa's son KC Cariappa's Hawker Hunter aircraft was shot down over Pakistan and he was captured. Pakistan Field Marshal Ayub Khan contacted the elder Cariappa and offered to release his son. Cariappa replied: "He is my son no longer... He is the child of this country." He urged Khan to "release all or release none. Give him no special treatment."