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03 Apr 2017

Late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's 104th birth anniversary

On this day Sam Manekshaw, the first Indian Army officer to be promoted the five star rank of field marshal, would have turned 104.

Manekshaw, whose military career spans over four decades, was a maverick who participated in five wars.

He was the hero who led India through its decisive victory during the 1971 war against Pakistan.

In this timeline, we remember his life.

In context

Remembering India's greatest military hero

Early life

Manekshaw rebelled against his father to join army

Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw was born in Amritsar on April 3, 1914, to Parsi parents.

He rebelled against his father to give the Indian Military Academy entrance exam in 1932.

He served in the erstwhile British Indian Army.

Manekshaw was promoted to Captain of the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment in Burma where he fought the Japanese Army during World War II.

Manekshaw's heroics during World War II earned him laurels

He was badly injured by light machine gun fire but kept encouraging his men to fight, ultimately managing to capture Sittang bridge. His bravery was saluted by Major General David Cowan, the Commander-in-Chief of the 17th Infantry Division. Manekshaw was awarded the Military Cross.

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Nicknamed Sam 'Bahadur'

India won 1971 war with Pakistan under Manekshaw's leadership

Manekshaw was appointed army chief in 1969. His leadership boosted the army's morale following the loss in the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

Under his leadership, the Indian military reached its crowning glory by defeating Pakistan decisively during the 1971 war and liberating Bangladesh in just 13 days.

He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and promoted to the rank of Field Marshal in 1973.

A forthright leader

He stood up to PM Indira Gandhi, she agreed

In April 1971, he looked India's all-powerful PM Indira Gandhi in the eye and disagreed with her orders to go to war with Pakistan, calling it premature, providing a detailed analysis on the ground situation.

Before leaving the room, he said, "Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, may I send you my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?" Gandhi conceded.

Sam Bahadur on "our political masters"

"I wonder whether…our political masters…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."

Ignored by govt.

Manekshaw denied benefits due to Field Marshal for 30 years

Following his retirement, Manekshaw settled down with his family in the town of Coonoor in the Nilgiri Hills.

Sadly, he was denied the benefits and status due to a Field Marshall.

In 2006-07, the then President APJ Abdul Kalam met Manekshaw and gave him thirty years worth of arrears, amounting to Rs. 1 crore.

He passed away on June 27, 2008 from pneumonia.

Not accorded due respect following his death

Following his death, neither the chiefs of India's three military wings nor the then Defence Minister AK Antony, attended Manekshaw's funeral.

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