After graduating from IMA, Manekshaw was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army in 1934. His decorated military career spanned four decades.
On June 27, 2008, India's war hero Sam Manekshaw died at the ripe age of 94 years. Popularly known as Sam Bahadur, Shamsherji Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw was India’s first Army officer to be promoted to the five-star rank of Field Marshal. His decorated military career spanned four decades, which witnessed the transition of our armed forces from British India Army to the Indian Army.
Born to Hormusji Manekshaw, a doctor, and Heerabai, a housewife, in Amritsar on April 3, 1914, Sam Bahadur completed his schooling in Punjab and Sherwood College, Nainital. When he was 15, Sam asked his father to send him to London and let him study medicine to become a gynaecologist. However, his father refused. Almost in an act of rebellion, Manekshaw appeared for the entrance examination of the Dehradun-based Indian Military Academy (IMA) and cracked it in the first attempt.
This was the turning point of his life. Years later, Sam Manekshaw would recall his IMA days at a function in 1969 at his alma mater Sherwood College in these words – “IMA prepared me for war as they taught me how to live alone and independently, to fight without relent, and tolerate hunger for long periods...”
After graduating from IMA, Manekshaw was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the British Indian Army in 1934. For the British, Manekshaw fought in Burma and at the Indo-China border during the Second World War. In 1946, he was made the Lieutenant-Colonel. Later, upon Partition, Manekshaw's association with his parent unit -- 12th Frontier Force Regiment -- ended as the Pakistani Army acquired the regiment. Instead, Manekshaw was reassigned to the 16th Punjab Regiment.
Manekshaw was instrumental in saving India's frontiers during the 1947 Indo-Pakistani war. However, his outwardness and honesty was not taken well by a few ministers. The then Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon ordered an inquiry against him in the late 1950s, however, he was exonerated.
According to Manekshaw, a ‘yes man’ is a dangerous man. He famously said -- A 'yes man' can become a minister, a secretary or a Field Marshall but he can never become a leader nor, ever be respected. He will be used by his superiors, disliked by his colleagues and despised by his subordinates.
Around the same time, Indo-China war broke out. Given the circumstances, Manekshaw was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and moved to Tezpur. Later, in 1963, he was again promoted as an Army Commander and given the reins of the Western Command. Cut to 1968, he was given a Padma Bhushan for his extraordinary service in 1968. A year later, he became the eighth Chief of Army Staff.
However, his most successful military campaign came towards the end of 1971 when the Indian Army, under his leadership, got more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers to surrender, resulting in the birth of Bangladesh. It is well-known that the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked him to go to Dhaka and accept the surrender of Pakistani troops but he magnanimously declined the moment of glory and asked that Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Army Commander in the East, be sent in his place.
In 1972, he was conferred with the Padma Vibhushan. The same year, Nepal fêted Manekshaw as an honorary general of the Nepalese Army in 1972. Just next year, Manekshaw retired from active service and settled down with his wife in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, a civilian town next to Wellington Military Cantonment.
Manekshaw married Silloo Bode in 1939. It is said that the flamboyant young captain had swept Silloo off her feet at a dinner party in Lahore. An alumna of Mumbai’s Sir JJ School of Art, Silloo was an artist and painter. They had their two daughters.