(1914 – 2008)
India has numerous war heroes in its large collection of folklores, ballads, epics, and legends. But they are all from our tribal memories and oral traditions as well as ancient literature. Into this huge body of the exploits of our heroes, one name stands out as a very exceptional instance, for it belongs not to the hoary past, but to the very present. And that is Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshesdji Manekshaw, the first India-born Field Marshall and the 8th chief of staff of the Indian army, whom the Indians called 'Sam Bahadur' showering their special affection and respect on the great hero. He served the country as a distinguished soldier for over forty years and through five wars, including the World War II. His most glorious achievement was when he led the army successfully in the India-Pakistan war of 1971 which led to the unconditional surrender of around 93,000 Pakistani soldiers to the Indian generals, and the creation of a new country, Bangladesh. It was this victory that won this brave soldier the honorary rank of Field Marshall, and he had also won the Padmabhushan, and the Pamdavibhushan, two of the top civilian awards of the country, and the Military Cross.
Sam Manekshaw was born in 1914 into a distinguished Parsi family in Amritsar of Punjab to Dr. Hormusji Manekshaw, who has served the British Army as a medical officer during the First World War, and Heerabai. He had three brothers and two sisters and they inherited from their parents a deep sense of honor, honesty and humor. Sam wanted to go to London to study medicine, but finally he landed in Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun in 1931 in its very first batch and commissioned as a second lieutenant of the Frontier Force Regiment in 1934. He took part in the World War II as a captain and this fearless soldier was awarded with the Military Cross on the battlefield itself, when he was injured by machine gun fire. He handled deftly many difficult situations in Kashmir after the partition of the country, and the Padmabhushan came to him in 1968 as he solved the insurgency problem in the north eastern Nagaland. It was in 1969 that he took over as the chief of army staff when tens of thousands refugees from the then East Pakistan flowed into India. Manekshaw could foresee the dimensions of this problem and when it escalated into a full-fledged war between India and Pakistan, it was more Manekshaw's vast experience, and ability to face difficult problems, his uncommon brilliance as a strategist, his commitment as a soldier of India and the chief of the army, that made the historic win possible.
The legendary hero of many battles and peace for India, Sam Manekshaw breathed his last on 27 June 2008 of old age-related complications. He was 94.