Remembering Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw on his 100th Birthday


April 3, 2013

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Col LK Anand (Retd) sends us a compilation of information about Field Marshal Sam HFJ Manekshaw. Sam Bahadur as he was known to his soldiers would have turned 100 years today.

Compiled by Col LK Anand Retd


Remembering a Great and Charismatic Indian Soldier

1. Full Name – Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw

2. Nickname – Sam Bahadur

3. Parents. Father – Dr. Hormusji Manekshaw and Mother – Smt Heerabai

4. Date and Place of Birth – 3 April 1914 – Amritsar, Punjab

5. Date and Place of death 27 Jun 2008 – Wellington, Tamil Nadu

6. Education – Schooling. Amritsar and Sherwood College (Nainital)

7. Commission into Army – Dec 1934 from Indian Military Academy in the first batch for Officers.

8. Commissioned in 8th Gurkha Rifles and served from December 1934 to June 1973

9. Ranks and Promotions in the Army

( a ) Second Lieutenant, British Indian Army-1934

( b ) Lieutenant-1935

( c ) Captain-1940

( d ) Major-1943

( e ) Lieutenant-Colonel-1945

( f ) Colonel-1946

( g ) Brigadier-1947

( f ) Brigadier, Indian Army-1950

( g ) Major-General, Indian Army-December 1957

( h ) Lieutenant-General-December 1963

( j ) General (COAS)-8 June 1969

( k ) Field Marshal-3 January 1973

10. Chief of Army Staff – He was the 8th Chief of the Army Staff (COAS)

11. Battles/Wars

( a ) World War II

( b ) Indo?Pakistan War of 1947

( c ) Sino?Indian War of 1962

( d ) Indo?Pakistan War of 1965

( e ) Indo?Pakistan War of 1971

12. Honours and Awards

( a ) Military Cross

( b ) Padma Bhushan

( c ) Padma Vibhushan


13. Military Career 1934 to 1973 : Some interesting facts

( a ) World War II – He was leading a counter-offensive against the invading Japanese Army in Burma in 1941, having got the task of Defence of Sittang Bridge – Captain Manekshaw who was with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, was hit by a burst of LMG bullets and received 9 bullets in the lung, liver region and in his kidney and was critically/severely wounded. He has the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battle front itself. Major General D.T. Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and was aware of his valour in face of stiff resistance from the Japanese. Fearing the worst, Major General Cowan quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross." He was moved to hospital. When the surgeon asked what had happened to him he is said to have replied that he was kicked by a donkey.

( b ) Indo-Pak War 1947 – During the Pak invasion of Kashmir Sam Manekshaw was in charge of operations in Army HQ. He displayed incisive grasp of situation and acumen for planning as was noticed by all his superior commanders

( c ) Sino?Indian War of 1962 – Refused to toe the line of then Defence Minister VK Krishan Menon – He was side lined. After humiliating defeat in 1962 war, he was rushed by the Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to contain the advancing Chinese aggression. His first order of the day was “There will be no withdrawal without orders – and these orders shall never be issued”. Chinese never got an inch thereafter.

( d ) As Corps Commander (GOC) 4 Corps Tezpur – 1963 – Denied Indira Gandhi’s entry into the Operations Room during briefing of Prime Minister Nehru saying she had not taken the oath to secrecy (A fact recounted by the Defence Minister’s Secretary Mr RB Pradhan in his book) of a Minister. Six years later Indira Gandhi accepted him as the COAS and had an excellent rapport with him.

( e ) As Army Commander (GOC in C) Eastern Command – 1965 – Advised against attacking East Pakistan, in a stern manner, stating the people would be the main sufferers. .

( f ) As Army Chief (COAS) -1971. Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi wanted General Manekshaw (COAS) to carry out an immediate, lethal and swift surgical strike on Pakistan in Jun 1971 to install a government led by Sheikh Mujib ur  Rehman. Refusing to be politically coerced he said “If ordered it will be done, but I guarantee a certain defeat and I have following reasons to say so First ? In June the monsoon would render troop movement in the Eastern region near impossible and Second – Open Himalayan mountain passes will not permit lifting at least two Infantry divisions from the Chinese front”.

The wisdom of his advice dawned, when Indian Army attacked the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan in 1971 and people of East Pakistan welcomed and in Dec 1971 helped Indian Army in many ways for a victory over Pakistan Army. His strategic and operational finesse was evident when Indian pincers cut through the Pakistani forces like butter through knife in Dec 1971. Pakistan Army was checkmated in 14 days flat from 3rd to 16th December 1971 – with a total of 45,000 Pak soldiers and 45,000 civilians taken as POWs. Taking 45000 Pak soldiers and 45000 civilians as POWs and then installing the new Bangladeshi Government under Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman was the greatest evermilitary victory for India. Now,16 Dec each year is celebrated as the ‘Vijay Diwas’. Sam Manekshaw was a Man of great conviction because following the1971 victory he flew into Calcutta to compliment his officers.In the ceremonial reception at the Dum Dum Airport he was escorted to a car a Mercedes captured from the enemy.He refused to sit in it and left in nearest available Indian car. .

( g ) Promotion to Field Marshal. 01 Jan 1973 General SHFJ Manekshaw, Military Cross, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, stepped forward to the Presidential dais and saluted stiffly. President VV Giri ceremoniously handed Manekshaw a V.V. ornate silver?tipped baton to give the nation her first Indian Field Marshal in history. .

( h ) Professional Competence. Once a defence secretary made an observation on the note written by Manekshaw for the PM and the Defence Minister. He walked straight into Mrs Gandhi’s office. He politely told her that if she found the defence secretary more competent than him on military matters, then she did not have a need for him. The defence secretary was given a new job. .

( j ) Defence Services Staff College November 1998. In a lecture to officers of three services attending course at Defence Services Staff College on eadership and discipline for handling senior level appointments Sam’s definition of the key attributes of a successful leader are summarised below: .

( i ) Attribute 1 – Professional Knowledge and Professional Competence a ‘sine qua non’ – hard work and constant study. .

( ii ) Attribute 2 – The ability to make up your mind to make a decision and accept full responsibility for that decision ? An act of omission is much worse that an act of commission. .

( iii) Attribute 3 – Absolute honesty, fairness and justice ? should be perceived by his team, to be fair in his dealings with one and all. .

( iv) Attribute 4 – Physical and Moral courage ? A ‘yes’ man is a dangerous man. .

( v ) Attribute 5 – Loyalty ? to our subordinates to subordinates, our colleagues, deal firmly with trouble creators in a team. .

( vi ) Attribute 6 – Manliness ? a certain measure of flamboyance, a certain
style and a vibrant personality, both in women and men leaders. .

( k ) Role Model for Own Officers. The Sam Bahadur was a team player. He almost always finished his own work in an hour and spent the rest of his time floating from one office to another to understand what keeps people so busy. He often dropped in on harried juniors and eagerly helped them with their tasks. Those who served with him said that he never raised his voice. But even a mild rebuke accompanied by “Sweetheart, this will not do,” was enough to tame the wildest of soldiery egos. .

( l ) Role Model for Corporate Leaders. For the future corporate leaders aspiring a makeover from good to great the Field Marshal was the ultimate role model. There was a lot to learn from the 94 years of brilliance, selfless service, ‘joie de vivre’ the charismatic and ultimate leadership, which the Field Marshal Sam Bahadur could offer us. Manekshaw was on the board of a large number of Indian companies of the corporate world and was a favourite amongst the directors. .

14. His Doctrines for All Types of leaders.

( i ) Raw Physical Courage. Any aspiring leader needs raw courage in abundance. The Raw physical courage Sam Bahadur possessed was in full and overflowing measure ? but does a CEO need it? • Of course he does ? natural disasters, terrorist strikes, industrial accidents other emergencies ? will the CEO be the first to run or first to respond? His response could make or break his organisation and his own leadership potential for future. .

( ii ) Moral Courage. Even more important is moral courage ? the courage of conviction, the courage to stand up to the values one believes in. True corporate leaders should neither buckle under pressure nor deviate from organisational welfare ? to command loyalty and followership .

( iii ) Spotting & Deploying Talent. The real genius of Sam lay in his choice of field commanders. That is a skill that every CEO must build to spell the difference between success and failure. Ability to spot and deploy right talent ? with the skill set and mindscape that guarantees delivery. .

( iv ) Planning & Faith. The ability to plan to the required degree and to simultaneously invest and consummate faith in your people is the hall mark of a great leader. Sam practised this expertly throughout his long and chequered career, especially during the 1971 war. CEOs need to carryout detailed and meticulous planning and back their team fully with unrelenting faith. .

( v ) Seek The Best Ideas. The best ideas may be embedded deep within the organisation. The CEO’s job is to ferret them out and implement them. Sam excelled in getting ideas from the rank and file; he would never pull his rank on his subordinates trying to tell him something that was very different from his own ideas. .

( vi ) Strategic & Tactical balance. Sam assembled his assault force, supplied them with strategic guidance and demanded execution of plans from the field commanders. This balance is what CEOs need. While strategic initiatives are important, their grassroots implementation is equally vital. .

( vii ) Direct Communication. Sam teaches us the importance of simple, direct and many times the earthy communication. Known for his wit and informality, he could get straight to the heart of the matter. CEOs must imbibe this in full measure. Many times measures and corporate communications and discussions are mired in obfuscation and jargonising. The principle of jargonising what you will do, and then do what you said” is the bedrock of credibility. .

(viii) Giving Due Credit to Subordinates and Readiness to Accept Full Responsibility for Failure. Manekshaw declined to preside over the Pakistani surrender in Dhaka. He insisted that the credit of Dhaka should go to the Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora. He remarked that he would go only to accept the surrender of the entire Pakistani Army. .

( ix ) Professional Respect and Ethos. After the 1971 war, Manekshaw insisted that the bodies of Pakistani officers be returned in proper coffins, and with military citation if they had gone down fighting bravely. He lauded the bravery of even his enemies. Such magnanimity is rare in military history. .

( x ) Connect with Troops. As COAS, Manekshaw had issued instructions that if anyone from 54 Sikh, came visiting, he be brought straight to him, whatever time or engagement. All were received with a robust burst of colloquial Punjabi, which Manekshaw spoke like a native of Punjab his birth place. And none was unrequited when left. .

15. The Final Days. A Field Marshal never retires. Instead of a salary, Sam Manekshaw was given a paltry pension of Rs. 1300 per month with no perks, not even a car……thanks to the political masters and the bureaucrats. Let alone taking up a case he never even mentioned it to anyone. The matter came to light eventually when the Government gave him a cheque for Rs. 16 million in lieu of the salary he should have received as Field Marshal but didn’t get for over 36 years. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was admitted in the hospital for progressive lung disease“. He had slipped into a coma earlier in the day and the end came just after midnight at 00:30am, on June 27 2008. He passed away into the pantheon of immortal Indian heroes and all?time great military leaders of the world The saga of his life will continue to world. His qualities of leadership and camaraderie would continue to motivate and inspire untold generations. As quoted by one of the doctors in MH Wellington his last words were “I am better”. .

The man, who asked his subordinates to be “mentally and physically robust” and defeated the enemy decisively, pass away quietly, leaving behind a grateful nation. It was indeed sad that a great general and leader was no more, but it was even a more sad affair, not to see the President of India, the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister did not attend his funeral, simply because he was a man of conviction and courage and an upright and unbending general. ( He was one of those great generals who can only think of resounding victories in war, never a cease-fire. .

See also : India’s political establishment and its shabby treatment of a national hero, by Commodore C Uday Bhaskar (retd) .

( o ) To BID HIM ADIEU. A condolence book for Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was kept at the ‘Martyrs Memorial’ at India Gate. The book had to be kept open for two more days owing to tremendous public response. The government said opening a condolence book for the Field Marshal is a singular honour given to the departed Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw. .

16. A long List of his Outstanding Qualities. ..

  • Perspective on Effective Leadership Behaviour
  • Participative Leadership.
  • Accepted full responsibility for all decisions
  • Being supportive, constructive and goal oriented
  • Subordinate participation in decision making
  • Improved communication
  • Facilitate conflict resolution
  • Nature of insisting on Participative Leadership
  • War Time: Consultative Made decisions after taking inputs from his field commanders and with final decision indisputable.
  • Quality of decisions which were accurate timely – Imagine the time and space for the Indo-Pak War -1971 which was a 14 days of planned war
  • Decision acceptance by the political leadership. Yielded highest performance during Liberation of Bangladesh with Minimum collateral damage
  • Nature faith and confidence in Participative Leadership

Peace Time:< /b>

  • Delegation Commanders at all level had functional freedom within the given framework.
  • Actively defined the goals to be achieved, Task oriented which Yielded high morale
  • High standards of discipline and a Charismatic Leader
  • Articulated Vision and Mission.
  • Planned all the operations of war meticulously and achieved remarkable success in them.
  • High moral courage and Taking Personal Risks.
  • The Sittang Bridge defence episode and His firm and professional dealings with the bureaucracy and his firm and professional dealings with the bur.eaucracy and political leadership ? were a clear indicator.
  • Sensitivity to Followers’ Needs.
  • His dealing with the officers and men were of exemplary order raising the morale of the Troops of Indian Army through a telling defeat on Pakistan and looking after the troops of 54 Sikh are examples.
  • Unconventional Behavior. His dressing style, the characteristic sense of humor and handling of the political masters. sense of humour and handling of the political masters

Charismatic Traits and Skills

Authoritatively Stylish: Magnificently moustachioed, charming and dapper. Self confidence and self control:

The quintessential soldier: cool and bold cool and bold • Personal Integrity Behaviour consistent with espoused values – honesty, ethical , trustworthy

Irreverent and no apple polishing, Characteristic sense of Humour

Interpersonal skills: He was an able listener, irrespective of how junior his interlocutor

Transformational Traits and Skills

Self confidence: Seminal and decisive. Internal Locus of control, life determined by own actions and not by chance or uncontrollable forces. Achievement orientation assumed responsibility, displayed desire to excel and drive to succeed

Emotional Stability and Maturity

Considerate to those under his command Above all, impervious to political pressure. Conceptual skills: Through earthiness and plain?speak he motivated an army that achieved what no other army has achieved what no other army has done since the Second World War — liberating a nation.

Even the US with all its might and technical wizardry, has not managed such a feat in the past years.

Types of power


Legitimate Power: Legitimate Power: Executive Authority on behalf of the President of India on Matters National and President of India on Matters National and Matters Military Expert Power: Had expertise on all Operations of War Faced bullets and death in war – awarded Military Cross for exceptional gallantry Had fought 5 wars ? decorated three times ? served the Nation for nearly 40 years

Referent Power: The officers and men equally admired and identified with his charisma – they also behaved fearlessly and in upright manner to gain approval.

Reward Power: He had the final say on the war and peace time citations and rewards

17. Some Famous Anecdotes

He surmised once: I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been 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 resemble the latter.

Once the PM reportedly confronted him with rumours that he was planning a coup against her…… He is said to have replied: “Don’t you think I would be a worthy replacement for you, prime minister? You have long nose and So have I. But I don’t poke my nose into other people’s affairs

Once when at a presidential banquet, he told Prime Minister Indira Gandhi “You look very pretty tonight” Surrounded by her ministers, she blushed and said “Thank you, Sam”

How many chiefs would refuse to call the prime minister ‘Madame’ on the grounds that it would be impolite to use a word more appropriate in bawdy houses? “I’m always ready, sweetie”. On being asked by Indira Gandhi about the Indian Army’s readiness for the Indo-Pak War of 1971. However, later he frankly explained his views on the Prime Ministers suggestion. He even offered to give his letter of resignation on this issue. There is a very interesting talk available on this issue in a link on “youtube”.

You received three at this age; when I was of your age, I received nine bullets and look today I am the  Commander in Chief of the Indian Army. During the 1971 Indo?Pakistan War when he met an injured soldier in Army Hospital with three bullet wounds.

To an interviewer about a row of Barbie dolls in his house promptly explained: “I always wanted to play with dolls When I was young my mom wouldn’t allow me to, then my wife came along, and I still was not allowed to. Finally, I told myself, ‘now I am the Field Marshall, I will damn well do as I please and went and got myself the dolls! ” Sam Manekshaw married Siloo in 1939. When she died in 2001, those who knew him in Wellington observed, that its only then did age begin to show on him.

Speech to gentlemen cadets at IMA, Dehradun on March 30, 1972, Manekshaw said You are going to be given command of troops in an operational area. Your task will be to administer the needs and to lead them in battle. What sort of men will you be commanding? You will be leading and dealing with veterans? You will be leading those who have fought wars, men who have won wars, men who are used to good things. Make sure you give them the best of leadership. Make it very clear to them, what you expect from them and also what you can give them. It was universally felt by all gentlemen cadets, that his speech, his bearing and the suggested grace was more important in victory than in defeat.


Recollections of Some People who came in Contact


1. I recollect my meeting with Manekshaw at the Mumbai airport a couple of years ago. While waiting at the departure lounge, I saw the Field Marshal walk in with an attendant in tow. I went across from where I was sitting to greet him. He shook my hand warmly and was surprised when I asked him for his autograph. “My autograph, what will you do with it son ” he asked. I replied that I would show it to my children, and preserve it for generations to come. He obliged. It was one of the best moments of my life. T.V. Suresh


2. I had the proud privilege of seeing or meeting Sam Manekshaw on three different occasions.


First time, when I was a Cadet under training in Khadakwasla, when he visited National Defence Academy in the year 1961-62 as Maj Gen while commanding a Division in Eastern Sector. We were absolutely impressed with his great personality.


Second time, in Oct-Nov 1971 when the liberation of Bangladesh was imminent and the Indo-Pak War just in the offing. I was posted on the Western Front. He addressed all officers and Jawans in J & K and advised "Gentle Men, please ensure the excellent reputation of the Army and do not ever do anything wrong in the war which was soon coming. Your behaviour with the civilians and especially the helpless women should be above board. Still if you are compelled to do anything wrong, please remember me and put your hands in your pockets and I assure you nothing wrong will happen".


Third time, after his retirement at Bangalore Airport- He remarked "that even after commanding one of the biggest Armies of the world and fighting so many battles in my lifetime, I am unable to command one person, and that is this lady – My Wife". Then, I had a number of presentation files in my hand. He remarked, "Young man, you must have wor
ked really hard in producing these files. Frankly, if I were you, I wouldn’t do them up, coz its easier to take a "rocket" than to do this stupid work. No doubt he was a soldier par excellence and highly quick and sharp witted. His memories will ever be cherished.

Col LK Anand Retd

One of his many famous quotes

"If anyone tells you he is never afraid,

he is a liar or he is a Gurkha."


This compilation is produced specifically on 3rd April because this day in 1914 was Sam Bahadur Born.

The contents of this compilation including photographs have been obtained from various sources and writings as well as from the internet. I am particularly thankful and grateful to the efforts of Colonel Ashutosh Sirothia, whose efforts in collecting various notes and facts on Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw have been very useful in this compilation. I am hopeful that this information would be very useful and educative to great fans and followers of the Outstanding son of India.

I sincerely appeal to our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, If Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw could not be honoured with Bharat Ratna during his lifetime, the least which the Government of India can do is to honour him now, by bestowing upon him the award of Bharat Ratna Posthumously. He is one of the most deserving son of India and a great, brave and distinguished soldier, who brought many a glorious victories and moments of achievements to this grateful Nation.