One of the most gallant, celebrated and decorated army officers of India, Sam Manekshaw, is known for his four decade long exceptional career in the Indian Army. Recipient of the highest level of awards by the Govt. of India, Sam had a challenging career as an army officer. He witnessed many promotions in his work life owing to his hard work, intelligence, dedication and confidence.
Let us take a glimpse life of Sam Manekshaw, right through his early life, education and career.
1. Popularly known as Sam Bahadur
His real name is Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw. He was nicknamed ‘Sam Bahadur’ when he visited a Gorkha unit and was referred to as ‘Sam Bahadur’ by an orderly there. Thereafter, he was popularly known as Sam Bahadur by everyone.
2. Born to a Parsi family
Sam was born on 3rd April 1914 in Amritsar, Punjab to a Parsi family. His father, Hormusji Manekshaw was a doctor and decided to settle with his wife in Amritsar, while they were on their way to settle down in Lahore 1903.
Sam did his primary schooling from Punjab and post that he went to the Sherwood College, Nainital. Subsequently, he pursued his senior Cambridge through Cambridge Board and passed with distinction. Sam wanted to become a doctor, however, when his father refused to send him to London to study by saying that Sam was too young to stay abroad on his own, an angry appeared for the entrance exam for the Indian Military Academy and got through. He was one of the 15 cadets that were selected through this open competition, ranking 6th in order.
4. Sam’s father, Hormusji Manekshaw had also served in the British Indian Army during the First World War, as a captain in the Indian Medical Services.
5. First Batch
In October 1932, Sam became a part of the first batch of cadets for a military academy in India which was recommended by Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwood in order to train Indians for officer commissions in the army. The batch was called ‘the Pioneers’.
Sam met his wife Siloo Bode on 22 April 1939 in Bombay and the couple had two daughters Sherry and Maya born in 1940 and 1945, respectively.
7. Wars fought
In a career spanning across four decades, Sam fought five wars – World War II in 1942, Indo-Pak partition war in 1947, Sino-Indian War in 1962, Indo-Pak War in 1965 and the 1971 war of Bangladesh Liberation.
8. Cheated Death
He is known to have cheated death on many occasions. There was this one time when during the World War II, while fighting around the Pagoda Hill, he was hit by a burst of light machine gun fire and he was severely wounded in the stomach. He was rescued and taken to an Australian surgeon who operated upon him and took out a total of seven bullets from his lungs, liver and kidneys. Along with that, a big part of his intestines also had to be removed.
9. Sam was known for his wit and sense of humour
During the above-mentioned incident, the surgeon initially refused to treat Sam as his chances of survival were very low. When he asked Sam how he got injured, Sam replied that he was ‘kicked by a mule’. The surgeon was impressed by his wit and thereby agreed to operate upon him.
10. Powerful Quotes by Sam Manekshaw
He has been known for throwing some of the best quotes ever heard in military. One such quote was made by him when he was asked what would have happened if he would have opted for Pakistan during partition, he replied saying ‘then Pakistan would have won all the wars.’ Another popular quote made by him is ‘If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gorkha.’
11. When Manekshaw humiliated General Yahya Khan
During India’s independence in 1947, Sam Manekshaw and Yahya Khan, the future president of Pakistan served together in the British Amry. At that time Manekshaw owned a red James motorcycle which Yahya Khan fancied. Yahya bought the motorcycle from Sam for Rs 1,000 and promised to send the amount from Pakistan. But the money never came to Sam. After 24 years in 1971, under the leadership of Sam, when India won the war against Pakistan which led to formation of Bangladesh, Manekshaw was heard saying,
“Yahya never paid me the Rs. 1000 for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”
12. First Indian Army officer who became Field Marshal
Although he was set to retire in June 1972, his term was extended by 6 six months to facilitate him with a promotion to the rank of a field marshal. Therefore, in recognition of his outstanding services to the Armed Forces and the nation, he was promoted to a Field Marshal and thus became the first ever Indian Army officer to be promoted to this rank.
In his exceptional career, Sam has received a total of 3 reputed awards. The first was during the World war II for which he received a Millitary Cross for gallantry. The second and third being the Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan, which are the second and third highest civilian awards of India, respectively.
14. Always ready to put his country first
It is believed that right before the Indo-Pak 1971 war Indira Gandhi asked Sam about the readiness and preparation of the Indian Army, he responded saying ‘I am always ready sweetie’. He had a great rapport with Indira Gandhi due to his Parsi connection and would often call her a ‘sweetie/sweetheart.’
15. A compassionate man
After the Indo-Pak war of 1971, more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoners by the Indian Army. After the war, Sam came to be known for his compassion towards the POWs and would have private conversations with them over a cup of tea. He also ensured that they were treated well and would arrange for their parcels from their families and a copy of Quran.
16. When Sam was questioned by Indira Gandhi about rumours of a planned coup by the army chief
Manekshaw replied in his style,
“You mind your own business, I’ll mind mine. You kiss your own sweetheart, I’ll kiss mine. I don’t interfere politically, as long as nobody interferes with me in the Army.”
Towards the end of his career, he was involved in various controversies and was also branded ‘anti-national’ by some. One of the controversies arose when he objected to the political interference with the army. The other two were almost non-existent and didn’t do much harm to his career.
Sam breathed his last on 27th June 2008 at the age of 94 due to complications from pneumonia at the Military Hospital in Wellington. It is believed that his last words were ‘I am Ok’ and that just proved his positivity, resilience and a strong personality.
19. Movie on Sam Manekshaw
Actor Vicky Kaushal, who was earlier seen in army uniform in “Uri: The Surgical Strike”, is all set to portray Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in an upcoming biographical film “Sam”. The movie will be directed by Raazi fame Meghna Gulzar.
Such dedication and perseverance are rarely seen in anyone. A perfect blend of strength, wit, intelligence and will, Sam Manekshaw earned respect due to his exceptional work for the Armed Forces. He will always be remembered for his dedication and determination.