Who is Sam Manekshaw, the Legendary War General?
Sam Manekshaw, India’s first Field Marshal, was not just a military genius but also a linguist. Born in Amritsar, he spent his initial years in the city, becoming naturally fluent in Punjabi. His proficiency in the language was not only a result of his Parsi background but also his service in an Infantry battalion with Sikh troops during the early years of his career. Many soldiers sought his help, and he readily assisted them. His biopic is set to be released on December 1.
‘Sam Bahadur’ and Gorkha Troops
Affectionately known as ‘Sam Bahadur,’ Manekshaw held a special place in the hearts of the 8 Gorkha Rifles, despite never serving with Gorkha troops. Commissioned in the Frontier Force Regiment with predominantly Sikh troops, his career path led him through various regiments. Though he missed the opportunity to command the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Gorkha Rifles due to important assignments during the 1948-49 Kashmir War, he cherished his later role as the Colonel of the 8th Gorkha Rifles in 1953.
The 1962 Inquiry
Before the 1962 war with China, Sam Manekshaw faced a challenging Court of Inquiry. As the Commandant of Defence Services Staff College, he was subjected to trumped-up charges. Many believed these charges were politically motivated, possibly orchestrated by the then Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon. The inquiry, presided over by Lt Gen Daulet Singh, cleared Sam of all charges. Notably, Sam displayed no vendetta against those who spoke against him as he rose higher in the Army.
Troop Movement and Blame
In 1963, Sam Manekshaw assumed the role of GOC-in-C Western Command. Before Jawaharlal Nehru’s death, anticipating unrest, the Army Chief directed Sam to move troops to Delhi. Despite Sam’s written protest, he complied with the orders. After Nehru’s death, blame for the troop movement was unfairly placed on Sam. His subsequent posting as GOC-in-C Eastern Command was seen as a consequence of this misunderstanding.
Compassion in the Aftermath of War
After the 1971 Indo-Pak war, Sam Manekshaw demonstrated compassion towards the nearly 90,000 Pakistan Army prisoners of war. He personally visited their camps to inspect conditions and provided support when needed. In a touching gesture, he sourced a Quran for a Pakistani Army Colonel undergoing treatment in a Delhi Military Hospital, showcasing his humanity beyond the battlefield.
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