Manekshaw's 100th birth anniversary today

Remembering Sam Bahadur

Manekshaw's 100th birth anniversary today

Even in hospital, India’s most famous soldier Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, popularly known as Sam Bahadur, had his funny bone intact.

When former defence secretary Vijay Singh visited him in the Military Hospital in Wellington a few months before his death in 2008, he brought chocolates for the ailing Field Marshal. “The previous defence secretary brought a better gift,” quipped Sam, referring to a visit by Singh’s predecessor in the defence ministry Sekhar Dutt who came with a cheque worth more than a crore of rupees that the government awarded to Manekshaw for his Field Marshal rank.

Sam Bahadur was India’s first and longest serving five star officer (the other being late Field Marshal K M Cariappa), who received the rank of a Field Marshal on January 1, 1973.

The rank was conferred to him almost a year after he scripted India’s most famous military victory in 1971 war with Pakistan that led to creation of Bangladesh.

Born in Amritsar, Manekshaw joined the British Indian Army in 1934. His military career spanned over four decades, from the British era and World War II, to the wars against China and Pakistan after India’s independence in 1947.

Manekshaw received near-fatal battle wounds in the Burma campaign during the World War II. After recovery, he joined the battle once again and was wounded for a second time. He rose in the ranks to become the Army Chief in 1969 and masterminded the rout of the Pakistan Army in one of the quickest victories in recent military history.

On the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh on Thursday will unveil a statue of Sam Bahadur at an Army convention centre in the national capital.  The unveiling comes six years after former Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapur stirred a controversy by not sending a condolence message to Sam’s family after his death.

Kapur was away in Russia at the time of Sam’s death and asked the Vice Chief Lt Gen M L Naidu to be present at Sam’s funeral held at Madras regiment drill square at Ooty.

The political class including Defence Minister A K Antony, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil, who was also the supreme commander of the armed forces at that time, did not attend the funeral and the government was represented by then minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju, though the Field Marshal was accorded a state funeral.

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