Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, (3 April 1914 – 27 June 2008) popularly known as ‘Sam Bahadur’, was one of the greatest military commanders India’s had. He was the Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal. His active military career spanned four decades and five wars, beginning with service in the British Indian Army in World War II.

Early Life and Career

Sam Manekshaw was born on 3 April 1914 in Amritsar, Punjab. As a boy, Manekshaw was mischievous and high-spirited. His early ambition was to study medicine and become a doctor like his father.

Manekshaw joined the first intake of the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun in 1932. He was commissioned into the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment stationed in Burma. He became the seventh chief of the army staff in 1969. Under his command, Indian forces conducted victorious campaigns against Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which led to the creation of Bangladesh in December 1971.

Manekshaw served the Army for 40 years and participated in five wars -World War II, India-Pakistan war of 1947, the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the India-Pakistan war of 1965, and the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

Following his service in the Indian Army, Manekshaw served as an independent director on the board of several companies and, in a few cases, as the chairman.

Manekshaw died of complications from pneumonia at the Military Hospital in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, on 27 June 2008 at the age of 94. He was buried in the Parsi cemetery in Ootacamund (Ooty), Tamil Nadu, with military honours, adjacent to his wife’s grave.

Annually, on 16 December, Vijay Diwas is celebrated in memory of the victory achieved under Manekshaw’s leadership in 1971. On 16 December 2008, a postage stamp depicting Manekshaw in his field marshal’s uniform was released by then President Pratibha Patil.

One of his famous quotes is: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gorkha”.


He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in 1942. the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and the Padma Bhushan in 1968, the second and third highest civilian awards of India.


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