Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was undoubtedly the greatest ever soldier India or the world can have. As the army chief of India, Sam’s service to the nation was huge. He brought Indian Army, navy and air force together at the time of war. His excellent planning of the battles and an amazing way of communicating to the entire team, kept the troops motivated. There were many anecdotes of his life which will leave you surprised.
Just before the 1962 war, Sam refused to abide by the policy and authority of Defence V K Krishna Menon, who himself was not competent enough. Sam was sidelined. Def Min. put many charges on him, and one of them was Sam was more loyal to Queen of England rather than India. All the charges were dismissed later and Sam was promoted. Also, Menon was removed after 1962. Jawahar Lal Nehru rushed to him and asked him to stop the Chinese aggression. Sam’s first order of the day was, “there will be no more withdrawals without written orders and these orders shall never be issued” to the 4 Corps.
He was called as Sam Bahadur by the Gorkhas which was a name given by Harka Bahadur, a young soldier of the battalion which only suggested how good was as a leader.
In 1963, while briefing the Prime Minister of the operations in the operations room, he denied the entry of Indira Gandhi citing that she has not taken any oath to secrecy. He was this badass later too when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and Sam was the Army Chief.
Manekshaw told the ministers that East Pakistan is the size of France and it will take thirty days to win the war. But it was done in 13 days, Indira Gandhi asked him why he told so many days, he replied that if he taken one more day extra, the politicians will be behind his back.
During the 1971 war, when the Indian soldiers were proceeding to the eastern command. He strictly told many times, to not hurt any women during the war. He asked if at all a thought comes in their mind of that sort, they have to put their fingers in the pocket and think of Sam Manekshaw.
USA sent their 7th fleet to fight India in the 1971 war. The ships were nuclear capable. The politicians were scared of a nuclear strike of India. The politicians were fearing the United States. Sam said, “If US army intervenes then I have no fear, I will become the greatest general
When India won the Indo-Pak war and Bangladesh was made. Sam was asked by Indira Gandhi to attend the surrender of Pakistan army but Sam was so modest that he declined and didn’t visit. According to him, the credit of whole eastern command goes to Lt Gen. Jagjit Aurora and he should attend it. He remarked he will only go to surrender of entire Pakistani army.
After the war, there was 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war which were brought to India. It was 45,000 soldiers and 45,000 civilians among them. Sam visited them in their tents and he first asked permission of Subedar Major to enter inside. He was shocked that the army chief of the enemy who just defeated them asked for permission. He then asked of well being of the soldiers and asked if mosquito nets are working properly. Also, spoke to the widows of the Pakistani soldiers and made sure they were comfortable.
He also had food with the Pakistani soldiers which were made by them. While he was leaving, Subedar Major asked his permission to say something. He said, “Pardon me for saying this but I know why you won the war. It’s because you care for your men. The way you visited us today, not even our soldiers visit us, they consider themselves as Nawaabzadas.
Sam was a man who lead with example. He motivated the troops to achieve great professional standards. Sam was so honest, that in an interview, he said Pakistani soldiers fought bravely but their leadership failed. Appreciation of the enemy needs a spine.
Once a reporter asked him, what if he had went to Pakistan in 1947, he said calmly “then you will have a defeated India.”
Sam is an inspiration and he shall be one forever. Sam lived his last years away from limelight in Wellington. It was just shameful that no politicians visited his funeral. Even,
Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal F H Major were very much at Delhi but they didn’t bother to visit. Indian army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor had valid reason for not attending as he was touring Russia. Read here for more.