New Delhi: A soldier`s General, Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw crafted India`s greatest military victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war that created just not history but also a new nation.
Affectionately called `Sam Bahadur`, Manekshaw (94) was the architect of many a military triumph but his finest hour came when Pakistani forces were vanquished in 14 days flat. And Bangladesh was born.
Handsome, witty and sporting his trademark handlebar moustache, Manekshaw had the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery - Military Cross - right on the battle front itself during the Second World War. He was also the first Indian officer to command the Gorkhas after India got Independence.
Manekshaw, who got a second life after the young Captain survived near fatal wounds during the Second World War in Burma, is the first of only two Indian military officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal of the Indian Army (The other being Field Marshal K M Cariappa).
His distinguished military career spanned four decades from the British era and through five wars, including the Second World War.
Flamboyant by nature, Manekshaw always had his way with people, including his seniors and even the country`s Head of Government.
Just before the Bangladesh operations in December 1971, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi asked Manekshaw ,who was the Army Chief then, `General are you ready` (for the war). Pat came the reply from the dapper officer, `I am always ready sweetie.` Gandhi was not unpleased, nor offended.
On another occasion, Gandhi asked him whether he was planning to take over the country. Pointing to his long nose, the General replied: `I don`t use it to poke into other`s affairs.`
Images: Retired Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw (C) salutes at a military parade in New Delhi 23 October 2004. The event marked the first ever conclave of former chiefs of India`s million-plus military. AFP
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