Coimbatore (TN), Jun 27: Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, whose military victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war led to the creation of Bangladesh, died at the Military Hospital in Wellington early this morning. He was 94. Manekshaw, who was admitted in the hospital for some time for "progressive lung disease", had slipped into a coma earlier in the day and the end came just after midnight at 00:30 am, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
He had developed "acute broncho pneumonia with associated complications." Manekshaw assumed charge of the Indian Army, as the 8th Chief of Army Staff, on June 7, 1969. Born in Amritsar on April 3, 1914, he completed his schooling in Amritsar and Sherwood College in Nainital. He then joined the first batch of 40 cadets at Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun on October 1, 1932. He passed out of the IMA in December 1934 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Indian Army.
He held several regimental assignments and was first attached to the Royal Scouts and later to the 12 Frontier Force Rifles. During World War II, he saw action in the Burma campaign on Sittang River and has the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battlefront itself.
During World War II, he was leading a counter-offensive against the invading Japanese Army in Burma. As he charged forward with his men, a Japanese soldier suddenly emerged from the bushes and fired at him, wounding him seriously in the stomach. Fortunately, Major General D T Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and was aware of his valour in face of stiff resistance from the Japanese.
Fearing the worst, Major General Cowan quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross."
Having recovered from those near-fatal wounds in Burma, Manekshaw went for a course at Staff College, Quetta and later also served there as an instructor before being sent to join 12 Frontier Force Rifles in Burma under General (later Field Marshal) Slim's 14th Army.
He was once again involved in a fierce battle with the Japanese, and was wounded for a second time. Towards the close of World War II, Manekshaw was sent as Staff Officer to General Daisy in Indo-China where, after the Japanese surrender, he helped rehabilitate over 10,000 POWs.
He, then, went on a six-month lecture tour to Australia in 1946, and after his return served as a First Grade Staff Officer in the Military Operations Directorate at Army HQ in New Delhi.
Manekshaw showed acumen for planning and administration while handling the issues related to partition in 1947, and later put to use his battle skills during the 1947-48 Jammu and Kashmir Operations.
After command of an Infantry Brigade he was posted as the Commandant of the Infantry School and also became the Colonel of 8 Gorkha Rifles (his regimental home) and 61 Cavalry.
He commanded a Division in Jammu and Kashmir and a Corps in the North East, with tenure as Commandant of Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) in between.
As GOC-in-C Eastern Command, he handled the tricky problem of insurgency in Nagaland and the grateful nation honoured him with a Padma in 1968.
Manekshaw succeeded General Kumaramangalam as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on June 7, 1969. His years of military experience were soon put to the test as thousands of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan started crossing over to India as a result of oppression unleashed from West Pakistan.
The volatile situation got worse, and soon erupted into a full-scale war in December 1971. During the military campaign, Manekshaw showed uncommon ability to motivate the forces, coupling it with a mature war strategy. The war ended with Pakistan's unconditional surrender, and the formation of Bangladesh.
For his selfless service to the nation, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and was conferred with the honorary rank of Field Marshal on January 1, 1973. He retired a fortnight later, on January 15, 1973, after completing nearly four decades of military service.
Some of his achievements as COAS are:
• Prepared the Army for a well-planned and a well executed operation against Pakistan in 1971, leading to the creation of Bangladesh.
• As Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, he welded the Army, Navy and Air Force into a well-knit team.
• Taking of over 90,000 Pakistan POWs, thereby paving the way for favourable negotiations.