It has been over seven decades since India took charge of the Army on January 15, 1949, when Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa took over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Francis Bucher, the last British Commander-in-chief of India. The day is celebrated as Army Day. And since then, our bravehearts have been watching our backs. Far from home and loved ones, these heroes stand tall in adverse conditions and when the time comes, they sacrifice their lives with pride to serve the nation. Their heroic actions have been featured in many Bollywood movies including the recent Sidharth Malhotra-starrer Shershaah, which was based on Captain Vikram Batra’s courageous missions during the Kargil War in 1999. Here, we bring to you stories of five heroes whose actions have become legendary and whose stories deserve to be shared repeatedly.
General K.S. Thimayya
Anyone who has taken a little interest in India’s history would know General Kodendera Subayya Thimayya and his crucial years as the sixth Chief of Army Staff from 1957 to 1961. During the 1947 partition, Thimayya was promoted to the rank of Major General in September 1947 and commanded the 4th Infantry Division and took over the Punjab Boundary Force, dealing with the refugee crisis. He was one of the active members in action against the forces of Pakistan in the Kashmir conflict. His appointment in the 19th Infantry Division in Jammu and Kashmir was remarkable for kicking the raiders and the Pakistan Army out of the Kashmir Valley. He led the attack in the forward-most tank, the surprise attack on Zoji La on November 1, 1948, by a brigade with Stuart Light Tanks of the 7th Light Cavalry, eventually capturing Dras, Kargil and Leh. Thimayya retired in May 1957 and died of a heart attack in 1965 in Cyprus.
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
The first Field Marshal of the Indian Army, Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, also known as Sam Bahadur’s distinguished military career spanned four decades and five wars. He participated in the British Indian Army in World War II. It was under his command that Indian forces conducted victories campaigns against Pakistan in the Indio-Pakistani War of 1971 which led to the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971. Born in Amritsar to Parsi parents, Manekshaw joined Indian Military Academy as a revolt against his father who then refused to send him to London to study medicine. Manekshaw was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army (which later became the Indian Army after Independence). Manekshaw’s speeches are still played in military training schools for motivation and war planning.
Major General Ian Cardozo
In the 1971 war with Pakistan, when Major General Ian Cardozo, then a young major with 5 Gorkha Rifles stepped on a landmine and severely injured his leg, the only option he had was to cut his injured leg. But doctors couldn’t cut it, Cardozo asked for a khukri (the Gorkha knife) and cut his leg off, saying, “Now go and bury it!” That’s not it; Cardozo continued to serve the country and perform his duties as a soldier and became the first disabled officer in the Indian Army to command an infantry battalion and a brigade.
Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal
It is no doubt that the 1971 war gave India its real heroes from all three forces, and Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal is one of them. Born in Pune, Second Lieutenant Khetarpal died at the age of 21 in the Battle of Basantar during the Indo-Pak War. He showed immense courage when Pakistan's armour, which was superior in strength, counter attacked at Jarpal in the Shakargarh sector in 1971. Despite being in a different squadron, he rushed to help, marching towards the enemy and capturing Pakistani infantry and weapons. After the commander of his troop was killed, Khetarpal continued to attack until Pakistani tanks were pulled back. He destroyed one of the withdrawing tanks. But Pakistan prepared for a second attack and this time they targeted the sector led by Khetarpal. Khetarpal was wounded in this severe attack but managed to hit 10 enemy tanks and then his tank received a hit which resulted in the death of this courageous officer.
Brigadier Mohammad Usman
Brigadier Mohammad Usman is the only officer who had prize money of Rs 50,000 on his head by the Pakistan Army. During the Indo-Pak war of 1947/48, Brigadier Usman repulsed a fierce attack on Naushera and Jhangar, to highly strategic locations in Jammu and Kashmir and his fellow soldiers named him ‘The Loin of Naushera’. Pakistan suffered heavy casualties after the battle of Naushera and they placed the price money on his head. It was the same army that made the offer of becoming the Chief of the Pakistani Army but he chose to stay in India. He died on July 3, 1948, while defending Jhangar. Brigadier Usman was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously.
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