We are filled with pride when we hear of the achievements of the Indian army. Recently, the Indian military was ranked fourth strongest in the world. But do you know about the man who laid the foundations of the Indian Army as we know it today?
Kodandera M Cariappa, first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, is an officer whose legacy needs to be celebrated.
Born on January 28, 1899, K M Cariappa was one of six children of an official in the British colonial administration of India. He grew up listening to the stories of World War I veterans, and always wanted to join the armed forces.
Soon after joining the army, he became one of the best cadets of his batch.
In 1933, K M Cariappa got through the Quetta Staff College’s entrance examination. He was the first Indian military officer to attend the course. In 1942, he was given the command of an army unit, becoming the first Indian officer to have British officers serving under him.
Later, he became free India’s first Chief of Army Staff on 15 January 1948, a day also celebrated as the Army day in India.
After independence, K M Cariappa took over the reins of the Indian Army from Sir Roy Bucher, in 1949, and laid the foundation of the modern Indian Army.
He was instrumental in the formation of the Brigade of Guards, the Parachute Regiment and the Territorial Army.
Apart from being the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, K M Cariappa is also known for several other firsts.
In 1951, he was conferred with the ‘Order of the Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit’, by the US President Harry Truman. This was the first ever award of its kind given to an Indian General.
In 1983, he was given the title of the Field Marshal, the highest honour in the Indian Army.
Sam Manekshaw is the only other Indian army officer to have received this title.
K M Cariappa was known to lead by example.
“I was touched by his sense of involvement with the welfare of the troops. He asked them about their food, general comfort, whether they received letters from home, etc.”
Once his son, Flt. Lt, K. C. ‘Nanda’ Cariappa, was captured as a prisoner of war by the Pakistani troops, during the 1965 war.
Field Marshal Ayub Khan contacted him and offered to release his son and said that he wouldn’t be treated like the other prisoners. To this K M Cariappa replied,
“He is my son no longer… He is the child of this country, a soldier fighting for his motherland like a true patriot. My many thanks for your kind gesture, but I request you to release all or release none. Give him no special treatment.”
Even after his retirement, K M Cariappa made many visits to the armed forces on the frontiers to boost their morale during the Indo-Pak wars in 1965 and 1971.
He breathed his last in Bengaluru in 1993, at the age of 94.