“Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw” by Hanadi Falki

I have always been a huge admirer of the late Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw (1914-2008) so jumped at the chance to read one more book about him. This ebook titled, “ Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw” is written by Ms Hanadi Falki. Frankly there wasn’t much in the book that one hadn’t already read about. It looked like a re-hash of arcticles, book extracts, interviews and the like. The personality of the Field Marshal is so strong, and his story so interesting however, that we feel like reading about him all over again – which is exactly what I did.

As a military commander and a leader in war and peace, Sam Manekshaw has few parallels in Indian military history. He was the 7th Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army- from 1969 to 1973- and his greatest contribution was winning the 1971 War against Pakistan. This led to the bifurcation of the Pakistani State and the birth of the new country of Bangla Desh.

The book traces his life and career in the Indian Amy from the time he joined the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun in 1932 in the very first batch of cadets. He served the Indian Army for four decades and fought in five wars till he retired in 1973. A grateful nation then bestowed upon him the rank of Field Marshal. He was the first General and COAS in the Indian Army to be so honored.

Apart from his exploits as a military leader, (he won the coveted Military Cross for bravery as a young officer in the British Indian Army during Second World War in Burma), Manekshaw’s character as a person of the highest integrity and professionalism stand out in the many anecdotes in the book. He had the courage to stand up to those in authority including the Prime Minister, Defense Minister and the political leadership of the country.

As I have said before, I have been and remain a huge admirer of Field Marshal Manekshaw. I am therefore terribly puzzled how under his watch India released 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of war but did not do enough to get back 54 of our Defense Personnel, They simply did not make it back to their homeland . I was hoping that this book would cover this unsavory part of Indian military history but I continue to remain disappointed on this score.

I wish the book had been better arranged for ease of reading. It does not follow a prescribed pattern. For example, it has his childhood and early years suddenly appearing from out of the blue, much after the start of the book. However this slim volume, despite its shortcomings, remains interesting because of the man the book describes and his exploits- in war and peace.

“World War II: Battle by Battle” by Nickolai Bogdanovic

What are the images that come readily to your mind when you think of World War II? Amongst others, the ones which flash in my mind are the Spitfires in the Battle of Britain; tired British soldiers waiting to be rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk; the U-Boat packs raiding Allied shipping in the Atlantic; the siege of Stalingrad and the bloody winter wars in Russia; D-Day and the landings on Normandy; the last days of the Third Reich in Berlin; the US Marines hoisting the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima; and the formal Japanese Surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

The Second World War which raged between 1939 and 1945 is said to have claimed more than 60 million lives, both military and civilian. However, there will perhaps never be an exact figure for this. This was truly a World War, far wider in scope than the First World War of 1914-1918 as the battles were fought not just in mainland Europe but also in South East Asia going as far as some remote islands of the Pacific Ocean.

A compact publication I enjoyed reading recently was  “World War II: Battle by Battle” by Nickolai Bogdanovic, published by Osprey Publishing.  

Volumes have been written about the War but in this book, thirty of the World War II Battles are described quite succinctly. This gives the reader a bird’s eye view of some of the most important battles that were fought in that time.  Many of them were responsible for turning the course of the War.

The writer has not restricted himself to the battles in Europe. He has covered some of the battles in South East Asia and in the Pacific which were equally important from that region’s perspective. The feats of military leaders on both the Allied and Nazi sides are explained in brief as befitting a book that seeks to cover a very wide spectrum.  In my view, a short preface giving a broad overview of the Second World War would have been useful, especially for the uninitiated.

Students of military history and young people at large who have heard of the War but may have a sketchy idea of the battles would be well advised to read this book. I am sure they will enjoy it.