One of the most adulated and decorated army officers in the Indian Armed Forces, Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa was the first ever Indian commander-in-chief of the Indian Army. As a leader of Indian forces on the frontier during the 1947 India Pakistan War, he is the only army officer in India apart from Sam Manekshaw to hold the title of Field Marshal which is actually a five star officer rank. Following this, he served the army as the commander in chief of the Indian Army in the year 1949.
Having served the Indian Army for almost 34 years, as an integral part of the Rajput Regiment, Kipper, as Cariappa is popularly known, became a part of the British Army soon after the First World War ended. His first rank was that of a temporary second lieutenant in the 2/88 Carnatic Infantry regiment.
Soon after, repeated transfers into different regiments finally culminated into his permanent commissioning into the 1/7 Rajput Regiment.
A Man of Many Firsts
Cariappa studied from the Staff College in Quetta and was the Indian Army Officer to do so. He also became the first Indian who commanded a whole battalion. He was also one of the only two Indian officers to be shortlisted for premier training to study advance defence at the Imperial Defence College, located in Camberley, UK.
Cariappa hailed from a family of farmers who were a part of the Kodandera clan. His father was a simple government officer employed in the revenue department. He graduated from the Presidency College in Chennai in 1920.
Having a penchant for serving the nation, he signed up for a recruitment and training drive and got shortlisted from 70 candidates to finally end up at the Daly Cadet College in Indore. As one of the brightest in the lot, he stood 7th in the batch.
A Man of Principle and Valour
Apart from his exemplary services in the Indian Army, Cariappa also had a formidable reputation as one of the boldest, revolutionary, principled and bravest officers in the Indian Army. He strongly advocated for better conditions of the Indian soldiers during the Indianisation of the British Army.
He also made special provisions to ensure better living conditions for the prisoners of the Indian National Army and even spearheaded a campaign for the release of innocent prisoners who were a part of the INA.
Moreover, Cariappa never took undue advantage of the amenities offered to him by the Armed Forces. His children stayed at the Rajput Regimental Centre where he visited for the last time before his retirement. As per the rules, children were prohibited at the Officers’ Mess. While he could have easily bent the rules for his kids he chose not to. The only time he disobeyed his superiors’ orders was during the Indo Pakistan War in 1947 where he was leading from the Western Front.
Having served varied locations and regiments, from Burma to Mesopotamia, Iran to Iraq from Rajput Rifles to Napier Rifles and even the Dogra Regiment, his military prowess was extraordinary. While the British Officers used force to control the local tribes in control, he extended friendly relations that helped manage these tribes better. The result being a more peaceful, well settled division.
During the Indo Pak war, he was successful in capturing the areas of Naushera, Jhangar, Poonch, Zoji La, Dras, and Kargil. But orders from the US prohibited him from removing the Pakistani Forces out of the entire area. This led to a troublesome situation in the areas of Leh, Kargil which would subsequently put India’s security at stake.
He disobeyed the Army HQ’s orders and continued with his offensive in Ladakh and gained control to the entire region. The important thing to mention here is that any lapse in the operation would just pose a severe threat to the Indian forces and territory. For this move, he was appointed to the post of the commander in chief of the Indian Army post independence, which was the highest post in the Armed Forces.
Apart from this, Cariappa was responsible for the development of the Territorial Army including the National Cadet Corps.
Army Day, In Cariappa’s Memory
The Indian Army celebrates the formal appointment of Cariappa into their domain on the 15th of January, 1949 as Army Day which is commemorated all over India annually. Having worked extensively towards the enrichment of the Indian Armed Forces, Cariappa was one of the building blocks of the Indian Army as it stands today. From welfare of ex servicemen, to their resettlement, he took active steps towards empowering the soldiers of the Armed forces.
He also took active part in the reorganization drives of the armed forces in a multitude of foreign nations for which he was conferred with the Legion of Merit in the degree of Chief Commander by the American President Harry S. Truman.
Quotes by Kodandera Madappa Cariappa
“A Soldier is above politics and should not believe in caste or creed.”
“If the army is the first line of defence, the industry is the second.”
“Army is there to serve the Government of the day, and we should make sure that it does not get mixed up with party politics.”
“In modern warfare, a large army is not sufficient, it needs industrial potential behind it.”
“I am an Indian and to the last breath would remain an Indian.”
“To me there is only two stans – Hindustan and Foujistan.”
Written By: Aishwarya Sharma