Bengaluru: Today (May 15) is the death anniversary of Field Marshal Kodandera 'Kipper' Madappa Cariappa, OBE. The epitome of military leadership, FM Cariappa laid the foundations of the modern Indian Army as its first Indian Commander-in-Chief.

Field Marshal Cariappa was one of the only two Indian Army officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal (the other being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw). He led the Indian forces on the Western Front during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947. Field Marshal Cariappa's distinguished military career spanned almost three decades.

He saw action in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Burma and became the first Indian Officer to be given command of a unit in 1942. In 1947, he became the first Indian to be selected to undergo a training course at Imperial Defence College, Camberly, UK. On January 15, 1949, he became the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army.

There are countless other factors that make him a towering figure in the history of the Indian military. Not only was he instrumental in drawing a strong dividing line between the Indian Army and politics, but he also helped shape the Army into a highly professional force in its formative years.

He attempted to do away with caste, creed, and other barriers in the Indian Army by raising the Brigade of The Guards -- a mechanised infantry regiment of the Indian Army -- in 1949. Recruitment to it was open to all regions, castes, creed and all sections of society.

Field Marshal Cariappa had a distinguished career as the Army chief. Prior to that, he led Indian forces on the Western Front during the India-Pakistan War of 1947. He was instrumental in recapturing Zojila, Drass and Kargil and created a linkup with Leh before the then Indian government decided to abide by an UN-brokered ceasefire on January 1, 1949.

An illustrative anecdote about his character relates to the 1965 Indo-Pak war. 

General Ayub Khan had served under Cariappa in the British Indian Army. In 1965, Cariappa’s son, Flt Lt KC “Nanda” Cariappa, was taken prisoner of war by Pakistan after his aircraft was shot down. Khan had offered to release him, but Cariappa made it clear to Khan that his son was not to be given any special treatment.

Even after his retirement from the Indian Army in 1953, he served as the High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand till 1956. He died in Bengaluru in 1993 at the age of 94.