Born On: January 28, 1899
Born In: Kodagu, Mysore
Died On: May 15, 1993
Career: Indian Army
Kodandera Madappa Cariappa to Indian army is what Sachin Tendulkar is to Indian cricket. Revered by the Indian and foreign citizens alike, K.M Cariappa, affectionately known as Kipper, is a figure of resilience and eternal patriotism. He is solidity personified! With a military career that spanned over three decades and providing selfless service to the nation until death; he's a "seen it all done it all" man. Among all the chaos of world wars, country's partition, 1965 & 1971 wars, and numerous missions outside the country; he handled them all with an unnerving attitude and undying spirit. Having been honored with so many promotions and recognitions, he remained a man of the ground and upheld his principles of secularism and patriotism till the very last breath.
Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, also known as Chimma was born on 28th January, 1899 at Shanivarsanthe, Coorg (present day Kodagu in the state of Karnataka) that was administered by the British. His father Kodandera Madappa (a revenue official by occupation), brought up Chimma along with his three brothers and two sisters with strict but loving affection. Though Chimma lost his parents at an early age, he didn't lose his strong and determined attitude towards life. It was the disciplining from his father that he carried forward to his formal education at Central High School at Madikeri and was lucky enough to have been taught by qualified professional British teachers. He even learned the value of proper conduct and impeccable dressing. He gained his further education from the Presidency College in Madras. As a student, Chimma excelled in both cricket and hockey, and had a knack for neat hand tricks and fondness to music. While he was still at the Presidency College, he got selected as a class I army officer by outsmarting even the British officers and impressing the Commissioner in the interview stage. Chimma's dedication to serve the nation was evident even then.
Cariappa's association with the army didn't begin by him joining the Indian army, as the country was still the pre-independent era. His stint begun when in 1919, he was made a Temporary Second Lieutenant in the Carnatic Infantry of the King's Commissioned Indian Officers (KCIO's) at Mumbai. Later in 1922, he was made a Permanent Second Lieutenant and then, was promoted to the position of the Lieutenant in 1923. Quickly promoted through the ranks from being a Captain in 1927 to a Major in 1938, and a staff captain in the following year; in between Cariappa saw an active service with 37 Dogra in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) and was later posted to 2nd Queen Victoria's Own Rajput Light Infantry (his permanent residential home). Cariappa was also the first Indian officer to undergo the course at staff college, Quetta in 1933.
By Indian independence, Cariappa had served in countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Burma, and Japan; under orders and even voluntarily and was even appointed an officer of the Order of British Empire. In 1946, he was promoted as the Brigadier of the frontier brigade group; during which Colonel Ayub Khan (who later became the Field Marshal and President of Pakistan) served under Cariappa. In 1947, he underwent a training course on "higher directions of war" at the Imperial Defence College, Camberly, UK. He was the first Indian to be selected for this course. As an Indian Officer in charge of a situation as tense as it could get, partition; he did it in an orderly, peaceful, and unruffled way when it came to handling the partition of the Indian Army and sharing of its assets between the two hurtfully split countries.
Post independence, by 1948 Cariappa was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the General Staff with the rank of Major General. On promotion to Lieutenant General he became the Eastern Army Commander. However, with the occurrence of the war with Pakistan in 1947, Cariappa was moved as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command. He directed operations for the recapture of Zojila, Drass and Kargil and re-established a linkup with Leh. On 15th January 1949, Cariappa became the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army and was primarily responsible for turning an imperial Indian Army into a National Indian Army. On 14th January 1953, he renounced his duties as the Commander-in-Chief of army and gave over the position to Lieutenant General Rajindra Singh.
High Commands & Offices
Post retirement from the Indian Army (an association of more than 29 years), Cariappa was summoned to become India's High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand and he served well from July 1953 to April 1956. Cariappa also took active part in reorganization of armed forces in many foreign countries. US president, Harry S. Truman titled him as "Order of the Chief" Commander of the Legion of Merit. On 14th January 1986 and at the age of 87, Cariappa was honored with the rank of Field Marshal by Zail Singh, the President of India.
"I don't give a damn if the man is a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, or Christian as long as he plays the game to serve our country well. This is all that matters to me. An Indian and to the last breath would remain an Indian. To me there are only two stans - Hindustan and Faujistan." These very words alone from Cariappa reflect his unrelenting patriotism towards the country, and the secularist beliefs that he upheld till the last of his breath. Amidst all the promotions, and the political and authoritative ups and downs in the country, Cariappa remained a man of the ground and never lost on his beliefs. He instead worked unrelentingly and made his way out of the chaos; handling everything with utmost discipline and heedfulness.
It is said that Cariappa never feared to face the enemy and met them eye to eye that made even his seniors wonder as to how and up to what extent Cariappa could stretch his limits. Although a hard task master, he remained hugely popular, loved, and respected among his seniors and juniors. He abhorred midway compromises and believed in performing his duties whole heartedly. And even during the 1965 war against Pakistan, when his son, who was an Indian Air Force pilot was shot down and was taken as a Prisoner of War; he refused to accept any special privileges from Ayub Khan (on account of Ayub Khan and Cariappa having worked together before partition). He said that his son will be treated as other Indian Prisoners of War; claiming that each soldier of the army was his son.
Post public service duty, Cariappa settled in his peaceful house Roshanara at Madikeri in Kodagu amidst the natural serenity and greenery; educating people about various essential issues. At the age of 94, on 15th May 1993, Cariappa passed away peacefully, ending one of the greatest chapters in Indian history.
1899: Kodandera Madappa Cariappa was born to Kodandera Madappa in Coorg, Karnataka, India.
1919: Became Temporary Second Lieutenant, British Indian Army.
1921: Became Temporary Lieutenant.
1922: Promoted as a permanent Second Lieutenant.
1923: Yet again promoted to the position of the Lieutenant.
1927: Becomes Captain.
1938: Bags the position of the Major.
1942: Became Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel.
1944: Became Temporary Brigadier.
1946: Became Lieutenant-Colonel and then Brigadier.
1947: Promoted as a Major General, Indian Army.
1948: Became Lieutenant General.
1949: Became Commander-in-Chief.
1953: Relinquished his office as the Commander-in-Chief.
1953: Made the India's High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand.
1983: Honored with the title of Field Marshal by the then President of India.
1993: Died at the age of 94.