Indian Army

Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa: The Legend Who Made The Army Truly Indian

Kodandera Madappa Cariappa was the second Field Marshal of the Indian Army. He was promoted to the five-star rank after Sam Manekshaw. In addition, he became the first Indian Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army. Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa served both in the British Indian Army before independence and in the Indian Army after India got independent. He joined the British Indian Army after some time of World War I as a temporary first lieutenant in the 2/88 Carnatic Infantry. K.M. Cariappa was born on December 29, 1898, and served in the military for almost three decades.

Early Life And Education Of Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa

K. M. Cariappa was born to a family of farmers in Shanivarsanthe, Kodagu in Karnataka. His father worked in a revenue department. He completed his early education at Central High School in Madikeri in 1917. Then, he went to Presidency College in Chennai to complete his further education. There, he got to know that Indians were being recruited into the Army. Cariappa applied for the selection process. He was fortunately selected in a batch of 42 students out of 70 who applied. As a result, he got the training at Daly Cadet College, Indore.

Getting Commissioned In Tthe British Indian Army

In 1922, Cariappa got his permanent commission in the Army which was to come into effect with 1920. However, this was done to ensure that Cariappa remained junior to the British soldiers who graduated in 1920. He joined the 2nd Battalion of the 88th Carnatic Infantry at Bombay. Later he joined 2/125 Napier Rifles. Meanwhile, Cariappa went on a world tour as well. He visited Europe, United States, Japan, and China where he interacted with many soldiers. As a result, he learned a lot of aspects of the military.

Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa was a very good leader who knew the needs of his men and was aware of how to lead them in the right way. Moreover, he attended many official high-level meetings during his tenure. In 1939, the Skeen Committee was set up to examine the options for the Indianisation of the Indian Army’s officer ranks. As Cariappa was a senior official with 19 years of experience, therefore he was invited to the committee to give suggestions. He insisted on the point that Indian Army officers were not getting equivalent salaries, perks, and other facilities as British officers and because of that they were not very happy with the British officials.

K. M. Cariappa served in Iran, Iraq, and Syria as well in 1941-42 and in Burma in 1943-44. On 1 May 1945, Cariappa was promoted to brigadier, and therefore becoming the first Indian officer to fully attain the rank. He also got the chance to be trained at the Imperial Defence College, Camberly, the UK in 1947 to attend the higher command courses.

Holding The Reins Of Indian Army After Independence

After Independence, Cariappa was appointed the first Indian-born Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army. He has also served in the diverse locations of Jammu and Kashmir intense situations. Indian Army Day is celebrated on January 15, every year which was the day in 1949 when Cariappa took control of the Indian Army as Commander in Chief. He participated in the formation of the Territorial Army as well. National Cadet Corps (NCC) was also formed in 1948 where he contributed through his efforts. Territorial Army and NCC have proved their importance several times when in need.   

Personal Life And Other Contributions To The Nation

Cariappa was married to Muthu Machia in March 1937. However, due to personal reasons, his marriage did not last long and he separated from his wife. Later, his wife, Muthu, died in an unfortunate accident.

He had a son and a daughter. His son, K. C. Cariappa was born on January 4, 1938, who joined the Indian Air Force and rose to the rank of Air Marshal. His daughter, Nalini was born on February 23, 1948. There is an incident where Cariappa proved that he was a fair person and leader who never supported partialism. In 1965, India- Pakistan war, his son was captured by Pakistan forces as a prisoner of war. But when they realized him to be the son of General Cariappa, they contacted him and as a vote of respect assured that they would release his son. However, Cariappa refused to do so. Instead, he requested to free either all the prisoners or none. He wanted no special treatment for his son because of his rank or insignia.  

Awards and Decorations

  • General Service Medal 1947
  • Indian Independence Medal
  • Order of the British Empire
  • 1939-1945 Star
  • Burma Star
  • War Medal 1939-1945
  • India Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit

Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa was a great soldier who possessed exceptional leadership qualities and besides these, he was a very simple person with a simple lifestyle. Moreover, he never used his power and any status symbol for personal purposes. Our nation will always keep admiring great leaders like him. Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa was a fearless soldier and above all, a great man of values.

Yash Gupta

Hello everyone, Myself Yash, a student trying to share thoughts with you. I Like to read about Military and Indian Armed Forces. Suggestions are always welcome :-)

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