Monday, July 4, 2016

How General Cariappa became the Indian Army’s first General and what he did when his son was taken as prisoner by Pakistan 18 years later

Soon after the independence, Prime Minister Nehru called up a meeting of Defence Minister and senior army officers to appoint the first COAS of Indian Army. Nehru proposed, “I think we should appoint a British officer as a General of the Indian Army, as we don’t have enough experience to lead an army.”

A senior officer, Nathu Singh Rathore snapped, “You see, sir, we don’t have enough experience to lead a nation too, so shouldn’t we appoint a Britisher as the first Prime Minister of India?”

Silence followed and the defence minister of India, Sardar Baldev Singh, offered him to take up the post. 

He declined, saying, “My senior Lt. Gen. KM Cariappa is better for the job.” and thus Lt. General Kodandera Madappa Cariappa became the first Chief of Army Staff on January 15th, 1948 – and hence this date is also marked as the Indian Army day.

During the 1965 war, his son K C Cariappa, an Indian Air Force pilot, was shot down over Pakistan Major Zaidia and taken as a prisoner of war. On realising the identity of the wounded soldier at Dargil, Pakistan’s Gen. Ayub Khan – who was junior to KM Cariappa before independence, contacted Field Marshal Cariappa, with information about his son’s safety. 

When Gen. Khan offered to release his son immediately, Field Marshal is reported to have scoffed at the idea and told him to give his son no better treatment than any other Prisoner of War (POW). 

“He is my son no longer,” the old Soldier is reported to have thundered. “He is the child of this country, a soldier fighting for his motherland like a true patriot. My many thanks for your kind gesture, but I request you to release all or release none. Give him no special treatment.”

(Source- Via email from BHARAT BHUSHAN GHAI)


  1. This story about Nehru and Cariappa is nonsense. Cariappa was only a brigadier at the time of independence. He was promoted a maj gen and then became GoC-in-C Western Command and oversaw operations in Kashmir. He was appointed Chief in 1949, till then we had Britishers as Chiefs. The Navy and Air Force continued with British chiefs much longer. Nathu Singh was too junior to discuss the appointment of Army chief with the PM.At that time all decisions regarding defence were taken by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet presided over by Mountbatten, at the request of Nehru, and had Patel as a member besides Nehru. People should read History and not write humbug based on gossip.

  2. And compare this response with a later senior union minister who would not hesitate to make a mess of the situation and compromise the national prestige and security by getting his daughter released even though she was no POW.

  3. These are stories/nay, life stories of the veterans of a great Army; has to be well and widely circulated among the soldiers of today. A general expressing that he has hundreds of patriotic sons and each to be treated on the same dignity !! Hats of to our great generals ...!