New Delhi. Field Marshal Kodandera “Kipper” Madappa Cariappa OBE (28 January 1899 – 15 May 1993) was the First Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army and led the Indian forces on the Western Front during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.
He is one of the two Indian Army officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal (the other being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw). His distinguished military career spanned almost three decades, at the highest point of which, he was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Military in 1949.
Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa was born on 28 January 1899 in Coorg. After his formal education at Madikeri, he went on to study at the Presidency College, Madras. He was an active sportsman.
Cariappa was one among the select few who was selected for the first batch of KCIOs (King’s Commissioned Indian Officers) at the Daly Cadet College in Indore and was commissioned in the Carnatic Infantry. He was in active service with the 37 (Prince of Wales) Dogra in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) and then posted to the 2nd Rajput Light Infantry (Queen Victoria’s Own). He went on to become the first Indian officer to undergo the course at Staff College, Quetta in 1933. In 1946, he got promoted as the Brigadier of the Frontier Brigade Group.
K.M Cariappa saw action in Iraq, Syria and Iran from 1941-1942 and then in Burma in 1943-1944 and became the first Indian Officer to be given command of a unit in 1942. He went on receive many awards and accolades in his distinguished career. In 1947, Cariappa became the first Indian to be selected to undergo a training course at Imperial Defence College, Camberly, UK. Cariappa was promoted to the substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel on 17 July 1946.The same year, he was promoted to Brigadier of the Frontier Brigade Group. It was during this time that Colonel Ayub Khan – later Field Marshal and President of Pakistan, 1962-1969 – served under him. In 1947, Cariappa was the first Indian who was selected to undergo a training course at Imperial Defence College, Camberly, UK on the higher directions of war. During the traumatic period of partition, he handled the division of the Indian Army and sharing of its assets between Pakistan and India, in a most amicable, just and orderly manner. He was then the Indian officer in charge of overseeing the transition. After India’s independence, K.M.Cariappa was appointed as the Deputy Chief of General Staff with the rank of Major General. Thereafter, he became the Eastern Army Commander and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command during the outbreak of war with Pakistan.
Post-Independence, 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. On outbreak of war with Pakistan in 1947, he was moved as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command and directed operations for the recapture of Zojila, Drass and Kargil and re-established a linkup with Leh.K.M Cariappa was appointed as the first Commander-in-Chief of an independent Indian Army on 15 January 1949 and the day is celebrated as the Army Day. Post-retirement from Indian Army in 1953, he served as India’s High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand.
He was awarded the ‘Order of the Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit’ by American President, Harry S. Truman. The Government of India conferred the rank of Field Marshal on Cariappa in 1983.