Inspiring Indians - K. M. Cariappa

Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, affectionately nicknamed "Kipper" was born on 28th January 1899 in the Kodagu region which is today part of Karnataka state. He had his formal education in Madikeri and pursued his college education from the prestigious Presidency College in Madras (now Chennai).  

Early Army Life

K. M. Cariappa joined the British Indian Army in 1919 and was commissioned in the Carnatic Infantry at Bombay (now Mumbai) as a Temporary Second Lieutenant. He went onto serve in Iraq, Syria and Iran from 1941-1942 and then in Burma in 1943-1944. He spent many of his soldiering years in Waziristan (now in Pakistan). He was the first Indian Officer to be given command of a unit in 1942.

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 just and orderly manner. He was then the Indian officer in charge of overseeing the transition.


K. M. 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 territories seized by invaders. In all this, he showed tremendous energy in moving troops, against considerable odds and finally ensuring success.

On being appointed as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of an independent Indian Army on 15th January 1949, he was instrumental in the integration of troops and turning an imperial army into a national army. After the founding of the Republic, his post was changed to Chief of Army Staff, an office that he left on 14th January 1953. He was associated with the Army for almost three decades. After his retirement from Indian Army, he served as the High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand till 1956. 

Field Marshal  

In 1983, a grateful nation honoured Gen. Cariappa with the five-star rank of Field Marshal. He remains only the second Army General to have been conferred that honour by the Government of India, the other being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in 1973. 


Field Marshal Cariappa remains an inspiration for generations of Indians. His valour and dedication to the nation remains immeasurable. During the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars, he visited the front lines to talk to the troops and keep their morale up. Apart from being a military man, Cariappa had insight about the status of the country. He argued for greater industrialization of the country which would make India a stronger nation.

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