This year India will celebrate her 72nd Republic Day on January 26 and on this day, how can we not remember the iconic Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, who was the first officer to receive five stars.
Arjan Singh was born on April 15, 1919, in Lyalpur of undivided Punjab. He completed his education from Montgomery. In 1938 when he got selected for the Empire Pilot training course at RAF Cranwell, he was still in college and was only 19 years old. Marshal Arjan Singh died in 2017 at the age of 98.
An icon of the Indian military history, Singh had led a young IAF into the 1965 war, when he was just about 44 years old. With nascent resources and limitations, he foiled Pakistan’s Operation Grand Slam in the vital town of Akhnoor. The IAF, led by Singh, destroyed the trail of tanks and armoured vehicles, pushing back the Pakistani offensive and helping the infantry recover the territory.
In recognition of his services, he was conferred with the rank of Marshal in January 2002, making him the first and the only five-star rank officer in the IAF. So far, in the Indian Army, only two officers — K M Cariappa and Sam Manekshaw — have been conferred with the five-star or the Field Marshall rank. No one has held the rank in the Navy, so far.
Interestingly, Singh won his first distinguished medal by leading a squadron against the Japanese in Myanmar’s Arakan province. The province which was in the news recently because of the Rohingya refugee crises.