During World War II, he saw action in the Burma campaign on Sittang River and has the rare distinction of being honored for his bravery on the battle front itself. During World War II, he was leading a counter-offensive against the invading Japanese Army in Burma. As he charged forward with his men, a Japanese soldier suddenly emerged from the bushes and fired at him, wounding him seriously in the stomach. Fortunately, Major General D.T. Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and was aware of his velour in face of stiff resistance from the Japanese. Fearing the worst, Major General Cowan quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross."
Having recovered from those near-fatal wounds in Burma, Manekshaw went for a course at Staff College, Quetta and later also served there as an instructor before being sent to join 12 Frontier Force Rifles in Burma under General (later Field Marshal) Slim's 14th Army. He was once again involved in a fierce battle with the Japanese, and was wounded for a second time. Towards the close of World War II, Manekshaw was sent as Staff Officer to General Daisy in Indo-China where, after the Japanese surrender, he helped rehabilitate over 10,000 POWs. He, then, went on a six-month lecture tour to Australia in 1946, and after his return served as a First Grade Staff Officer in the Military Operations Directorate.
Manekshaw showed acumen for planning and administration while handling the issues related to partition in 1947, and later put to use his battle skills during the 1947-48 Jammu & Kashmir Operations. After command of an Infantry Brigade he was posted as the Commandant of the Infantry School and also became the Colonel of 8 Gorkha Rifles (his regimental home) and 61 Cavalry. He commanded a Division in Jammu & Kashmir and a Corps in the North East, with tenure as Commandant of Defense Services Staff College (DSSC) in between. As GOC-in-C Eastern Command, he handled the tricky problem of insurgency in Nagaland and the grateful nation honored him with a Padma Bhushan in 1968.
Manekshaw became the 8th Army Chief when he succeeded General Kumaramangalam on 7 June, 1969. His years of military experience were soon put to the test as thousands of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan started crossing over to India as a result of oppression unleashed from West Pakistan. The volatile situation got worse, and soon erupted into a full-scale war in December 1971.
During this Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Manekshaw showed uncommon ability to motivate the forces, coupling it with a mature war strategy. The war ended with Pakistan's unconditional surrender, and the formation of Bangladesh. More than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken as POWs. He masterminded the rout of the Pakistan Army in one of the quickest victories in the recent military history. In just over two weeks Pakistani Lieutenant General A. A. K. Niazi was forced to surrender and more than ninety thousand officers and soldiers were taken as Prisoner of war|prisoners of war. This led to the Shimla Agreement which opened the door to the creation of the nation of Bangladesh as separate from Pakistan.
For his selfless service to the nation, the President of India awarded him a Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and conferred upon him the rank of Field Marshal on 1 January, 1973. Manekshaw became the first Indian General to be awarded this prestigious rank, which is mainly honorary. The other was late Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa. Manekshaw retired a fortnight later, on 15 January 1973, after completing nearly four decades of military service. He was also awarded the Padma Bhushan.
Following his retirement from the Indian Army, Manekshaw has successfully served as the Director of numerous companies.