General Pran Nath Thapar assumed charge of the Indian Army, as the 5th Chief of Army Staff, on 07 May 1961. Born on 08 May 1906, he was educated at Government College in Lahore and was commissioned into the 1st Punjab Regiment from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926. As a regimental officer, he spent nearly ten years with the 1st Punjab Regiment and later attended staff courses at Quetta (in present-day Pakistan) and at Minley-Manor in England. During the Second World War, he saw service in Burma in 1941, followed by a tenure in 1943-44 in the Middle East and Italy. In 1945, he was appointed as the Assistant Military Secretary, General Headquarters in India. Later on, he was selected to serve on the Army Reorganization Committee. After victory over Japan in 1945, he commanded the 1st Battalion of his parent regiment in Indonesia during the national trouble in that country in 1946. Later he commanded the 161st Indian Infantry Brigade in East Bengal.
On the advent of partition and during its first turbulent months, General Thapar served as the Director of Military Operations & Intelligence at Army Headquarters from August 1947 to December 1947. In November 1947, he was promoted to Major General and officiated for a few months as the Chief of General Staff and later appointed as the Military Secretary, a post he held till August 1949. This was followed by his appointment as the Master General of Ordnance from August 1949 to April 1950. He served as the Colonel of The Rajputana Rifles from 18 July 1949 to 20 July 1963.
General Thapar commanded an Infantry Division for about four years and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in 1954 as Commander of a Corps. He held this appointment till December 1955 when he was selected to attend the Imperial Defence College in London from January to December 1956. On successful completion of the course, he was appointed as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command and later took over as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command on 25 May 1959. He hails from a distinguished family and brought to his high office a wealth of experience & knowledge gained on various fronts during his 35 years of service. He was forced to resign from the Indian Army on 19 November 1962, after the debacle of the 1962 Indo-China War. A keen tennis and golf player, he was at one time the Defence Services' tennis champion. After retirement, he was appointed as Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan from August 1964 and held that appointment till 01 January 1969. He passed away on 23 January 1975, at the age of 69.