Born at Seoni (now in Madhya Pradesh) on 11 August 1916, Gopal Gurunath Bewoor was the son of Sir Gurunath Venkatesh Bewoor ICS and Rukmini Bewoor. He followed his elder brother Madhav (who later died in action in World War II) into Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehradun in 1928 and later the Indian Military Academy. A part of the Kitchener section, Gopal was appointed Cadet Captain in 1934. He also won Lord Rawlinson's trophy during this time.
Bewoor was commissioned a second lieutenant on the Special List, Indian Land Forces on 15 July 1937. On 10 August 1937 he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, Green Howards, and saw action during operations in Waziristan. On 10 August 1938 he was admitted to the Indian Army and posted to 5th Battalion 10th Baluch Regiment (now 12 Baloch), with which he saw action in Burma. His seniority as a second lieutenant was antedated to 30 August 1936 and he was promoted lieutenant 30 November 1938. In July 1945, he was transferred from the 5th Baluch and went on to attend the Staff College course at Quetta, and then he was appointed as the Under Secretary (Military) to the Viceroy’s Coordination Council. He was the only Indian officer to have achieved this feat.
At Independence in 1947, Bewoor was the Secretary of the Army Partition Committee in 1947, which determined the allotment of weapons, equipment and regiments that were to remain in India or to be allotted to Pakistan. Since his parent regiment - the Baluch - went to Pakistan, he was transferred to the Dogra Regiment and promoted to lieutenant colonel in December 1947. With a view to imparting basic military training to school and college students, he was appointed as the Director of the NCC (National Cadet Corps) in April 1948 with the rank of full colonel.
He was promoted to the rank of Brigadier in 1951, later assuming command of the 80th Infantry Brigade in Jammu & Kashmir. He was appointed as the Director, Personnel Services at Army HQ in August 1953. In February 1959 at the age of 42 years and 6 months he was promoted to Major General as the first Chief of Staff at the Western Command HQ in Shimla. He is believed to be the youngest ever Major General in the Indian Army. He assumed the appointment of the Colonel of the 11 Gorkha Rifles on 25 May 1960. He was then appointed as the GOC of the 27th Infantry Division in February 1961 at Jalandhar. Later he moved this division to Kalimpong (West Bengal) in the wake of the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
In June 1963, he was appointed as the Director of Military Training at Army HQ and remained there till November 1964. He was promoted as General Officer Commanding 33 Corps at Siliguri in November 1964 with the rank of lieutenant general. He moved to Army HQ in May 1967, as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (DCAS) and held that appointment till June 1969. As DCAS, he was awarded Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM) for his meritorious services. However, he has been later criticized for his role in changing the General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) for evaluation of anti-tank missiles which resulted in the purchase of the SS11B1 from France's Aerospatiale and the death of a competing indigenous DRDO Anti Tank Missile project.
In July 1969, he assumed the appointment of General Officer Commanding–in–Chief, Southern Command. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Indian military strategy was mainly defensive on the Western Front, while attacking in the Eastern Sector, culminating in the surrender of Dacca and the secession of East Pakistan into the newly formed Bangladesh. Bewoor's Southern Command was tasked with maintaining a front from Bikaner southwestwards to the Arabian Sea. This command was divided into four sectors: Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Kutch. The first two sectors were manned by 12 Division with 11 Division holding Barmer and Kutch. In addition it was supported by an armoured regiment, two independent armoured squadrons, and one missile squadron. For his command of operations in the Rajasthan Sector, Bewoor was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour.
He succeeded the popular Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, the liberator of Bangladesh, as Army Chief on 15 January 1973 and held that appointment for two years and four months till his retirement on 31 May 1975.
Soon after taking office Bewoor was told of one of the most significant developments in the history of Indian defence policy, of which the Indian Army and the Defence Ministry were previously in the dark, namely the Department of Atomic Energy's plans to detonate a nuclear device. The project codenamed Smiling Buddha had been underway from 1967 under the leadership of Raja Ramanna. The task of sinking the shaft for the test was assigned to the 61 Engineering Regiment stationed in Jodhpur. Ramanna first contacted the regiment commander, Lt. Col. Subherwal, in May 1973 to dig the shaft. In June 1973 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took General Bewoor into confidence and ordered him to support the project. After an initial setback - the finding of water at the first drill site - the location of the test was shifted to the village of Malki near Pokhran, Rajasthan. Bewoor was personally present at the test site and witnessed the actual nuclear explosion of 18 May 1974. He was the first to inform the Prime Minister's Office via a telephone call to D.P. Dhar. A. Parthasarthi however claims in 1974 he found a note written from the PM (without her characteristic green-ink initials) to Bewoor dated as early as 15 November 1972 asking for the Army's co-operation. This must be viewed with some skepticism, since Bewoor was not the COAS on the purported date of this note.
He served as the Honorary Colonel of the Dogra Regiment up to 11 August 1979. After retirement, he served as the Indian Ambassador to Denmark, from February 1976 to March 1978. He served as a member of the Senate of the University of Pune, for two years from August 1979 onwards. He was also on the Board of Directors of Kirloskar Oil Engines & Vickers Sperry of Pune. Besides, he was often invited to give talks on leadership and military matters by various educational societies. He died on 24 October 1989.
The street in Koregaon Park, Pune where the general lived after retirement is named General Bewoor Path after him.
General Bewoor was married to Radhika Gokhale on 12 March 1943. They had two sons and a daughter.
His son Group Captain Anant Bewoor (Retd), served in the Indian Air Force and saw action with the IPKF in Sri Lanka and during the Siachen operations, and was the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 44th Squadron, which flies the IL-76 heavy-lift military transport aircraft. His younger son, Keshav Bewoor, is also an Air Force officer, and retired from service in the rank of Air Vice Marshal.
Arun Bewoor, former Managing Director, International Flavors and Fragrances is the son of his late brother Madhav Gurunath Bewoor.
Meenakshi Bakhle (wife of D.S. Bakhle, ICS) was General Bewoor's sister. She was a president of the Maharashtra State Women's Council. For her (minor) role in the Samyukta Maharashtra controversy in 1956 she was famously referred to as कोमडी चोमडी मिनाक्षी ("Komdi Chomdi Meenakshi") by "Acharya" Prahlad Keshav Atre and satirized as a अति विशाल महिला ("Ati Vishaal Mahilaa") in the famous P.L. Deshpande 1957 play तुझे आहे तुजपाशी ("Tujhe Ahe Tujapashi").