Abdul Haris Nasution
In this Indonesian name, the name "Nasution" is a family name, and the person should be referred to by the family name "Nasution".
Abdul Haris Nasution (born Hutapungkut, Mandailing Natal Regency
Mandailing Natal Regency
Mandailing Natal Regency, also known as Madina is a regency in North Sumatra , Indonesia . In 2000, the regency covered an area of 6134 square kilometres and according to the 2000 census had a population of 355,285 people.The capital lies at Panyabungan....

, North Sumatra
North Sumatra
North Sumatra is a province of Indonesia on the Sumatra island. Its capital is Medan. It is the most populous Indonesian province outside of Java. It is slightly larger than Sri Lanka in area.- Geography and population :...

 3 December 1918 – Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

 5 September 2000) was an Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n general who was twice appointed Army Chief of Staff and who escaped an assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 attempt during the 1965 coup attempt by 30 September Movement
30 September Movement
The Thirtieth of September Movement ) was a self-proclaimed organization of Indonesian National Armed Forces members who, in the early hours of 1 October 1965, assassinated six Indonesian Army generals in an abortive coup d'état. Later that morning, the organization declared that it was in control...


Early life

Nasution was born in the village of Hutapungkut in the Tapanuli region of North Sumatra
North Sumatra
North Sumatra is a province of Indonesia on the Sumatra island. Its capital is Medan. It is the most populous Indonesian province outside of Java. It is slightly larger than Sri Lanka in area.- Geography and population :...

 on 3 December 1918. He was the second child of his parents and the oldest son. He is from a Batak
Batak (Indonesia)
Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups predominantly found in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The term is used to include the Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing, each of which are distinct but related groups with distinct, albeit related, languages and...

A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 familiy. His father was a trader who sold textiles, rubber and coffee, and was a member of the Sarekat Islam
Sarekat Islam
Sarekat Islam, formerly Sarekat Dagang Islam, was a Javanese batik traders's cooperative in Indonesia.Sarekat Dagang Islam was founded by Haji Samanhudi, a businessman in Surakarta, in 1905 or 1912. His business was trading in batik, the traditional cloth made in Java...

 organization. His father, who was very religious, wanted his son to study at a religious school, while his mother wanted him to study medicine in Batavia
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

. However, after graduating from school in 1932, Nasution received a scholarship to study teaching at Bukitinggi.

In 1935 Nasution moved to Bandung
Bandung is the capital of West Java province in Indonesia, and the country's third largest city, and 2nd largest metropolitan area in Indonesia, with a population of 7.4 million in 2007. Located 768 metres above sea level, approximately 140 km southeast of Jakarta, Bandung has cooler...

 to continue his studies, where he remained for three years. His desire to be a teacher gradually faded as his interest in politics grew. He secretly bought books written by the Indonesian nationalist Sukarno
Sukarno, born Kusno Sosrodihardjo was the first President of Indonesia.Sukarno was the leader of his country's struggle for independence from the Netherlands and was Indonesia's first President from 1945 to 1967...

 and read them with his friends. Following his graduation in 1937, Nasution returned to Sumatra and taught in Bengkulu
Bengkulu is a province of Indonesia. It is on the southwest coast of the island of Sumatra, and borders the provinces of West Sumatra, Jambi, South Sumatra and Lampung. The capital and largest city is Bengkulu city. It was formerly the site of a British garrison, which they called Bencoolen...

, living near the house where Sukarno lived in exile. He occasionally spoke with Sukarno, and heard him give speeches. A year later Nasution moved to Tanjungpraja, near Palembang
Palembang is the capital city of the South Sumatra province in Indonesia. Palembang is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia, and has a history of being a capital of a maritime empire. Located on the Musi River banks on the east coast of southern Sumatra island, it has an area of 400.61 square...

, where he continued to teach, but became more and more interested in politics and the military.

In 1940, Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 occupied the Netherlands and the Dutch colonial authorities established an officer reserve corps which admitted Indonesians. Nasution applied to join, as this was the only way to obtain military training. Along with a few other Indonesians, he was sent to the Bandung Military Academy for training. In September 1940 he was promoted to corporal, then three months later to sergeant. He subsequently became an officer in the Royal Dutch East Indian Army (KNIL). In 1942 the Japanese invaded and occupied
Japanese Occupation of Indonesia
The Japanese Empire occupied Indonesia, known then as the Dutch East Indies, during World War II from March 1942 until after the end of War in 1945...

 Indonesia. At the time, Nasution was in Surabaya
Surabaya is Indonesia's second-largest city with a population of over 2.7 million , and the capital of the province of East Java...

, having been posted there to defend the port. Nasution then found his way back to Bandung and went into hiding, as he was afraid of being arrested by the Japanese. However, he later assisted the PETA
PETA (Indonesia)
PETA or was an Indonesian volunteer army established on 3 October 1943 in Indonesia by the occupying Japanese. The Japanese intended PETA to assist their forces oppose a possible invasion by the Allies...

 militia set up by the Japanese occupiers by carrying messages, but did not actually become a member

Siliwangi Division

After Sukarno
Sukarno, born Kusno Sosrodihardjo was the first President of Indonesia.Sukarno was the leader of his country's struggle for independence from the Netherlands and was Indonesia's first President from 1945 to 1967...

 declared Indonesia's independence
Indonesian Declaration of Independence
The Proclamation of Indonesian Independence was read at 10.00 a.m. on Friday, August 17, 1945. The declaration marked the start of the diplomatic and armed-resistance of the Indonesian National Revolution, fighting against the forces of the Netherlands until the latter officially acknowledged...

 on 17 August 1945, Nasution joined the fledgling Indonesian Army
Military of Indonesia
The Indonesian National Armed Forces in 2009 comprises approximately 432,129 personnel including the Army , Navy including the Indonesian Marine Corps and the Air Force ....

 which was then known as the People's Security Army (TKR) and was appointed Regional Commander of the Siliwangi Division
Siliwangi Division
The Siliwangi Division or KODAM VI/Siliwangi is the name of a formation of the Indonesian Army. The Division was formed during the Indonesian National Revolution by what was then known as the People's Security Army...

, which looked after the security of West Java in May 1946.

In this position, Nasution developed the theory of territorial warfare which would become the defense doctrine of the Indonesian Army in the future.>Robert Cribb, 'Military strategy in the Indonesian revolution: Nasution's concept of "Total People’s War" in theory and practice', War & Society 19 no. 2 (October 2001), pp. 143–154.

In January 1948, the Indonesian Government and the Dutch Government signed the Renville Agreement
Renville Agreement
The Renville Agreement was a United Nations Security Council brokered political accord between the Netherlands who were seeking to re-establish their colony in South East Asia, and Indonesian Republicans seeking to secure Indonesian independence during the Indonesian National Revolution...

, dividing Java between areas under Dutch and Indonesian control. Because the territories occupied by the Dutch included West Java, Nasution was forced to lead the Siliwangi Division across to Central Java.

Deputy commander

1948 would also see Nasution rise to the position of Deputy TKR Commander. Despite being only a Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 this appointment made Nasution the most powerful person in TKR, second only to the popular General Sudirman. Nasution immediately went to work in his new role. In April, he assisted Sudirman in reorganizing the structure of the troops. In June, at a Commanders' meeting, his suggestion that TKR should fight guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 against the Dutch was approved.

Although not the Commander of TKR, Nasution gained experience in the role of Armed Force Commander in September 1948 with the Madiun
Madiun is a city in the western part of the province of East Java Indonesia, an agricultural centre. It is the capital of the regency of the same name....

 incident. Following a take over of the city of Madiun
Madiun is a city in the western part of the province of East Java Indonesia, an agricultural centre. It is the capital of the regency of the same name....

 in East Java, former Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Amir Syarifuddin and Musso
Musso was an Indonesian communist politician who was leader of the Indonesian Communist Party in the 1920s and again during the Madiun rebellion of 1948....

 of the Indonesian Communist Party went to the city. When the news reached the TKR Headquarters in Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta (city)
Yogyakarta is a city in the Yogyakarta Special Region, Indonesia. It is renowned as a centre of classical Javanese fine art and culture such as batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, and puppet shows. Yogyakarta was the Indonesian capital during the Indonesian National Revolution from 1945 to...

, a meeting was held between senior military officers. Sudirman was anxious to avoid violence and wanted negotiations to be conducted. Sudirman then commissioned Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 Suharto, to negotiate a deal with the communists. After taking his trip, Suharto returned to Nasution and Sudirman and reported that everything seemed to be peaceful. Nasution did not trust this report and with Sudirman down with illness, Nasution was left in charge. Nasution then decided on a crackdown, sending troops to go after the Communists to put them down and end the rebellion.

On September 30 Madiun was taken over by republican troops of the Siliwangi Division
Siliwangi Division
The Siliwangi Division or KODAM VI/Siliwangi is the name of a formation of the Indonesian Army. The Division was formed during the Indonesian National Revolution by what was then known as the People's Security Army...

. Thousands of party members were killed and 36,000 were imprisoned. Amongst the executed were several leaders including Musso, who was killed on October 31, allegedly while trying to escape from prison. Other PKI leaders such as D.N. Aidit
Dipa Nusantara Aidit
Dipa Nusantara Aidit was a senior leader of the Communist Party of Indonesia . Born Ahmad Aidit on Bangka Island, he was nicknamed "Amat". Aidit was educated in the Dutch colonial system...

 went into exile in China.

On 19 December 1948, the Dutch launched a successful attack on Yogyakarta and occupied it. Nasution, together with TKR and the other commanders, retreated into the countryside to fight a guerrilla war. With President Sukarno and Vice President Mohammad Hatta
Mohammad Hatta
was born in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, Dutch East Indies . He was Indonesia's first vice president, later also serving as the country's Prime Minister. Known as "The Proclamator", he and a number of Indonesians, including the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno, fought for the independence of...

 in Dutch captivity, the Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia
Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia
The Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia , was established by Indonesian Republicans after the Netherlands occupied Yogyakarta in Central Java the location of the temporary Republican capital...

 (PDRI) was set up in Sumatra. In this interim government, Nasution was given the position of the Army and Territorial Commander of Java. Following Dutch recognition of Indonesia's independence, the PDRI returned its powers to Sukarno and Hatta, and Nasution returned to his position as Deputy Commander to Sudirman.

First term as Army Chief of Staff

In 1950, Nasution took on his position as army chief of staff, with TB Simatupang replacing Sudirman as the commander of the newly dubbed ABRI (Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia).

In 1952, Nasution and Simatupang decided to adopt a policy of restructuring and reorganization for ABRI. Under this arrangement, Nasution and Simatupang hoped to create a smaller army but one that was more modern and professional. It did not take long however, before factional interests came into play. Nasution and Simatupang, who had both been trained by the Dutch colonial government wanted to discharge the soldiers trained by the Japanese and integrate more soldiers trained by the Dutch. The Japanese-trained troops, led by Bambang Supeno, began speaking against this policy.

In adopting their policy, Nasution and Simatupang had the backing of Prime Minister Wilopo
Wilopo was an Indonesian politician and member of the Indonesian National Party. He served as prime minister of Indonesia from April 1952 to June 1953.-References:...

 and Defense Minister Hamengkubuwono IX. However, Supeno managed to find support from among the opposition parties in the People's Representative Council
People's Representative Council
The People's Representative Council , sometimes referred to as the House of Representatives, is one of two elected national legislative assemblies in Indonesia....

 (DPR). The DPR members then began making their disagreements on the restructuring of ABRI known. Nasution and Simatupang were not happy to see what they perceived to be interference of military affairs by civilians.

17th October Incident

On 17 October 1952, Nasution and Simatupang mobilized their troops in a show of force
Show of force
Show of force is a military term for an operation intended to warn or intimidate an opponent and to showcase one's own capability or will to act if provoked...

. Protesting against civilian interference in military business, Nasution and Simatupang had their troops surround the Presidential Palace and point the tank turrets in the direction of the said building. Their demand to Sukarno was that the current DPR be dismissed. For this cause, Nasution and Simatupang also mobilized civilian protesters. Sukarno came out of the Presidential Palace and using nothing but his famed oratory skills, convinced both soldiers and civilians alike to go home. Nasution and Simatupang had been defeated.

Nasution and Simatupang were then put under interrogation by Attorney General
Attorney General
In most common law jurisdictions, the attorney general, or attorney-general, is the main legal advisor to the government, and in some jurisdictions he or she may also have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions.The term is used to refer to any person...

 Suprapto. In December 1952, they both lost their positions in ABRI and were discharged from service.

Fundamentals of guerrilla warfare

During the time in which he was not the army chief of staff, Nasution wrote a book called the Fundamentals of Guerrilla Warfare. This book was based on Nasution's own experiences fighting and organizing guerrilla warfare during the Indonesian War of Independence. Originally released in 1953, it would become one of the most studied books on guerrilla warfare along with Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

's works on the same subject matter.

Second term as Army Chief of Staff

On 27 October 1955 and after three years of exile, Nasution was re-appointed to his old position as Army Chief of Staff.

Nasution immediately began working on the army and its structure by adopting a threefold approach. His first approach was to formulate a tour of duty
Tour of duty
In the Navy, a tour of duty is a period of time spent performing operational duties at sea, including combat, performing patrol or fleet duties, or assigned to service in a foreign country....

 system, so that officers could be stationed all around the country and gain experience. This approach would also result in army officers being more professional, instead of feeling personal attachment and loyalty to the province and region from which they came. Nasution's second approach was to centralize military training. All methods of training troops would now be uniform, instead of regional commanders setting up their own method of training troops. Nasution's third and most important approach was to increase the army's influence and power so that it was able to take care of itself, instead of relying on civilian decisions. Nasution did not have a problem applying the first two approaches, but he would have to wait to apply the third approach.

By 1957, President Sukarno had begun to introduce the concept of Guided Democracy
Guided Democracy
Guided democracy, also called managed democracy, is a term for a democratic government with increased autocracy. Governments are legitimated by elections that, while free and fair, are used by the government to continue their same policies and goals...

 to his rhetoric in response to his disenchantment with the Parliamentary Democracy approach which Indonesia had adopted since November 1945. In this, he found a common bond with Nasution and the army, who had not forgotten the way in which civilians interfered with army affairs in 1952. On 14 March 1957, after receiving the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Sastroadmijojo and his Cabinet, Sukarno declared a State of Emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...


This move not only ended Sukarno's merely ceremonial presidential role, but also increased the army's influence and power as Nasution had wished for. Under this arrangement, regional commanders were able to interfere in civilian matters such as the economy and administrative matters. At the behest of Sukarno himself, the army also began participating in politics, filling in positions which ranged from cabinet ministers to provincial governors and even DPR members. In December 1957, Nasution further increased the army's role by ordering officers to take over the recently nationalized Dutch companies. Aside from increasing the army's role, this move was also designed to stop the influence of the increasingly powerful PKI.

In 1958, Nasution made a famous speech that would become the basis for the Dwifungsi
Dwifungsi was a doctrine implemented by Suharto's military-dominated "New Order" government in Indonesia following the removal of President Sukarno...

Doctrine which the Suharto regime would adopt. Speaking at Magelang in Central Java
Central Java
Central Java is a province of Indonesia. The administrative capital is Semarang. It is one of six provinces on the island of Java.This province is the province of high Human Development in Indonesia and its Points Development Index countries is equivalent to Lebanon. The province of Central Java...

, Nasution declared that ABRI should adopt a "middle way in its approach to the nation. According to Nasution, ABRI should not be under the control of civilians. At the same time, ABRI should not dominate the nation in such a way that it became a military dictatorship
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....


The PRRI rebellion

In late 1956, there were demands by regional commanders in Sumatra for more autonomy in the provinces. When these demands were not met by the central government, the troops began to rebel, and by early 1957, had forcefully taken over the governance of Sumatra. Then, on 15 February 1958, Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Hussein declared the establishment of the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PRRI). This prompted the central government to deploy troops.

As army chief of staff, Nasution would normally have been involved in mobilizing the troops to Sumatra. However, it would be his second deputy, Colonel Ahmad Yani
Ahmad Yani
General Ahmad Yani was the commander of the Indonesian Army, and was killed by members of the 30 September Movement during an attempt to kidnap him from his house.-Early life:...

 who would make his name by successfully putting down the rebellions.

Return to the 1945 Constitution

On 5 July 1959, Sukarno issued a decree
President Sukarno's 1959 Decree
The Presidential Decree of 5 July 1959 was issued by President Sukarno in the face of the inability of the Constitutional Assembly of Indonesia to achieve the two-thirds majority to reimpose the 1945 Constitution...

 declaring that Indonesia would now revert back to the original 1945 Constitution
Constitution of Indonesia
The Constitution of Indonesia is the basis for the government of the Indonesia.The constitution was written in June, July and August 1945, when Indonesia was emerging from Japanese control at the end of World War II...

. Parliamentary democracy system would be ended and Sukarno was now the Head of Government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 in addition to being the Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. Nasution was appointed minister of defense and security in Sukarno's Cabinet, while continuing to hold the position as army chief of staff.

Corruption in the army

Since 1956, Nasution had been trying to stamp out corruption in the army, but the return to the 1945 Constitution seemed to have renewed his resolve in this matter. He believed that the army should set an example for the rest of society. Not long after Sukarno's decree, Nasution sent Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 Sungkono to investigate the financial dealings of IV/Diponegoro Area Military Command (Kodam) and its commander, Colonel Suharto.

Sungkono's findings revealed that during his time as regional commander, Suharto had set up foundations to help local people. However, these foundations were founded through charging levies (instead of voluntary donations) on production and service industries. Suharto was also involved in illegal bartering. He had been bartering sugar for rice with Thailand.

Nasution wanted to take action against Suharto and actually considered expelling him from the army. However, Deputy Army Chief of Staff Gatot Soebroto
Gatot Soebroto
Gatot Subroto was an Indonesian general who began his military career with the Royal Dutch East Indies Army and rose to be deputy Army chief-of-staff.-Early life:Gatot Subroto was born in Purwokerto, Central Java...

 intervened. Gatot had taken Suharto under his wing when he was the Kodam IV/Diponegoro Commander and had noticed Suharto's talents. Gatot asked Nasution not to expel Suharto because Suharto's talent could be further developed. Nasution listened to Gatot's advice. His decision was to remove Suharto from his position and to punish him by sending him to the Army Staff College
Staff college
Staff colleges train military officers in the administrative, staff and policy aspects of their profession. It is usual for such training to occur at several levels in a career...


West Irian

During the struggle for independence, Sukarno had always perceived Indonesia as also including West Papua. When the Dutch finally recognized Indonesia's Independence, West Papua continued to be a Dutch colony. Sukarno did not give up and continued to push for it to be included as part of Indonesia through the United nations and through the Bandung Conference, where the attending nations promised to support Indonesia's claim. The Dutch continued to remain adamant. By 1960, Sukarno had run out of patience. In July, he met with his top advisors including Nasution and it was agreed that Indonesia would confront the Dutch on the matter of West Papua.

As part of the preparation for this campaign, Nasution turned to Suharto, who had finished his Seskoad course in November 1960. Suharto, now a brigadier general, was commissioned by Nasution to create a strategic force unit which would be on standby, ready to be called into action at any time. Suharto was placed in charge of this taskforce and in March 1961, the General Army Reserve (Caduad) was formed, with Suharto being appointed as its commander. Caduad would in 1963 change its name to the Army Strategic Command (Kostrad
Kostrad is the Indonesian Army's Strategic Reserve Command. Kostrad is a Corps level command which has up to 35,000 troops...


At the beginning of 1962, Nasution and Yani were the overall Commanders of the so-called Liberation of West Irian, with Suharto stationed in East Indonesia as the Field Commander.

Rivalry with PKI

Around this time, Sukarno had begun to see the PKI, instead of the army as his main political ally. Although he had set Indonesia on a non-aligned course during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the revelation that the PRRI was given assistance by America, caused Sukarno to adopt an anti-American stance. In this, he had the PKI as a natural ally. For the PKI, an alliance with Sukarno would only add to its political momentum as their influence continued to grow in Indonesian politics.

Nasution was wary of the PKI's influence over Sukarno and in turn, Sukarno was aware that Nasution was not happy about the PKI's influence and made a move to weaken his power. In July 1962, Sukarno reorganized the structure of ABRI. The status of the heads of the Armed Forces branches would now be upgraded from chief of staff to commander. As commanders, the heads of the armed forces branches would have more power and would answer only to Sukarno as the Supreme Commander
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of ABRI. Assisting Sukarno as supreme commander of ABRI, would be an ABRI chief of staff. Sukarno appointed Nasution to the position of ABRI chief of staff and appointed Yani as the Army Commander. By doing this, Sukarno had decreased Nasution's powers as the ABRI chief of staff was only responsible for administrative matters and commanced no troops.

Now in a powerless position, Nasution began to think of other ways to stop the PKI's momentum. The right moment came at the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly
People's Consultative Assembly
The People's Consultative Assembly is the legislative branch in Indonesia's political system. It is composed of the members of the People's Representative Council and the Regional Representative Council. Before 2004, and the amendments to the 1945 Constitution, the MPR was the highest governing...

 (MPRS) General Session in May 1963. During the General Session, Nasution had Sukarno's Indonesian National Party
Indonesian National Party
The Indonesian National Party is the same used by several political parties in Indonesia from 1927 until the present day.-Pre-independence:...

 (PNI) as well as the Army members present to put forward the motion that Sukarno be appointed president for life
President for Life
President for Life is a title assumed by some dictators to remove their term limit, in the hope that their authority, legitimacy, and term will never be disputed....

. The rationale behind this was that with Sukarno being appointed president for life, there would be no elections, and without elections, the PKI would not be able to get in power no matter how much the party grew. The motion was carried through and Sukarno became president for life.

Division with Yani

Nasution soon began developing an attitude of hostility towards Yani. Both Nasution and Yani were anti-communists, but their attitude towards Sukarno was different. Nasution was critical of Sukarno for backing and supporting the PKI, while Yani, a Sukarno loyalist, adopted a softer stance. Nasution criticized Yani's soft stance and relations between the two soured. To make matters worse, Yani began replacing regional commanders who were close to Nasution with those who were close to himself.

On 13 January 1965, a delegation of officers representing Nasution and Yani met in an attempt to reconcile the differences between the two officers. The meeting was unsuccessful in attempting to get Yani to distance himself from Sukarno, but delegates agreed to hold seminars where officers could talk about the current political climate and the role of the army in politics.

As the year went on, a curious document was circulated in Jakarta. Dubbed the Gilchrist Document
Gilchrist Document
The Gilchrist Document is a much cited letter from 1965 often used to support arguments for Western involvement in the overthrow of Sukarno in Indonesia....

, it was a letter purporting to come from British ambassador Andrew Gilchrist, and mentioned "our local army friends". Suspicion was immediately cast on the army wanting to launch a coup. Although Yani was quick to deny the allegations, the PKI began running a smear campaign, claiming that a Council of Generals were planning to overthrow the president. As the most senior officers in the Army, Nasution and Yani were implicated to be part of this Council.

Kidnapping attempt

On the morning of 1 October 1965, troops calling themselves the 30 September Movement
30 September Movement
The Thirtieth of September Movement ) was a self-proclaimed organization of Indonesian National Armed Forces members who, in the early hours of 1 October 1965, assassinated six Indonesian Army generals in an abortive coup d'état. Later that morning, the organization declared that it was in control...

 (G30S) attempted to kidnap seven anti-communist Army officers including Nasution. Lieutenant Arief was the leader of the squad assign to capture Nasution, and his team in four trucks and two military cars travelled down a deserted Jalan Teuku Umar at 4:00am. Nasution's home was at No. 40, a modest single storey home. The guard in the sentry box outside the house saw the vehicles coming, but upon seeing the men were soldiers he was not suspicious and did not call his superior, Sergeant Iskaq, who was in charge of the army detail guarding the house. The sergeant was in a guardroom in the front room along with half a dozen soldiers some of whom were asleep. A guard was asleep in the front garden and another was on duty at the rear of the house. In a separate cottage, two of Nasutions aides were asleep, a young army luitenant named Pierre Tendean
Pierre Tendean
Pierre Andreas Tendean was a victim of the 30th September Movement and is an Indonesian national hero.-Early life:...

, and assistant police commissioner Hamdan Mansjur.

Before the alarm could be raised, Arief's squad had jumped the fence and overpowered the sleepy guards in the sentry box and guard room. Others entered from around the side of the house and covered it from the rear. About fifteen soldiers broke into the house. Both Nasution and his wife were bothered by mosquitoes and were awake. Neither heard the guards being overpowered but Mrs Nasution heard a door being forced. She got out of bed to check and on opening the bedroom door, she saw a Cakrabirawa
The Cakrabirawa regiment were the crack presidential bodyguard unit of former Indonesian President Sukarno. The group was disbanded in 1966 during the upheavals of the transition to the New Order....

 (presidential bodyguard) soldier with a gun ready to shoot. She slammed the door shut and yelled a warning to her husband. Nasution wanted to take a look himself and when he opened the door, the soldier shot at him. He flung himself to the floor and his wife slammed and locked the door. The men on the other side began to smash the door down and fired a volley of shots into the bedroom. Mrs. Nasution pushed her husband out through another door and down a corridor to a side entrance to the house. He dashed across his garden to the wall separating his garden and that of neighboring Iraqi ambassador. He was spotted by soldiers who fired off a volley of shots but missed. Scaling the wall, Nasution, broke his ankle as he dropped into the ambassador's garden and hid. He was not pursued.

The entire Nasution household was awakened and frightened by the shooting. Nasution's mother and sister, Mardiah, also lived in the house and ran to his bedroom. Mardiah grabbed Nasution's five-year old daughter, Irma, from her bed, cradling the child protectively in her arms, and tried to run to safety. As she ran past, a corporal from the palace guard fired a round of shots at her through a door. Mardiah was hit in the hand and Irma received three bullets in her spine. She died five days later in hospital. Nasution's eldest daughter, 13 year-old Janti, and her nurse Alfiah had run to the cottage housing Nasution's aides and hid under a bed.

Tendean loaded his weapon and ran from the house, but was caught within a few steps. In the darkness, he was mistaken for Nasution and taken away at gunpoint. After pushing her husband out of the house, Mrs Nasution ran inside and picked up her wounded daughter. As she phoned for a doctor, Cakrabirawa troops demanded she tell them her husband's whereabouts. Reportedly she had a brief and angry exchange with Arief telling him that Nasution had been out of town for a few days. A whistle blow outside and the men in the house left taking Tendean with them. The whole affair had taken nine minutes. Mrs Nasution took her wounded daughter to the Central military hospital and the guards sounded the alarm. The Jakarta garrison commander, Major General Umar, rushed to the Nasution home.

A guard outside the house of Johannes Lemeina, a neighbour of Nasution's and one of Indonesia's three deputy premiers, heard the commotion and walked down to the Nasution house. In the confusion the guard was shot and killed. This led to stories of Lemeina being on the plotter's list and of an attack on Lemeina's house. However, the killing of the guard was unplanned.

Nasution continued hiding in the garden of his neighbor until 6 AM when he returned to his house with a broken ankle. Nasution then asked his adjutants to take him to the Ministry of Defense and Security because he thought it would be safer there. He was driven there crouching on the floor of a car. Nasution then sent a message to Suharto at Kostrad headquarters, telling him that he was alive and safe. After knowing that Suharto was taking command of the army, Nasution then ordered him to take measures such as finding the whereabouts of the president, contacting navy commander RE Martadinata, marine corps commander Hartono as well as the chief of police Sucipto Judodiharjo, and secure Jakarta by closing off all roads leading up to it. The air force was excluded because its Commander Omar Dhani
Omar Dhani
Air Marshal Omar Dani, , was commander of the Indonesian Air Force from 1962 until 1965. He was a leading leftist figure in Indonesia during the Sukarno era....

 was suspected of being a G30S sympathizer. Suharto immediately integrated these orders into his plan to secure the city.

At around 2 PM, after the G30S Movement announced the formation of a Revolutionary Council, Nasution sent another order to Suharto, Martadinata and Judodiharjo. In the order, Nasution said that he was convinced that Sukarno had been kidnapped and taken to the G30S headquarters in Halim. He therefore ordered ABRI to free the president, restore security to Jakarta, and most importantly, appointed Suharto to head the operations. Just as Suharto began working however, a message came from Sukarno at Halim. Sukarno had decided to appoint Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Pranoto Reksosamudra to the position of Army Commander and now wanted Pranoto to come see him. Suharto did not allow Pranoto to go but he knew that Sukarno would not give up in trying to summon Pranoto. To strengthen his bargaining position, Suharto asked Nasution to come to the Kostrad Headquarters.

Nasution arrived at the Kostrad headquarters at around 6 PM, just as Suharto began sending Sarwo Edhie Wibowo
Sarwo Edhie Wibowo
Sarwo Edhie Wibowo was one of Indonesia's most famous Generals.-Early life:Sarwo Edhie was born in Purworejo, Central Java to a family of civil servants working for the Dutch Colonial Government. As a child, he learned silat as a form of self-defense...

's troops to began securing Jakarta from the G30S Movement. There, Nasution finally received first aid
First aid
First aid is the provision of initial care for an illness or injury. It is usually performed by non-expert, but trained personnel to a sick or injured person until definitive medical treatment can be accessed. Certain self-limiting illnesses or minor injuries may not require further medical care...

 for his broken ankle. Once Jakarta was safely secured, Martadinata came to the Kostrad headquarters with a copy of the Presidential Decree which appointed Pranoto. After seeing the decree, Suharto invited Martadinata and Nasution into a room to discuss the situation.

Nasution asked Martadinata how the president came to appoint Pranoto. Martadinata replied that during the afternoon he, Judodiharjo, and Dhani had attended a meeting with Sukarno at Halim to decide who should become the army commander now that Yani was dead. The meeting had decided that Pranoto should become army commander. Nasution said that Sukarno's appointment could not be accepted as the appointment came when Suharto had begun with the operations. Nasution also added that he would back Suharto's decision to not let Pranoto go to Halim. Nasution and Suharto then invited Pranoto in and convinced him to delay accepting his appointment as army commander until after Suharto finished putting down the attempted coup d'état.

With Sarwo Edhie's troops, Jakarta was quickly secured. Suharto then turned his attention to Halim and began making preparations to attack the air base. To assist him, Nasution ordered the navy and the police to assist Suharto in putting down the G30S Movement. To the air force, Nasution issued an order saying that they would not be charged with insubordination
Insubordination is the act of willfully disobeying an authority. Refusing to perform an action that is unethical or illegal is not insubordination; neither is refusing to perform an action that is not within the scope of authority of the person issuing the order.Insubordination is typically a...

 if they refused to obey Dhani's orders. By 6 AM on 2 October, Halim was overtaken and the G30S Movement was officially put down.

Missed opportunity

Although Suharto had been the man of the hour on 1 October, many of the other Army officers still turned to Nasution for leadership and had expected him to take more decisive control of the situation. However, Nasution seemed indecisive and slowly but surely the support began to swing away from him. Perhaps this reason was because he was still grieving over his daughter, Ade Irma, who died on 6 October.

In the first few weeks after G30S, Nasution was the one who constantly lobbied Sukarno to have Suharto appointed Army Commander. Sukarno, who after 1 October wanted to keep Pranoto had originally only made Suharto the Commander of Kopkamtib
Kopkamtib, an acronym for Komando Operasi Pemulihan Keamanan dan Ketertiban or "Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order", was a secret police operation in Indonesia's "New Order" that continued issues arising from the transition to the New Order.-Origins of Kopkamtib:Following...

 but with Nasution's constant lobbying, Sukarno was finally persuaded and on 14 October 1965, appointed Suharto as the Army Commander.

A golden opportunity came to Nasution in December 1965 when there was talk his being appointed as vice president to assist Sukarno in the times of uncertainty. Nasution did not capitalize on this and chose to do nothing. Suharto, whose political momentum was growing, took the initiative in early 1966 by issuing a statement saying that there was no need to fill the vacant vice presidency.

On February 24, 1966, Nasution was removed from his position as Minister of Defense and Security in a Cabinet Reshuffle. The position of ABRI Chief of Staff was also abolished.

By this stage, the expectation that Nasution would do something was now gone as army officers and student movements alike rallied behind Suharto. Nevertheless, he continued to be a respected figure as many army officers visited him in the days leading up to the signing of Supersemar
The Supersemar, the Indonesian abbreviation for Surat Perintah Sebelas Maret was a document signed by the Indonesian President Sukarno on March 11, 1966, giving the Army commander Lt. Gen. Suharto authority to take whatever measures he "deemed necessary" to restore order to the chaotic situation...

 document handing over authority from Sukarno to Suharto. In fact, when Suharto was about to go the Kostrad Headquarters to wait for the delivery of the Supersemar, he called Nasution and asked him for his blessing. Nasution's wife gave the blessing on behalf of Nasution, who was not present.

Nasution's political senses seemed to have returned after Suharto received the Supersemar. It was perhaps he who first realized that Supersemar not only gave Suharto emergency powers but also gave him executive control. On 12 March 1966, after Suharto had the PKI banned, Nasution suggested to Suharto that he form an emergency Cabinet. Suharto, still cautious about what he could or could not do with his new powers replied that forming a cabinet was the responsibility of the president. Nasution encouraged Suharto, promising him full support but Suharto did not respond and the conversation ended abruptly.

Chairman of the MPRS

With his new powers, Suharto began purging the Government of what he perceived to be Communist influence. After the arrest of 15 Cabinet Ministers on 18 March 1966, Suharto went after the MPRS, removing members thought to be Communist sympathizers and replacing them with members more sympathetic to the Army's cause. During the purge, the MPRS also lost its Chairman, Chaerul Saleh
Chaerul Saleh
Chairul Saleh Dt Paduko Rajo was born in Sawahlunto, West Sumatra. He was an Indonesian government minister and vice prime minister during the Sukarno presidency. He was a close confident of Sukarno, who he had helped persuade to declare Indonesian independence in 1945...

 and there was a need to fill in the vacant position.

Nasution was an overwhelmingly popular choice as all of the factions in the MPRS nominated him for the position of MPRS Chairman. However, Nasution waited until Suharto supported his nomination before accepting the nomination.

On 20 June, the MPRS General Session for 1966 began holding its assemblies. Nasution set Supersemar as the first agenda on the list by walking into the Assembly Hall with the actual document. The next day, on 21 June, the MPRS ratified Supersemar, making it illegal for Sukarno to withdraw it. On 22 June, Sukarno delivered a speech entitled Nawaksara (Nine Points) in front of the Assembly. Nasution and the other MPRS members, which had hoped for Sukarno's account of G30S were disappointed. Nothing about the G30S was mentioned. Instead, Sukarno seemed to give an account about his appointment to the Life Presidency, his plan of work as President, and how the constitution works in practice. This MPRS would refuse to ratify this speech.

Over the next two weeks, Nasution presided over a busy MPRS General Session. Under his Chairmanship, the MPRS took measures such as banning Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

, cancelling Sukarno's appointment to the Life Presidency, and ordering for a Legislative Election to be held by July 1968. The MPRS General Session also increased Suharto's power by officially ordering him to formulate a new Cabinet. A constitutional amendment was also made which stated that if the President is unable to replace his duties, he will now be replaced by the Holder of Supersemar instead of the Vice President.

As 1966 wore on, Sukarno was increasingly on the back foot and his popularity was at an all time low. Suharto, who knew that his political victory was near, took to playing the role of the polite Javanese by constantly giving Sukarno reassuring words and defending him from the protests. Other generals such as Nasution were not as merciful, as the year drew to a close, Nasution claimed that Sukarno should be held responsible for the dire situation which his Government left Indonesia in. Nasution also called for Sukarno be taken to trial.

On 10 January 1967, Nasution and the MPRS assembled again as Sukarno submitted his report (he did not deliver it in person as a speech) which was hoped to finally address the issue of G30S. Dubbed the Nawaksara Supplementary, the report spoke about Sukarno's insistence of calling G30S the 1st October Movement (Gestok). On G30S, Sukarno said that PKI made a big mistake on the morning of 1 October but also added that this was due to the cunning of the neo-colonialists. In a subtle jab towards Nasution, Sukarno added that if he was going to be blamed for the G30S, the Minister of Defense and Security at the time should also be blamed for not seeing G30S coming and stopping it before it happened. The report was once again rejected by the MPRS.

In February 1967, the DPR called for an MPRS Special Session in March to dismiss Sukarno as President with Suharto. Sukarno seemed resigned to his faith, officially handling day to day control of the Government to Suharto on 22 February 1967 and requiring him only to report if necessary. Finally on March 12, 1967, Sukarno was officially removed from power by the MPRS. Nasution then swore Suharto into office as the Acting President.

A year later on March 27, 1968, Nasution presided over Suharto's election and inauguration as full President.

Fall from power

Despite the assistance that Nasution gave him in his rise to power, Suharto viewed Nasution as a rival and immediately began working to remove him from power. In 1969, Nasution was barred from speaking at Seskoad and the Military Academy. In 1971, Nasution was suddenly discharged from military service, aged 53 and two years before the designated retirement age of 55. Nasution was finally removed in 1972 as the new batch of MPR members (elected during the 1971 Legislative Elections) came in and elected Idham Chalid to replace him as MPR Chairman.

Nasution's drastic fall earned him the nickname of Gelandangan Politik (Political Bum).

Opposition to the New Order

Once he fell out of power, Nasution developed into a political opponent of the New Order Regime.

By the late 70's Suharto's regime had turned from popular to authoritarian and corrupt. At this time many voices began to openly speak out and criticize the regime. After the 1977 Legislative Elections, in which there was alleged electoral fraud
Electoral fraud
Electoral fraud is illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an election result, whether by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates or both...

 by Suharto's Golkar
The Party of the Functional Groups is a political party in Indonesia. It is also known as Sekber Golkar . It was the ruling party during Suharto's regime...

 Party, Nasution said that there was a crisis in leadership in the New Order.

In July 1978, together with former Vice President Hatta, Nasution set up the Institute for Constitutional Awareness Foundation (YLKB) . Suharto's Government moved quickly and did not allow YLKB to conduct its first meeting in January 1979. Nasution and the YLKB did not give up. In August 1979 managed to hold a meeting in which DPR members included. Perhaps significantly, ABRI members attended the meeting. During the meeting, Nasution criticized the New Order for not fully implementing Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.

Suharto did not take the criticism lightly. On 27 March 1980, at an ABRI Meeting, Suharto in a speech said that ABRI members should be ready to defend their seats in DPR and that they should align themselves with forces that are for Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution such as Golkar. Suharto followed this up with another speech on 16 April 1980, on the occasion of Kopassus
Kopassus is an Indonesian Army special forces group that conducts special operations missions for the Indonesian government, such as direct action, unconventional warfare, sabotage, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering.Kopassus was founded on April 16, 1952...

' anniversary. In the speech, Suharto denied allegations of corruption and claimed that if he has to, he will kidnap MPR members if it will prevent the MPR from having the 2/3 majority required to change the constitution.

Nasution then decided that the oppositions of the regime should make a big statement. He gathered ABRI members who were disgruntled with the Suharto regime such as former Governor of Jakarta Ali Sadikin
Ali Sadikin
Ali Sadikin was an Indonesian politician. He was often called Bang Ali. He served as the governor of Jakarta, the country's capital, from 1966 to 1977. Appointed by a weak Sukarno, he likely had the full approval of Suharto. A former marine, he saw the city as a battlefield...

, former Chief of Police Hugeng Imam Santoso, and former Deputy Army Chief of Staff Yasin
The Yasin anti-tank rocket launcher is a weapon developed by Hamas' Ezzedeen-al-qassam brigades named after the group's spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yasin, who was assassinated by the Israeli Defense Forces on March 22, 2004...

. Former Prime Ministers Mohammed Natsir and Burhanuddin Harahap
Burhanuddin Harahap
Burhanuddin Harahap was the ninth Prime Minister of Indonesia. A member of the Masyumi Party, he held the office from 11 August 1955 to 20 March 1956.-See also:*List of Prime Ministers of Indonesia...

 as well as PDRI Chairman Syarifuddin Prawiranegara joined in. Together with many other big name critics of the Government, they signed a petition which would become known as Petisi 50 (Petition of Fifty
Petition of Fifty
The Petition of Fifty was a document protesting then President Suharto's use of state philosophy Pancasila against political opponents. Issued on 5 May 1980 as an "Expression of Concern", it was signed by fifty prominent Indonesians including former Army Chief of Staff Nasution, former Jakarta...

), so-called because there were 50 signatories.

The petition was signed on 5 May 1980 and delivered to the DPR on 13 May 1980. It called for Suharto to stop interpreting Pancasila to suit his own ends and for ABRI to be neutral in politics instead of favoring Golkar. The DPR, especially members of the United Development Party
United Development Party
The United Development Party , sometimes translated as Development Unity Party is a political party in Indonesia. It is an islamic party and currently led by Suryadharma Ali.-Origins:...

 (PPP) and the Indonesian Democratic Party
Indonesian Democratic Party
The Indonesian Democratic Party was one of the two state-approved parties during the New Order era of the late 20th-century in Indonesia.-Origins:...

 took the petition seriously and asked Suharto to respond on the issue. Suharto replied that his speeches on 27 March 1980 and 16 April 1980 was a sufficient enough response. Suharto added if there was any problem, the DPR can motion for a special investigation. Here the PPP and PDI members stopped, knowing that their motion will be beaten by Golkar's dominance.

For signatories to the petition such as Nasution, Suharto imposed travel bans and made business dealings difficult so that the petition signatories would have a hard time making a living.


By the beginning of the 1990s, Suharto was beginning to adopt a policy of political openness and enforcement of Petition of 50 Signatories' punishment was loosened. In June 1993, when he was in hospital because of illness, he was visited by the Army's top brass. Nasution then received a visit from BJ Habibie, Suharto's Minister of Technology. Habibie then invited Nasution and the other signatories to visit his shipyard and the aircraft factory which had been put under his jurisdiction. The Government also began claiming that although there was a travel ban for the Petition of 50 Signatories, the ban does not apply to Nasution. For his part, Nasution denied criticizing the Government, preferring to call it a "difference in opinion".

Finally, in July 1993, Suharto invited Nasution to the Presidential Palace for a meeting. This was followed by another meeting on 18 August 1993, after the Independence Day celebrations.
Nothing political was talked about, but it was clear that both men were keen to reconcile their differences. In an interview in 1995, Nasution encouraged Indonesia to go through a reconciliation process so that the Nation can be united under the leadership of Suharto.

On 5 October 1997, on the occasion of ABRI's anniversary, Nasution was given the honorary rank Jenderal Besar
Jenderal Besar
Jenderal Besar, translated literally as "Great General", is the highest rank of the Army of Indonesia. It is the equivalent of a General of the Army, and is used to translate that rank into Indonesian...

. A rank that he shared with Suharto and Sudirman.

Further reading

  • Fundamentals of Guerrilla Warfare. New York: Praeger, 1965
  • C.L.M. Penders and Ulf Sundhaussen, Abdul Haris Nasution: a political biography (St. Lucia; New York: University of Queensland Press, 1985)
  • Emmet McElhatton, "Guerilla Warfare and the Indonesian Strategic Psyche", Small Wars Journal, 2008,

External links

Abdul Haris Nasution profile on Tokohindonesia.com

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