Sarwo Edhie Wibowo
Sarwo Edhie Wibowo was one of 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...

's most famous General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....


Early life

Sarwo Edhie was born in Purworejo, 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...

 to a family of civil servants working for the Dutch Colonial Government
Dutch Empire
The Dutch Empire consisted of the overseas territories controlled by the Dutch Republic and later, the modern Netherlands from the 17th to the 20th century. The Dutch followed Portugal and Spain in establishing an overseas colonial empire, but based on military conquest of already-existing...

. As a child, he learned silat
Silat Melayu is a blanket term for the types of silat created in peninsular Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore. The silat tradition has deep roots in Malay culture and can trace its origin to the dawn of Malay civilization, 2000 years ago...

 as a form of self-defense. As he grew up, Sarwo Edhie formed an admiration for the Japanese Army
Imperial General Headquarters
The as part of the Supreme War Council was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime...

 and their victories against the Allied Forces stationed in the Pacific and Asia.

In 1942, when the Japanese took control of Indonesia, Sarwo Edhie went to 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...

 to enlist with Defenders of the Motherland Army (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...

), which was a Japanese-run auxiliary force consisting of Indonesian soldiers.

Sarwo Edhie was disappointed as his duties during this period were mostly to cut the lawn, clean the toilets, and make the beds of the Japanese officers. When he did train, all Sarwo Edhie got to use was wooden weapons. After the Indonesian Declaration of 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 August 17, 1945, Sarwo Edhie joined the BKR, a militia organization who would become the precursor of ABRI (the present Indonesian Army) and formed a battalion. However, the venture failed and the battalion disbanded.

It was his hometown compatriot, 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 encouraged him to continue being a soldier and invited him to join a Battalion at Magelang
Magelang is one of the largest cities of the 1,130 km² Magelang Regency, Central Java, Indonesia. It is also the largest town in the Kedu Plain between Mount Merbabu and Mount Sumbing in Central Java, Indonesia...

 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...


Career Up to 1965

Sarwo Edhie's career in ABRI saw him serve as Battalion Commander in the Diponegoro Division
Kodam IV/Diponegoro
Komando Daerah Militer IV/Diponegoro or KODAM IV/Diponegoro is a military area command of the Indonesian Army. It covers the provinces of Central Java and Yogyakarta on the island of Java. It is named for the Java War hero Prince Diponegoro...

 (1945–1951), Regiment Commander in the Diponegoro Division (1951–1953), Deputy Regiment Commander in the National Military Academy (1959–1961), Chief of Staff of the Army Paracommando Regiment (RPKAD) (1962–1964), and Commander of RPKAD (1964–1967).

The RPKAD was Indonesia's attempt at creating a special forces unit (It would go on to become 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...

) and Sarwo Edhie's appointment as the elite unit's Commander was thanks in no small part to Yani. By 1964, Yani had risen to become the Army Commander and wanted someone who he could trust as Commander of RPKAD.

Putting Down The G30S Movement

It was during Sarwo Edhie's time as RPKAD Commander that 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...


During the morning of October 1, 1965, six Generals, including Ahmad Yani were kidnapped from their houses and taken to the Air Force's Halim Airbase. Whilst this kidnapping process was being executed, a group of unidentified troops occupied the National Monument (Monas), the Presidential Palace, the Republic of Indonesia Radio (RRI
Radio Republik Indonesia
Radio Republik Indonesia is the state radio network of Indonesia. The organization is a public broadcasting service. It is a national radio station that broadcasts all over Indonesia and abroad to serve all Indonesian citizens throughout the nation and overseas. RRI also provides information about...

), and the telecommunications building.

The day started normally enough for Sarwo Edhie and his RPKAD troops and they spent their morning at the RPKAD headquarters at Cijantung in Jakarta. Then Colonel Herman Sarens Sudiro arrived. Sudiro announced that he was bringing message from the Kostrad
Kostrad is the Indonesian Army's Strategic Reserve Command. Kostrad is a Corps level command which has up to 35,000 troops...

 headquarters and informed Sarwo Edhie of the situation in Jakarta. Sarwo Edhie was also informed by Sudiro that Major General Suharto, the Commander of Kostrad had for the moment assumed leadership of the Army. After giving it much thought, Sarwo Edhie sent Sudiro back with the message that he will side with Suharto.

Once Sudiro left, Sarwo Edhie was visited by Brigadier General Sabur, the Commander of the 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 Bodyguards), of which G30S member Lieutenant Colonel Untung belonged to. Sabur asked Sarwo Edhie to join the G30S Movement. Sarwo Edhie told Sabur flat out that he was going to side with Suharto.

At 11 AM that day, Sarwo Edhie arrived at the Kostrad headquarters and received orders to retake the RRI and Telecommunication buildings at 6 PM (The deadline by which the unidentified troops were expected to surrender). When 6 PM arrived, Sarwo Edhie ordered his troops to retake the designated buildings. This was achieved without much resistance, as the troops there retreated to Halim and the buildings were taken by 6.30 PM.

With the situation at Jakarta secured, Suharto turned his eyes to Halim Air Base. The Air Base was the place which the kidnapped Generals were taken to and the base of the Air Force which had thrown its support behind the G30S movement. Suharto then ordered Sarwo Edhie to retake the Air Base. Starting their attack at 2 AM on 2 October, Sarwo Edhie and the RPKAD had the Air Base taken by 6 AM.

Transition from Old Order to New Order

After taking Halim Air Base, Sarwo Edhie joined Suharto as both of them were summoned to Bogor
Bogor is a city on the island of Java in the West Java province of Indonesia. The city is located in the center of the Bogor Regency , 60 kilometers south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta...

 by President 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...

. While Suharto found himself admonished by Sukarno for ignoring his orders, Sarwo Edhie found himself shocked by Sukarno's insensitivity to the death of the six Generals. To his question of "Where are the Generals?", Sukarno responded "Aren't these things a normality in a revolution?".

On 4 October 1965, Sarwo Edhie's troops would preside over the exhumation of the dead bodies of the Generals from the Lubang Buaya well.

On 16 October 1965, Suharto was appointed Commander of the Army by Sukarno. By then, the Communist Party of Indonesia
Communist Party of Indonesia
The Communist Party of Indonesia was the largest non-ruling communist party in the world prior to being crushed in 1965 and banned the following year.-Forerunners:...

 (PKI) had been accused as the culprits of the G30S and anti-Communist sentiments had build up sufficiently to gain momentum. Sarwo Edhie was given the task of eliminating PKI members in the Communist hotbeds in Central Java. This would result in the infamous mass-killings in October–December 1965 across Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

, Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

, and parts of Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...


There were numerous estimates as to the number of people killed during these months. Early estimates number between half a million at the very least and a million at the most. In December 1965, the number given to Sukarno was 78,000 although after he fell, it was revised to 780,000. The 78,000 was a ploy to hide the number of people killed from Sukarno. Speculations continued throughout the years, ranging from 60,000 to 1,000,000. Although the consensus seemed to have settled around 400,000. Finally, in 1989, before his death, Sarwo Edhie admitted to 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) member that 3 million were killed in the bloodbath.

By the beginning of 1966, anti-Communist sentiments combined with the high rate of inflation caused Sukarno to begin losing his popularity in the eyes of the People. There were now anti-Sukarno protests, led by youth movements such as the Indonesian Student Action Front (KAMI). On 10 January 1966, KAMI issued three demands to Sukarno. They wanted PKI to be banned, for PKI sympathizers within the Cabinet to be arrested, and for the prices to be lowered.

Suharto realized the importance in aligning the Army with the protesters. During the first months of 1966, Sarwo Edhie together with Kostrad Chief of Staff, Kemal Idris
Kemal Idris
Ahmad Kemal Idris , was a prominent Indonesian Army general during the 1950s and 1960s. He was an Indonesian guerrilla leader during the Indonesian National Revolution, who in 1949 was involved in continued resistance to the Dutch forces after they occupied Yogyakarta.Poncke Princen, the Dutch...

 actively organized and supported the protests whilst making a name for themselves among the KAMI protesters in the process. On 26 February 1966, KAMI was officially banned by Sukarno but with the encouragement of Sarwo Edhie and Kemal continued to protest. In a show of solidarity with the students, Sarwo Edhie enlisted at the University of Indonesia.

Although he was growing to be Sukarno's biggest political opponent, Suharto, a strong Javanese traditionalist, was always careful to avoid challenging Sukarno directly. By March 1966 however, he was ready to force Sukarno's hand. At the beginning of the month, he ordered the RPKAD to arrest PKI sympathizers within Sukarno's Cabinet. Suharto changed his mind at the very last minute, thinking that Sukarno's security might be compromised. However, it was too late to withdraw the orders.

On the morning of 11 March 1966, during a Cabinet meeting in which Suharto was absent, Sarwo Edhie and his troops surrounded the Presidential Palace without any identification. Sukarno, fearing for his life evacuated to Bogor. Later in the day he would transfer executive powers to Suharto through a letter called 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...


In 1967, Sarwo Edhie was transferred to Sumatra and was made Commander of KODAM II/Bukit Barisan. In Sumatra, Sarwo Edhie further weakened Sukarno's powers by banning his 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) throughout the island.

New Order Radical

Sarwo Edhie's support was firmly with Suharto as the latter began making the moves to ascend to the Presidency. Factionally speaking however, Sarwo Edhie belonged to a faction dubbed by scholars as "New Order Radicals". Together with Kemal Idris
Kemal Idris
Ahmad Kemal Idris , was a prominent Indonesian Army general during the 1950s and 1960s. He was an Indonesian guerrilla leader during the Indonesian National Revolution, who in 1949 was involved in continued resistance to the Dutch forces after they occupied Yogyakarta.Poncke Princen, the Dutch...

 and Kodam VI/Siliwangi Commander Hartono Rekso Dharsono
Hartono Rekso Dharsono
Hartono Rekso Dharsono or more commonly known as HR Dharsono was a prominent General in the early years of General Suharto's New Order regime. He also held the distinction of being the first Secretary General of ASEAN.-Early life:Dharsono was born in Pekalongan, Central Java...

, Sarwo Edhie wanted political parties to be dismantled and replaced with non-ideological groups which emphasized development and modernization.

"Act of Free Choice"

For this, Sarwo Edhie was transferred to West Irian to become the Commander of KODAM XVII/Cendrawasih. In the lead up to the "Act of Free Choice
Act of Free Choice
Act of Free Choice was an event in July to August 1969 by which Indonesia asserts that the Western New Guinea population decided to relinquish their sovereignty in favor of Indonesian citizenship...

", through which Indonesia annexed the territory without holding a full referendum, Sarwo Edhie played a leading role in crushing Papuan resistance

Exclusion from Government and Remaining Career

Like many who had supported Suharto to power, Sarwo Edhie grew increasingly dissatisfied with the new President. As the years went on, Suharto began to exclude supporters like Sarwo Edhie from the running of Indonesia, preferring instead to take the advice of colleagues who had gone up the ranks with him such as Ali Murtopo
Ali Murtopo
Ali Murtopo was a prominent Indonesian general and political figure during the first half of General Suharto's New Order regime.-Early life:...

. Being a New Order radical also did not help Sarwo Edhie's case and like Kemal and Dharsono, Suharto grew suspicious of him.

The final straw came in 1970, when Sarwo Edhie brought up the issue of Government corruption in 1970. From that point on, Sarwo Edhie was given positions that still held stature but kept him away from the politics of the Central Government in Jakarta. Sarwo Edhie then served as ABRI Academy (AKABRI) Governor (1970–1973), Indonesian Ambassador to South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 (1973–1978), and Inspector General of the Department of Foreign Affairs (1978–1983).

When Suharto established Pancasila
Pancasila Indonesia
Pancasila is the official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state. Pancasila consists of two Sanskrit words, "pañca" meaning five, and "sīla" meaning principles...

 as the National Ideology in 1984, Sarwo Edhie was put in charge of the indoctrination process by being appointed Chairman of the Supervisory Body for Implementation of Guidance for Comprehension and Practice of Pancasila (BP-7) He was elected to 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) in 1987 and resigned his position in 1988 in protest of Sudharmono
Sudharmono was Indonesia's fifth vice president, and was in office during the period 1988 - 1993.-Early life:...

's nomination to the Vice Presidency.


Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono AC , is an Indonesian politician and retired Army general officer who has been President of Indonesia since 2004....

 is his son-in-law.

Sarwo Edhie was the Chairman of Taekwondo
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, tae means "to strike or break with foot"; kwon means "to strike or break with fist"; and do means "way", "method", or "path"...


Sarwo Edhie listed Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 and Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 as persons that he admired.

Hobbies included watching epic movies and wayang
Wayang is a Javanese word for theatre . When the term is used to refer to kinds of puppet theatre, sometimes the puppet itself is referred to as wayang...

 as well as collecting keris
The kris or keris is an asymmetrical dagger or sword nowadays most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia, but also indigenous to Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Brunei. It is known as kalis in the southern Philippines. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade , but many have...


External links

Sarwo Edhie Wibowo profile
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