Soeharto and the Japanese occupation
Soeharto, who ruled Indonesia for thirty-two years (1966–98), was born in the hamlet of Kemusu, twelve miles west of the court city of Yogyakarta, in June 1921. The product of a broken home, he lived with a succession of families and attended a string of primary schools before entering a schakelschool (link school), designed to connect the village school system, where the language of instruction was Javanese and where the education was rudimentary, to the parallel and infinitely more prestigious Dutchlanguage stream. Although his command of Dutch was never good, putting him at a disadvantage in his later career, Soeharto joined the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger, KNIL) in 1940. As a soldier in the KNIL, he showed promise and was pushed through a series of good, if rushed, basic military training programs. He was promoted to sergeant as a powerful Japanese force invaded Java on March 1, 1942. The Dutch surrendered a week later. This article had its origins in research for a book that will look at the early life and times of former President Soeharto. Because there was a great deal of contextual material that is important for an understanding of Indonesian social, political, and military history during the Japanese occupation, it seemed worthwhile to present it here in a way that would allow full play to the context.
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Page range: 1-103
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program