MOHAMMED SUHARTO Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders


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Mohammed Suharto (1921- ), second president of Indonesia (1968-1998), who oversaw the country’s unprecedented economic growth and emergence as a regional power.


Born to a peasant family in Kemusu, a village near the city of Yogyakarta in central Java (then under Dutch control), Suharto had an unsettled childhood. His parents’ marriage broke up before he was two years old, and he was brought up variously by each of his remarried parents and by relatives in other villages and towns around Yogyakarta. Suharto attended local Javanese schools, worked for a short time in a village bank, and joined the Dutch colonial army in 1940.


By 1942 Suharto had been promoted to sergeant. That year, Japan invaded and occupied Indonesia during World War II. Believing that cooperation with the Japanese offered the best hope for eventual Indonesian independence, Suharto joined a Japanese-led militia and received military training. After Japan surrendered an


d Indonesia declared its independence in August 1945, Suharto joined the newly established Indonesian army and fought in a five-year war against the Dutch, who attempted to regain control of the region after Japan’s withdrawal. The Dutch captured much of Java in 1947 and Yogyakarta the following year. In March 1949 troops under Suharto’s command attacked the Dutch in Yogyakarta and recaptured the city. The Dutch agreed to leave all of Indonesia except Dutch New Guinea (West Irian) later that year.


Over the next 15 years, Suharto rose steadily through the military ranks. In the early 1950s Suharto led military operations to suppress uprisings by Muslim and Dutch-led groups in various parts of Indonesia, and in 1957 he took command of the central Javanese army division. Suharto became a brigadier general in 1960, and in 1962 he headed a military operation to recover West Irian (now the province of Papua; formerly Irian Jaya) from the Dutch. In 1963 he was put in charge of the army’s strategic command, a special force kept on alert for national emergencies.