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Alexander Evert Kawilarang

Alexander Evert Kawilarang

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Alex Kawilarang is an Indonesian national hero, a freedom fighter and founder of the military unit 'Kesko TT' in 1952. This was the earliest name of the now famous Indonesian special forces unit called 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...

. However in 1959 he was also a General in the separatist Permesta
Permesta was a rebel movement in Indonesia, the name coming from Piagam Perjuangan Semesta . It was declared by civil and military leaders of East Indonesia on March 2, 1957. The center of the movement was in Manado, and the movement was led by Colonel Ventje Sumual...

 movement where he encountered Kopassus as his opponent.

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...

 Kawilarang was born in Meester Cornelis (now Jatinegara
Jatinegara is a subdistrict of East Jakarta, Jakarta, Indonesia. The boundaries of Jatinegara are Bekasi Barat Raya - Bekasi Timur Raya - I...

) in the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

, and died in 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...

, 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...

. His father Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 A.H.H. Kawilarang was a professional soldier in the Dutch colonial army (KNIL). Both his parents are from the Minahasa
The Minahasa are an ethnic group located in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, formerly known as North Celebes...

. His first Indo (Dutch-Indonesian) wife is Nelly van Amden with whom he had a daughter and a son.


Alex Kawilarang enjoyed comprehensive European schooling and before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 he was a KNIL officer like his father, responsible for training cadets. After fighting the Japanese during the invasion of the Dutch East Indies, he slowly developed an appreciation for the rhetoric of the charismatic 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 became strongly convinced that the time for an independent Indonesian state had arrived.

During the Japanese occupation Menadonese, Ambonese and Indo people were often randomly arrested during raids and severely tortured by the Kempeitai
The was the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945. It was not an English-style military police, but a French-style gendarmerie...

. Kawilarang survived several Japanese tortures (1943 and 1944), but suffered lifelong disability in his right arm and numerous scars.

Kawilarang recalls:
In 1944 Kawilarang's father died during the 'Junyō Maru
Junyo Maru
The was a Japanese cargo ship that was sunk in 1944 by the British submarine , resulting in the loss of over 5,000 lives.The ship was built in 1913 by Robert Duncan Co. Glasgow. It displaced 5,065 tons, was long, wide, and deep. The engines were rated at...

' disaster. The Japanese cargo ship carrying 3,000 Menadonese, Ambonese, Indo-European, Dutch, British, Australian, American POW's and over 3,500 Javanese Romushas (forced laborers) was sunk by a British submarine. Kawilarang recalls being told about the tragedy: "I prayed in silence. I did not cry. The Japanese had given me enough practice in digesting pain and suffering in silence."


Like other Dutch trained military men such as General Nasution he became one of the leading founders of the Indonesian national army (TNI
TNI stands for:* Satna Airport, IATA code TNI* Tahitian Noni International, Inc.* Taqramiut Nipingat Inc., an Inuit broadcasting organization in Quebec, Canada* Telephone Network Interface; see Network Interface Device...

) after World War II. During the early years of the Indonesian independence struggle he opposed his former KNIL colleagues in combat. He was liaison officer to the British armed forces, military governor of Aceh and commander of various military units which he led into battle numerous times to protect the unitarian state of the young Republic of Indonesia.

During the Andi Aziz
Andi Aziz
Andi Aziz was a Royal Dutch East Indies Army captain, who led the 5 April 1950 Makassar Uprising in Sulawesi against the Republic of the United States of Indonesia government. The purpose of the uprising was to revolt against the incorporation of the Indonesian federated "states" into the...

 uprising in Makassar (5 April 1950) Kawilarang was Commander of the 'TT VII / Wirabuanahe' troops and commanded future president Suharto in the crackdown of the South Sulawesi insurgency.

He played a key role in the ferocious battles against the well trained Mollucan ex-KNIL soldiers fighting for the separatist RMS
-Science and technology:* Root mean square, a concept encapsulating the "average", in some sense, of a quantity. Frequently encountered in statistics, the physical sciences and electronics...

 movement in the Moluccas. Although better trained and renowned for their fighting skills the resistance of the Mollucan soldiers was eventually put down. This battle prompted Kawilarang to establish Indonesias own special forces. On April 15, 1952 he founded the Kesatuan Komando Tentara Territorium III/Siliwangi (Kesko TT), Now known as 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...


From 1956 to 1958 Kawilarang was granted the prestigious position of military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 to the USA. He then developed the conviction that a federal Indonesian state with greater levels of independence from the central government in Jakarta was necessary. He resigned his position and became a leader of the so called Permesta movement, where he took up arms against the TNI. After the bombing of Manado
Manado is the capital of the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia. Manado is located at the Bay of Manado, and is surrounded by a mountainous area. The city has about 405,715 inhabitants, making it the second-largest city in Sulawesi after Makassar...

 this separatist movement was eventually also put down.


Kawilarang was imprisoned but somehow still enjoyed an amiable relationship with President Sukarno and a general respect as a war hero of the independence struggle and was pardoned and rehabilitated in 1961. However, due to his role as Permesta commander, he never received the military distinctions: 'Bintang Gerilya' and 'Bintang Jasa GOM'. He resigned as TNI colonel and became part of the influential Indonesian ex-military society called purnawirawan. Putting his fighting years behind him, he made amends with all his former opponents and even visited The Netherlands several times for reunions with KNIL pensioners before his death in 2000.

In his biography Kawilarang reflects on the virtues of comradery between men at arms and nobility among officers. During post war reunions with his former Dutch classmates at the Bandung school for officers he concludes:
April 1999, he was appointed Honorary Member of the Kopassus Special Forces and received the red beret.


His son Alexander Edwin Kawilarang, born in 1954, is head of the purnawirawan organization FKPPI and, as such, part of the so-called Keluarga Besar Purnawirawan (KBK), which translates to English as the 'Greater Family of Ex-military'. Under the 'Orde Baru' (Post Sukarno New Order), he also was an official in the Suharto-owned company 'Bambang Tri (PT Bimantara)'.

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