Alexander Evert Kawilarang

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Alex Evert Kawilarang
Col Kawilarang, Kenang-Kenangan Pada Panglima Besar Letnan Djenderal Soedirman, p27.jpg
Alex Evert Kawilarang
Born (1920-02-23)February 23, 1920
Batavia, Dutch East Indies
Died June 6, 2000(2000-06-06) (aged 80)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Allegiance Indonesia Indonesia
Years of service 1945–1961
Rank Colonel (TNI)
Commander (Permesta)
Unit KNIL (1941-1942)
T & T III Siliwangi
Commands held T & T III Siliwangi (TNI)

Alex Kawilarang (23 February 1920 – 6 June 2000) was an Indonesian military officer, a freedom fighter and founder of the military unit 'Kesko TT' in 1952, the founding name of the Indonesian special forces unit Kopassus. However, in 1959 he resigned his post as Military attaché to the United States to become a General in the separatist Permesta movement where he encountered Kopassus as his opponent.

Colonel Kawilarang was born in Meester Cornelis (now Jatinegara) in the Dutch East Indies, and died in Jakarta, Indonesia. His father Major A.H.H. Kawilarang was a professional soldier in the Dutch colonial army (KNIL). Both his parents are from the Minahasa. 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 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 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. Kawilarang survived several Japanese tortures (1943 and 1944), but suffered lifelong disability in his right arm and numerous scars.

Kawilarang recalls:

Someone in the warung [food stall] said: "Japan will grant the Indonesian people its freedom." I could not ascribe any sense at all to such small talk. Impossible! That was my opinion. But I remained silent. I didn't feel much for more torture... A news paper wrote: "Japan is an old friend." Lies! I thought.[1]

In 1944 Kawilarang's father died during the 'Junyō Maru' 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."[2]


Kawilarang (left) and Slamet Rijadi discussing strategy in Ambon

Like other Dutch trained military men such as General Nasution he became one of the leading founders of the Indonesian national army (TNI) 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 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 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.

From 1956 to 1958 Kawilarang was granted the prestigious position of military attaché to the United States. 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 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.[3] However, due to his role as Permesta commander, he never received the military distinctions: 'Bintang Gerilya' and 'Bintang Jasa GOM'.[4] 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:

Comradery is deeply rooted in their soul. I still wonder about the comradery between our own [Indonesian] cadets. In times of war combat is a duty. Comradery and humanity are a whole different chapter. I am convinced our state philosophy, the 'Pancasila' breathes the same virtue.[5]

April 1999, he was appointed Honorary Member of the Kopassus Special Forces and received the red beret.[6]


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)'.[7]



  • Conboy, Kenneth J. Kopassus: inside Indonesia's special forces (Equinox Publishing, Jakarta, 2003) ISBN 979-95898-8-6 [1]
  • Kawilarang, A.E., Officier in dienst van de Republiek Indonesië. (English: 'Officer in service of the Republic of Indonesia' translated into Dutch after the original Indonesian edition, P.H. & H.J. Geurink, Jakarta.), 3rd. Edition, Warung Bambu, Breda, 1994.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Kawilarang, A.E., Officier in dienst van de Republiek Indonesië., [Original publication: Ramadhan K.H. A.E. Kawilarang untuk Sang Merah Putih: pengalaman 1942–1961 (Publisher: Pustaka Sinar Harapan, Jakarta, 1988)], (Publisher: Warung Bambu, Breda, 1994) P.23 ISBN 90-801192-4-5
  2. ^ Kawilarang, A.E., Officier in dienst van de Republiek Indonesië., [Original publication: Ramadhan K.H. A.E. Kawilarang untuk Sang Merah Putih: pengalaman 1942–1961 (Publisher: Pustaka Sinar Harapan, Jakarta, 1988)], (Publisher: Warung Bambu, Breda, 1994) P.28 ISBN 90-801192-4-5
  3. ^ Original Indonesian text: "Hidup manusia memang tragedi, Kawilarang adalah salah satu perwira kesayangan Bung Karno, namun ia dipenjara oleh rezim Sukarno."TNI watch article.
  4. ^ Original Indonesian text: Sang Kolonel adalah pendiri Kopassus (waktu itu bernama Korps Komando TT-III, lalu diambil alih Markas TNI-AD menjadi KKAD - Korps Komando Angkatan Darat). Sayang, setelah terlibat Pergolakan Permesta, selaku Panglima Besar Angkatan Perang Permesta, dia tidak mendapat: Bintang Gerilya, Bintang Jasa GOM (dia sendiri yg memimpin perangnya), dll. Kopassus website. Overview awards.
  5. ^ Kawilarang, A.E., Officier in dienst van de Republiek Indonesië., [Original publication: Ramadhan K.H. A.E. Kawilarang untuk Sang Merah Putih: pengalaman 1942–1961 (Publisher: Pustaka Sinar Harapan, Jakarta, 1988)], (Publisher: Warung Bambu, Breda, 1994) P.70 ISBN 90-801192-4-5
  6. ^ Original Indonesian text: Setahun sebelum dia meninggal dunia, pada HUT Kopassus April 1999, dia diangkat menjadi Anggota Kehormatan Kopassus dengan menerima topi baret merah dan pisau baret. Kalo kikis satu tahun lagi, pasti mo jadi peristiwa yang memalukan Kopassus: "sang pendiri Kopassus satu2nya itu tidak pernah diberi penghargaan militer dari pemerintah RI dan dari 'TNI sekarang ini lebih baik dibubarkan saja' sedikitpun.Kopassus website.
  7. ^ TNI watch article.