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But Nugroho was different. He devoted himself to producing history for a regime dominated by the military. This earned him the enduring scorn of other Indonesian historians. Nugroho Notosusanto was born on 15 June , in Rembang, central Java. At age fourteen he joined the independence struggle against the colonial Dutch. He served as a member of the Student Army, Tentara Pelajar, made up entirely of secondary and university students.
Many of its members came from youth militias trained under the Japanese. Nugroho was probably too young to have joined these Japanese youth groups, but he shared with them an acceptance of martial mentalities. The Japanese occupation helped radicalise Indonesian youth and planted an authoritarian outlook in many young minds. Members of the Student Army felt they belonged to a unique generation set apart from their elders by their vigorous 'spirit' semangat , which of course included an unwillingness to make concessions to the Dutch.
Like other members of the Student Army and the Indonesian National Army, Nugroho held little regard for civilian leaders, particularly those involved in diplomatic negotiations. What is interesting is that Nugroho's criticism of the older generation was very personal.
Wife of hero soldier who tried to kill himself twice slams lack of support
His own father clearly belonged to it too - he was a member of the negotiating team for the Republic of Indonesia at the Round Table Conference of This encapsulates the divide between Nugroho's generation of radical nationalists and that of their parents. He once declared that his idol was General Sudirman, the first commander of the revolutionary Indonesian military.
Sudirman had long believed that the military had a special role to play. What little faith Sudirman had in the civilian leadership disappeared after December when, after the Dutch launched an aggressive military campaign, the civilian leadership, based on a calculated assessment of international opinion, allowed themselves to be captured rather than join the guerilla struggle.
After the transfer of sovereignty in December , the government of the Republic of Indonesia offered all members of the former Student Army a military education at Breda in the Netherlands.
Nugroho now had to choose. Should he continue a career in the military, or follow his father's example and pursue a higher education? Much later, Nugroho revealed that he would have chosen the military and gone to Breda. But his father prevented him.
Nugroho's father, S H Notosusanto, was born into an elite Javanese priyayi family. He was one of the few Indonesians to attend a Dutch university in the Netherlands Indies. During his studies in the late s and early s he was exposed to important nationalist leaders such as Supomo, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta.
Perhaps he shared Hatta and Sukarno's hesitation about the need for a national army. Yet here was his son - excited about joining precisely such an organisation. Nugroho obeyed his father and enrolled in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Indonesia. But this did not stop him from identifying with the military throughout his life. A romantic view of the independence struggle endured in the short stories he wrote in the s.
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Humanistic in style, most of these stories demonstrate a compassion for ordinary people affected by the revolution. They indicate a side to Nugroho he was later to suppress. The short stories made Nugroho well known. He also became an active student leader. His obvious creativity and intellect attracted the attention of his peers and mentors. Among them were the historian Onghokham, and Priyono the left-leaning Minister of Education in the Guided Democracy period just before They all held great hopes for him.
By Nugroho was teaching history at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. One day General A H Nasution, chief of staff of the armed forces and minister for defence, approached him to join a team of researchers. Their task was to write an army version of the history of the independence struggle. The aim: to challenge a similar history said to be planned by the leftist National Front. The army feared that the latter would leave out an account of the so-called Madiun Affair of , a bloody event the army preferred to represent as a communist revolt against the government.
Nugroho seized the opportunity. History and politics now met decisively for the first time in his life. When completed, this history project led to the establishment of the Armed Forces History Centre, with Nugroho at its head. His most important project, as noted above, was to produce the first official version of the coup attempt of 1 October After this he set about consolidating the military's historical image by emphasising the military's role in the independence struggle.
Nugroho wrote many history books, curated several museums, and assisted with some important film projects. An earnest tribute to unsung heroes.
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