General Gatot Subroto: Stubborn Sergeant Turned National Hero

A Troublesome Sergeant’s Trip

Gatot Subroto, a Jakarta boy famous for his name on high-profile events and a top hospital, was a child over a century ago. However, history buffs value Gatot Subroto.

Gatot Subroto is revered by many, even his opponents, in Peter Britton’s “Professionalism and Military Ideology in Indonesia” (1996). He helped found the freedom fighter party Supporters of Indonesian Independence (IPKI) with Nasution and Aziz Saleh.

Despite being called a “crazy” general and serving less than Oerip Soemohardjo, Gatot Subroto had more military experience than General Soedirman, Nasution, and even Soeharto, the second President of Indonesia.

From stubborn Sergeant to General

Gatot Subroto graduated from kindergarten nearly 100 years ago. He was born in Banyumas to Tweede Inlandsche teacher Sayid Yudoyuwono. Teachers were respected, frequently noble, back then.

The prestigious Europe Lagere School (ELS) in Banyumas accepted Gatot. Not just any local guy, he was Banyumas native. Although hardly troublemakers, Banyumas and Begelen residents liked to fight, as Ben Anderson remarked. In colonial Gombong, many young people from these regions joined the military since it fit them.

Gatot, like Bagelen’s Oerip Soemohardjo, liked brawls. He was bold with weaker youngsters and often fought Dutch kids.  expelled from ELS in the fourth grade after fighting with a Dutch resident’s son before graduation. He continued elementary school at Hollandsch Inlandsche School (HIS) in Cilacap.

Gatot grew rowdy after primary school and refused his parents’ offer to continue his schooling. Gatot Subroto was 14 when he started working because basic education lasted seven years and students started at seven. He joined the military after having trouble sitting behind a desk in office job.

Gatot enlisted in the military in December 1928 at Magelang Kaderschool. The aggressive and violent youngster wound up in a military police cell soon after enlisting. Gatot expected to become a corporal or sergeant after graduating from HIS.

His noble father forbade his son from entering the colonial military, known as the Koninklijk Nederlandsch Indisch Leger (KNIL). The military was awful during colonial times, despite sergeants’ high salaries. Gatot was a Second Sergeant by 1930. His military training ended, and he was sent to Padang Panjang, West Sumatra.

Unconventional Journey of Gatot Subroto, from Sergeant to National Hero

Gatot didn’t have to die for the Dutch Queen. He only experienced life as a sergeant due to his intransigence and love of fighting. Gatot and other indigenous soldiers abandoned their stations after KNIL abolished because the Dutch lost the war and were banished. They boarded a ship to Makassar without their battlefield outfits. Gatot reunited with his family at Prince Diponegoro’s grave in Makassar after they assumed he was dead in the Pacific battles.

After a brief civilian career, Banyumas Regent Gandasubrata appointed Gatot Subroto Police Chief. Gatot joined PETA in 1943 during the Japanese occupation. He became battalion commander after company commander. His position is headed PETA in its merger with the People’s Security Army after Indonesia’s independence. He was Commander of Division 2 Gunung Jati and held various Eastern Indonesian positions.

As part of a significant downgrade of ranks in the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI), Gatot demoted from Major General to Colonel during the fight of independence. Gatot left the military in 1953 and moved to Unggaran. Forest hunting his hobby.

Upon returning in 1956, he became Deputy Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army (KSAD) TNI AD. Lieutenant General was his ultimate rank. Gatot called his subordinates “monkeys.”

Former sergeant “crazy,” Gatot valued getting close to his men. The 1981 film “Kereta Api Terakhir” immortalizes him. He spoke Banyumas and called his subordinates “monkeys.” Film depicts Banyumas’ revolutionary mood.

Gatot Subroto Accepting Asoka Buddha’s Peace

Buddhism has always been a minority religion in Indonesia. Devout Muslim Gatot Subroto accepted this and protected Buddhism. He believed Buddhism calmed hostility and encouraged cosmic peace.

According to Moeh Oemar’s biography of Gatot Subroto, this Muslim was generous enough to protect Buddhism. He frequently attended Buddhist religious events like Borobudur Stupa Waisak Day.

A big gold-plated Buddha statue from Thailand given to the Semarang Buddhist community by Gatot Subroto.

Gatot was Muslim, but Petter Britton says he lived a Buddhist life. His death showed his spiritual strength. Javanese call Gatot’s talent “pandaian mati”—the art of death. You could predict your death and help you get to the afterlife.

Peter also compares Gatot Subroto’s death to Yudhistira. He was dying, but his life appeared inextricably linked to his body. He suffered a nightlong heart attack.

An Islamic priest saw Gatot Subroto’s death. The cleric recited the Shahada, which Gatot confirmed. The Shahada affirms Muhammad’s prophethood and one God. Gatot died peacefully after saying this.

Gatot’s June 11, 1962 funeral was as requested. It was a Buddhist ceremony in Mulyoharjo, Gunung Ungaran. President Sukarno posthumously named him Indonesian National Hero on June 18, 1962, a week after his death. His death prompted one of Indonesia’s fastest conferrals.