146. Memorandum From the Director of the Far East Region (Blouin) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McNaughton)1.



  • Situation in Indonesia

The situation in Indonesia is in an uneasy calm, and President Sukarno seems to be making great efforts to bring about national unity in the face of growing antagonism between the Army and the groups that supported the 30 September Movement. The bodies of the senior military officers who were shot early in the 30 September attempted coup have been discovered. There is report of “brutalization” of their bodies, and the Army is capitalizing on these incidents to build up public support for its position. Sukarno, however, has indicated that he is not prepared to move against the PKI, the Air Force, Subandrio, or other elements who may have been in on the 30 September grab for power. One report indicates that Sukarno was in the hands of the Air Force until Sunday and did not know the true situation. Another report states that he now is fully aware of what happened and who were the culprits. The Army has banned the PKI newspaper but has made no move against PKI headquarters. General Suharto, who seems to have firm control of the military situation in and around Djakarta, went on the radio today with a strong speech denouncing the Air Force for its role in the plot and went to great lengths to build up public support for the Army by describing the brutal slaying of its top generals. This is the first indication we have that the Army may be willing to take issue with Sukarno’s policy of trying to gloss over the events of the last few days.

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Evacuation of Americans

There has not yet been any departure of U.S. dependents from Djakarta via commercial aircraft, although the Embassy indicated that this might begin today. A high Indonesian official (General Rubiono) told the Embassy it would be unwise to evacuate Americans at this time because it would show a lack of confidence in the Army’s ability to control the situation. On the other hand there are reports that Colonel Untung is in central Java organizing several battalions for possible further action against the Army and that PKI leader Aidit is in hiding. At noon, Task Force 77 and 76 were holding in two positions about 320 miles apart, with TF-76 at about 5 degrees north latitude. Late this afternoon TF-76 was ordered to steam north and “hold” at 8 degrees north latitude, near the position now being held by TF-77.2

Estimate of Situation

There are several current appraisals of the recent course of events, all of which are supported by the sometimes conflicting information. The two major ones are:

Sukarno knew what was happening all along and was lying low until he could see who was going to come out on top (presumably he hoped the Untung-Subandrio-Dani coup would succeed and the Army high command would no longer be a threat to his pro-Peking policy).
Sukarno was duped into believing that the Untung coup was to save him from a US-sponsored coup by the Army and that he is only now beginning to believe that the Air Force PKI were involved in a plot to get rid of their only major opposition, the Army.

If one assumes estimate (1) above to be true, it follows that Sukarno will do everything possible to prevent the Army from cracking down on the Air Force and PKI and that he will continue his previous policy of close relations with Peking and with the PKI, to our disadvantage. He has already made some attempt at playing up the incident as a mere interservice squabble. If we assume that estimate (2) is correct, then it follows that the Army will be given more authority and that people like Subandrio, Dani and Untung are out. But, Sukarno may fear that if he allows the Army to move too fast against the 30 September Movement, and more particularly against the PKI, civil war will develop and tear the country apart—leaving the outer islands open to foreign penetration and perhaps independent governments. By moving [Page 306] slowly and making a great show of national unity, he may be able to prevent disintegration of the Federation and still take care of the elements who sought to topple the government.

I am inclined to think that Sukarno was aware, at least in part, of what was going on from the beginning and that he is now attempting to put the best face on a botched job, hoping to keep his own prestige intact. The big question is whether the Army, having shown its strength and unity in the face of an effort to demolish its influence, will permit Sukarno to exercise the kind of control he had before. In any event, the Sukarno image has been tarnished.

The next two days should tell a lot. If the Army turns the Armed Forces Day celebration (October 5) into a big funeral procession for its fallen leaders, the momentum generated could well put the Army into the commanding position in spite of Sukarno. However, we cannot underestimate the power of Sukarno to manipulate the situation any way he wants, for better or worse. There is probably no other person in Indonesia today who can hold the Federation together, and the Army may well consider this factor more important than taking revenge on the Air Force and PKI.

F.J. Blouin 3
Rear Admiral, USN
Director, Far East Region
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 70 A 3717, Indonesia, 000.1–291.2. Secret. Drafted by D.E. Nuechterlein (OASD/ISA/FER).
  2. The decision to position these naval forces for possible emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens from Indonesia was the subject of multiple telephone conversations among Ball and McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, William Bundy, and Rusk on October 3 and 4. The memoranda of these telephone conversations are at the Johnson Library, Ball Papers, Telephone Conversations, Indonesia, [4/12/64–11/10/65].
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.