161. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1

1184. 1. Pouching today detailed analysis of Sept 30 Movement.2 Many key facts still not known but I believe we now have adequate information for informed assessment and suggest report be given wide dissemination. Following for immediate use are major highlights of report.

2. Sept 30 Movement. This Movement consisted of several army units, air force chief and several of his colleagues, and paramilitary elements formed from Communist cadres. Leaders included Lt. Col. Untung of Palace Guard (tough, dissatisfied soldier with Communist background); Army Brig. Gen. Supardjo (Pontianak); Lt. Col. Heru (Air Force Intelligence); and Navy Col. Sunardi. Principal culprits, however, are at very top: Sukarno, Subandrio, Aidit and his PKI, Omar Dani and elements of his air force. Communist China was involved, at least to extent of supplying several thousand guns which smuggled into Indonesia and distributed to Communist RBP. There circumstantial evidence that Peking aware of or perhaps even had hand in plot but this not established.

3. Objective. Plot probably had two options: (a) total coup except for Sukarno, or (b) limited coup involving removal of army leadership. Plot perhaps failed because it climaxed between these two. Additional complicating factor is likelihood that not all elements were working for same objective. Untung, for example, appears to have been fall guy who went along because of pro-PKI sympathies and resentment over high living of top GOI leaders. Others (PKI, Dani, possibly Subandrio and Sukarno) probably wanted to cut army down to size now in order accelerate Sukarno’s rapid “turn of wheel” to left. Possible fear of army pre-emptive coup may have sparked move but this not known.

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4. What Probably Happened. At 0200 Oct 1 less than three battalions army troops began move and by 0400 had sealed off palace, taken telegraph office, telecommunications building and perhaps National Bank, and assumed position around Merdeka Square. Other key objectives obtained through inside cooperation. Between 0300 and 0500 raids by element army, Palace Guard and PKI youth occurred on homes of 7 top generals resulting in murder Gen. Pandjaitan, kidnapping (with some wounded) of Gens. Yani, Soetojo, Parman, Harjono, Suprapto. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Nasution escaped over wall and Gen. Suharto apparently missed because he not at home. Generals and Nasution’s aide were hauled off to secluded spot on grounds Halim Air Force [Base] and tortured and murdered. Mutilated bodies found Oct 3. There seemed to be no close coordination in provinces except possibly central Java where Sept 30 Movement forces held several points briefly and Joga changed hands several times before reverting to government control Oct 4.

5. Movement forced into early retreat by quick reaction under Gen. Suharto of Strategic Command (Kostrad) and dwindling support for Untung. During evening Oct 1 Suharto, joined by cavalry battalion from Adjie’s Siliwangi division recaptured strategic points and secured city. Rebel troops retreated to Halim; Untung and Air Force Chief Omar Dani flew to his Swahjudi air force base near Madiun early Oct 2. Sukarno went to Bogor Palace.

6. Probable Role of PKI. Since 1952 PKI has pursued United Front strategy proceeding cautiously toward peaceful transition into socialist stage. In mid Sept party began taking vigorous security measures. Whether it feared army attack or was itself preparing for coup attempt not known. In any event there no question of PKI involvement in Sept movement. Aidit and other top leaders almost certainly in on planning, PKI unions in transport and communications fields assisted movement and PKI newspaper was only one to support it. Whether timing was triggered by concern Sukarno’s health or fear imminent army coup, PKI decision to participate seems to have been hurried one.

7. Role of Sukarno. Many knowledgeable Indonesians join most foreign diplomats here in believing Sukarno involved in Sept 30 Movement, although extent his complicity not clear. Sukarno’s long term political record of close association with PKI merged over past year into virtual public identification with PKI. On Sept 29 in speech to Communist youth, he referred to former “loyal generals” who had become “protectors of counter-revolutionary elements. These we must crush.” Important circumstantial evidence lays critical questions at Sukarno’s door. His actions during and after coup are suspect, including his lack of any real public remorse over murdered generals. There are reservations, but odds seem overwhelming that, at very least, Sukarno [Page 337]knew what was afoot and had given tacit blessing to seizure of generals, probably having let himself be convinced (not a hard job) that they planning coup against him. He may not however have been in on all details.

8. What Went Wrong. Coup came dangerously close to success. It perhaps failed because of differing objectives of those involved and fact it climaxed between being standard coup attempt and pure act of terror. Untung quickly gained control of capital, and Dani and Aidit came to his support. However, army regrouped quickly around Nasution and Suharto, masses failed to rise against “capitalist bureaucrats,” and it possible Sukarno backed out when he learned generals killed and all not going well.

9. Conclusions

PKI has received serious setback to prestige and organization. Road back will be long one but with Sukarno’s support party could eventually make it if army permits. This is key to situation.
Seems army will not now move directly against Sukarno, whom they probably believe necessary as symbol national unity.
Sukarno likely remain single most important figure in Indonesia but will not for foreseeable future regain power and prestige he had before Sept 30.
To date army has performed far better than anticipated in attacking PKI and regrouping. Degree to which it will stand up to Sukarno not yet proven, but seems almost certain army will continue exercise considerable restraining influence on him.
Communists could cause considerable difficulty through insurgency, strikes or mass action but will probably not resort to this tactic except as very last resort. Some elements in army hope PKI will take to hills so army can use its military strength against them.
If Sukarno dies in near future, recent events give major boost to army in assuming effective control and countering PKI.
Comments on implications recent events for Indonesian foreign policy reported Embtel 11663 (Notal).

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Canberra, Kuala Lumpur, London, Manila for FELG/RSO, Medan, Singapore, Tokyo, Wellington, Paris, Hong Kong, Surabaya, and CINCPAC for POLAD. There is no time of transmission on this telegram. Passed to the White House, DOD, NSA, CIA, and USIA.
  2. Airgram 300 from Djakarta, October 22. (Ibid., POL 23–8 INDON) The Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Current Intelligence also prepared an analysis of the 30 of September Movement, OCI No. 2342/65, October 28. The memorandum’s summary stated that the purpose of the coup was to “destroy the army leadership and presumably to redirect the army’s political thrust,” but beyond these ends the motivation of Untung and Vice Air Marshal Yani remained unclear. As for the PKI, elements were involved, but the “role of the party leadership remains obscure.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. V, Memos, 10/65–11/65)
  3. In telegram 1166 from Djakarta, October 23, the Embassy suggested that the outcome of the power struggle between Sukarno and the Army had the potential for a significant shift in Indonesia’s foreign policy. Complete victory by the Army might well make expansionism and concomitant anti-Westernism outmoded. Even a partial Army victory would produce a change for the better. The central question was how to help the Army to win, but without revealing that assistance and thereby becoming a handicap rather than an asset. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US)