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Open Access Gatot Mangkupraja, PET A, and the origins of the Indonesian National Army

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Gatot Mangkupraja, PET A, and the origins of the Indonesian National Army

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Indonesian nationalist Gatot Mangkupraja (1898-1968) was politically active throughout his adult life that extended over the turbulent periods called tiga jaman ('three eras' under the Dutch, the Japanese, and the Indonesian administration) but he never reached real prominence, and is remembered primarily for his role in the formation of PETA (Pembela Tanah Air, Defenders of the Homeland). Gatot's fame rests on his own statement that he presented to the Japanese occupation authorities an impassioned petition written in his own blood pleading them to allow the Indonesians to form their own defence force. He made this statement in his memoirs, which were published in the journal Indonesia under the title: 'The PETA and My Relations with the Japanese; A Correction of Sukarno's Autobiography'. Some people cast doubt about the reliability of his statement, which resulted in heated debate in Indonesia in 1975. This debate however failed to clarify the issue in part because people’s access to source materials was limited at that time. Gatot's memoirs merit re-examination because they concern some key issues in modern Indonesian history and also because his memoirs, often cited uncritically, are, as this article will show, riddled with inaccuracies, both large and small.

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