Sutomo (October 3, 1920 – October 7, 1981), also known as Bung Tomo, is best known for his role as an Indonesian military leader during the Indonesian National Revolution against the Netherlands. He played a central role in Battle of Surabaya when the British attacked the city in October and November 1945.
Sutomo was born in Kampung Blauran in central Surabaya to a clerk father, Kartawan Tjiptowidjojo, and mother of mixed Javanese, Sundanese and Madurese descent. He was forced to give up his education at the age of twelve because of family economic hardship during the Great Depression. Alongside menial jobs, he joined the Indonesian Scouting organisation and at the age of seventeen as the second Pramuka Garuda; a rank achieved by only three Indonesians before the Japanese occupation during World War II.
During the Japanese occupation, Sutomo was chosen in 1944 as a member of the Japanese-sponsored Gerakan Rakyat Baru (New People’s Movement) from where he took on a leadership role when Surabaya came under British attack. Although the city was lost to the Dutch’s European allies, the battle served to galvanise Indonesian and international opinion in support of the independence cause. Sutomo spurred thousands of Indonesians to action with his distinctive, emotional speaking-style of his radio broadcasts. His “clear, burning eyes, that penetrating, slightly nasal voice, or that hair-raising oratorical style that second only to Sukarno’s in its emotional power”.
Post 1950s, Sutomo emerged again as a national figure during the 1965 turbulent period. Initially, he initially supported Suharto to replace the left-leaning Sukarno government, but later opposed aspects of the New Order regime. On April 11, 1978, he was detained by the government for his outspoken criticism of corruption and abuses of power; upon his release five years later, however, Sutomo continued to loudly voice his criticisms.
Sutomo was known as a devoutly religious father of five who took knowledge seriously throughout his life. Before his death, Sutomo managed to finish a draft of his own dissertation on the role of religion in village-level development. On October 7, 1981, he died in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during his Hajj pilgrimage. Renowned as a 1945 Revolution hero, his family and friends succeeded in their request for his corpse to be returned to Indonesia, but although his reputation and military rank gave him the right to be buried in the Heroes’ Cemetery, he was laid to rest in public burial ground at Ngagel East Java.