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He was born in 1899 in Trabzon. After visiting the elementary school and middle school in Erzurum, Kerkük (today in Iraq) and Edirne, he gradtuated from the Kuleli military high school in İstanbul. During the World War I, he fought in 1917 at the Palestine front, became a prisoner of war by British in Egypt in 1918. After his release, he took part first in the southern front, then in the western front battles of the Turkish War of Independence.
Sunay completed his military education in 1927, and graduated from military academy in 1930 as a staff officer. Rising through the ranks to become a general in 1949 and then a four-star general in 1959, he held important military posts. In 1960, he was appointed to chief of army and later chief of joint staff. On March 14, 1966, he was elected to the senate from the presidential contingency.
As president Cemal Gürsel was unable to fulfill his duties due to his illness and had to be taken off office, Cevdet Sunay was elected 5th president by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on March 28, 1966. He maintained his office despite increasing terrorist activity, student riots, and threatened coups. He served the constitutional term of seven years until March 28, 1973 and became then a permanent senator.
He was married with Atıfet since 1929. They had three children.
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