Born in Lobos, Province of Buenos Aires, he entered the Military School aged 16 and following graduation he made good progress through the ranks. He served in Italy during the late 1930s as a military observer.
In June 1943 as a colonel, he was a significant figure in the military coup by the GOU (United Officers' Group) against the civilian government of Ramón Castillo. Initially Under-Secretary for War under Gen. Pedro Ramírez, he became Secretary of Labour and Welfare (November 1943) and then Vice President and Secretary for War under Gen. Edelmiro Farrell (February 1944).
Forced into resignation by opponents within the armed forces on October 9, 1945, Perón was arrested shortly afterward, but mass demonstrations organised by the CGT trade union federation forced his release (October 17), and popular support gained him the presidency with 56% of the vote in the February 24, 1946 elections.
Despite his alleged fascist tendencies, Perón pursued social policies aimed at empowering the working class. He greatly expanded the number of unionized workers, and helped establish the powerful General Confederation of Labor (CGT). He called this the "third position", between capitalism and communism, although he was strongly anti-United States and anti-British. Perón also pushed hard to industrialize the country, in 1947 he announced the first five-year plan to boost newly nationalized industries. His ideology would be dubbed peronism and became a central influence in Argentine political parties.
Perón's new wife, Eva Duarte de Perón (1919-July 26, 1952) married Perón on December 9, 1945), was hugely popular. Known as Evita, she helped her husband develop support with labour and women's groups. Perón won re-election in 1951, but economic problems, high levels of corruption and conflict with the Catholic Church contributed to his overthrow in an army-navy coup in September 1955. He went into exile in Paraguay, eventually settling in Madrid. He married nightclub singer Isabel Martínez de Perón in 1961.
In Argentina, the 1950s and 1960s were marked by frequent changes of government and low economic growth and continued social and labor demands. When the governments failed to revive the economy and suppress escalating terrorism from groups like the pro-Perón Montoneros in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the way was open for Perón's return. General Alejandro Lanusse had taken power in March 1971 and had declared his intention to restore constitutional democracy by 1973. From exile Perón supported left-wing Peronists and the more active unions.
On March 11, 1973, Argentina held general elections. Although Perón was prevented from running, voters elected his stand-in, Héctor Cámpora, as President. Campora resigned in July 1973, paving the way for new elections. By now Argentina was in such shambles political leaders were literally begging Perón to return. Perón traveled back to his homeland, and won a decisive electoral victory. He became President for a second time in October 1973 with his wife Isabel as Vice President.
The new Perón regime was disrupted by conflict between his leftist and rightist supporters as Perón became more right-wing, there was a high level of terrorist acts. The government resorted to a number of emergency decrees to try and restore public order. Perón died on July 1, 1974 with the problems unresolved and was succeeded by Isabel. She was overthrown on March 24, 1976 and prompty replaced by a military junta.
Perón is buried in Chacarita Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina.