Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

The 1950s at Home and Abroad


Legendary American jazz musician Count Bassie in Myanmar

The legendary American jazz musician Count Bassie, with actor Win Oo and others, in Rangoon.


Kalaw railway station c. 1952(photo credit: Burton family collection)


Near Goodliffe Road with a view of the Reclining Buddha c.1952(photo credit: Burton Family)

1887 - 1963
January 1956: President U Ba U waves from his Series 62 Cadillac Convertible whilst driving down Dalhousie Street, Rangoon

U Ba U was born in Bassein in 1887 and educated at (Rangoon) Government High School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was a lawyer and judge and was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at independence in 1948. He served one term as President (1952-1957). He died in 1963.

22 January 1909
U Thant's birthday

U Thant was born on 22 January 1909 in Pantanaw. The photograph on the left is U Thant as a student at Rangoon University c. 1928. The second is U Thant in 1970 as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

20 January 1910
The birth anniversay of U Nyun

U Nyun, one of Myanmar's most distinguished public servants, was born on 20 January 1910 and was educated at Rangoon, Oxford and London Universities. He served in the ICS and then as a senior civil servant in the independent Burma government, before joining the UN in 1953. From 1959 - 1973 he was the Executive Secretary of UN ECAFE (now ESCAP), working directly under Secretaries-General Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant. U Nyun was one of many trained and experienced Burmese...

March 1943
March 1943: the cover of the Japanese magazine "Shashin Shuho"

March 1943 : the cover of the Japanese magazine "Shashin Shuho", showing Dr Ba Maw and colleagues arriving in March 1943 at Tokyo's Haneda airport. Five months later, Dr Ba Maw would be proclaimed the "Adipati" of Burma. In the background is a camouflaged Mitsubishi KI-57 transport plane probably belonging to the Dai Nippon Koku (Imperial Japanese Airways).

17 May 1945
British government issues "White Paper" on Burma

On 17 May 1945, the British government issued its "White Paper" on the future of Burma. Burma's "Anti-Fascist Organization" (later AFPFL) under General Aung San opposed the programme outlined in the White Paper, leading first to a standoff against the returned British authorities, then to negotiations in London in January 1946 and finally independence outside the Commonwealth in 1948.

The White Paper proposed the following: (1) A period of "direct rule" by the Governor (assisted by an "Executive Council" of...

July 1945
Labour party and Burma

In July 1945, the Labour Party won a landslide victory over the Conservatives and Clement Attlee replaced Sir Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. Labour's election victory without a doubt changed the course of Burma's history. Clement Attlee was committed to decolonization and within a year reversed earlier policies and began moves towards Burmese self-determination. By 1949 the Attlee government had granted independence to India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. A Conservative government under Winston Churchill would almost certainly not have granted...

1946
The future in 1946

(The caption reads "A Flying Boat of the Future Over Rangoon"). This 1946 advertisement was for the new Saunders-Roe "Princess" flying boat which came into service in 1951. The "Princess" was the largest all-metal flying boat ever constructed. I'm not sure if it ever actually flew to Rangoon. Other flying boats landed in front of Strand Road.

1950
Sule Pagoda Road in the 1950s.

1951
Indian and Burmese leaders

These are two photographs from an early visit (in 1951). The first shows Pandit Nehru coming greet U Nu at Palam Airport (now Indira Gandhi International Airport). U Nu is to the left, already surrounded by journalists. The second photograph is from the same trip, with U Nu and Pandit Nehru together with President Rajendra Prasad (the first President of India). U Nu was then 45 years old and had been PM for three years. He and Pandit Nehru were...

1951
A visit to to Rangoon by Princess Alexandra of Kent, cousin of Queen Elizabeth in 1951

1952
An interesting perspective: Burma on a 1952 Cold War map

An interesting perspective: Burma on a 1952 Cold War map, first published in 1952 in Time Magazine. It was meant to highlight the communist threat to Asia. Perhaps it also shows most clearly than normal maps Burma position as China's bridge to the Bay of Bengal.

1953 - 1985
Richard Nixon’s visits to Myanmar

Richard Nixon, as Vice-President of the United States of America, visited to Myanmar in 1953. The US papers at the time all reported on his confrontation with left-wing and anti-American demonstrators at Pegu (it was Thanksgiving Day and the Burmese were also able to rustle up a turkey for lunch). Fewer reported on his trip to the Shwedagon. He and Pat Nixon wrote in the register: "For years we have heard of it, and we have previously seen pictures of...

17 April 1953
U Myint Thein at the United Nations for KMT aggression

On 17 April 1953 at the United Nations, Justice U Myint Thein brilliantly laid out the Burmese government's charge against Kuomintang aggression. Over the past several years, more than 10,000 Nationlist troops under KMT General Li Mi had crossed into Burma, and were by 1953, with active US intelligence support ("Operation Paper"), pushing west across the Salween and threatening all the Shan states. The KMT were also building up a massive trade in opium. The Burma Army, then facing communist...

March 1953
Foreign advisors and officials of Myanmar

Foreign development advisors and aid officials are nothing new to Myanmar. Here's a photograph from March 1953 showing Prime Minister U Nu with chief advisor Louis Wallinsky (far left) and consultant Robert Nathan (in centre, in Burmese costume). ICS U Hla Maung is on the far right. It could be said that the hard work dozens of Burmese officials and businessmen, combined with reasonable government policies and the help of these international experts, had brought a fair degree of prosperity...

1953
From another presidential visit

Vice President Richard Nixon at Government House, Rangoon in 1953 with Miss Irene Ba U, President Dr Ba U and Mrs Nixon.

1953
Rangoon 1953

March 1953 - 1957
Census of 1953-57

The Government of Burma held a national census over several stages between 1953 and 1957. The Census Commissioner was ICS U Kyaw Khine. He was assisted by the (US AID funded) UN census adviser Milton Lieberman. In this 1953 photo they are asking the first census question to President Dr Ba U at the President's House. (Sorry for the poor quality of the photo).