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.

The 1950s documentary on Burma

Fascinating 1950s documentary on Burma by legendary TV journalist Edward R. Murrow, including interviews and footage of U Pe Kin, Dr Kyaw Thet, U Nu, Dr Ba U, Daw Mya Thein, Sterling Seagrave, Edward Law-Yone, and others. A must see. At 2:44 U Pe Kin (then Burma's Permanent Representative to the UN) makes his famous condemnation of the Soviet Union for its crushing of Hungarian uprising, saying Burma had much to lose by criticising Moscow, but that "...We do this...

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, one of Myanmar's most distinguished public servants.

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...

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...

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...

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.

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).

December 1954
Prime Minister U Nu’s visit to China in 1954

Despite the many ups and downs of Sino-Myanmar relations in modern times (including the Beijing backed the communist invasion of 1967), all Myanmar leaders since independence have made several visits to our giant eastern neighbour. This is a photo of U Nu with Mao Zedong during U Nu's first trip in December 1954. The Prime Minister's party included U Thant, Col Aung Kyi, U Myint Thein, and U Win Pe. Chairman Mao was likely surprised by U Nu's frankness on...

Myanmar Hollywood actress

Win Min Than achieves Hollywood fame as the co-star with Gregory Peck of the 1954 film "Purple Plain". She was married to Bo Setkya of the "Thirty Comrades". "Purple Plain" was her first acting experience, and though offered many subsequent roles, she chose never to appear in a film again.

Prime Minister U Nu’s visit to the United States in 1955

In 1955, U Nu became the first Burmese prime minister to visit the United States. This is a photograph of him with President Dwight Eisenhower in the White House. U Thant (his advisor and a permanent secretary in his office) and John Foster Dulles (US Secretary of State) are also in the photograph. U Nu is presenting Eisenhower with a check for $5,000 to help American children whose fathers died fighting the Japanese in Burma. 

April 1955
Nasser, U Nu and Nehru during Thingyan

From the days when Indian prime ministers changed into Burmese clothes and were willing to get soaked - here's a picture of Egyptian President Nasser, U Nu, and Prime Minister Nehru in Rangoon during Thingyan in 1955.

July 1955
U Nu in Hollywood

A very special photograph - U Nu with Alfred Hitchcock in Hollywood July 1955, with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day on the set of "The Man Who Knew Too Much". Daw Mya Yee and U Thant on the right. With thanks to U Kyan Dyne Aung for sharing this photograph, which I saw for the first time only recently.

U Nu at New York Yankees game

Prime Minister U Nu at a New York Yankees baseball game in 1955. From left to right: U Thant (then Secretary to the PM), Mrs Eileen Barrington (wife of Mr James Barrington, Burma Foreign Secretary), Daw Mya Yee and U Nu. (photo courtesy Ko Kyan Dyne Aung)