Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

The 1950s at Home and Abroad

Downtown Rangoon 1953

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.

18 August 1954
The cover of Time Magazine in 1954

The cover of Time Magazine published on 18 August 1954. U Nu's warning (at the bottom of the cover) - "Beware of Pied Pipers" is perhaps as apt today as in 1954.

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)

April 1955
On the way to the 1955 Bandung conference

The April 1955 Bandung meetings were a testament to Burma's then dynamic international diplomacy. They were also a testament to Mingaladon airport's position as an international aviation hub - everyone had to stop in Rangoon anyway to travel to Indonesia. The photo was taken at Government House, from left to right: North Vietnamese Foreign Minister, later Prime Minister Pham Van Dong; Afghan Foreign Minister HH Sardar Muhammed Naim; Chinese Premier Chou Enlai; President Dr Ba U; Indian Prime Minister Nehru;...

1955 - 1962
Sao Hkun Hkio hosts Secretary of State Dulles

In 1955, Foreign Minister Sao Hkun Hkio hosts US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles at a garden party at Government House, Rangoon. Secretary Dulles was a famed cold-warrior and the visit came at the height of US Cold War interest in Burma, just after the defeat of the French in Indochina U Nu would visit the US as a guest of President Eisenhower that same summer. Cambridge-educated Sao Hkun Hkio was the Saohpa of Mongmit and served as Foreign...

13 April 1955
Thingyan 1955.

From left to right: President Nasser of Egypt, Prime Minister U Nu of Burma, and Prime Minister Nehru of India. President Nasser and Pandit Nehru were on their way to what would be the historic founding of the Non-Aligned Movement at Bandung in Indonesia, stopping over for a day in Rangoon. U Nu would travel with them to Bandung (together with U Thant who was a secretary of the conference). U Nu thought it would be fun for his visitors...

Nehru and Nasser in Rangoon

In 1955, Non-Aligned leaders Pandit Nehru of India and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt (with U Nu in the background) walk down Merchant Street in Rangoon (Yangon). They were stopping over in Rangoon on their way to Bandung for the first Asian-African Summit.

Burmese at the UN 1955.

From left to right: unidentified; Daw Dora Than E; Dr Htin Aung; U Thant; Daw Mya Yee; Mrs. James Barrington; U (Jimmy) Paw Htin; Colonel Lwin; Uncle Richard Paw Oo.I think this was during U Nu's visit to the US in June-July 1955.

First US Secretary of State to visit Myanmar

The first US Secretary of State to visit Myanmar was John Foster Dulles, the archetypal Cold Warrior, who came in 1955 with the hope to persuading the U Nu government to join the newly formed SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organization). Relations with the US were not particularly close at the time. The two countries were not very familiar with one another and the Americans worried that the AFPFL would soon turn further to the left or that the country...

June 1955
Vice President Richard Nixon welcoming Prime Minister U Nu to Washington, DC in June 1955

U Nu was the first Burmese head of government to visit the United States. Mrs Nixon and Daw Mya Yee are in the back to the left. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and U Thant (then Prime Minister's Secretary) are to the right. U Nu and party would spend the next two weeks traveling around America, watching a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, meeting Hopi Native Americans in New Mexico, examining a Ford car factory in Detroit, seeing New...

18 April 1955 - 24 April 1955
The heyday of Burmese diplomacy

Prime Minister U Nu at the Bandung Conference with Justice U Myint Thein (left) and U Thant (back). Burma was one of the organizers of the Bandung Conference of newly independent Asian and African states, together with India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Ceylon. The conference was a big step towards the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement. Video here: http://www.gettyimages.no/detail/video/representatives-of-thirty-nations-from-african-and-asia-news-footage/116591383

6 February 1956
Dag Hammarskjold’s visit to Rangoon

On 6 February 1956 Dag Hammarskjold visited Rangoon and enjoyed evening cocktails with President Dr Ba U and Commerce and Industry Minister U Raschid at Government House. Dag Hammarskjold was the 2nd Secretary-General of UN Secretary General. He was arguably the organisation's best chief ever, providing tremendous intellectual leadership, courage, and managerial talent. His top aides were the greatest international civil servants in history - Dr Ralph Bunche and Sir Brian Urquhart.

He was on a round-the-world tour and later...

November 1956 - December 1956
Ethiopia Emperor in Rangoon

The Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia at Government House in Rangoon. 

The Emperor Haile Selassie I (ቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴ), "the Conquering Lion of Judah", descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, "Elect of God", who reigned from 1930-1974 and who was of course revered by many Rastafarians as the Messiah.

Haile Selassie is perhaps best known around the world for leading Ethiopia's resistance to the Italian invasion of 1935-6 and his impassioned appeal to the League of Nations. 


June 1956
U Nu at the UN

This is a photograph of U Nu at the UN in June 1956. To his left are James Barrington (Permanent Secretary, Foreign Office), U Thant (Permanent Secretary, PM's Office) and Dr Htin Aung (Rector, Rangoon University).

1 January 1956
When Rangoon was cool: Getting ready for Independence Day celebrations 4 January 1956

Early 20th century government publications described Rangoon's climate in December-January as being 'cool and pleasant' with morning lows around 60 degrees (15 Celsius). With climate change I fear that even the few weeks of cooler weather in December-January may soon (if not already) be a thing of the past.