Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Dieter Dengler

Dieter Dengler was born on 22 May, 1938 and died on 7 February, 2001 of ALS, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. An exemplary guard of honor was present at the burial as well as a fly-over by Navy F-14 Tomcats. Dieter was a United States Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. Dieter was 1 of the 2 survivors (the other being Pisidhi Indradat), out of 7, to escape from a Pathet Lao prison camp in Laos. Dieter was rescued after 23 days on the run.

Dieter Dengler grew up in the small town of Wildberg in the Black Forest region of Germany. Dieter was very close to his mother and brothers. Dieter Dengler did not know his father, who was killed while serving in the German army during World War II. Dieter’s grandfather was declared a political enemy of the Nazis for being the only citizen in his town who did not vote for Hitler. Dieter Dengler later credited his grandfather’s resolve as a major inspiration during his time in Laos. Dieter’s grandfather’s steadfastness, despite great danger, was one reason Dieter Dengler refused to sign a document decrying American aggression in Southeast Asia, presented to him by the North Vietnamese after his crash.

Dieter Dengler’s first experience with aircraft came when he was very young and witnessed enemy allied aircraft flying over his town from his bedroom window. From that moment, he wanted to be a pilot. Dieter became an apprentice in a local machine shop, but after seeing an ad in an American magazine expressing a need for pilots, he decided to go to the United States. Although a family friend agreed to sponsor him, he lacked money for passage and came up with a scheme to steal and scrounge brass and other metals to sell.

When he turned 18 and upon completion of his apprenticeship, he hitchiked to Hamburg and set sail for New York City with the dream of becoming a pilot. Dieter lived off the streets of Manhattan for just over a week and eventually found his way to an Air Force recruiter. Dieter was assured that piloting aircraft was what the Air Force was all about, so he enlisted and in June 1957, went to basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. After basic, Dieter Dengler was initially assigned duty as a motor pool mechanic. Dieter’s qualifications as a machinist led to an assignment as a gunsmith. Dieter took and passed the test for aviation cadets, but his enlistment expired before he was selected for pilot training.

After his discharge he joined his brother in a bakery shop near San Francisco and enrolled in San Francisco City College, then transferred to San Mateo College where he studied aeronautics. Upon completion of 2 years of college, he applied for the US Navy aviation cadet program and was accepted. After completion of flight training he went to Corpus Christi, Texas for training as an attack pilot in the Douglas AD Skyraider. Dieter joined VA-145 while the squadron was on shore duty at Alameda, California. In 1965 the squadron joined the carrier USS Ranger. In December the carrier set sail for the coast of Vietnam, stationed initially at Dixie Station off of South Vietnam, then moving north to Yankee Station for operations against North Vietnam.

A Navy AD Skyraider from VA-15 catches a wire during carrier operations. The day after the carrier began flying missions from Yankee Station, Lieutenant, Junior Grade Dieter Dengler launched from Ranger with 3 other aircraft on an interdiction mission against a truck convoy that had been reported in North Vietnam. Thunderstorms forced the flight to divert to their secondary target, a road intersection located west of the Mu Gia Pass in Laos. At the time, U.S. air operations in Laos were classified “secret.” Visibility was poor due to smoke from burning fields, and upon rolling in on the target, Lt. Dengler and the remainder of his flight lost sight of one another. Dieter Dengler was the last man in and was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Dieter managed to crash-land his Skyraider in Laos.

When his squadron mates realised that he had been lost, they remained confident that he would be rescued. Dieter Dengler had a reputation from his experiences at the Navy survival school, where he had escaped from the mock-POW camp run by Marine guards 3 times. Dieter had also set a record as the only student to actually gain weight during the course – his childhood experiences made him unafraid of eating whatever he could find and he had feasted on garbage. Unfortunately, immediately after he was shot down, he smashed his survival radio and hid most of his survival equipment to keep the enemy from finding it. When a rescue helicopter came near the next day, he had no means with which to signal it. Dieter tried not to be seen as much as possible but the day after he was shot down he was spotted by Pathet Lao guerrillas and captured. At the prison camp to which he was taken, he met Duane W. Martin, Eugene DeBruin, Prasit Thanee, Y.C. To, Pisidhi Indradat, and Prasit Promsuwan.

The day after he was shot down, Lt. Dengler was apprehended by Pathet Lao troops. They bound his hands and marched him through the jungle, stopping at various villages along the way. At one point, he escaped and climbed a karst tower in hopes of signaling a passing aircraft. Lack of shelter from the sun and thirst forced him to climb down to seek water, and his captors found him as he was drinking from a spring. In retaliation, they devised various methods to torture him, including hanging him upside down while putting ant nests on his face until he passed out, inserting bamboo shoots under his fingernails and skin, and suspending him in a well.

Dieter Dengler was eventually brought to a prison camp near the village of Par Kung where he met other POWs. The other 6 prisoners were:

Pisidhi Indradat (Thai)
Prasit Promsuwan (Thai)
Prasit Thanee (Thai)
Y.C. To (Chinese)
Duane W. Martin (American)
Eugene DeBruin (American)

Except for Martin, who was an Air Force helicopter pilot who had been shot down in North Vietnam nearly a year before, the other prisoners were civilians employed by Air America, a civilian airline owned by the Central Intelligence Agency. The civilians had been in Pathet Lao hands for over 2 1/2 years when Dieter Dengler joined them. The day he arrived in the camp, Dieter Dengler advised the other prisoners that he intended to escape and invited them to join him. They advised that he wait until the monsoon season when there would be plenty of water. Shortly after Dieter Dengler arrived, the prisoners were moved to a new camp 10 miles away at Hoi Het. After the move, a strong debate ensued among the prisoners, with Dieter Dengler, Martin and Prasit arguing for escape which the other prisoners, particularly Indradat, initially opposed. One of the Thais heard the guards discussing the possibility of shooting them in the jungle and making it look like an escape attempt. With that revelation, everyone agreed and a date to escape was set. Their plan was to take over the camp and signal a C-130 Hercules flareship that made nightly visits to the vicinity. Dieter Dengler loosened logs under the hut that allowed the prisoners to squeeze through. The plan was for him to go out when the guards were eating and seize their weapons and pass them to Indradat and Promsuwan while Martin and DeBruin procured others from other locations.

On 29 June, 1966, while the guards were eating, the group slipped out of their hand and foot restraints and grabbed the guards’ unattended weapons, which included M1 rifles, Chinese automatic rifles, an American carbine and at least one submachinegun. Dieter Dengler went out first followed by 2 of the Thais. Dieter went to the guard hut and seized an M1 for himself, and passed 2 Chinese automatic rifles to the Thais. The guards realised the prisoners had escaped and 5 of them rushed toward Dieter Dengler, who shot at least 3 with the M1. One of the Thais shot a popular guard in the leg. 2 others ran off, presumably to get help, although at least 1 had been wounded. The 7 prisoners split into 3 groups. DeBruin was originally supposed to go with Dieter Dengler and Martin but decided to go with To, who was recovering from a fever and unable to keep up. They intended to get over the nearest bridge and wait for rescue. Dieter Dengler and Martin went off by themselves with the intention of heading for the Mekong River to escape to Thailand, but they never got more than a few miles from the camp from which they had escaped.

With the exception of Indradat, who was recaptured and later rescued by Laotian troops, none of the other prisoners were ever seen again. DeBruin was reportedly captured and placed in another camp, then disappeared in 1968.

Dieter Dengler and Martin found themselves in a jungle filled with leeches, insects and other creatures that made life miserable. They made their way down a creek and found a river, but when they thought they were on their way to the Mekong, they discovered that they had gone around in a circle. They had spotted several villages but had not been detected. They set up camp in an abandoned village where they found shelter from the nearly incessant rain. They had brought rice with them and found other food, but were still on the verge of starvation. Their intent had been to signal a C-130 but at first lacked the energy to build a fire using primitive methods of rubbing bamboo together. Dieter Dengler finally managed to locate carbine cartridges that Martin had thrown away and used the powder from them to enhance the tinder, and got a fire going. That night they lit torches and waved them in the shape of an S and O when a C-130 came over. The airplane circled and dropped a couple of flares and they were overjoyed, believing they had been spotted. They woke up the next morning to find the landscape covered by fog and drizzle, but when it lifted, no rescue force appeared.

The following day, they were demoralised after a rescue force did not appear in response to their signal of the C-130 flareship. Martin who was weak from starvation and was suffering from malaria, wanted to approach a nearby Akha village to steal some food. Dieter Dengler knew it was not a good idea, but refused to let his friend go near the village alone. They saw a little boy playing with a dog, and the child ran into the village calling out “Amelican!” Within seconds a villager appeared and they knelt down on the trail in supplication, but the man swung his machete and struck Martin in the leg. The man swung again and hit him behind the neck, killing him. Dieter Dengler jumped to his feet and rushed toward the villager, who turned and ran into the village to get help. Dieter Dengler managed to evade the searchers who went out after him and escaped back into the jungle. Dieter returned to an abandoned village where the had been spending their time and where he and Martin had signaled a C-130. That night when a C-130 flareship came over, Dieter Dengler set fire to the huts and burned the village down. The C-130 crew spotted the fires and dropped flares, but even though the crew reported their sighting when they returned to their base at Ubon, Thailand, the fires were not recognised by intelligence as having been a signal from a survivor. When a rescue force again failed to materialise, Dieter Dengler decided to find 1 of the parachutes from a flare for use as a possible signal. Dieter found 1 on a bush and placed it in his rucksack. On 20 July, 1966, after 23 days in the jungle, Dieter Dengler managed to signal an Air Force pilot with the parachute. A 2-ship flight of Air Force Skyraiders from the 1st Air Commando Group happened to fly up the river where Dieter Dengler was. Eugene Peyton Deatrick, the pilot of the lead plane and the squadron commander, spotted a flash of white while making a turn at the river’s bend and came back and spotted a man waving something white. Peyton Deatrick and his wingman contacted rescue forces but were told to ignore the sighting, as no airmen were known to be down in the area. Peyton Deatrick persevered and eventually managed to convince the command and control center to dispatch a rescue force. Fearing that Dieter Dengler might be a Viet Cong soldier, the helicopter crew restrained him when he was brought aboard.

According to the documentary, “Little Dieter Needs to Fly”, Dieter Dengler said one of the flight crew who was holding him down pulled out a 1/2 eaten snake from underneath Dieter Dengler’s clothing and was so surprised he nearly fell out of the helicopter. The person who threw Dieter Dengler to the floor of the helicopter was Air Force Pararescue specialist Michael Leonard from Lawler, Iowa. Leonard stripped Dieter Dengler of his clothes, making sure he was not armed or in possession of a hand grenade. When questioned, Dieter Dengler told Leonard that he escaped from a North Vietnamese Prisoner of War camp 2 months earlier. Peyton Deatrick radioed the rescue helicopter crew to see if they could identify the person they had just hoisted up from the jungle. They reported that they had a man who claimed to be a downed Navy pilot who flew a Douglas A-1H Skyraider.

It wasn’t until after he reached the hospital at Da Nang that Dieter Dengler’s identity was confirmed. A conflict between the Air Force and the Navy developed over who should control his interrogation and recovery. In an apparent attempt to prevent the Air Force from embarrassing them in some way, the Navy sent a team of SEALS into the hospital to literally steal Dieter Dengler. Dieter was brought out of the hospital in a covered gurney and rushed to the air field, where he was placed aboard a Navy carrier delivery transport and flown to Ranger where a welcoming party had been prepared. Deprivation from malnutrition and parasites caused the Navy doctors to order that he be airlifted to the United States.

Dieter Dengler remained in the Navy for a year, and was trained to fly jets. When his military obligation was satisfied, he resigned from the Navy and applied for a position as an airline pilot with Trans World Airlines. Dieter continued flying and survived 4 subsequent crashes as a civilian test pilot.

In 1977, during a time when he was furloughed from TWA, Dieter Dengler returned to Laos and was greeted as a celebrity by the Pathet Lao. Dieter was taken to the camp from which he had escaped and was surprised to discover that at one point he and Martin had been within a mile and a half of it. Dieter’s fascination with airplanes and aviation continued for the remainder of his life. Dieter continued flying almost up until his death, as a pilot for TWA until his retirement at age 59, then privately. In 2000, Dieter Dengler was inducted into the Gathering of Eagles programme and told the story of his escape to groups of young military officers. During his life, Dieter Dengler had 3 wives, Marina Adamich (1966 – March 1970), Irene Lam (11 September, 1980 – 3 April, 1984), Yukiko Dengler (until his death). Dieter Dengler is also survived by 2 sons: Rolf and Alexander Dengler, and 1 grandchild.

Military Honours:
Dieter Dengler is a recipient of the following medals:

Navy Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Prisoner of War Medal (retroactive)

Dieter Dengler was the subject of Werner Herzog’s 1997 documentary “Little Dieter Needs to Fly”. Herzog went on to direct a dramatised version of the story, “Rescue Dawn”, which stars Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler. The film was shown at festivals throughout the end of 2006 and received a limited theatrical release in the USA on 4 July, 2007 before a general release later that month. The film was released as a DVD in November 2007.

The movie “Rescue Dawn” was subjected to severe criticism by members of the family of Eugene DeBruin, Dieter Dengler, and Pisidhi Indradat, the other survivor of the group.

Herzog acknowledged that DeBruin acted heroically during his imprisonment, refusing to leave while some sick prisoners remained, but Herzog was unaware of this fact until after the film had been completed. Herzog states that this narrative aspect probably would have been included had he learned it earlier. Family members, however, said that Herzog was uninterested in speaking with them prior to the completion of the movie.

Dieter Dengler documented his experience in the book “Escape From Laos”. Amazon also has a short on the subject.

Keep visiting: www.lifechums.com more celebrities featuring shortly …………….

Bookmark and Share

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Jason Becker

Jason Becker, was born on 22 July, 1969. Jason is an American neo-classical metal guitarist and composer. At the age of 16, he became part of the Mike Varney-produced duo Cacophony with his friend Marty Friedman. They released Speed Metal Symphony in 1987 and Go Off! in 1988.

Jason Becker studied the works of violinist Niccolò Paganini and was a playing partner with Marty Friedman. Jason later composed a rendition of Paganini’s 5th Caprice, performing it during an instructional guitar video. Jason Becker’s compositions often include high speed scalar and arpeggio passages, both of which are trademarks of his ‘shred’ style of guitar playing. The song “Serrana”, appearing in the album Perspective, is an example of his sweep-picking skills. Jason demonstrated the arpeggio sequence during a clinic at the Atlanta Institute of Music. A video of this performance first appeared on his Hot Licks guitar instructional video and can now be viewed on YouTube.

Jason Becker started out playing alongside Marty Friedman in the Mike Varney produced duo, Cacophony. Jason Becker and Marty Friedman toured together with Cacophony in Japan and across the United States. In 1989 Jason Becker left to pursue a solo career, releasing his 1st solo album titled ‘Perpetual Burn’ in 1988, and has since released ‘Perspective’, as well as 2 albums of demos, entitled ‘The Raspberry Jams’ and The Blackberry Jams.

At the age of 20, he joined David Lee Roth’s band, replacing Steve Vai, who went on to join Whitesnake. While recording the A Little Ain’t Enough album and preparing for the subsequent tour in 1990, Jason Becker began to feel what he called a “lazy limp” on his left leg. Jason was soon diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and given 3 years to live. Jason could barely finish the recording, using low-gauge (thin) guitar strings and other techniques, which would make it easier to play with his weakening hands. Although he managed to finish the album he did not join the supporting tour due to his inability to perform on stage; former Lizzy Borden guitarist Joe Holmes took Jason Becker’s place on tour.

Jason eventually lost the ability to speak and now communicates with his eyes via a system developed by his father. Although his ALS gradually robbed him of his ability to play guitar, to walk, and eventually even to speak, he still remains mentally sharp and, with the aid of a computer, continues composing. In the back of the Perspective CD case, Jason Becker states “I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It has crippled my body and speech, but not my mind.” Now in his 30s, his medical condition has remained stable since 1997. No recent updates pertaining to Jason’s condition has been heard of aside from him stating that he has felt a little better and gained some weight, but this was in 2003.

In 1996 Jason Becker released an album entitled Perspective, an instrumental album composed by him (with the exception of Bob Dylan’s song “Meet Me in the Morning”). The writing of the music had been started before ALS completely crippled his abilities. By using guitar and later, when he was unable to use both hands, a keyboard, he continued to compose while his disease worsened. However, when Jason Becker could no longer physically play even a keyboard, his friend and music producer Mike Bemesderfer helped him with a music-composing computer program which could read the movements of his head and eyes enabling Json Becker to continue to compose after he lost control of his entire body.

Several years later Jason Becker released Raspberry Jams (1999) and Blackberry Jams (2003), the first contained various unreleased demo-tracks and the latter contained demo-tracks and alternate versions of songs that were later reworked and published into other albums.

2 tribute albums to Jason Becker have been issued. Respectively entitled Warmth in the Wilderness I and Warmth in the Wilderness II, they feature guitarists such as Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Joe Becker, Rusty Cooley, and Mattias Eklundh. The album profits were sent to Jason Becker to help him with his medical finances.

Shrapnel Records will be releasing a Best of Jason Becker album. The album, is scheduled for release in October and will feature three new songs for the album which will feature Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Joe Satriani, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai, and Steve Hunter. The album will also feature older, never-heard songs/recordings.

Keep visiting: www.lifechums.com more celebrities featuring shortly …………….

Bookmark and Share

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Don Revie

Donald George ‘Don’ Revie, OBE, was born on 10 July 1927 in Middlesbrough and died on 26 May 1989, from motor neurone disease, in Edinburgh, Scotland, aged 61.

Don Revie was a football player for Leicester City, Hull City, Sunderland, Manchester City and Leeds United as a deep-lying centre forward. After managing Leeds United between 1961 to 1974 with great success, his reign becoming known as Leeds’ “Glory Years”, he managed England from 1974 to 1977.

Don Revie first signed as a footballer for Leicester City in 1944. From there he went on to play for Hull City in 1949 (transfer fee £20,000), Manchester City in 1951 (£25,000), Sunderland in 1956 (£22,000) and Leeds United in 1958 (£12,000). The combined transfer fees paid over his career were at the time (i.e. in 1958) a record in English football.

Don Revie won 6 caps for England, was Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year in 1955 and won an FA Cup winners medal with Manchester City in 1956. At Manchester City the playing tactic of using a deep-lying centre-forward (Don Revie’s position, evolved from the more traditional inside-right), and based on the style of the successful Hungarian national team, and in particular Nándor Hidegkuti, who invented the role, became known as the “Revie Plan”.

This tactic was of enormous significance in the development of football, moving permanently from the old 2-3-5 and WM tactics to 3-3-4, then 4-2-4 and 4-3-3 tactics.

Don Revie was made player-manager in March 1961 at Leeds. Although his tenure didn’t get off to a flying start, he won the Football League 2nd Division within 3 years as manager and once promoted took them to 2nd in the league and the FA Cup final in their 1st season in the top division. Don Revie developed the team that would by the early 1970s be the major force in English football. Don Revie was named English Manager of the Year in 1969, 1970, and 1972, and was awarded the OBE in 1970.

All in all Don Revie guided Leeds to 2 Football League 1st Division titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, 2 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup titles, 1 Football League 2nd Division title and 1 Charity Shield. Don Revie also guided them to 3 more FA Cup Finals, 1 more Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final and 1&1 Cup Winners’ Cup Final.

Don Revie was occasionally linked with other clubs during his tenure, most notably Everton in 1973, but his loyalty unwavered.

In July 1974 Don Revie was offered the job of England national football manager ahead of such luminaries as future Leeds boss Jimmy Adamson, but was unable to reproduce the success he had enjoyed at Leeds. England failed to qualify for Euro 1976 under his reign, and he was villified for lying about his wherebouts during qualification for the subsequent World Cup.

In 1977 he controversially quit the role to become coach to the United Arab Emirates. The FA suspended Don Revie from football for 10 years on a charge of bringing the game into disrepute, which Don Revie successfully overturned in court. After leaving the UAE coaching role in 1980 he took over management of Al Nasr, followed in 1984 by the Egyptian club Al Ahly of Cairo. Don Revie left within a year because his wife was ill at the time.

A controversial figure in his time, his team was criticised for its violent play and gamesmanship, most notably by Brian Clough, although it was widely recognised as among the finest of its day. Don Revie’s reputation suffered following his retirement due to the U.A.E. scandal and also because of highly controversial allegations that Don Revie had attempted to bribe opposition players and managers during his career – these allegations have been made by several senior players and coaches, such as Bob Stokoe, Jim Barron, Don Revie’s own goalkeeper Gary Sprake and more recently Frank McLintock. These claims have not been proven. However, in the years following his death, Don Revie’s reputation has at least partially recovered in spite of these scandals and he is now considered (by Leeds fans at least) as one the finest managers in English football history.

Don Revie continues to be worshipped by the Leeds supporters and beloved by his former team. The kop at Leeds United’s ground, Elland Road, is named after him. Don Revie was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004 in recognition of his impact as a manager on the English league.

Keep visiting: www.lifechums.com more celebrities featuring shortly …………….

Bookmark and Share

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend David Niven

James David Graham Niven was born on 1 March 1910 in London, England, UK and died on 29 July 1983 in Switzerland of motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at the age of 73. Bitter, estranged, and plagued by depression, David Niven’s wife Hjördis showed up drunk at the funeral, having been persuaded to attend by family friend Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Hjördis added insult to injury by noting in her will that “under no circumstances” was she to be buried alongside her husband in the place left for her in the crypt in Switzerland.

David Niven was an English Academy Award-winning actor probably best known for his role as the punctuality-obsessed adventurer Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).

David Niven was the son of William Edward Graham Niven and the French/British Henrietta Julia Degacher who was born in Wales, was the daughter of army officer William Degacher (who changed his original name of Hitchcock to his mother’s maiden name of Degacher in 1874 and Julia Caroline, the daughter of Lieutenant General James Webber Smith. James was named David for his birth on St. David’s Day. Although he often claimed to have been born in Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland in 1909, it was only after his birth certificate was checked following his death that this was found to be incorrect.

David’s father was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 and his mother remarried Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt. In his biography, NIV: The Authorised Biography of David Niven, Graham Lord suggests that Comyn-Platt had been conducting an affair with David Niven’s mother for some time prior to her husband’s death, and that Sir Thomas may well have been David Niven’s biological father, a supposition not without some support from her children.

After attending Stowe as a boy, David Niven trained at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, which gave him the “officer and gentleman” bearing that was to be his trademark. Although he had done well at Sandhurst, David Niven did not enjoy his time in the regular Army, in part because he was not accepted for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on which he had set his heart. David served for 2 years in Malta and 2 years in Dover with the Highland Light Infantry. While on Malta, he became acquainted and friendly with Captain Roy Urquhart, who would later lead the British 1st Airborne Division in the ill-fated Operation Market-Garden.

David Niven grew tired of the peacetime Army and saw no opportunity for promotion or advancement. As he related in his memoirs, his ultimate decision to resign came after a lengthy lecture on machine guns, which was interfering with his plans for dinner with a particularly attractive young lady. At the end of the speech, the major general giving the lecture asked if there were any questions. Showing the typical rebelliousness of his early years, David Niven stated that he felt compelled to ask, “Could you tell me the time, sir? I have to catch a train.”

After being placed under close arrest for this act of insubordination, David Niven claims to have finished a bottle of whisky with the officer who was guarding him and, with the connivance of the latter, escaped from a 1st floor window. En route across the Atlantic, David Niven sent a telegram resigning his commission. David Niven relocated to New York, where he began an unsuccessful career in whisky sales and horse rodeo promotion in Atlantic City. After subsequent detours to Bermuda and Cuba, he finally arrived in Hollywood in the summer of 1934.

According to his autobiography, The Moon’s a Balloon, David Niven arrived in Hollywood to try to break into the movies by first finding work as an extra. David was given lodgings with the Belzer family, one of whose daughters – Gretchen – was already a major Hollywood star, under her stage name of Loretta Young. When he presented himself at the doors of Central Casting, he found out that he had to have a work permit, to allow him to reside and work in the U.S. Luckily for him, he was given the chance to do a screen test for director Edmund Goulding. Unfortunately, it was not long after this that he was paid a visit by the U.S. Immigration Service and told he had to apply for a Resident Alien Visa.

This meant that David Niven had to leave U.S. soil in the meantime, and again, according to his autobiography, he left for Mexico – specifically Mexicali – where he worked as a “gun-man”, cleaning and polishing the rifles of the visiting Americans who came there to hunt quail and various other game. After a lengthy wait for his birth certificate to be sent out from England, he successfully applied – and received – his Resident Alien Visa from the American Consulate. David then returned to the U.S. and was accepted by Central Casting as “Anglo-Saxon Type No. 2008.”

David Niven’s first work as an extra was as a Mexican in a Western. This inauspicious start notwithstanding, he then found himself an agent – Bill Hawks. After this, he was then signed up for a non-speaking part in MGM’s “Mutiny On The Bounty” (1935), starring Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian and Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh.

David Niven then landed a long-term contract as a supporting player with independent film producer Samuel Goldwyn, which firmly established his career and enabled him to become a leading man in many films. Given his privileged English upbringing, David Niven had no problems infiltrating what became known as the Hollywood Raj, a select group of British actors who had made Hollywood their home. Other members of the group, included Boris Karloff, Stan Laurel, Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and their self appointed leader C. Aubrey Smith. One of his 1st major roles was in The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936, in which he starred alongside one of his closest friends Errol Flynn. A year later he starred as Capt. Fritz von Tarlenheim in 1937’s The Prisoner of Zenda with C Aubrey Smith and Ronald Colman. However, not wanting to be typecast as a ‘swashbuckler’ as Errol Flynn had been, David Niven also made films in a light hearted vein such as the 1939 RKO comedy Bachelor Mother with Ginger Rogers, and Raffles, in which he played a gentleman thief.

After the United Kingdom declared war in 1939, David Niven was one of the 1st British actors to return to England. David rejoined the British Army. 1st serving with the Rifle Brigade, David Niven was assigned to a motor training battalion. David Niven later interviewed for a position with the British Commandos, and was assigned to a training base at Inverailort House in the Western Highlands of Scotland. David Niven would later claim credit for introducing British hero Robert Laycock to the Commandos. Working with the Army Film Unit, he also took part in the deception campaign, using a minor actor M.E. Clifton James, a Montgomery lookalike, to convince the Germans that the D-Day landings would be made in the Mediterranean. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by General Frederick E. Morgan and assigned as a liaison officer between the British Second Army and the First United States Army, David Niven took part in the Normandy landings, arriving several days after D-Day. David acted in 2 films during the war, both of strong propaganda value: The First of the Few (1942) and The Way Ahead (1944). During his war service, his batman was Private Peter Ustinov (with whom he would later co-star in Death on the Nile).

David Niven remained politely, but firmly, close-mouthed about the war, despite public interest in celebrities in combat and a reputation for telling good stories over and over again. David said once: “I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, David Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war.” David Niven also had special scorn for the newspaper columnists covering the war who typed out self-glorifying and excessively florid prose about their meagre wartime experiences. David Niven stated, “Anyone who says a bullet sings past, hums past, flies, pings, or whines past, has never heard one − they go crack.” One story has surfaced: about to lead his men into a battle with an expectation of heavy casualties, David Niven supposedly eased their nervousness by telling them, “It’s all very well for you chaps, but I’ll have to do this all over again in Hollywood with Errol Flynn!”

David Niven did, however, finally open up about his war experience in his 1971 autobiography, The Moon’s a Balloon, mentioning his private conversations with Winston Churchill, the bombings, and what it was like entering a nearly completely destroyed Germany with the occupation forces. David Niven stated that he first met Winston Churchill during a dinner party in February 1940 when Winston Churchill singled him out from the crowd and stated, “Young man, you did a fine thing to give up your film career to fight for your country. Mark you, had you not done so − it would have been despicable.”

In spite of a 6 year virtual absence from the screen, he came 2nd in the 1945 Popularity Poll of British film stars. On his return to Hollywood after the war, he was made a Legionnaire of the Legion of Merit, the highest American order that can be earned by a foreigner. This was presented to Lt. Col. David Niven by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

David Niven was actually a member of the specialist Phantom Signals Unit, and was responsible for reporting and locating enemy positions, bomb lines and also keeping rear Commanders up to date on changing battle lines. David Niven was posted at one time to Chilham in Kent. Dwight Eisenhower was so disappointed with communications difficulty on D-Day that he personally ordered a Phantom Unit to be attached to his headquarters.

David Niven resumed his career after the war, with films such as A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Around the World in 80 Days (1956) (as Phileas Fogg), The Guns Of Navarone (1961), and The Pink Panther (1963).

The same year as he hosted the show with Jack Lemmon and Bob Hope, David Niven won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Separate Tables (1958). David Niven had a long and complex relationship with Samuel Goldwyn, who had first given him his start, but whom David Niven believed had been treating him unfairly. Despite their long business history, David Niven and Samuel Goldwyn went through an 8 year estrangement in which David Niven was essentially blacklisted from the movie industry after demanding greater compensation for his work. After winning the Academy Award, David Niven received a telephone call from Samuel Goldwyn with the invitation that he should come to his home. David Niven claimed that he was in Samuel Goldwyn’s drawing room when he noticed a picture of him in uniform that he had sent to Samuel Goldwyn from England during World War II. David claimed that in happier times with Goldwyn, he had observed this same picture sitting on top of Samuel Goldwyn’s piano. Now years later, the picture was still in the exact same spot. David Niven claimed that as he was looking at the picture, Samuel Goldwyn’s wife, Francis, approached him and said, “Sam never took it down.”

David Niven had in fact been Ian Fleming’s preference for the part of James Bond, however EON Productions chose Sean Connery for their series. In 1967, he starred with Deborah Kerr and Barbara Bouchet in the James Bond satire, Casino Royale. In a documentary included with the U.S. DVD of the 1967 release of Casino Royale, Charles K. Feldman states that Ian Fleming had written the book with David Niven in mind, and therefore sent a copy of the book to David. David Niven is the only James Bond actor who is mentioned by name in the text of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond visits an exclusive ski resort in Switzerland where he is told that David Niven is a frequent visitor and in You Only Live Twice, David Niven is referred to as the only real gentleman in Hollywood.

Late in life, he gained critical acclaim for his memoirs of his boyhood and acting career, The Moon’s a Balloon (1971) and Bring On the Empty Horses (1975). Although it has since come to light that despite David Niven’s frequent recounting of anecdotes about Hollywood in a manner that suggested that he had been personally involved at the time, in many cases he had not in fact been a witness to them and he was merely embroidering stories he had heard at third hand.

Perhaps one of David Niven’s finest moments came when he had to present the 46th Annual Oscars ceremony, and a naked man appeared behind him, running across the stage. Not to be outclassed or nonplussed even for a moment, David Niven came back with the one liner “Isn’t it fascinating to think, that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life, is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings!”

After a whirlwind 2 week romance in 1940, David Niven married Primula Susan Rollo (1918, London – 21 May 1946, Beverly Hills, California), the aristocratic daughter of a British lawyer. The couple had 2 sons, David Jr. and Jamie. Primula died at age 28, only 6 weeks after moving to America, of a fractured skull and brain lacerations from an accidental fall in the home of Tyrone Power. While playing hide and seek, she walked through a door believing it led to a closet. Instead, it led to a stone staircase to the basement. David Niven recalled this as the darkest period of his life, years afterwards thanking his friends for their patience and forbearance during this time. David later claimed to have been so grief stricken that he thought for a while that he’d gone mad. David eventually rallied and returned to film making.

David Niven met Hjördis Paulina Tersmeden (née Genberg, 1921–1997), a divorced Swedish fashion model and frustrated actress, in 1948. The moment of his meeting her was recounted by David Niven in what might be a classic example of his writing style:

I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life – tall, slim, auburn hair, uptilted nose, lovely mouth and the most enormous grey eyes I had ever seen. It really happened the way it does when written by the worst lady novelists…I goggled. I had difficulty swallowing and had champagne in my knees.

They married 10 days later.

In October 1951, while pheasant shooting with friends in New England, Hjördis was shot in the face, neck and chest by 2 of David Niven’s companions. While convalescing in the Blackstone Hotel in New York, David Niven and Hjördis were next door neighbours with Audrey Hepburn, who made her debut on Broadway that season. In 1960, while filming Please Don’t Eat the Daisies with Doris Day, David Niven and Hjördis separated for a few weeks, though they later reconciled.

They had 2 adopted daughters, Kristin and Fiona, one of whom has long been rumored to be David Niven’s child by another fashion model, Mona Gunnarson. The marriage was as tumultuous as David Niven’s previous marriage had been happy. Thwarted from pursuing an acting career, Hjördis was reported as having affairs with other men and became an alcoholic.

In February 1983, using a false name to avoid publicity, David Niven was hospitalised for 10 days for treatment, ostensibly for a digestive problem. Afterwards, he returned to his chalet at Chateau d’Oex in Switzerland, where his condition continued to decline. David refused to return to the hospital, and his family supported his decision.

According to Graham Lord, who wrote a biography on David Niven, called simply “Niv”, Lord writes that there have been reports that some have accused David Niven of being especially friendly to people who could have done him some good. Graham Lord also says that “the biggest wreath, worthy of a Mafia Godfather’s funeral, was delivered from the porters at London’s Heathrow Airport, along with a card that read: “To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. David Niven made a porter feel like a king.”

David Niven died on the same day as Raymond Massey, his co-star in The Prisoner of Zenda and A Matter of Life and Death. David Niven had just completed work on Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. David was incomprehensible at times during the filming of both movies, and his voice was dubbed over in post-production by impressionist Rich Little, a fact that David Niven later learned through a gossip column.

Keep visiting: www.lifechums.com more celebrities featuring shortly …………….

Bookmark and Share

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Lead Belly

Huddie William Ledbetter, was born in January, 1888 and died on 6 December, 1949 in New York City, New York, USA and was buried in the Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery in Mooringsport, 8 miles (13 km) west of Blanchard, Louisiana, in Caddo Parish.

Lead Belly was an American folk and blues musician, notable for his clear and forceful singing, his virtuosity on the 12 string guitar, and the rich songbook of folk standards he introduced.

Ledbetter is best known as Leadbelly or Lead Belly. Though many releases list him as “Leadbelly,” he himself spelled it “Lead Belly.” This is also the usage on his tombstone, as well as the Lead Belly Foundation.

Although he most commonly played the 12 string, he could also play the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertina, and accordion. In some of his recordings, such as in one of his versions of the folk ballad “John Hardy”, he performs on the accordion instead of the guitar. In other recordings he just sings while clapping his hands or stomping his foot. The topics of Lead Belly’s music covered a wide range of subjects, including gospel songs; blues songs about women, liquor and racism; and folk songs about cowboys, prison, work, sailors, cattle herding and dancing. Lead Belly also wrote songs concerning the newsmakers of the day, such as President Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Jean Harlow, the Scottsboro Boys, and Howard Hughes.

Lead Belly’s date of birth is uncertain. Lead Belly was probably born in January 1888, although his gravestone gives his year of birth as 1889. The earliest year given for his birth has been 1885, although other sources stated either 1888 or 1889. According to the 1900 census, Hudy (the spelling given in the census) is 1 of 2 listed children (the other is his step-sister, Australia Carr), of Wes and Sallie (Brown) Ledbetter of Justice Precinct 2, Harrison County, Texas. Wesley and Sallie were legally born on wednesday 26 February, 1888, shortly after Lead Belly’s likely date of birth, even though they had lived together as husband and wife for years. The 1900 census, differing from the usual census in that it lists the month and year of birth, rather than just the age, states the birth year of ‘Hudy’ Ledbetter to be 1888 and the month listed as January; Huddie’s age is listed as 12. The census of 1910 and the census of 1930 confirm 1888 as the year of birth.

The day of his birth has also been debated. The most common date given is 20 January, but other sources suggest he was born on 21 or 29 January. The only document we have that Lead belly, himself, helped fill out is his World War II draft registration from 1942 where he gives his birth date as 23 January, 1889.

Lead Belly was born to Wesley and Sallie Ledbetter as Huddie William Ledbetter in a plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana, but the family moved to Leigh, Texas, when he was 5 years old. By 1903, Lead Belly was already a ‘musicianer’, a singer and guitarist of some note. Lead Belly performed for nearby Shreveport, Louisiana audiences in St. Paul’s Bottoms, a notorious red-light district in the city. Lead Belly began to develop his own style of music after exposure to a variety of musical influences on Shreveport’s Fannin Street, a row of saloons, brothels, and dance halls in the Bottoms.

At the time of the 1910 census, Lead Belly, still officially listed as ‘Hudy’, was living next door to his parents with his first wife, Aletha “Lethe” Henderson, who at the time of the census was 17 years old, and was, therefore, 15 at the time of their marriage in 1908. It was also there that he received his first instrument, an accordion, from his uncle, and by his early 20s, after fathering at least 2 children, he left home to find his living as a guitarist (and occasionally, as a laborer). Lead Belly would later claim that as a youth he would “make it” with 8 to 10 women a night.

Influenced by the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, he would go on to write the song “The Titanic”, which noted the racial indifferences of the time. “The Titanic” was the first song he ever learned to play on a 12 string guitar, which was later to become his signature instrument. Lead Belly first played it in 1912 when performing with Blind Lemon Jefferson (1897-1929) in and around Dallas, Texas. Lead Belly noted that he had to leave out the verse about boxer Jack Johnson when playing before a white audience.

Lead Belly’s volatile nature sometimes led him into trouble with the law. In 1915 he was convicted “of carrying a pistol” and sentenced to do time on the Harrison County chain gang, from which he miraculously escaped, finding work in nearby Bowie County under the assumed name of Walter Boyd. In January 1918 he was thrown into prison for the second time, this time after killing one of his relatives, Will Stafford, in a fight over a woman. In 1918 he was incarcerated in Sugar Land, Texas, where he probably learned the song Midnight Special. In 1925 he was pardoned and released, having served 7 years, or virtually all of the minimum of his 7 to 35 year sentence, after writing a song appealing to Governor Pat Morris Neff for his freedom. Lead Belly had swayed Governor Neff by appealing to his strong religious values. That, in combination with good behavior (including entertaining by playing for the guards and fellow prisoners), was Lead Belly’s ticket out of jail. It was quite a testament to his persuasive powers, as Neff had run for governor on a pledge not to issue pardons (pardon by the governor was at that time the only recourse for prisoners, since in most Southern prisons there was no provision for parole). According to Charles K. Wolf and Kip Lornell’s book, The Life and Legend of Lead belly (1999), Neff had regularly brought guests to the prison on Sunday picnics to hear Lead belly perform.

In 1930, Lead Belly was back in prison, after a summary trial, this time in Louisiana, for attempted homicide — he had knifed a white man in a fight. It was there, 3 years later, that he was “discovered” by musicologists John Lomax and his 18 year old son Alan Lomax during a visit to the Angola Prison Farm. They were enchanted by Lead Belly’s talent, passion, and singularity as a performer and recorded hundreds of his songs on portable aluminum disc recording equipment for the Library of Congress. They returned to record in July of the following year (1934). On 1 August, Lead Belly was released (again having served almost all of his minimum sentence), this time after the Lomaxes had taken a petition to Louisiana Governor O.K. Allen at Lead belly’s urgent request. The petition was on the other side of a recording of his signature song, “Goodnight Irene.” A prison official later wrote to John Lomax denying that Lead Belly’s singing had anything to do with his release from Angola, and state prison records confirm that he was eligible for early release due to good behavior. A descendant of his has also confirmed this. For a time, however, both Lead Belly and the Lomaxes believed that the record they had taken to the governor had hastened his release from Angola.

There are several, somewhat conflicting stories about how Ledbetter acquired his famous nickname, though the consensus is that it was probably while in prison. Some say his fellow inmates dubbed him “Lead Belly” as a play on his last name and reference to his physical toughness; others say he earned the name after being shot in the stomach with shotgun buckshot. Another theory has it that the name refers to his ability to drink homemade liquor, which Southern farmers, black and white, used to make to supplement their incomes. Blues singer Big Bill Broonzy thought it came from a supposed tendency to lay about “with a stomach weighted down by lead” in the shade when the chain gang was supposed to be working. (This seems unlikely, unless it was ironic, given his well-known capacity for hard work.) Whatever its origin, he adopted the nickname as a pseudonym while performing, and it stuck. Regarding his toughness, it is also recounted that during his second prison term, another inmate stabbed him in the neck (leaving him with a fearsome scar that he subsequently covered with a bandanna), and he took the knife away and in turn almost killed his attacker with it. Lead belly – King of the 12 String Guitar Retrieved on 30 January, 2007.

Bob Dylan once remarked, on his XM radio show, that Lead Belly was “One of the few ex-cons who recorded a popular children’s album.”

It was the Depression and jobs were very scarce. A month after his release and in need of regular work in order to avoid having his release canceled and being sent back to prison, in September 1934, Lead Belly met with John A. Lomax and begged him to take him on as a driver. For 3 months he assisted the 67 year old John Lomax in his folk song collecting in the South. (Alan Lomax (then 19) was ill and didn’t accompany them on this trip.) In December, Lead Belly participated in a “smoker” (group sing) at an MLA meeting in Bryn Mawr College in PA., where John A. Lomax had a prior lecturing engagement. Lead Belly was written up in the press as a convict who had sung his way out of prison. On New Year’s Day, 1935, the pair arrived in New York City, where John Lomax was scheduled to meet with his publisher, Macmillan, about a new collection of folk songs. The newspapers were eager to write about the “singing convict” and Time magazine made one of its first filmed newsreels about him. Lead Belly attained fame (though not fortune). The following week, he began recording with the American Record Corporation (ARC), but achieved little commercial success with these records. Part of the reason for the poor record sales may have been because ARC insisted on releasing only his blues songs rather than the folk songs for which he would later become better known. In any case, Lead Belly continued to struggle financially. Like many performers, what income he made during his lifetime would come from touring, not from record sales. In February 1935, he married his sweetheart, Martha Promise, who came north from Louisiana for the purpose. The month of February was spent recording his and other African-American repertoire and interviews about his life with Alan Lomax for their forthcoming book, Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (1936). Concert appearances were slow to materialize, however, and in March 1935, Lead Belly accompanied John A. Lomax on a 2 week lecture tour of colleges and universities in the Northeast, culminating at Harvard. These lectures had been scheduled before John Lomax had teamed up with Lead Belly. At the end of month, John Lomax decided he could no longer work with Lead Belly and gave him and Martha money to go back to Louisiana by bus. Lead Belly gave Martha the money that he had earned from 3 months of performing, but in installments, on the pretext that Lead Belly would drink it all if given a lump sum. From Louisiana Lead Belly then successfully sued Lomax for the full amount and for release from his management contract with Lomax. The quarrel was very bitter and there were hard feelings on both sides. Curiously, however, in the midst of the legal wrangling Lead Belly wrote to John A. Lomax proposing that they team up together once again. But it was not to be. Nor was the book the Lomaxes published that year about Lead Belly financially successful.

In January of 1936, Lead Belly returned to New York on his own without John Lomax for an attempted comeback. Lead Belly performed twice a day at Harlem’s Lafayette theater in a live dramatic recreation of the Time Life newsreel (itself a recreation) about his prison encounter with John A. Lomax, in which he had worn stripes, even though by this time he was no longer associated with Lomax. Life magazine ran a 3 page article titled, “Lead Belly – Bad Nigger Makes Good Minstrel,” in the 19 April, 1936 issue. It included a full-page, colour (rare in those days) picture of him sitting on grain sacks playing his guitar and singing. Also included was a striking picture of Martha Promise (identified in the article as his manager); photos showing Lead Belly’s hands playing the guitar (with the caption “these hands once killed a man”); Texas Governor Pat M. Neff; and the “ramshackle” Texas State Penitentiary. The article attributes both of his pardons to his singing of his petitions to the governors, who were so moved that they pardoned him. The article’s text ends with “he… may well be on the brink of a new and prosperous period.” Lead Belly failed to stir the enthusiasm of Harlem audiences. Instead, he attained success playing at concerts and benefits for an audience of leftist folk music aficionados. Lead Belly developed his own style of singing and explaining his repertoire in the context of Southern black culture, taking the hint from his previous participation in John A. Lomax’s college lectures. Lead Belly was especially successful with his repertoire of children’s game songs (as a younger man in Louisiana he had sung regularly at children’s birthday parties in the black community). Lead Belly was written up as a heroic figure by the black novelist, Richard Wright, then a member of the Communist Party, in the columns of the Daily Worker, of which he (Wright) was the Harlem editor. The 2 men became personal friends, though Lead Belly himself was a-political — if anything, a supporter of Wendell Willkie, the centrist Republican candidate, for whom he wrote a campaign song.

In 1939, Lead Belly was back in jail for assault, after stabbing a man in a fight in Manhattan. Alan Lomax, then 24, took him under his wing and helped raise money for his legal expenses, dropping out of graduate school to do so. After his release (in 1940-41), Lead Belly appeared as a regular on Alan Lomax and Nicholas Ray’s groundbreaking CBS radio show, Back Where I Come From, broadcast nationwide. Lead Belly also appeared in night clubs with Josh White, becoming a fixture in New York City’s surging folk music scene and befriending the likes of Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Woody Guthrie, and a young Pete Seeger, all fellow performers on Back Where I Come From. During the first half of the decade he recorded for RCA, the Library of Congress, and for Moe Asch (future founder of Folkways Records), and in 1944 headed to California, where he recorded strong sessions for Capitol Records. Lead belly was the first American country blues musician to see success in Europe. In 1949 Lead Belly had a regular radio broadcast on station WNYC in New York on Sunday nights on Henrietta Yurchenko’s show. Later in the year he began his first European tour with a trip to France, but fell ill before its completion, and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lead Belly’s final concert was at the University of Texas in a tribute to his former mentor, John A. Lomax, who had died the previous year. Martha also performed at that concert, singing spirituals with her husband.

Lead Belly styled himself “King of the 12-string guitar,” and despite his use of other instruments like the concertina, the most enduring image of Lead Belly as a performer is wielding his unusually large Stella 12-string. This guitar had a slightly longer scale length than a standard guitar, slotted tuners, ladder bracing, and a trapeze-style tailpiece to resist bridge lifting.

Lead Belly played with finger picks much of the time, using a thumb pick to provide a walking bass line and occasionally to strum. This technique, combined with low tunings and heavy strings, gives many of his recordings a piano-like sound. Lead Belly’s tuning is debatable, but appears to be a downtuned variant of standard tuning; more than likely he tuned his guitar strings relative to one another, so that the actual notes shifted as the strings wore. Lead Belly’s playing style was popularised by Pete Seeger, who adopted the 12-string guitar in the 1950s and released an instructional LP and book using Lead belly as an exemplar of technique.

In some of the recordings where Lead Belly accompanied himself, he would make an unusual type of grunt between his verses. Lead Belly would do this grunt, “Haah!”, through many of his songs, such as, Looky Looky Yonder, Take this Hammer, Linin’ Track and Julie Ann Johnson. It gave a somewhat catchy sound to the songs. Lead Belly explains that, “Every time the men say ‘haah’, the hammer falls. The hammer rings, and we swing, and we sing”, an apparent reference to prisoners’ work songs. The grunt represents the tired deep breaths the men would take while working, singing and pausing in cadence with the work.

Keep visiting: www.lifechums.com more celebrities featuring shortly …………….

Bookmark and Share

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong was born on 26 December, 1893 in a village called Shaoshan in Xiangtan County (湘潭縣), Hunan province and died on 9 September, 1976. Mao Zedong was a Chinese military and political leader who led the Communist Party of China (CPC) to victory against the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War, and was the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976.

Regarded as one of the most important figures in modern world history, and named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, Mao Zedong is still a controversial figure today, over 30 years after his death. Mao Zedong is generally held in high regard in mainland China where he is often portrayed as a great revolutionary and strategist who eventually defeated Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese Civil War, and transformed the country into a major power through his policies. However, many of Mao Zedong’s socio-political programmes such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution are blamed by critics from both within and outside China for causing severe damage to the culture, society, economy and foreign relations of China, as well as a probable death toll in the tens of millions.

Although still officially venerated in China, his influence has been largely overshadowed by the political and economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping and other leaders since his death. Mao Zedong is also recognised as a poet and calligrapher.

The eldest child of a relatively prosperous peasant family, his ancestors migrated from Jiangxi province during the Ming Dynasty, and had settled there as farmers. Mao Zedong’s father was Mao Jen-sheng, a peasant farmer. Mao Zedong’s good friend Chan Pak-Lam guided Mao Zedong in his youth. Wen Chi-mei, his mother, was a very devout Buddhist. Due to his family’s relative wealth, his father was able to send him to school and later to Changsha for more advanced schooling.

During the 1911 Revolution, Mao Zedong enlisted as a soldier in a local regiment in Hunan which fought on the side of the revolutionaries. Once the Qing Dynasty had been effectively toppled, Mao Zedong left the army and returned to school.

After graduating from the First Provincial Normal School of Hunan in 1918, Mao Zedong travelled with Professor Yang Changji, his high school teacher and future father-in-law, to Beijing during the May Fourth Movement in 1919.

Professor Yang held a faculty position at Peking University. Because of Professor Yang’s recommendation, Mao Zedong worked as an assistant librarian at the University with Li Dazhao as curator. Mao Zedong registered as a part-time student at Beijing University and attended many lectures and seminars by famous intellectuals, such as Chen Duxiu, Hu Shi, Qian Xuantong, etc. During his stay in Beijing, he read as much as possible, and through his readings, he was introduced to Communist theories. Mao Zedong married Yang Kaihui, Professor Yang’s daughter who was his fellow student, despite an existing marriage arranged by his father at home. Mao Zedong never acknowledged this marriage. In October 1930, the Guomindang (GMD) captured Yang Kaihui with her son, Anying. The GMD imprisoned them both and Anying, then, was later sent to his relatives after the GMD killed his mother, Yang Kaihui. At this time , Mao Zedong was living with a co-worker, He Zizhen, a 17 year old girl from Yongxing, Jiangxi. Mao Zedong turned down an opportunity to study in France because he firmly believed that China’s problems could be studied and resolved only within China. Unlike his contemporaries, Mao Zedong concentrated on studying the peasant majority of China’s population.

On 23 July, 1921, Mao, age 27, attended the first session of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai. 2 years later, he was elected as 1 of the 5 commissars of the Central Committee of the Party during the 3rd Congress session. Later that year (1923), Mao Zedong returned to Hunan at the instruction of the CPC Central Committee and the Kuomintang Central Committee to organise the Hunan branch of the Kuomintang. In 1924, he was a delegate to the 1st National Conference of the Kuomintang, where he was elected an Alternate Executive of the Central Committee. In 1924, he became an Executive of the Shanghai branch of the Kuomintang, and Secretary of the Organisation Department.

For a while, Mao Zedong remained in Shanghai, an important city that the CPC emphasised for the Revolution. However, the Party encountered major difficulties organising labor union movements and building a relationship with its nationalist ally, the Kuomintang. The Party had become poor, and Mao Zedong was disillusioned with the revolution and moved back to Shaoshan. During his stay at home, Mao Zedong’s interest in the revolution was rekindled after hearing of the 1925 uprisings in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Mao Zedong’s political ambitions returned, and he then went to Guangdong, the base of the Kuomintang, and took part in the preparations for the 2nd session of the National Congress of Kuomintang. In October 1925, Mao Zedong became acting Propaganda Director of the Kuomintang.

In early 1927, Mao Zedong returned to Hunan where, in an urgent meeting held by the Communist Party, he made a report based on his investigations of the peasant uprisings in the wake of the Northern Expedition. This is considered the initial and decisive step towards the successful application of Mao Zedong’s revolutionary theories.

Mao Zedong had a great interest in the political system, encouraged by his father. Mao Zedong’s 2 most famous essays, both from 1937, ‘On Contradiction’ and ‘On Practice’, are concerned with the practical strategies of a revolutionary movement and stress the importance of practical, grassroots knowledge, obtained through experience. Both essays reflect the guerrilla roots of Maoism in the need to build up support in the countryside against a Japanese occupying force and emphasise the need to win over ‘hearts and minds’ through ‘education’. The essays, reproduced later as part of the ‘Red Book, warn against the behaviour of the blindfolded man trying to catch sparrows, and the ‘Imperial envoy’ descending from his carriage to ‘spout opinions’.

In addition to his limited formal education, Mao Zedong spent 6 months studying independently. Mao Zedong was first introduced to communism while working at Peking University, and in 1921 he co-founded the Communist Party of China (or CPC) Mao Zedong first encountered Marxism while he worked as a library assistant at Peking University.

Other important influences on Mao Zedong were the Russian revolution and, according to some scholars, the Chinese literary works: Outlaws of the Marsh and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Mao Zedong sought to subvert the alliance of imperialism and feudalism in China. Mao Zedong thought the Nationalists to be both economically and politically vulnerable and thus that the revolution could not be steered by Nationalists.

Throughout the 1920s, Mao Zedong led several labour struggles based upon his studies of the propagation and organisation of the contemporary labour movements. However, these struggles were successfully subdued by the government, and Mao Zedong fled from Changsha after he was labeled a radical activist. Mao Zedong pondered these failures and finally realised that industrial workers were unable to lead the revolution because they made up only a small portion of China’s population, and unarmed labour struggles could not resolve the problems of imperial and feudal suppression.

Mao Zedong began to depend on Chinese peasants who later became staunch supporters of his theory of violent revolution. This dependence on the rural rather than the urban proletariat to instigate violent revolution distinguished Mao Zedong from his predecessors and contemporaries. Mao Zedong himself was from a peasant family, and thus he cultivated his reputation among the farmers and peasants and introduced them to Marxism.

In 1927, Mao Zedong conducted the famous Autumn Harvest Uprising in Changsha, Hunan, as commander-in-chief. Mao Zedong led an army, called the “Revolutionary Army of Workers and Peasants”, which was defeated and scattered after fierce battles. Afterwards, the exhausted troops were forced to leave Hunan for Sanwan, Jiangxi, where Mao Zedong re-organised the scattered soldiers, rearranging the military division into smaller regiments. Mao Zedong also ordered that each company must have a party branch office with a commissar as its leader who would give political instructions based upon superior mandates. This military rearrangement in Sanwan, Jiangxi initiated the CPC’s absolute control over its military force and has been considered to have the most fundamental and profound impact upon the Chinese revolution. Later, they moved to the Jinggang Mountains, Jiangxi.

In the Jinggang Mountains, Mao Zedong persuaded 2 local insurgent leaders to pledge their allegiance to him. There, Mao Zedong joined his army with that of Zhu De, creating the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army of China, Red Army in short. (the Fourth Front of Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army of China).

From 1931 to 1934, Mao Zedong helped establish the Soviet Republic of China and was elected Chairman of this small republic in the mountainous areas in Jiangxi. Here, Mao Zedong was married to He Zizhen. Mao Zedong’s previous wife, Yang Kaihui, had been arrested and executed in 1930, just 3 years after their departure.

In Jiangxi, Mao Zedong’s authoritative domination, especially that of the military force, was challenged by the Jiangxi branch of the CPC and military officers. Mao Zedong’s opponents, among whom the most prominent was Li Wenlin, the founder of the CPC’s branch and Red Army in Jiangxi, were against Mao Zedong’s land policies and proposals to reform the local party branch and army leadership. Mao Zedong reacted first by accusing the opponents of opportunism and kulakism and then set off a series of systematic suppressions of them. It is reported that horrible forms of torture and killing took place. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday claim that victims were subjected to a red-hot gun-rod being rammed into the anus, and that there were many cases of cutting open the stomach and scooping out the heart. The estimated number of the victims amounted to several thousands and could be as high as 186,000. Critics accuse Mao Zedong’s authority in Jiangxi was secured and reassured through the revolutionary terrorism, or red terrorism.

Mao Zedong, with the help of Zhu De, built a modest but effective army, undertook experiments in rural reform and government, and provided refuge for Communists fleeing the rightist purges in the cities. Mao Zedong’s methods are normally referred to as Guerrilla warfare; but he himself made a distinction between guerrilla warfare (youji zhan) and Mobile Warfare (yundong zhan).

Mao Zedong’s Guerrilla Warfare and Mobile Warfare was based upon the fact of the poor armament and military training of the red army which consisted mainly of impoverished peasants, who, however, were all encouraged by revolutionary passions and aspiring after a communist utopia.

Around 1930, there had been more than 10 regions, usually entitled “soviet areas,” under control of the CPC. The prosperity of “soviet areas” startled and worried Chiang Kai-shek, chairman of the Kuomintang government, who waged 5 waves of besieging campaigns against the “central soviet area.” More than 1,000,000 Kuomintang soldiers were involved in these 5 campaigns, 4 out of which were defeated by the red army led by Mao Zedong. By June 1932 (the height of its power), the Red Army had no less than 45,000 soldiers, with a further 200,000 local militia acting as a subsidiary force.

Under increasing pressures from the KMT encirclement campaigns, there was a struggle for power within the Communist leadership. Mao Zedong was removed from his important positions and replaced by individuals (including Zhou Enlai) who appeared loyal to the orthodox line advocated by Moscow and represented within the CPC by a group known as the 28 Bolsheviks.

Chiang Kai-shek, who had earlier assumed nominal control of China due in part to the Northern Expedition, was determined to eliminate the Communists. By October 1934, he had them surrounded, prompting them to engage in the “Long March,” a retreat from Jiangxi in the southeast to Shaanxi in the northwest of China. It was during this 9,600 kilometer (5,965 mile), year-long journey that Mao Zedong emerged as the top Communist leader, aided by the Zunyi Conference and the defection of Zhou Enlai to Mao Zedong’s side. At this Conference, Mao Zedong entered the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

According to the standard Chinese Communist Party line, from his base in Yan’an, Mao Zedong led the Communist resistance against the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). However, Mao Zedong’s further consolidated power over the Communist Party in 1942 by launching the Zheng Feng, or “Rectification” campaign against rival CPC members such as Wang Ming, Wang Shiwei, and Ding Ling. Also while in Yan’an, Mao Zedong divorced He Zizhen and married the actress Lan Ping, who would become known as Jiang Qing.

During the Sino-Japanese War, Mao Zedong’s strategies were opposed by both Chiang Kai-shek and the United States. The US regarded Chiang as an important ally, able to help shorten the war by engaging the Japanese occupiers in China. Chiang, in contrast, sought to build the ROC army for the certain conflict with Mao Zedong’s communist forces after the end of World War II. This fact was not understood well in the US, and precious lend-lease armaments continued to be allocated to the Kuomintang. In turn, Mao Zedong spent part of the war (as to whether it was most or only a little is disputed) fighting the Kuomintang for control of certain parts of China. Both the Communists and Nationalists have been criticised for fighting amongst themselves rather than allying against the Japanese Imperial Army. However, the Nationalists were better equipped and did most of the fighting against the Japanese army in China.

In 1944, the Americans sent a special diplomatic envoy, called the Dixie Mission, to the Communist Party of China.

Most of the Americans were favorably impressed. The CPC seemed less corrupt, more unified, and more vigorous in its resistance to Japan than the Guomindang. United States fliers shot down over North China…confirmed to their superiors that the CPC was both strong and popular over a broad area. In the end, the contacts with the USA developed with the CPC led to very little.

Then again, modern commentators have disputed such claims. Amongst others, Willy Lam stated that during the war with Japan:

The great majority of casualties sustained by Chinese soldiers were borne by KMT, not Communist divisions. Mao Zedong and other guerrilla leaders decided at the time to conserve their strength for the “larger struggle” of taking over all of China once the Japanese Imperial Army was decimated by the U.S.-led Allied Forces.

After the end of World War II, the U.S. continued to support Chiang Kai-shek, now openly against the Communist Red Army (led by Mao Zedong) in the civil war for control of China. The U.S. support was part of its view to contain and defeat world communism. Likewise, the Soviet Union gave quasi-covert support to Mao Zedong (acting as a concerned neighbor more than a military ally, to avoid open conflict with the U.S.) and gave large supplies of arms to the Communist Party of China, although newer Chinese records indicate the Soviet “supplies” were not as large as previously believed, and consistently fell short of the promised amount of aid.

On 21 January, 1949 Kuomintang forces suffered massive losses against Mao Zedong’s Red Army. In the early morning of December 10, 1949, Red Army troops laid siege to Chengdu, the last KMT-occupied city in mainland China, and Chiang Kai-shek evacuated from the mainland to Taiwan (Formosa) that same day.

Chinese poster depicting Mao as “the Helmsman”, his revolutionary epitaph, 1969
Stalin and Mao Zedong depicted on a Chinese postage stampThe People’s Republic of China was established on 1 October, 1949. It was the culmination of over 2 decades of civil and international war. From 1954 to 1959, Mao Zedong was the Chairman of the PRC. During this period, Mao Zedong was called Chairman Mao (毛主席) or the Great Leader Chairman Mao (伟大领袖毛主席). The Communist Party assumed control of all media in the country and used it to promote the image of Mao and the Party. The Nationalists under General Chiang Kai-Shek were vilified as were countries such as the United States of America and Japan. The Chinese people were exhorted to devote themselves to build and strengthen their country. In his speech declaring the foundation of the PRC, Mao announced: “The Chinese people have stood up!”

Mao Zedong took up residence in Zhongnanhai, a compound next to the Forbidden City in Beijing, and there he ordered the construction of an indoor swimming pool and other buildings. Mao Zedong often did his work either in bed or by the side of the pool, preferring not to wear formal clothes unless absolutely necessary, according to Dr. Li Zhisui, his personal physician. (Li’s book, The Private Life of Chairman Mao, is regarded as controversial, especially by those sympathetic to Mao.)

Mao Zedong’s first political campaigns after founding the People’s Republic were land reform and the suppression of counter-revolutionaries, which centered on mass executions, often before organised crowds. These campaigns of mass repression targeted former KMT officials, businessmen, former employees of Western companies, intellectuals whose loyalty was suspect, and significant numbers of rural gentry. The U.S. State department in 1976 estimated that there may have been 1,000,000 killed in the land reform, 800,000 killed in the counterrevolutionary campaign. Mao Zedong himself claimed a total of 700,000 killed during the years between 1949 to 1953. However, because there was a policy to select “at least 1 landlord, and usually several, in virtually every village for public execution”, 1, 000,000 deaths seem to be an absolute minimum, and many authors agree on a figure of between 2,000,000 and 5,000,000 dead. In addition, at least 1.5,000,000 people were sent to “reform through labour” camps. Mao Zedong’s personal role in ordering mass executions is undeniable. Mao Zedong defended these killings as necessary for the securing of power.

Following the consolidation of power, Mao Zedong launched the 1st 5 Year Plan from 1953 to 1958. The plan aimed to end Chinese dependence upon agriculture in order to become a world power. With the USSR’s assistance, new industrial plants were built and agricultural production eventually fell to a point where industry was beginning to produce enough capital that China no longer needed the USSR’s support. The success of the 1st 5 Year Plan was to encourage Mao Zedong to instigate the 2nd 5 Year Plan, the Great Leap Forward, in 1958. Mao Zedong also launched a phase of rapid collectivisation. The CPC introduced price controls as well as a Chinese character simplification aimed at increasing literacy. Land was taken from landlords and more wealthy peasants and given to poorer peasants. Large scale industrialisation projects were also undertaken.

Programmes pursued during this time include the Hundred Flowers Campaign, in which Mao Zedong indicated his supposed willingness to consider different opinions about how China should be governed. Given the freedom to express themselves, liberal and intellectual Chinese began opposing the Communist Party and questioning its leadership. This was initially tolerated and encouraged. After a few months, Mao Zedong’s government reversed its policy and persecuted those, totalling perhaps 500,000, who criticised, and were merely alleged to have criticised, the Party in what is called the Anti-Rightist Movement. Authors such as Jung Chang have alleged that the Hundred Flowers Campaign was merely a ruse to root out “dangerous” thinking. Others such as Dr Li Zhisui have suggested that Mao Zedong had initially seen the policy as a way of weakening those within his party who opposed him, but was surprised by the extent of criticism and the fact that it began to be directed at his own leadership. It was only then that he used it as a method of identifying and subsequently persecuting those critical of his government. The Hundred Flowers movement led to the condemnation, silencing, and death of many citizens, also linked to Mao’s Anti-Rightist Movement, with death tolls possibly in the millions.

In January 1958, Mao Zedong launched the 2nd 5 Year Plan known as the Great Leap Forward, a plan intended as an alternative model for economic growth to the Soviet model focusing on heavy industry that was advocated by others in the party. Under this economic program, the relatively small agricultural collectives which had been formed to date were rapidly merged into far larger people’s communes, and many of the peasants ordered to work on massive infrastructure projects and the small-scale production of iron and steel. All private food production was banned; livestock and farm implements were brought under collective ownership.

Under the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong and other party leaders ordered the implementation of a variety of unproven and unscientific new agricultural techniques by the new communes. Combined with the diversion of labor to steel production and infrastructure projects and the reduced personal incentives under a commune system this led to an approximately 15% drop in grain production in 1959 followed by further 10% reduction in 1960 and no recovery in 1961. In an effort to win favour with their superiors and avoid being purged, each layer in the party hierarchy exaggerated the amount of grain produced under them and based on the fabricated success, party cadres were ordered to requisition a disproportionately high amount of the true harvest for state use primarily in the cities and urban areas but also for export. The net result, which was compounded in some areas by drought and in others by floods, was that the rural peasants were not left enough to eat and many millions starved to death in what is thought to be the largest famine in human history. This famine was a direct cause of the death of tens of millions of Chinese peasants between 1959 and 1962. Further, many children who became emaciated and malnourished during years of hardship and struggle for survival, died shortly after the Great Leap Forward came to an end in 1962.

The extent of Mao Zedong’s knowledge as to the severity of the situation has been disputed. According to some, most notably Dr. Li Zhisui, Mao was not aware of anything more than a mild food and general supply shortage until late 1959.

“But I do not think that when he spoke on 2 July, 1959, he knew how bad the disaster had become, and he believed the party was doing everything it could to manage the situation” Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, in Mao: the Unknown Story, alleged that Mao knew of the vast suffering and that he was dismissive of it, blaming bad weather or other officials for the famine.

“Although slaughter was not his purpose with the Leap, he was more than ready for myriad deaths to result, and hinted to his top echelon that they should not be too shocked if they happened (438-439).”

Whatever the case, the Great Leap Forward led to millions of deaths in China. Mao Zedong lost esteem among many of the top party cadres and was eventually forced to abandon the policy in 1962, also losing some political power to moderate leaders, notably Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. However, Mao Zedong and national propaganda claimed that he was only partly to blame. As a result, he was able to remain Chairman of the Communist Party, with the Presidency transferred to Liu Shaoqi.

The Great Leap Forward was a disaster for China. Although the steel quotas were officially reached, almost all of it made in the countryside was useless lumps of iron, as it had been made from assorted scrap metal in home made furnaces with no reliable source of fuel such as coal. According to Zhang Rongmei, a geometry teacher in rural Shanghai during the Great Leap Forward:

We took all the furniture, pots, and pans we had in our house, and all our neighbors did likewise. We put all everything in a big fire and melted down all the metal.

Moreover, most of the dams, canals and other infrastructure projects, which millions of peasants and prisoners had been forced to toil on and in many cases die for, proved useless as they had been built without the input of trained engineers, whom Mao Zedong had rejected on ideological grounds.

Several leaders expressed concern that the Great Leap Forward was not as successful as planned. The most direct of these was Minister of Defence and Korean War General Peng Dehuai. Mao Zedong, fearing loss of his position, orchestrated a purge of Peng and his supporters, stifling criticism of the Great Leap policies.

There is a great deal of controversy over the number of deaths by starvation during the Great Leap Forward. Until the mid 1980s, when official census figures were finally published by the Chinese Government, little was known about the scale of the disaster in the Chinese countryside, as the handful of Western observers allowed access during this time had been restricted to model villages where they were deceived into believing that Great Leap Forward had been a great success. There was also an assumption that the flow of individual reports of starvation that had been reaching the West, primarily through Hong Kong and Taiwan, must be localised or exaggerated as China was continuing to claim record harvests and was a net exporter of grain through the period. Censuses were carried out in China in 1953, 1964 and 1982. The first attempt to analyse this data in order to estimate the number of famine deaths was carried out by American demographer Dr Judith Banister and published in 1984. Given the lengthy gaps between the censuses and doubts over the reliability of the data, an accurate figure is difficult to ascertain. Nevertheless, Banister concluded that the official data implied that around 15,000,000 excess deaths incurred in China during 1958 to 1961 and that based on her modelling of Chinese demographics during the period and taking account of assumed underreporting during the famine years, the figure was around 30,000,000. The official statistic is 20,000,000 deaths, as given by Hu Yaobang. Various other sources have put the figure between 20,000,000 and 72,000,000.

On the international front, the period was dominated by the further isolation of China, due to start of the Sino-Soviet split which resulted in Khrushchev withdrawing all Soviet technical experts and aid from the country. The split was triggered by border disputes, and arguments over the control and direction of world communism, and other disputes pertaining to foreign policy. Most of the problems regarding communist unity resulted from the death of Stalin and his replacement by Khrushchev. Stalin had established himself as the successor of “correct” Marxist thought well before Mao Zedong controlled the Communist Party of China, and therefore Mao Zedong never challenged the suitability of any Stalinist doctrine (at least while Stalin was alive). Upon the death of Stalin, Mao Zedong believed (perhaps because of seniority) that the leadership of the “correct” Marxist doctrine would fall to him. The resulting tension between Khrushchev (at the head of a politically/militarily superior government), and Mao Zedong (believing he had a superior understanding of Marxist ideology) eroded the previous patron-client relationship between the CPSU and CPC. In China, the formerly favourable Soviets were now denounced as “revisionists” and listed alongside “American imperialism” as movements to oppose.

Partly-surrounded by hostile American military bases (reaching from South Korea, Japan, Okinawa, and Taiwan), China was now confronted with a new Soviet threat from the north and west. Both the internal crisis and the external threat called for extraordinary statesmanship from Mao Zedong, but as China entered the new decade the statesmen of the People’s Republic were in hostile confrontation with each other.

At a large Communist Party conference in Beijing in January 1962, called the “Conference of the 7,000” State President Liu Shaoqi denounced the Great Leap Forward as responsible for widespread famine. The overwhelming majority of delegates expressed agreement, but Defense Minister Lin Biao staunchly defended Mao Zedong A brief period of liberalisation followed while Mao Zedong and Lin plotted a comeback. Liu and Deng Xiaoping rescued the economy by disbanding the people’s communes, introducing elements of private control of peasant smallholdings and importing grain from Canada and Australia to mitigate the worst effects of famine.

Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping’s prominence gradually became a challenge to Mao Zedong’s position of power. Liu and Deng, then the State President and General Secretary, respectively, had favoured the idea that Mao Zedong should be removed from actual power but maintain his ceremonial and symbolic role, and the party will uphold all of his positive contributions to the revolution. They attempted to marginalise Mao Zedong by taking control of economic policy and asserting themselves politically as well.

Facing the prospect of losing his place on the political stage, Mao Zedong responded to Liu and Deng’s movements by launching the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Under the pretext that certain liberal “bourgeois” elements of society, labeled as class enemies, continue to threaten the socialist framework under the existing dictatorship of the proletariat, the idea that a Cultural Revolution must continue after armed struggle allowed Mao Zedong to circumvent the Communist hierarchy by giving power directly to the Red Guards, groups of young people, often teenagers, who set up their own tribunals. Chaos reigned over the country, and millions were prosecuted, including a famous philosopher, Chen Yuen. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong closed the schools in China and the young intellectuals living in cities were ordered to the countryside. They were forced to manufacture weapons for the Red Army. The Revolution led to the destruction of much of China’s cultural heritage and the imprisonment of a huge number of Chinese citizens, as well as creating general economic and social chaos in the country. Millions of lives were ruined during this period, as the Cultural Revolution pierced into every part of Chinese life, depicted by such Chinese films as To Live, The Blue Kite and Farewell My Concubine. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, perished in the violence of the Cultural Revolution. When Mao Zedong was informed of such losses, particularly that people had been driven to suicide, he blithely commented: “People who try to commit suicide — don’t attempt to save them! . . . China is such a populous nation, it is not as if we cannot do without a few people.”

It was during this period that Mao Zedong chose Lin Biao, who seemed to echo all of Mao Zedong’s ideas, to become his successor. Mao Zedong and Lin Biao formed an alliance leading up to the Cultural Revolution in order for the purges to succeed. Mao Zedong needed Lin’s clout for his plan to work. In return, Lin was made Mao Zedong’s successor. By 1971, however, because of Lin’s grip over the military and Mao Zedong’s own paranoia, a divide between the 2 men became clear, and it was unclear whether Lin was planning a military coup or an assassination attempt. Lin Biao died trying to flee China, probably anticipating his arrest, in a suspicious plane crash over Mongolia. It was declared that Lin was planning to depose Mao Zedong, and he was posthumously expelled from the CPC. At this time, Mao Zedong lost trust in many of the top CPC figures. The highest-ranking Soviet Bloc intelligence defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa described his conversation with Nicolae Ceauşescu who told him about a plot to kill Mao Zedong with the help of Lin Biao organised by KGB.

In 1969, Mao Zedong declared the Cultural Revolution to be over, although the official history of the People’s Republic of China marks the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 with Mao Zedong’s death. In the last years of his life, Mao Zedong was faced with declining health due to either Parkinson’s disease or, according to Li Zhisui, motor neurone disease, as well as lung ailments due to smoking and heart trouble. Mao Zedong remained passive as various factions within the Communist Party mobilised for the power struggle anticipated after his death.

At 5:00 in the afternoon of 2 September, 1976, Mao Zedong suffered another myocardial infarction (heart attack), far more severe than the previous 2 and affecting a much larger area of his heart. Mao Zedong’s body was giving out. The personal doctors group began emergency treatment immediately. X-rays indicated that his lung infection had worsened, and his urine output dropped to less than 300 cc a day. Mao Zedong was awake and alert throughout the crisis and asked several times whether he was in danger. Mao Zedong’s condition continued to fluctuate and his life hung in the balance. 3 days later, on 5 September Mao Zedong’s condition was still critical, and Hua Guofeng called Jiang Qing back from her trip. Jiang Qing spent only a few moments in Building 202 before returning to her own residence in the Spring Lotus Chamber. On the afternoon of 7 September, Mao Zedong took a turn for the worse. Jiang Qing came to Building 202 (where Mao Zedong was staying) where she learned the news. Mao Zedong had just fallen asleep and needed the rest, but she insisted on rubbing his back and moving his limbs, and she sprinkled powder on his body. The medical team protested that the dust from the powder was not good for his lungs, but she instructed the nurses on duty to follow her example later. The next morning, 8 September, she came again. Jiang Qing wanted the medical staff to change Mao Zedong’s sleeping position, claiming that he had been lying too long on his left side. The doctor on duty objected, knowing that he could breathe only on his left side, but she had him moved nonetheless. Mao Zedong’s breathing stopped and his face turned blue. Jiang Qing left the room while the medical staff put him on a respirator and performed emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Mao Zedong barely revived, and Hua Guofeng urged Jiang Qing not to interfere further with the doctor’s work, as her actions contributed to Mao Zedong’s death. Mao Zedong was taken off life support few minutes after midnight, 9 September was chosen because it was an easy day to remember. Mao Zedong had been in poor health for several years and had declined visibly for some months prior to his death. Mao Zedong was a chain smoker. Mao Zedong’s body lay in state at the Great Hall of the People. A memorial service was held in Tiananmen Square on 18 September, 1976. There was a 3 minute silence observed during this service. Mao Zedong’s body was later placed into the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, although he wished to be cremated and had been 1 of the 1st high-ranking officials to sign the “Proposal that all Central Leaders be Cremated after Death” in November 1956.

Mao Zedong’s figure is largely symbolic both in China and in the global communist movement as a whole. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s already glorified image manifested into a personality cult that stretched into every part of Chinese life. Mao Zedong presented himself as an enemy of landowners, businessmen, and Western and American imperialism, as well as an ally of impoverised peasants, farmers and workers.

At the 1958 Party congress in Chengdu, Mao Zedong expressed support for the idea of personality cults if they venerated figures who were genuinely worthy of adulation:

“ There are two kinds of personality cults. One is a healthy personality cult, that is, to worship men like Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin. Because they hold the truth in their hands. The other is a false personality cult, i.e. not analyzed and blind worship. ”

In 1962, Mao Zedong proposed the Socialist Education Movement (SEM) in an attempt to educate the peasants to resist the temptations of feudalism and the sprouts of capitalism that he saw re-emerging in the countryside (due to Liu’s economic reforms). Large quantities of politicised art were produced and circulated — with Mao Zedong at the centre. Numerous posters and musical compositions referred to Mao Zedong as “A red sun in the centre of our hearts” (我们心中的红太阳) and a “Savior of the people” (人民的大救星).

The Cult of Mao Zedong proved vital in starting the Cultural Revolution. China’s youth had mostly been brought up during the Communist era, and they had been told to love Mao Zedong. Thus they were his greatest supporters. Their feelings for him were so strong that many followed his urge to challenge all established authority.

In October 1966, Mao Zedong’s Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, which was known as the Little Red Book was published. Party members were encouraged to carry a copy with them and possession was almost mandatory as a criterion for membership. Over the years, Mao Zedong’s image became displayed almost everywhere, present in homes, offices and shops. Mao Zedong’s quotations were typographically emphasised by putting them in boldface or red type in even the most obscure writings. Music from the period emphasized Mao Zedong’s stature, as did children’s rhymes. The phrase Long Live Chairman Mao Zedong for 10,000 years was commonly heard during the era, which was traditionally a phrase reserved for the reigning Emperor.

After the Cultural Revolution, there are some people who still worship Mao Zedong in family altars or even temples for Mao Zedong.

As anticipated after Mao Zedong’s death, there was a power struggle for control of China. On one side was the left wing led by the Gang of Four, who wanted to continue the policy of revolutionary mass mobilisation. On the other side was the right wing opposing these policies. Among the latter group, the restorationists, led by Chairman Hua Guofeng, advocated a return to central planning along the Soviet model, whereas the reformers, led by Deng Xiaoping, wanted to overhaul the Chinese economy based on market-oriented policies and to de-emphasize the role of Maoist ideology in determining economic and political policy. Eventually, the reformers won control of the government. Deng Xiaoping, with clear seniority over Hua Guofeng, defeated Hua in a bloodless power struggle a few years later.

Mao Zedong’s legacy has produced a large amount of controversy. Many historians and academics are critical of Mao Zedong, especially his many campaigns to suppress political enemies and gain international renown, some comparing him to Hitler and Stalin.

Supporters of Mao Zedong credit him with advancing the social and economic development of Chinese society. They point out that before 1949, for instance, the illiteracy rate in Mainland China was 80%, and life expectancy was a meager 35 years. At his death, illiteracy had declined to less than 7%, and average life expectancy had increased to more than 70 years (alternative statistics also quote improvements, though not nearly as dramatic). In addition to these increases, the total population of China increased 57% to 700,000,000, from the constant 400,000,000 mark during the span between the Opium War and the Chinese Civil War. Supporters also state that, under Mao Zedong’s government, China ended its “Century of Humiliation” from Western and Japanese imperialism and regained its status as a major world power. They also state their belief that Mao Zedong also industrialised China to a considerable extent and ensured China’s sovereignty during his rule. Many, including some of Mao Zedong’s supporters, view the Kuomintang, which Mao Zedong drove off the mainland, as having been corrupt.

They also argue that the Maoist era improved women’s rights by abolishing prostitution, a phenomenon that was to return after Deng Xiaoping and post-Maoist CPC leaders increased liberalisation of the economy. Indeed, Mao Zedong once famously remarked that “Women hold up half the heavens”. A popular slogan during the Cultural Revolution was, “Break the chains, unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution!”

Skeptics observe that similar gains in literacy and life expectancy occurred after 1949 on the small neighboring island of Taiwan, which was ruled by Mao Zedong’s opponents, namely Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang, even though they themselves perpetrated substantial repression in their own right. The government that continued to rule Taiwan was composed of the same people ruling the Mainland for over 20 years when life expectancy was so low, yet life expectancy there also increased. A counterpoint, however, is that the United States helped Taiwan with aid, along with Japan and other countries, until the early 1960s when Taiwan asked that the aid cease. The mainland was under economic sanctions from the same countries for many years. The mainland also broke with the USSR after disputes, which had been aiding it.

Another comparison has been between India and China. Noam Chomsky commented on a study by the Indian economist Amartya Sen.

Amartya Sen observes that India and China had “similarities that were quite striking” when development planning began 50 years ago, including death rates. “But there is little doubt that as far as morbidity, mortality and longevity are concerned, China has a large and decisive lead over India” (in education and other social indicators as well). In both cases, the outcomes have to do with the “ideological predispositions” of the political systems: for China, relatively equitable distribution of medical resources, including rural health services and public distribution of food, all lacking in India.
The United States placed a trade embargo on China as a result of its involvement in the Korean War, lasting until Richard Nixon decided that developing relations with China would be useful in also dealing with the Soviet Union.

Mao Zedong’s military writings continue to have a large amount of influence both among those who seek to create an insurgency and those who seek to crush one, especially in manners of guerrilla warfare, at which Mao Zedong is popularly regarded as a genius. As an example, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) followed Mao Zedong’s examples of guerrilla warfare.

The ideology of Maoism has influenced many communists around the world, including Third World revolutionary movements such as Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, The Communist Party of Peru, and the revolutionary movement in Nepal. The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA also claims Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as its ideology, as do other Communist Parties around the world which are part of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. China itself has moved sharply away from Maoism since Mao Zedong’s death, and most people outside of China who describe themselves as Maoist regard the Deng Xiaoping reforms to be a betrayal of Maoism, in line with Mao Zedong’s view of “Capitalist roaders” within the Communist Party.

As the Chinese government instituted free market economic reforms starting in the late 1970s and as later Chinese leaders took power, less recognition was given to the status of Mao Zedong. This accompanied a decline in state recognition of Mao Zedong in later years in contrast to previous years when the state organised numerous events and seminars commemorating Mao Zedong’s 100th birthday. Nevertheless, the Chinese government has never officially repudiated the tactics of Mao Zedong.

In the mid-1990s, Mao Zedong’s picture began to appear on all new renminbi currency from the People’s Republic of China. This was officially instituted as an anti-counterfeiting measure as Mao Zedong’s face is widely recognised in contrast to the generic figures that appear in older currency. On 13 March, 2006 a story in the People’s Daily reported that a proposal had been made to print the portraits of Sun Yat-sen and Deng Xiaoping.

In 2006, the government in Shanghai issued a new set of high school history textbooks which omit Mao Zedong, with the exception of a single mention in a section on etiquette. Students in Shanghai now only learn about Mao Zedong in junior high school.

Mao Zedong lived in the government complex in Zhongnanhai, Beijing.

Keep visiting: www.lifechums.com more celebrities featuring shortly …………….

Bookmark and Share

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Professor Stephen Hawking

Prof. Stephen Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 (300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. Prof. Stephen Hawking parents’ house was in north London, but during the second world war Oxford was considered a safer place to have babies. When he was 8, his family moved to St Albans, a town about 20 miles north of London.

At the age of 11 Prof. Stephen Hawking went to St Albans School, and then on to University College, Oxford, his father’s old college. Prof. Stephen Hawking wanted to do Mathematics, although his father would have preferred medicine. Mathematics was not available at University College, so he did Physics instead. After 3 years and not very much work he was awarded a first class honours degree in Natural Science.

Stephen then went on to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology, there being no-one working in that area in Oxford at the time. Prof. Stephen Hawking’s supervisor was Denis Sciama, although he had hoped to get Fred Hoyle who was working in Cambridge. After gaining his Ph.D. he became first a Research Fellow, and later on a Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College.

After leaving the Institute of Astronomy in 1973 Prof. Stephen Hawking came to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and since 1979 has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. The chair was founded in 1663 with money left in the will of the Reverend Henry Lucas, who had been the Member of Parliament for the University. It was first held by Isaac Barrow, and then in 1669 by Isaac Newton.

Prof. Stephen Hawking has worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. These results indicated it was necessary to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory, the other great Scientific development of the first half of the 20th Century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but should emit radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear. Another conjecture is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science.

Prof. Stephen Hawking’s many publications include: The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with G F R Ellis, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, and 300 Years of Gravity, with W Israel. Prof. Stephen Hawking has 3 popular books published; his best seller A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays and most recently in 2001, The Universe in a Nutshell.

There are .pdf and .ps versions of his full publication list. Prof. Stephen Hawking has 12 honorary degrees, was awarded the CBE in 1982, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1989. Prof. Stephen Hawking is the recipient of many awards, medals and prizes and is a Fellow of The Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Prof. Stephen Hawking continues to combine family life (he has three children and one grandchild), and his research into theoretical physics together with an extensive programme of travel and public lectures. Prof. Stephen Hawking suffers from ALS.

What is ALS?

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a rapidly progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease that is characterized by degeneration of a select group of nerve cells and pathways (motor neurons) in the brain and spinal cord. This loss of motor neurons leads to progressive paralysis of the voluntary muscles. The heart is not a voluntary muscle, and therefore, remains unaffected by the disease. However, since breathing is controlled voluntarily by the chest muscles, death usually occurs when the chest muscles are no longer able to help the lungs achieve adequate oxygenation. Generally, there is little impairment of the brain or the senses.

“Amyotrophic” means:A = absence ofmyo = muscletrophic = nourishmentlateral = side (of spine)sclerosis = hardening or scarring ALS is not contagious, but it is fatal.For the most part, the battle is short, with 80% losing their lives within three to five years of diagnosis. While between 10% and 20% live ten years or more after diagnosis, others live only a few months. While the cause is unknown, research is being conducted in areas relating to genetic predispositions, viral or infectious agents, environmental toxins and immunological changes. For some people, the muscles for speaking, swallowing or breathing are the first to be affected. This is known as bulbar ALS.

The term “bulbar” refers to the motor neurons located in the brain stem, that control the muscles used for chewing, swallowing, and speaking. ALS symptoms, and the order in which they occur, vary from one person to another. In 85% of cases, ALS effects the lower portion of the spinal cord first. This is known as limb onset ALS. In these cases, muscle weakness, cramps and weakened reflexes affects the muscles in the arms and legs as the first signs of ALS. The rate of muscle loss can vary significantly from person to person with some patients having long periods with very slow degeneration. Signs and Symptoms Upper Motor Neuron Degeneration muscle stiffness or rigidity emotional lability (decreased ability to control emotions) excessive fatigue dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) dyspnea (shortness of breath) dysarthria (a speech disorder caused by impairment of the muscles used for speaking) incresed or ‘b risk’ reflexesgait spasticiy Lower Motor Neuron Degeneration muscle weakness and atrophy involuntary contraction of muscle fibres muscle cramps weakened reflexes flaccidity (decreased muscle tone)difficulty swallowing disordered articulation shortness of breath at rest.

Is ALS a Rare Disease?

ALS is not considered a rare disease. Approximately 2,500-3,000 Canadians currently live with ALS. 2 or 3 Canadians lose their battle to this devastating disease every day. In Ontario, roughly 1,000 people have ALS at any one time. “ALS is clearly the most common cause of neurological death on an annual basis,” Dr. Michael Strong, clinician at the University Health Sciences Centre and research scientist at the Robarts Research Institute, London, Ontario.

What Causes ALS?

We don’t really know what causes ALS, but we do know that it can strike any adult at any time. While the usual age at onset is between 45 and 65, people as young as 17 have been diagnosed in the past. Between 5 and 10% of ALS cases are found in the same families, meaning that they are “familial”, and are definitely linked genetically. But for the most part, diagnosis is sporadic and we don’t know how it is caused.

What are the early symptoms?

ALS usually becomes apparent either in the legs, the arms, the throat or the upper chest area. Some people begin to trip and fall, some may notice muscle loss in their hands and arms and some find it hard to swallow and slur their speech. ALS is difficult to diagnose. There is no specific test available that will either rule out or confirm the presence of ALS. Diagnosis is usually made through a ‘diagnosis of exclusions’. Neurologists conduct a number of tests, thereby ruling out other disorders that may cause similar symptoms, such as strokes or multiple sclerosis and if nothing else is positive and yet the symptoms continue to worsen, ALS is often the reason.

What are the effects of ALS?

Because ALS frequently takes its toll before being positively diagnosed, many patients are debilitated before learning they have ALS. The disease usually does not affect the senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing – or the mind. ALS has a devastating effect on patients and their families. As they cope with the prospect of advancing disability and eventually death, it consumes their financial and emotional reserves. It is a costly disease in its later stages, demanding both extensive nursing care and expensive equipment.

What can be done about ALS?

There is no known cure at this time and very little in the way of treatment that will have an effect on the disease itself.

Is there hope for people with ALS?

Research is looking to find not only the cause of the disease so that a cure can be developed but also other medications or treatments that can help until a cure is found. With improved knowledge about ALS, healthcare providers and families can help people living with ALS live life more fully. The services offered by the ALS Society of Ontario help improve the quality of life for those who live with ALS and their families.

Keep visiting: www.lifechums.com  more Celebrities featuring Shortly ………….

Bookmark and Share