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5 World News Headlines from 1962

1962 News of the World

Roadtrip-'62 ™ usually travels the United States, but today we travel around the world of 1962, looking at the news.

Success of the European Common Market
European flag
European Economic Community Flag (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)

While today we’re used to news about the Eurozone or the European Union, back in 1962 the buzz was all about the European Common Market, more formally known as the European Economic Community. The European Common Market was the forerunner of the European Union, and was established in 1958 under the Treaties of Rome. Originally, only six countries were members: France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. It was created after several years of successful operation of treaties of smaller scope, governing coal, steel, and atomic energy. The Union was required, per comments by French State Secretary for European Affairs Maurice Faure, because Europe could no longer operate under , “…the fiction of the four great powers. In reality there are only two – America and Russia. Tomorrow there will be a third – China.” He added that it will depend on the countries of Europe as to whether there would be a fourth great power.

How was the European Common Market working by 1962? By that time, the six member countries had cut internal tariffs by 40%, were well underway on creating a common external tariff, had begun the free movement of capital and labor between countries, removed restrictions on the movement of industrial products, and settled on a common policy for agriculture. This last change presented one of the most difficult problems, as Germany was a heavy importer of farm products while France was an exporter. But agreement was reached in early 1962 and the European Common Market moved into Stage 2 of its integration. The efforts to achieve a single market also had significant impacts on consumer prices. The Paris department store Les Varietés was able to advertise 62 products whose prices had dropped from 13-63% in just the past four years!

Countries Gain Independence
1962 independence stamp issues from Jamaica and Samoa
1962 independence stamp issues from Jamaica and Samoa

Several countries obtained independence in 1962. The African nations of Burundi and Rwanda were created out of the former Belgian colony of Ruanda-Urundi. Burundi chose to become a monarchy, naming Mwambutsa IV as king. The other half of the colony, Rwanda, established a republican form of government and held elections. Belgium withdrew all their troops and both countries were admitted to the United Nations late in the year. A third African country to obtain independence was Uganda, formerly a British colony. The difficulty in negotiating its breakaway was due to the existence of several smaller kingdoms within the area of Uganda, and the situation was finally settled by creation of the new country as a federated state, wherein internal areas would retain their own distinctive institutions and customs. Though the world had feared a complete breakdown of law and order in the three countries, as had happened in the nearby Congo in the previous year, the process in each was orderly.

Another African nation, Algeria, was not so fortunate. Algeria had been forcibly united with France in 1848. During the late 19th and early 20th century, the French government attempted to make Algeria an assimilated part of France, sending immigrants and taking native lands. But the indigenous cultural and religious resistance simmered for years. Tensions came to a head in 1954, when the first violent events of what became the 8-year Algerian War began. The French finally allowed a referendum which showed a clear preference among Algerians to form their own country, and after the French withdrew, Algeria elected a government and joined both the United Nations and the Arab League.

Jamaica and another island nation in the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago, both achieved independence from Great Britain in 1962. Both countries decided to remain members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Their former fellow members of the West Indies Federation, Barbados, Grenada, and the Leeward Islands did not achieve independence this year. However, another island nation on the other side of the world, in the Pacific Ocean, also became an independent country. Samoa, previously called Western Samoa, also became independent in 1962. Samoa had been controlled by New Zealand under trusteeship through the League of Nations and later the United Nations, after it was lost as a colony by Germany in World War I. It was the first small-island country in the Pacific to become independent.

Refugee Problems Plague Many Countries

Refugees Turned Back (Video from British Pathé, 1962)


According to the United Nations, last year there were more refugees worldwide than at any time since World War II, as a result of many regional conflicts. In 1962, there were also several refugee crises, including one in Hong Kong. During and after the Chinese civil war that established Communist control on the mainland, hundreds of thousands of people fled war and famine. After the war was over, the years 1957, 1962, 1972 and 1979 marked four major jumps in illegal emigration to Hong Kong, as famine continued to visit China and the Cultural Revolution caused major upheavals. Some of this activity continued into the 1960s, when problems flared up. For example, in May, 1962, there was a sudden movement of people from China to Hong Kong. Hong Kong had to return up to 7,000 refugees a day before the Chinese effectively sealed the border. People even came to Hong Kong through the adjoining territory of Macau, because authorities there took no action to stem the tide. Hong Kong residents tried to help the situation by gathering on the streets to throw food parcels into the trucks returning refugees to the border. LIFE Magazine even captured the experiences of some of these refugees in photos, in an issue from that month. Those who stayed in Hong Kong eventually helped to fuel its booming manufacturing industry.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was not the only news coming from Cuba in 1962; the island created its own refugee crisis for the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees arrived in Florida in the early 1960s following the Revolution of 1959. Between November 1960 and October 1962, over 14,000 children were sent to the United States by their parents, in Operation Peter Pan. These children were assigned to the care of the Catholic Church and placed in foster homes until they could be reunited with their parents, who sent them away to keep them from communist indoctrination. The massive refugee movements prompted Congress to change U.S. immigration policy, approving the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act (MRA) in June, 1962. The MRA expanded existing programs and funding for refugee assistance and redefined a refugee as a non-U.S. citizen who fled their home country, “…because of persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion.” As a result of this and later migrations, more than third of the population of Miami-Dade County, Florida is of Cuban descent.

The State of Royalty in 1962
King Mwambutsa IV of Burundi, 1962
King Mwambutsa IV at the Sea of Galilee, Israel, in 1962. (Public domain photo from Israel National Photo Collection.)

Many people find royalty fascinating and none more so than the family of Queen Elizabeth II of England. And while she was queen during 1962, many other royal personages around the world also figured in the news of 1962. Future King Juan Carlos of Spain married Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark in Athens in 1962. Juan Carlos is the grandson of Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain prior to the monarchy's abolition in 1931. The marriage was performed a second time in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy, after Princess Sophia converted from her Greek Orthodox religion to Roman Catholicism. At the time, Spain was ruled by the dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco, so the prince did not have any power. However, during the later years of Franco’s rule, he set up a method of succession to reestablish the monarchy, and Juan Carlos was named King just two days after Franco’s death in 1975. Three years later the Spanish people formally acknowledged him as King in a referendum, as Spain is still a constitutional monarchy. Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son.

Another future king was just born in 1962: King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He is the son of King Hussein of Jordan and though Jordan’s constitution automatically designated him heir apparent to the throne, Abdullah’s father appointed his own brother, Prince Hassan bin Talal, as his heir due to unstable times in the 1960s. This arrangement was retained until the dying king appointed Abdullah as his heir from his deathbed in 1999. King Abdullah II is claimed to be the 41st-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed and is the namesake of King Abdullah I, his great grandfather who founded modern Jordan.


Royal funeral procession of former Queen Wilhemlmina of The Netherlands, December, 1962.


And as one future king is born in 1962, one past queen died. Despite reassurances from the Dutch Government that there was no reason for immediate concern, former Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands died a couple of weeks later at the age of 82, on November 28, 1962. As the video above shows, she was buried in the royal crypt at the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft a week later. If you are wondering about the white dresses, that was the protocol at her funeral. She reigned for nearly 58 years, longer than any other Dutch monarch, through both World Wars and the decline of the Netherlands as a major colonial power. During 1962, the final Dutch colony in the Pacific region, West New Guinea, was surrendered to Indonesian control after nearly a decade of increasing tension and military actions just short of a full-scale war. A year-long United Nations administration handled the transition. At the time of her death, her daughter Juliana was queen, as Wilhelmina had abdicated in her favor in 1948.

The newly created country of Burundi, as mentioned above, chose to remain a monarchy, which it had been while under Belgian control. The current reigning monarch, Mwambutsa IV Bangiricenge, was retained as king. He had been king since 1915 but would rule for only four more years. In October 1965, officers of the Hutu ethnic group attempted a coup d'état against the monarchy, which failed. Probably to avoid another coup attempt, Mwambutsa fled into exile in the nearby Republic of the Congo. In March 1966 he designated his only surviving son to exercise his powers in Burundi, but a third coup was successful and the monarchy was abolished in November 1966. Mwambutsa spent the rest of his life in Switzerland where he died in 1977.

George Spafford Richardson, Malietoa Tanumafili II, and Mata'afa Faumuina Fiame Mulinu'u I, in Samoa, 1962
New Zealand's Administrator in Samoa, George Spafford Richardson, flanked by Malietoa Tanumafili II (left) and Mata'afa Faumuina Fiame Mulinu'u I (right). (Photo from New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage.)

Another newly created nation mentioned above also had a king when it became an independent country. Samoa had voted for independence in 1961 and achieved this goal in 1962. It retained an older unusual system with two monarchs trading rule. A third local royal line, Mata'afa, held the post of Premier. The royal line of Tupua and the royal line of Malietoa were to trade when one chief died, but with the new constitution creating a republic, the parliament would appoint new rulers for 5-year terms after the death of the current monarch. His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II, who was born 1913, continued to rule after the Tupua ruler died in 1963. At the time of his death in 2007, he was the world’s oldest reigning monarch and the third longest serving, after King Bhumibol Adulyade of Thailand and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

News from The Philippines in 1962

The Philippines hosted royalty in 1962, though not their own, as the country was and is a republic. Current Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited the Philippines in 1962 when they were still crown prince and princess. Japanese Emperor Hirohito was still seated at that time and Akihito would not become Emperor until 1989. Japanese Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko made a return visit in 2014. Akihito is currently the only remaining monarch in the world reigning under the title of "Emperor", though there were several in 1962. The most well-known was Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.

Japanese Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko, in Philippines, 1962
Japanese Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko during their state visit to the Philippines in 1962. (Photo shared by The Philippine Presidential Museum and Library.)

The Philippines had long operated with two independence days, but settled on a single day that year. While it originally obtained independence from Spain in 1898, it was ruled by the United States for many years after. After having been liberated by the United States from the Japanese rule of World War II in 1946, a different day was recognized. However, in 1962, the government settled on the original date of June 12, 1898 for Philippine Independence.

The Philippines was also one of a number of countries negotiating to create an Asian Common Market, comparable to the European Common Market. A proposal was floated in 1962 that the Philippines might create a Confederation with Malaya as a Greater Malaysian Federation, as a way of dealing with the question of North Borneo. North Borneo had been ruled by a private corporate entity before the Japanese occupation in World War II, and was annexed to the United Kingdom at the war’s conclusion. It was scheduled to be granted independence in 1963, but the Philippines claimed that at least part of the original land grants by the sultan to the corporate entity in the 1870s were merely leases, and therefore the Philippines still had some control over the claims of the sultan’s heirs. Nothing came of the claim or the idea for federation and North Borneo instead joined Malaysia on its own in 1963.


All photos by the author and Copyright © 2017, 2021 - Donald Dale Milne, except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2017, 2021 - Donald Dale Milne.

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