The Rise and Fall: 30 Captivating Facts About Coups in History


1Hawaii’s Coup

Hawaii’s Coup

In 1893 Hawaii’s monarchy was overthrown when a group of businessmen and sugar planters forced the queen (Queen Liliuokalani) to abdicate. The coup led to the dissolving of the Kingdom of Hawaii two years later, its annexation as a U.S. territory, and eventual admission as the 50th state in the union.

2. Muammar Gaddafi was 27 when he overthrew the Libyan monarchy in 1969. He promoted himself to colonel and went from “virtually unknown” to vastly powerful in a few months.

3. During the 1965 Algerian coup d'état that overthrew Ahmed Ben Bella, army units who were moving through the streets of Algiers didn't raise alarm because they were mistaken for extras for the film “The Battle of Algiers”, which was being filmed in the capital at the time.

4. In 1974, Portuguese rebels used Portugal’s entry in the Eurovision song contest as one of two secret signals to start the Carnation Revolution; a peaceful rebellion that overthrew the authoritarian regime that had run the country for over 40 years.

5. In 1954 Soviet prisoners overthrew their guards and, for 40 days, established a gulag republic with a democratically elected provisional government, marriages between male and female prisoners, indigenous religious ceremonies, and a general flowering of art and culture.

6Romanian Coup

Romanian Coup

The decision of 18-year-old King Michael I of Romania to carry out a coup against the Nazi ally and prime minister, Ion Antonescu, in 1944 is thought to have ended World War 2 early by as much as 6 months.

7. Project Fat Fu*ker was a CIA plot to overthrow King Farouk of Egypt, to replace his British-aligned monarchy Mohammad Mosaddegh. Masterminded by CIA Director Allen Dulles, a coup d'état came to fruition on 23 July 1952.

8. In 1972, a failed coup was led by military pilots on King Hassan II of Morocco. They attacked his Boeing 727 jetliner using four Northrop F-5 jets. Damaging the fuselage, the king himself grabbed the radio and shouted “Stop firing! The tyrant is dead!,” fooling the rebel pilots to break off their attack.

9. A group of German soldiers planned a coup against the Nazi regime in 1938 but were told by the French and the British to ‘forget about it because they approved of the present situation in Germany and hoped to make an alliance with it against Communism.

10. During the 2014 Thai coup d'etat, sandwiches were used as an anti-coup symbol, and a group of students were charged with “possessing sandwiches with ill intent.”

11Ghanian Coup

Ghanian Coup

Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana who helped his country gain independence in 1957 was overthrown in a coup in 1966. He lived in exile in Guinea and was made the honorary co-president of the country.

12. One of the currencies in early colonial Australia was Rum. New South Wales Corps officers bought up all the imported rum and established a monopoly on its trade. It resulted in Australia’s first and only military coup. It would later be called the Rum Rebellion.

13. Since it became an independent country in 1825, Bolivia has had more than 190 revolutions and coups.

14. In 1975, the Indian intelligence agency warned the Bangladeshi president (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) about a possible coup. He ignored their advice by saying “These are my own children and they will not harm me.” Seven months later he was assassinated by some military officers. The coup was plotted by his closest political associates.

15. The western African nation of Liberia was founded by former American slaves. They instituted a right to vote based on property ownership, essentially denying native Liberians suffrage. As a result, no native Liberian became a president until 1980 when Samuel Doe staged a coup.

16Sierra Leone Coup

Sierra Leone Coup

In 1992, a 25-year-old army captain named Valentine Strasser unintentionally overthrew Sierra Leone’s president (Joseph Momoh) while trying to protest a shortage of boots and wages for his fellow soldiers, thus becoming the world’s youngest head of state and ruling the nation for 4 subsequent years.

17. In 1984, a coup planned against Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu failed when the military unit assigned to carry out the plan was sent to harvest corn instead.

18. Empress Dowager Cixi, one of the numerous concubines in the court of Emperor Xianfeng, launched a successful coup after his death to unofficially control the Manchu Qing Dynasty. Despite facing many obstacles, Empress Dowager Cixi brought a medieval empire into the modern age, ruling China for almost 50 years.

19. The “30 September Movement” in Indonesia was an attempted coup by the Indonesian National Forces in 1965 where a wing of the army killed 7 generals and tried to capture the capital. The motive isn't confirmed, but evidence implicates the CIA and a double-crossing general.

20. Yukio Mishima was a world-renowned Japanese writer/artist who recruited over 100 students to form his own private army (Tatenokai). Later, in 1970, he committed seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) in public after his failed coup attempt in an effort to restore imperial rule in Japan.

21Greek Coups

Greek Coups

Between 1924 and 1935, Greece had 23 changes in government and 13 coups.

22. In 2012, the dead body of the President of Malawi (Bingu wa Mutharika) was flown to South Africa “for medical treatment” for a fatal heart attack. It was an unsuccessful attempt to hide his death and organize a coup while preventing the Vice President from taking office.

23. When Thailand was part of the Axis, it invaded and controlled territory in Burma, Laos, Malaysia, and Cambodia until a resistance movement overthrew the Thai government in 1944.

24. In 1981, a group of white African mercenaries tried to stage a coup d'état in Seychelles, disguising themselves as a rugby and beer social club which donated toys to orphans. The toys didn't conceal the AK47s in their luggage well enough and the plot completely failed.

25. Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, a convert to Islam was responsible for the deaths of up to 400,000 people and was also once accused of cannibalism. He fled to Saudi Arabia after a coup in 1979 and was allowed to live there in exile for over 20 years until his death.