CAIRO, Nov.30, 1956 (UP)-Gamal Abdel Nasser is only 38 years old and has had only four years of government experience.
Yet he is center stage at a critical moment in world history-a hero to his friends, a "Hitler" to his foes --the man who perhaps more than any other holds the key to peace or a new war in the Middle East.
Nasser has traveled fast and far since Jan. 15, 1918, when he was born a post master's son in the mud-hut village of Beni Mor, 200 miles up the Nile River from Cairo. Nobody, not even Nasser, knows where he is going.
An obscure lieutenant colonel only four years ago, he is today president and dictator of Egypt.
In his book, "The Philosophy of the Revolution,"-- a book which French Premier Guy Monet likened to Hitler's "Mein Kampf"-- Nasser said the Arab world was searching for a hero.
If Nasser appears to see himself -- a handsome, mustached, six-foot, 200-pounder -- as
"Mr. Arab," so do millions from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf. In his self-appointed role as head of a Pan-Arab movement, Nasser has incited and excited the nationalist passions of people bent, at almost any cost, on driving out western "imperialists" from the oil-rich Middle East.
Nasser's own nationalism was stirred early. At eight he was sent to Cairo to become a civil servant like his father. At 14 he had been clubbed in a clash with police and jailed. At 17 he joined a league of Egyptian patriots to fight the British.
When he went back home he said "you return from your studies feeling a new world is in front of you to a home where there is no food to eat."
In 1935 he went to jail for subversive activities. He came out determined to push the struggle. He decided to become a soldier. It took a year of special study to get into the military academy.
By 1940 he was a subaltern and sent to the Sudan. There he met the ex-officers who today are his ministers of interior and war.
When he came back to Cairo, he irked former King Farouk with "provocative" articles in Cairo newspapers. By 1942 he had become a lecturer at the military staff college and his "Free Officers League" was forming underground.
The Palestine war of 1948 gave Nasser his big push. He was disgusted with the Egyptian defeat at the hands of the Israelis and blamed it on the incompetence and corruption of the Farouk regime.
Nasser used time in the trenches to recruit officers for his big plot. And he became a war hero, wounded and praised in a stout defense of Faluja.
The Egyptian press built him up as a ''savior''-- the "Tiger" of Faluja.
By July 22, 1952, he was ready to move. His officers' group toppled Farouk from power. The original plan was to assassinate Farouk but Nasser at the last minute shoved him into exile instead.
For two years Nasser was content to remain behind the scenes while President Mohamed Naguib fronted for the revolutionary junta. Naguib kissed babies, Nasser toiled 16 hours a day. When Naguib wanted to slow the revolution and return to parliamentary life, Nasser became premier and put Naguib in "protective custody." Nasser was elected president last summer by a 99.9 % vote.
Nasser has a beguiling personal charm. He is disarmingly frank and reacts swiftly. He is consumed with drive and ambition. He will work until 4 a.m. He is willing to take mammoth risks.
He lives simply. Most of his time is spent at his old headquarters. Despite his power, he lives in a modest five-room bungalow with his wife, Tahia, three young sons and two daughters.
He is soft-spoken in interviews, his white-toothed smile flashing. But in speeches his guttural Arabic arouses emotions which he seldom himself displays.
He faces mountainous problems -- his country of 23 million is plagued with poverty,
disease and 90 % illiteracy. He has irked many a former friend with his abrupt nationalization of the Suez Canal. He has dangerously played East against West and given Russia a toehold in the Middle East with a 200-million-dollar arms deal.
Nasser's entire career shows his impatience with any authority if he feels that authority is wrong. Typical is the story that when he was seven his father strictly forbade him to dig in the garden.
Nasser promptly went out and dug a hole so big that his father fell into it one night.