You are browsing the archive for 2019 June 03.

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For the Original K-Pop Stars, Survival Depended on Making it in America

June 3, 2019 in History

By Jessica Prois

When Sue Kim arrived to the U.S. after leaving her home in Korea, decimated by war, she found herself performing at the storied Thunderbird and Stardust hotels in Las Vegas. It was 1953, and despite singing songs like Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” to large crowds, Kim didn’t know much English. She was a Korean performer recruited to sing American songs as part of the Kim Sisters band, and most of her English vocabulary had been learned from the TV western Gunsmoke.

Sue Kim’s home, circa 1951.

Before coming to the U.S., Kim had lived in a brick storage unit with her family and 22 other people beginning in 1951. Seoul was burning, and North Korean soldiers had torched her family’s home. It was June of 1950 and the beginning of the Cold War when Soviet-backed North Korea first crossed the 38th parallel to invade South Korea, aligned with the West. A month later, the U.S. would enter the Korean War. The family’s unit didn’t have a bathroom, and Kim and the occupants would go days without eating. Her mother, the legendary Korean singer Lee Nan-Young, took to performing for U.S. troops in military camps. The soldiers would offer her whiskey or cases of beer, which the family would then exchange for rice on the black market.

With seven children, Kim’s mother realized even more performances could mean more food. “My mother had tremendous stress and pressure,” Kim tells HISTORY. “Her children were all crying out for food.” Armed North Korean soldiers had abducted their father, a famous composer, from the family’s home; a North Korean defector later informed them that he had been put in jail and was killed. (“We don’t know how true this was,” Kim says.) Out of this need to help the family, the Kim Sisters were born.

Though today’s K-pop is a different genre altogether, the Kim Sisters are considered to have laid roots as one of the first popular Korean crossover groups—selling out U.S. shows and garnering press in magazines like Life and Newsweek. They also went on to become the act with the most performances ever on the Ed Sullivan Show, Kim says, with a 22-appearance contract.

The group was made up of Sue (Sook-ja), who was 9 when it started, her sister, Ai-ja, 8, and their cousin, Mia (Min-ja) Lee, 9. Kim’s mother had begun training …read more


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How Many Were Killed on D-Day?

June 3, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

Allied military leaders knew that casualties on D-Day could be staggeringly high. Historians are still calculating the death toll.

It was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 brave young soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, France in a bold strategy to push the Nazis out of Western Europe and turn the tide of the war for good.

In planning the …read more


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The Pink Triangle: From Nazi Label to Symbol of Gay Pride

June 3, 2019 in History

By Matt Mullen

Pink triangles were originally used in concentration camps to identify gay men.

Before the pink triangle became a worldwide symbol of gay power and pride, it was intended as a badge of shame. In Nazi Germany, a downward-pointing pink triangle was sewn onto the shirts of gay men in concentration camps—to identify and further dehumanize them. It wasn’t until the 1970s that activists would reclaim the symbol as one of liberation.

Homosexuality was technically made illegal in Germany in 1871, but it was rarely enforced until the Nazi Party took power in 1933. As part of their mission to racially and culturally “purify” Germany, the Nazis arrested thousands of LGBT individuals, mostly gay men, whom they viewed as degenerate.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates 100,000 gay men were arrested and between 5,000 and 15,000 were placed in concentration camps. Just as Jews were forced to identify themselves with yellow stars, homosexuals in concentration camps had to wear a large pink triangle. (Brown triangles were used for Gypsies, red for political prisoners, green for criminals, and blue for immigrants.)

Homosexual prisoners at the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, Germany, wearing pink triangles on their uniforms on December 19, 1938.

At the camps, gay men were treated especially harshly, by guards and fellow prisoners alike. “There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste,” Pierre Seel, a gay Holocaust survivor, wrote in his memoir I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror.

An estimated 65 percent of gay men in concentration camps died between 1933 and 1945. Even after World War II, both East and West Germany upheld the country’s anti-gay law, and many gays and lesbians remained incarcerated until the early 1970s. (The law was not officially repealed until 1994.)

The early 1970s was also when the gay rights movement began to emerge in Germany. In 1972, The Men with the Pink Triangle, the first autobiography of a gay concentration camp survivor, was published. The next year, post-war Germany’s first gay rights organization, Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW), reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of liberation.

“At its core, the pink triangle represented a piece of our German history that still needed to be dealt with,” Peter Hedenström, one of HAW’s founding members said in 2014.

Memorial plaques for homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Wehrmacht deserters are placed where once …read more


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Why There's No Such Thing as a 1983 Corvette

June 3, 2019 in History

By Jim Koscs

Behind the mysterious gap year of America’s quintessential sports car.

With its rare production models, classic racers and intriguing concept cars, the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, can awe even casual car buffs. Indeed, amidst all that automotive flash, a seemingly normal plain white model on display from the car’s fourth design generation—“C4” to the Corvette cognoscenti—might not raise a pulse.

But it sure raises eyebrows.

This C4 is anything but normal. It’s a 1983 Chevrolet Corvette, highly unusual since there was no Corvette for the 1983 model year. For its 30 anniversary, America’s longest-running sports car—the one designed to flaunt U.S. speed, power and ingenuity in a class traditionally dominated by European entries—took a somewhat mysterious gap year.

But why?

The model year that wasn’t—and the car that wasn’t supposed to be

Initially planned as a 1982 model, the fourth-gen Corvette, by far the most advanced to that time, was first pushed back to a fall 1982 introduction as a 1983 model—and then again to spring 1983 as ambitious upgrades met with further delays. By then, Chevrolet had decided to designate the “1983” Corvette a 1984.

The museum’s white car is, however, a genuine 1983 Corvette, the only one in the world. How did that happen? Built on June 28, 1982, it was the fourth of 43 “pilot assembly” cars made to validate production processes and for other engineering, testing and training purposes. Common industry practice calls for crushing such vehicles when such work is completed, since they cannot be sold to the public.

Forty-two of the C4 pilot cars met that fate, but one, identified as RBV098, slipped through. In 1984, a new plant manager found it parked outside, neglected. He had it cleaned up and put on display. It also got an American flag motif paint job, later changed back to the original solid white. When the museum opened in 1994, General Motors loaned RBV098 for display and eventually donated it. RBV098 now stands as a unicorn, an artifact of one of Corvette’s most sweeping upgrades ever.

READ MORE: Beauty in the Beast: Which Classic Muscle Cars are Most Iconic?

The 1983 Corvette when it had its American flag motif paint job.

Corvette was navigating its biggest generational change yet.

For Corvette, the 1983 model year turned out to be more of a “leap year” than a gap year. With extraordinary strides made in chassis engineering, aerodynamic design and …read more