10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today
10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today

10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today

Khalid Elhassan - January 6, 2018

10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today
Josephine Baker. Indie Wire

Superstar Singer and Temptress Turns War Heroine and Spies on Nazis

Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975) was the first black person to become a world famous entertainer, or to star in a major movie. Dubbed the “Creole Goddess”, “Black Pearl”, and “Bronze Venus”, she was an American-born entertainer, renowned dancer, Jazz Age symbol, 1920s icon, and civil rights activist. She moved to France and made it her home, and when her adopted homeland was conquered by the Nazis in WWII, Josephine Baker joined the French Resistance.

Born into poverty as Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, she was forced by her family’s dire financial straits into working since childhood. By age 13, she was already performing on stage, and became a chorus girl a year later. She became a hit with audiences, as she injected comedy into her routines. Ambitious and confident in her talent, Josephine refused to accept the ceiling imposed by the color of her skin in America, so she moved to France. There, her career took off in post WWI Paris, and she became a global superstar.

When WWII broke out, Josephine Baker was recruited by French military intelligence. She had initially expressed support for the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s, so when the Axis defeated and occupied France, they mistakenly assumed that she was friendly to their cause. She was not. Taking advantage of the conquerors’ trust, Josephine risked her life by spying. Her fame opened doors, and rubbing shoulders with high ranking Axis personnel, she collected information while charming officials she met in social gatherings.

As an international entertainer, Josephine had an excuse to travel, and she did, within Nazi-occupied Europe, to neutral Portugal, and to South America. She crossed borders while transporting coded messages, written in invisible ink on her music sheets, between the Resistance and the Allies. They contained information about German troop concentrations, airfields, harbors, and defenses. She also hid fugitives in her home, and supplied them with forged identification papers and visas obtained through her contacts. Later in the war, she joined and was commissioned a lieutenant in the French Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She also performed in concerts for Allied troops.

In recognition of her wartime exploits and contributions to France, Josephine Baker was named a Chevalier of the Legion d’honeur by Charles De Gaulle. Among the medals awarded her by the French military were the Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Resistance with Rosette. Upon her death in 1975, she became the first American woman buried with military honors in France, including a twenty one gun salute.

10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today
Still from movie depicting surrender of Anatahan shipwrecks. Culture Trip

Marooned Shipwrecks Turn Island Into ‘Lord of the Flies’

In June of 1944, American airplanes sank three Japanese supply ships off Anatahan, a small Marianas island about 75 miles north of Saipan. 36 soldiers and sailor survived and swam to Anatahan. Later that year, the US invaded the Marianas, seizing the main islands and bypassing the smaller ones such as Anahatan. The Japanese on Anatahan, unable to communicate with their chain of command, were isolated from the outside world.

Things got bad, as the castaways eked a living, surviving on coconuts, lizards, bats, insects, taro, wild sugar cane, and whatever else they could find. Things improved some in January of 1945, when a B-29 bomber crashed on Anatahan. Scavenging the wreck, the castaways fashioned the plane’s metal into useful items, such as knives, pots, and roofs for their huts. Parachutes were turned into clothing, oxygen tanks were converted to storing water, springs were fashioned into fishing hooks, nylon cords were used as fishing lines, and some pistols were also recovered.

The island’s demographics further complicated life, and gradually led to a Lord of the Flies dynamics. The island’s sole inhabitants were the castaways, plus a Japanese plantation manager and his wife. Unsurprisingly, over 30 men stranded for years on a small island that contained only one woman, led to trouble, as the men competed for her affections. The object of their attentions, Kazuko Higa, had arrived at the island with her husband in 1944, but her husband disappeared in mysterious circumstances soon after the castaways arrived. So she married a Kikuichiro Higa as protection. However, one of the castaways shot and killed her new husband, only to have his own throat slit soon thereafter by another aspiring beau.

Over the years, Kazuko Higa became a full blown femme fatale, transferring her affections between a series of wooers. Each of them ended up violently chased off, or murdered, by some of the other frustrated men. Matters were not helped when the men discovered how to ferment coconut wine, then spent days on end drinking themselves into a stupor or into alcoholic rages.

By 1951, as the castaways vied for the affections of the island’s sole female, there had been 12 murders, and too many fights to count. One of Kazuko Higa’s pursuers had been stabbed with a knife on thirteen separate occasions by jealous rivals. Undaunted, he returned to his amorous pursuit as soon as he recovered from each attempted murder.

American authorities had learned of the Japanese on Anatahan. However, the island lacked military significance, and the Japanese marooned there were no threat. So the castaways were ignored. After the war, somebody remembered Anatahan, so leaflets were airdropped on the island, informing its Japanese that the war was over and directing them to surrender. However, the castaways refused to believe that Japan could have surrendered.

American authorities did not deem it worth the trouble to send in US forces to root them out, so the castaways were left to their own devices. From time to time, an airplane would be sent to drop leaflets over the island, repeating that the war was over and directing the Japanese to surrender. However, the castaways deemed the leaflets fake news, and so matters remained, for years.

In 1950, Kazuku Higa sighted a passing US vessel, raced to the beach, flagged it down and asked to be taken off the island. It was only then that the Americans discovered that the Japanese on Anatahan did not believe that the war was over. That information was relayed to Japan, where the holdouts’ families were contacted. They wrote letters to their relatives, letting them know that it was not fake news: the war had, indeed, ended years earlier.

The letters, along with an official message from the Japanese government, finally convinced the castaways. They surrendered in 1951, and were shipped back home, where their story became a sensation, featured in books, movies, and plays. Kazuku Higa was nicknamed “The Queen Bee of Anatahan Island” by the Japanese press. She found temporary fame as a tropical temptress, selling her story to newspapers and recounting it to packed theaters. However, her fifteen minutes eventually ended, and public interest waned. She fell into prostitution and abject poverty, and died at age 51 while working as a garbage collector.

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