Plus: Fidel Castro and Christmas shopping |

December 01, 2016

By Lily Rothman

I am so excited today to be able to share a new project with you: as the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor approaches, Time Inc.’s virtual-reality initiative LIFE VR—in partnership with HTC and AMD—presents a new experience that brings users to 1941 through the eyes of one of the oldest living survivors of that day of infamy.

The 103-year-old Lt. Jim Downing—whom you can meet in a video on—was postmaster on the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Hawaii, and it’s through his memories that users revisit the attack and its aftermath, from the naval base to the home front. We worked with Pearl Harbor expert Craig Nelson and the National WWII Museum to keep everything historically accurate, and Lt. Downing’s generosity with his time and insight allowed us to dive deep into the emotional impact of that day.

You can learn more about how the project came together here and find out how to experience it yourself too.

And here’s more of the history that made news this week:

Why Do People Always Look So Serious in Old Photos?

It's not just a matter of bad teeth or long exposure times

Why the Sand Creek Massacre Still Matters

On Nov. 29, 1864, hundreds of Native Americans were killed

A Brief History of Aviation Disasters in Sport

Late on Monday night local time, a charter plane carrying 81 passengers—including 22 members of Brazilian first division soccer team Chapecoense—crashed near Medellin, Colombia. The tragedy is the most recent in a succession of airborne disasters to have befallen the sporting world

The History Behind the National Christmas Tree Lighting

Here's who persuaded Calvin Coolidge to start what would become an annual tradition

How Fidel Castro Went From Revolutionary to Ruler

Fidel Castro, the long-time Cuban leader who has died at 90, defined decades for his homeland—though he wasn’t always a man of such power


Dec. 15, 1941

Pearl Harbor, 1941

“Of all the Admirals who have made war on the modern seas, none was ever in the fix of Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel, by title Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet; by specific function: Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. When Japanese bombers whipped over the frowning fastness of Diamond Head last Sunday morning the book of traditional U.S. naval strategy in the Pacific was torn to shreds. When the Japanese bombs had ceased to fall in the defense-crammed area around Pearl Harbor the book was out of print.” (Dec. 15, 1941)

Read the full story

Dec. 1, 1958

Today in 1958: The Great Leap Forward

“In the past eight months, Mao Tse-tung has herded more than 90% of mainland China's 500 million peasants into vast human poultry yards called ‘people's communes.’ If Mao's historic gamble succeeds, the ordinary Chinese of day after tomorrow will have no fixed job, no home and no real family. ‘Let China sleep,’ warned Napoleon nearly a century and a half ago. ‘When she awakens the world will be sorry.’ Eying the path along which Mao proposes to lead an awakened China, most of the world, if not yet sorry, is already apprehensive.“ (Dec. 1, 1958)

Read the full story

Dec. 1, 1975

Today in 1975: Shopping!

“This year storekeepers are entering their critical period in an optimistic mood. Retailers are predicting an increase in Christmas sales of around 10% over last year. Even discounting the fact that consumer prices are about 7.5% higher than a year ago, that would leave a real gain. Bloomingdale's President Marvin S. Traub says his store could post about a 15% gain over 1974, when the economy was skidding toward the bottom of its worst slump since the 1930s.” (Dec. 1, 1975)

Read the full story


Eat Up CNN’s Jacqueline Howard takes a look at the diets preferred by U.S. presidents throughout history—and what those changing menus reveal about a changing nation.

Follow the Money At the Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum puts the modern conversation about Donald Trump’s enmeshing of politics and business in the useful context of the 19th-century idea of “honest graft.”

Art History Thomas Adamson of the Associated Press has an engaging story about the healing that happens when Nazi-looted art is returned to its rightful owners.

Example From the '80s What should the Democratic Party do next? Jamelle Bouie at Slate suggests looking to Jesse Jackson and the 1980s for an answer.

That’s Nuts Courtesy of Atlas Obscura’s Dave Gilson, here’s an answer to a question you didn’t know you had: why did California recruit an army of children to kill squirrels in 1918?

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