As the world faces a new war we here at Forever Marilyn thought it appropriate to pay tribute to Marilyn Monroe and to the servicemen who fought during the Korea war.
In tough times Hollywood stars have always seemed to rise to the occasion selflessly, going the extra mile, literally, to entertain the troops that are defending our countries freedoms.
Marilyn Monroe was one such performer. Despite Marilyn’s profound fear of live performances she rose above her phobia to provide a few hours of joy to over 100, 000 homesick servicemen in Korea. She delighted the audience with her singing, dancing and charming banter. She was voted the number one pin-up during the Korea war and she honored that title by entertaining troops on the war front and visiting them at bedside in near by hospitals.
It was in February 1954, during her honeymoon to Joe DiMaggio that Marilyn decided to drop in on the soldiers in Korea. It was a trip that she would later recall with enormous fondness, a time when she realized she was truly a star.
Forever Marilyn was lucky enough to interview a gentleman by the name of Herb Helpingstine, who served the United States of America during the Korea War. Mr. Helpingstine was fortunate enough to see and take pictures of Marilyn performing for the troops!
FM: Mr. Helpingstine thank you for allowing us to show your rare photographs of Marilyn Monroe and for allowing us to interview you! First could you tell us a little about your title in the war, how long you served for and how old you were at the time?
HH: My title was Corporal in the communications section. I was in the 2nd Division. I served from May 3, 1953 until March 15, 1955. I was in Korea 14 months. I was 19 years old when I went in.
FM: Is it true that war had already ended when Marilyn came to perform in Korea?
HH: The fighting in Korea had already ended when she performed, which helped to make for a cheerful atmosphere. I think the truce was signed in July of 1953, but the war didn't end until Dec. of '54
FM: Was this the first USO Tour Show you had attended or had there been many previous?
HH: They were always having USO shows, but no one was ever as famous as Marilyn Monroe.
FM: Do you remember when it was announced that Marilyn Monroe would be performing?
HH: They would announce the USO shows, but I don't remember how far in advance I knew about Marilyn. I was on the front line (38th parallel), so I had to ride quite a ways to get to where the show was. We rode in 1-l/2 ton trucks to a place called Bulldozer Bulge. It was an outdoor stage --no seats -- everyone had to stand.
FM: What was the feeling in the crowd when Marilyn performed?
HH: Probably nothing short of lust! Imagine a bunch of 19 and 20 years old kids who haven't seen anything … for months, and then this beautiful, busty blonde stepped out on the stage. The troops went wild. We were all just kind of staring at her and dreaming. They roped off an area about 30' from the stage. As soon as she came on stage, everyone pushed against the ropes and pushed them up about 10' from the stage. Everyone was battling for a good view. I managed to get up to the front for most of the show.
FM: How long did Marilyn Monroe perform for?
HH: I can't remember how long the show lasted, but I don't think it could have been more than an hour with as cold as it was and as little as Marilyn had on.
FM: Was Marilyn the only performer for the show?
HH: She was not the only performer that night. Usually they had a pre-show for each performer. But -- who cared anything about the one before Marilyn Monroe! I don't even remember who it was.
FM: Did Marilyn only sing or did she also talk to the crowd?
HH: Mostly she sang to the troops, but she did talk some. She waved and threw kisses. Everyone was in a daze when she performed. She was beautiful, shapely, and we all wondered if there were any chance she would love us!
FM: Do you recall how many people were there for that show?
HH: I don't know how many people were there for the shows. I would imagine around a thousand.
FM: What was the weather like for the show that day?
HH: The weather was cold. It was in December. She had on a long, tight dress with little straps. All the men had on our jackets.
FM: Did Marilyn appear nervous when she performed?
HH: Marilyn didn't seem nervous, but then we were so excited we probably wouldn't have noticed anyway if she were. We didn't see any indication of stage fright.
FM: And finally a last question, what was it like to see MARILYN MONROE perform in person?
HH: The crowd was very lively. She was such a nice distraction for a little while for a bunch of homesick guys remembering their girls back home. She made us feel like she really enjoyed doing the show for us. What a nice memory to have in my head!
FM: Thank you Mr. Helpingstine for sharing your memories with us! And thank you for generously sharing your photos with us as well. We are all so thrilled to have had the honor of making you acquaintance!
HH: I thoroughly enjoyed remembering. Thanks for the fun!