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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.



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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!

Here are the exclusive pictures taken by Mr. Helpingstine, never before published!

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TRIVIA from Marilyn’s trip to Korea:

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  • It was decided at the last minute on the plane heading for Japan carrying Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio to their honeymoon destination that Marilyn would take a few days to perform for the troops in Korea!

  • Soldiers would wait for hours for the best place to stand to see Marilyn perform (there were no seats). According to the new 2001 Marilyn Monroe calendar that just came out: “One Solider who wanted to assure his spot put in for a three-day pass and enough C-rations to get him through the long wait for front row seats.”

  • Marilyn performed with the ANYTHING GOES BAND, a band made up of eleven service men.

  • Marilyn was in Korea from February 16, 1954 through February 19, 1954. During that time she performed 10 shows for approximately 100,000 servicemen!

  • Marilyn injured her right hand thumb while cutting a cake for the servicemen. There was little publicity about this but you can see in many pictures from Korea that her thumb is heavily bandaged.

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  • Marilyn was nervous about performing some of her songs, specifically “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend”. She felt that many of the men couldn’t afford diamonds and by singing that song it may be insensitive to their plight. MM “It seemed like the wrong thing to say to soldiers in Korea, earning only soldiers’ pay. Then I remembered the dance I did after the song. It was a cute dance. I knew they would like it.”

  • Marilyn did end up performing “Diamonds” but not before borrowing some jewelry from the wife of Frank “Lefty” O’Doul. Marilyn apparently had left her “best-friends” at home!

  • Another song Marilyn preformed was “Do It Again.” However, considering that the lyrics may be too suggestive they changed it to, “Kiss Me Again.”

  • Marilyn not only performed for the troops but she also visited hospitals in Japan where injured serviceman lay. She even signed a lucky homeward bound serviceman’s cast! Imagine what his girlfriend thought when he arrived home!

  • The Korea pianist for Marilyn Monroe, Albert Guastafeste was quoted as saying:
  • “Someone ought to go up to her and tell her she’s Marilyn Monroe. She doesn’t seem to realize it. When you make a goof, she tells you she’s sorry! When she goofs she apologizes to me!”

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  • Journalist Hanson Baldwin, from the New York Times, wrote about Marilyn’s tour: “On two occasions during the visit of the motion picture actress, troops rioted widely and behaved like bobbysoxers in Times Square, not like soldiers proud of their uniform”

  • Before Marilyn left Korea, the Far East Command presented her with a silver medallion in appreciation for both her performing tour in Korea and her hospital visits in Japan!

  • Footage of Marilyn’s USO tour was put together for a 1961 television special narrated my Marilyn herself! It was called “USO Wherever They Go!” and was broadcast on NBC October 8, 1961.

  • Marilyn considered her time in Korea a personal triumph. “I never thought I had an effect on people until I was in Korea. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

  • Marilyn ended one of her concerts by telling the troops, “This was the best thing that ever happened to me…. Come to see us in San Francisco.”


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    Be sure to check out the NEW 2002 Korea calendar available for sale in local stores or click on the picture link!

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