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  • Marilyn MonroeSoldier in Greasepaint
  • Kristi Good (bio)

A favorite story from my childhood was told by my great-uncle Jack Forsha, who served in the Korean War in the same unit with his identical twin brother, Jim. At family gatherings, Jack would pass around the photos he had taken of Marilyn Monroe during her post-war Korean USO show in February 1954, as well as the book he had purchased when he realized it showed a picture of Marilyn onstage with him and Jim just a few rows away in the audience. As a graduate student learning about performance theory and cognitive science, I began to wonder about his personal experience with this cultural icon.

Jack remembers sitting and chatting with Jim and several other servicemen when Monroe arrived at K-47 base in Chunchon, Korea, with her military escort. Jack and Jim had been stationed at K-47 with approximately one thousand other airmen since May 1953, just two months before the cease-fire agreement. Talk of a cease-fire had been going on for two years, but it was not until July 27, 1953, that the United Nations Command, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed the official Armistice Agreement. The war is widely considered to have concluded with the signing of the Armistice Agreement, and actions such as the establishment of the Demilitarized Zone and the exchange of prisoners of war and deceased soldiers occurred following the cease-fire without an official peace treaty. In order to keep the men occupied after the cease-fire had been arranged, K-47 base organized the men into sports teams that would compete with other bases in tournaments. Jack admitted, with a chuckle, that he spent most of his time in Korea playing baseball and basketball. When they heard the news of the upcoming USO show, Jack [End Page 209] said, “We were buffaloed-over that Marilyn was coming. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never met a celebrity.”1

Sitting with Jack and Jim were Gerald Kasper and his identical twin brother, Robert; the Forshas and the Kaspers were two of four pairs of twins at the base. Jack recalls that when Monroe arrived, the escort was not allowing her to sign autographs because she was scheduled to attend an officers’ dinner. Monroe stopped to talk to the twins, however, because Gerald had recently broken his leg after falling out of a truck. Monroe chatted with the men for a moment or two, learning their names and signing Gerald’s cast. Jack remembers at dinner that night that Monroe “table-hopped” to spend time with the men, rather than sitting at the head table reserved for officers.

At the official USO Camp Show performance, Jack and Jim were approximately five rows away from the stage—an impressive feat, given the number of military personnel in attendance. Monroe came to the edge of the stage after performing her songs to shake hands and sign autographs. After a few moments, she began to walk offstage, but turned back when she noticed that Jack had just taken a picture of her from the fifth row. She said, “Did you get that, Jack?” and he replied, “No!” (see fig. 1). She returned to the edge of the stage and motioned for him to approach. He moved to the first row and she posed for him before leaving the stage (see fig. 2).2

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Figure 1.

Marilyn Monroe asks, “Did you get that, Jack?” USO Show, Korea, 1954.

Photo by Jack Forsha.

[End Page 210]

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Figure 2.

Marilyn Monroe poses at the USO Show, Korea, 1954.

Photo by Jack Forsha.

Many of us have stories about encounters with a celebrity, and in a time when social media and fan conventions like Comic-Con can bring us into close proximity and interaction with our favorite stars, it is unusual to find someone who has not shared a moment with a famous icon. The experiences of the U.S. soldiers in Korea, however, seem to indicate moments that are much more...


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