The unselfish heroism of Norma Jean DiMaggio

Veteran: Marilyn Monroe
Artist: Michael Koulermos
Writer: Richard Pels

In February, 1954, Marilyn Monroe left her honeymoon in Japan with Joe DiMaggio, to hang out with 200,000 men in Korea.

Joe, still angry that the crowds in Japan were more excited to see Marilyn then they were to see him, stayed in Tokyo to go shopping.

Marilyn knew the American soldiers had incurred over 54,000 casualties just a year earlier, and needed some distraction. The army put together a band of eleven servicemen for her, and she borrowed jewelry from someone in Tokyo.

“Norma Jeane DiMaggio” as her army ID called her, performed ten times in four days, outdoors in a slinky dress in the sub-zero winter temperatures that had stymied American troops in battle. She served GI’s dinner in mess halls and had her picture taken with anyone and everyone. She even autographed a cast in a hospital she visited.

She worried about the details, like singing about diamonds being a girl’s best friend to men on a GI salary. She credited the incredible adulation she received with curing her stage fright in front of live audiences.

Upon her departure, she was given a silver medallion and an accommodation for her “unselfish service rendered to the Armed Forces in Korea.”

There is no record of Joe’s purchases in Tokyo during her absence, but their marriage didn’t last out the year.