A Different Kind of Blonde Bombshell
During WWII, David Conover worked as a photographer for the US Army Air Force's First Motion Picture Unit. His commanding officer was none other than future-President Ronald Reagan. Reagan had approved a campaign to highlight the contributions of women to the war effort, and in 1944 he sent Conover to photograph women at work for Yank Magazine.
At the Radioplane Munitions Factory in Van Nuys, Conover photographed a curly-haired girl in high-waisted pants and a green button down shirt - a young Norma Jean Dougherty, later known as Marilyn Monroe. She was one of many women working at the plant.
Her primary job was to spray fire retardants on the remote-controlled planes used for target practice by anti-aircraft gunners. But in the photograph she is assembling an OQ-2 radio plane. These were the first mass-produced unmanned aerial vehicles - what we now call "drones."
In the end, Conover didn't use any of Norma Jean's photos for the Yank magazine project, but he took leave from the Army Air Corps to spend two weeks shooting Norma Jean and teaching her how to pose for the camera. Eventually, she signed on with the Blue Book Modeling Agency in 1945, and the rest is movie history.
June 1, 1926 – August 4, 1962
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson she was an American actress, model, and singer. Known for playing comic "blonde bombshell" characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s, as well as an emblem of the era's sexual revolution. She was a top-billed actress for a decade, and her films grossed $200 million (equivalent to $2 billion in 2022) by the time of her death in 1962. Long after her death, Monroe remains a pop culture icon. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her as the sixth-greatest female screen legend from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Monroe spent most of her childhood in a total of 12 foster homes and an orphanage before marrying James Dougherty at age sixteen. She was working in a factory during World War II when she met a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit and began a successful pin-up modeling career, which led to short-lived film contracts with 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures.
Dougherty was shipped out to the Pacific, where he remained for most of the next two years. Monroe moved in with her in-laws and began a job at the Radioplane Company, a munitions factory in Van Nuys. In late 1944, she met photographer David Conover, who had been sent by the U.S. Army Air Forces' First Motion Picture Unit to the factory to shoot morale-boosting pictures of female workers. Although none of her pictures were used, she quit working at the factory in January 1945 and began modeling for Conover and his friends. Defying her deployed husband, she moved on her own and signed a contract with the Blue Book Model Agency in August 1945