While unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have only come into the public parlance in recent years, the United States has used them for combat purposes for decades. In 1944, the manufacturing of UAVs for use in World War II inadvertently created one of America’s most well-known icons. Most people recognize Marilyn Monroe as the glamorous blonde from classic films such as Some Like It Hot or The Seven Year Itch, but few may know that her career began in a less stylish fashion, as a technician at the Radioplane munitions factory. Beginning in 1940, the Radioplane Company—headed by famous British actor and former observer/gunner in the Royal Flying Corps Reginald Denny—produced its RP-4 and RP-5 Radioplanes for use as targets by anti-aircraft gunners. Believing his factory might make a good public relations story for the military, Denny contacted the Army, and a photographer from Yank, the Army’s weekly magazine, visited Radioplane to document the work being done on the factory floor. The photographer snapped a series of photos of the workers, but was especially drawn to one Norma Jeane Dougherty. He was so taken by the young woman that he offered to create a portfolio for her to get involved in the world of modeling. Monroe skyrocketed to fame, eclipsing that of her former boss Denny many times over. Interestingly enough, the original photos of Monroe never appeared in Yank, possibly because most of them were lost in the mail on the way to be processed. Fortunately, the photographer saved a few rolls, providing this rare glimpse of Marilyn Monroe just before her meteoric rise to stardom.

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Posted by Andrew Conner

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