Marilyn Monroe was in Korea as part of the USO entertainment during the Korean War. Army veteran Luis Miranda remembers her visit as an inspiration to soldiers. When her helicopter touched down and she stepped on to the base, the whole atmosphere changed.
"It was a surprise to us and the military service because we were not expecting her," Miranda said. "And after all, she was a very important person in the United States." She would soon marry Joe DiMaggio, he said.
It wasn't just that she was blonde, buxom, beautiful. Everyone knew that. She was also kind, professional.
"To me she has a good personality," Miranda said. "She was a happy lady, she was supportive of the troops. She didn’t mention anything about her private life - she was attending the troops."
She didn't perform there, but did make time to meet with the many servicemembers who wanted a brush with fame.
"There were so many people who wanted to talk to her," he said. In his youth, even though Miranda was willing to fight for the United States in war, he was unable to summon the courage to hold court with Monroe, who was "very important" to him.
But he did manage to have a picture snapped of him with the actress. In fact, he's the youngest in the photo, he said.
Plus, the simple act of kindness she made in visiting the troops stuck with him. When she died, Miranda said he felt hurt. He thought of all the soldiers with their pictures. He stressed the importance of her visit, and other visits and shows the USO provided the military.
"It's not easy to be around in an island or a place for 10 or 16 months with the troops," he said. "The USO shows are one of the most important activities that the U.S. Army has because when all the troops are in the field and they get the word that some important person is coming around, they really like it. ... Their feelings go high, really high and they act nice to everyone around."
After that photo was snapped, Miranda went on to serve in the United States, Vietnam, France and Germany before finally retiring from the military as a sergeant first class in the 1970s.
USO shows in both wars helped him maintain morale to serve well. That service, he said, changed his life for the better.
"Believe me. ... Learning all the facts about military life and getting the best of the military life will make you a better person because you have to go through all these frustrations, instructions, people giving you details, obeying the orders, stuff like that. That will make you a better person in my judgment," he said.
One of his sons, David Miranda, also decided to serve. He recently retired from the Navy.
"I’m grateful to the United States and the U.S. forces."
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