George Burgtorf of Saramac, Michigan, has shared his memories – and photos – of meeting Marilyn as a young sergeant stationed in Korea during her morale-boosting 1954 visit, in an interview with the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.
“George Burgtorf of Saranac was a 20-year-old sergeant in the United States Army’s 2nd Infantry on a cold day in February 1954 when Marilyn Monroe performed in the Chorwon Valley during the Korean War. He carried with him a small Brownie camera and a pass that granted him access to everywhere, except the top secret code room, that is.
He was nearby when she landed by helicopter at the camp and later he ate lunch with the movie star and dozens of other service men in the mess hall. In the afternoon, he was near the front when she went on stage and performed several songs.
‘She spoke to most of us, she just said, Hi,’ Burgtorf said. ‘She seemed very nice.’
‘The food was generally very good at the mess hall. She seemed to enjoy herself.’
Burgtorf’s job was taking care of telephone communications for the army. It brought him close to generals, movie stars and future president Gerald Ford.
‘I could get into any building because of the telephone,’ Burgtorf said. ‘The mess hall was really just a tent, and I was the only one with a camera that day.’
He said he saw one or two other USO performances with the 2nd Infantry at the Bulldozer Bowl, but he doesn’t remember who performed other than Monroe, which stands out in his mind.
‘It was many years ago,’ Burgtorf said. ‘It was very, very cold that day. I think they must have had a heater blowing towards the stage, because she was in some skimpy clothes.’
‘We were right in the valley, there were mountains on both sides of everything.’
Burgtorf said after Monroe performed she quickly got onto a helicopter and went to perform another show.’She was on a very tight schedule,’ he said.”