How Marilyn Monroe Was Discovered by David Conover

M A R I L Y N   M O N R O E


Private David Conover, USA

Private David Conover, USA

David Conover was born in Missouri, June 26, 1919. Near the end of the Second World War he was in California and studied photography. He was an army photographer then assigned to the 1st Motion Picture Unit. The base was familiarly know as Fort Roach since it was house in The Hal Roach Studio in Culver City, California. The outfit was unique in its makeup of personnel in that many were movie stars in uniform (Alan Ladd and Clark Cable). His Commanding Officer was Ronald Reagan. The unit was inevitably known as the “Celluloid Commandos”.

Norma Jean,  Age 19

Norma Jeane, age 19

In the spring of 1945, Ronald Reagan sent David Conover to the Radioplane Corporation, manufacturer of radio-controlled miniature planes used by the army for anti-aircraft practice. The corporation was owned by Reagan’s friend, Reginald Denny, and was sent there to take pictures of Women in War Work. He moved down the assembly line taking shots of the most attractive employees. He came upon a girl putting on propellers. She had curly ash-blonde hair and her face was smudged with dirt. He snapped and walked on. Then he stopped. He was stunned. She was beautiful.

Straight away he asked her if she had a sweater with her and would she pose for him in her lunch hour. He said her response to the camera was amazing. She came alive with sure and immediate instinct. He was so excited he could hardly hold the camera steady. He must have kept his excitement to himself because Norma Jeane asked him “Am I really photogenic?” She was just 19 years old. That is how it started. David Conover Sr. was transferred to the Philippines a short while after.

Conover wrote to her many times but received no reply. When he was discharged from the army, Conover did not hear a word about Norma Jeane for many years. Meanwhile, he and his wife Jeanne were concentrating on fulfilling his childhood dream to buy Wallace Island, an uninhabited refuge from reality where he had magical camping holidays as a boy. He constructed a home and five cabins and called it Wallace Island Resort. He encouraged visitors and remained there until he passed away in 1983. He wrote several books: Once Upon an Island, One Man’s Island, Sitting on Saltspring and Finding Marilyn: A Romance

10 thoughts on “How Marilyn Monroe Was Discovered by David Conover”

  1. I met David Conover in 1978 in Victoria BC at a Coles book store where he was distributing his latest book. Over lunch, we exchanges many stories – my involvement with Valdes Island and his involvement with Marilyn Monroe.

    Over the years, I was somewhat skeptical of his story until our local auction agency (Lunds) advertised the complete works of David Conover. Unfortunately these items did not make it to auction but were purchased by an unknown person.

    Today, Conover Cove and Wallace Island are favorite destinations of boaters on the British Columbia Coast

  2. Radioplane was located at Los Angeles Municipal Airport, now Van Nuys Airport.

    Reginald Denny’s radio controlled gunnery target aircraft were the first ‘drones.’

  3. Leo Caloia says he discovered her when Norma Jean was 16, outside the Coconut Grove, at the pool. He has pictures of her. This is from the documentary ‘Things that Aren’t Here Anymore’, narrated by Ralph Story.
    Just an FYI

    1. My mom was a model and was in those pictures and knew her…. They were with the same modeling agency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *