Above is an example of the current generation of “Drones”. Invented nearly 80 years ago by a Hollywood actor, produced during World War II to replace towed targets previously used to train anti-aircraft gunnery units.
An assembly line worker in the factory in which the military drones were produced later became a Hollywood actress known by everyone.


HISTORY  OF THE UAV/DRONE (with some surprising “actors”)involved in the process.

MARILYN MONROE” did not exist. Her real name was Norma Jean Baker. The item below explains her history in the defense industry in World War II.

Her mother was placed in an institution for the insane when Norma Jean was 6 months old. Her upbringing since that time was in a series of foster and orphan’s homes.

She married a 21 year old neighbor when she was 16, (the marriage arranged by her foster mother because the family was moving and Norma Jean was not included). As an emancipated adult, then named Norma Jean Dougherty, she took a job at the Radioplane Company, later a part of Northrop Aviation. Her husband was drafted and, on his return years later, divorced.

Below is the rest of the story. Along with her role in the development of Drones—along with a few others.

Compiled by Dan Townsend/New Mexico 2012

Performing in more than 200 movies and stage shows between 1898 and 1966,Reginald Denny played both comic and dramatic roles alongside the greatest stars of the day.

Somewhat less well known however was his pioneering work with engineer Walter Righter in the field of radio controlled, pilotless aviation.

In the 1940s, the mass production of Denny and Righter’s “Radioplane” target drone led to the widespread adoption of radio controlled aircraft by the military for not only training AAA gunners but also combat roles from the Pacific Theatre in WW2 through to the present day.

The “Dennyplane”, a mid 1930s pre-cursor to the “Radioplane” and powered by Righter’s “Dennymite” engine, was one of the key products that brought model aviation to the masses in a post-depression, pre-war America.

The war effort brought persons and activities together in unlikely ways, leading to unexpected outcomes. In this photo, the army magazine Yank sought to boost morale by presenting a defense worker as pinup girl. No one could know that this young propeller technician, nineteen-year-old Norma Jean Baker Dougherty, would later remake herself as the most glamorous of movie stars, Marilyn Monroe.
Having arrived in California, Norma Jeane managed to get a job at the Radioplane Co. as an assembler on the OQ-3 production line. On 26 June 1945, army photographer David Conover was sent to the factory by his commanding officer, one Captain Ronald Reagan (an acting buddy of Reginald Denny’s), to photograph women war workers.

The camera and the photographer loved Norma Jeane and he persuaded her to model for more photos that soon were circulating in Hollywood. A screen test, a change of name and a career very different from assembling robot planes quickly followed. The rest as they say, ‘is history.’

Norma Jeane Dougherty, June 26, 1945


“Marilyn Monroe”

PhotoDavid Conover

California, June 15, 1944, from Norma Jean(e?) to a friend.

Dearest Grace,

I was so happy to hear from you. I was so thrilled to read your letter and learn of all that you have been doing lately.

I will send you your picture very shortly now, I’m going down Saturday to find out more about it. Also will send you lots of snap shots at the same time I send you the picture. I found out that a 10″ x 12″ (that was the size you wanted, wasn’t it ?) costs exactly $ 5.00.


I am working 10 hrs. a day at Radioplane Co., at Metropolitain airport. I am saving almost everything I earn (to help pay for our future home after the war). The work isn’t easy at all for I am on my feet all day and walking quite a bit. I was all set to get a Civil Service Job with the army, all my papers filled out and everything set to go, and then I found out I would be working with all army fellows.

I was over there one day, there are just too many wolves to be working with, there are enough of those at Radioplane Co. without a whole army full of them. The Personal Officer said that he would hire me but that he wouldn’t advice it for my own sake, so I am back at Radioplane Co. partly contented.

Well I guess that is about all for now.

With much love,

Norma Jeane


Radioplane before its skin was applied. 70horsepower Rotax engine, 3 tube radio receiver, several pounds of battery to power it and servo motors, launched by catapult, lost if hit during gunnery practice–or if landing–a tricky business with no nose camera. An improvement over towed targets previously used.


The Radioplane factory–must have been lunch break.

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