“The ultimate completion of the USS Arizona Memorial will be a constant reminder of the heroes’ deeds performed by our armed forces on Dec. 7, 1941.” (Rear Adm Roy S Benson, Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec 8, 1960)
President Dwight D Eisenhower had approved the creation of Arizona Memorial in 1958. $500,000 was needed for its construction. (Ho‘okele)
The public law stipulated that the monument would be built without federal funding. Several organizations and individuals helped in the effort to raise the required amount. In 1958, the Territory of Hawaii contributed the initial $50,000.
On December 3, 1958 the popular television series, ‘This is Your Life’ hosted by Ralph Edwards kicked off the public fundraising campaign. The program featured Samuel Fuqua, Medal of Honor recipient and the senior surviving officer from the USS Arizona.
Over $95,000 was raised for the new permanent structure. However, within a couple of years, donations slowed and the memorial fund was in dire need of cash. USS Arizona Memorial historian Dan Martinez credits newspapers for keeping the memorial concept alive.
“Editors of daily newspapers across the country were connected in their profession, that was how they kept the story going. … The total already raised at that time was $250,000, which was only half of what they needed.” (Martinez; Star Bulletin)
George Chaplin of the Honolulu Advertiser mailed something like 1,500 letters, asking for articles or editorials about the Arizona Memorial. (Star Bulletin)
The Los Angeles Examiner responded with an editorial on December 4, 1960 … “and a very fine gentleman read an editorial in one of the California newspapers.”
“That man (Colonel Tom Parker) called George Chaplin and said: ‘I know a young man whose services can be a big help.’” (Advertiser, March 26, 1961)
Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager, thought this would be a good publicity for the new film ‘Waikiki Beach Boy’ (later renamed to ‘Blue Hawai‘i’ that was filmed in Hawai‘i.)
Parker offered a benefit concert with Elvis. Parker came to Hawai‘i and set up the show and stipulated that every cent would go toward the War Memorial fund.
“‘Forty eight hours ago we met in this very room and we were $10,000 short,’ said H Tucker Gratz chairman of the memorial fund commission. “We made an agreement with Parker that he and Elvis would raise $5,000 if the War Memorial Commission would raise the other $5,000…” (Advertiser, March 26, 1961)
Rear Adm. Robert L Campbell introduced Elvis, saying, “He is a fine American. He has had many starring roles, not the least of these has been as a soldier in the US Army.”
(Elvis was drafted into the Army at Memphis, Tennessee, on March 24, 1958; his overseas service took place in Germany from October 1, 1958, until March 2, 1960, as a member of the 1st Medium Tank Battalion. He left active duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 5, 1960.) (Army)
March 25, 1961, during his hour on stage, Elvis sang 15 songs: ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ ‘All Shook Up,’ ‘A Fool Such As I,’ ‘I Got a Woman,’ ‘Love Me,’ ‘Such a Night,’ ‘Reconsider Baby,’ ‘I Need Your Love Tonight,’ ‘That’s All Right,’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel,’ ‘One Night,’ ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight,’ ‘It’s Now or Never,’ ‘Swing Down Sweet Chariot’ and ‘Hound Dog.’
The show was “fastpaced and slick. It jumped. When Elvis came on the teenagers screamed for 2 ½ minutes without let-up. Elvis was wearing his famous gold jacket with silvery glints like sequins, dark blue trousers and a white shirt and a blue string tie.” (Advertiser, Ho‘olele)
Appearing along with Elvis were Minnie Pearl, The Jordanaires and DJ Fontana and Scotty Moore, two members of Elvis’ original backing band. Sterling Mossman, a local Hawaiian comedian, also served as master of ceremonies and performed.
“It was a crackjack show, a sellout, and the biggest single gate in the history of show business in Hawai‘i.” (Advertiser, March 26, 1961)
All receipts, $54,678.73, were donated to the construction of the Arizona Memorial. The concert accounted for more than ten percent of the $515,728 cost of constructing the memorial. (HABS)
This Bloch Arena performance was Elvis’ last live concert until June 27, 1968 when he recorded two shows in front of a live audience at NBC’s Burbank studios.
The day after the concert, filming began on O‘ahu for the motion picture ‘Blue Hawai‘I,’ starring Elvis and Joan Blackman. (HABS)
In 1960 the construction of the Arizona Memorial began; it was dedicated Memorial Day, May 30, 1962 just over a year after Elvis’s charity concert.
It marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 Sailors and Marines killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. (Ho‘okele)