Some suggest the Tripler building got its pink color because the color and other design elements were borrowed from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel down in Waikīkī.
However, an engineering booklet related to its design notes, “the layout of the buildings was planned to create an easy, informal environment, avoid an institutional atmosphere and create the impression of a residential community.” (army-mil)
“Therefore, the hospital building, nurses’ quarters, fire house, chapel, bachelor officers’ quarters and mess, theater and enlisted men’s barracks will be of pink stucco finish.” (army-mil)
Let’s step back a bit.
In 1898, the Spanish American war was going on, including in the Pacific (primarily in the Philippines) – Hawaiʻi became involved. The US Army set up Camp McKinley in Kapiʻolani Park and soon realized an urgent need for a hospital in Hawaiʻi.
The Army’s first medical facility in Hawaiian Islands opened in 1898; it was a 30-bed hospital for soldiers and sailors in transit to and from Manila located in the Independence Park Pavilion (an old dance pavilion at the intersection of King Street and Sheridan.) Field medical tents at Fort McKinley added support to the hospital.
Casualties were streaming into Hawaiʻi from the war in the Philippines. The hospital on King Street rapidly grew into a 100-bed operation and was visited by more than 21,000 troops during the Philippine Insurrection following the war with Spain.
Later, in 1907, Department Hospital, a wooden post hospital facility consisting of a single hospital building and mess hall, was constructed at Fort Shafter.
Department Hospital was re-designated “Tripler Army Hospital” on June 26, 1920, named after Brigadier General Charles Stuart Tripler (1806-1866) – in honor of his contributions to Army medicine during the Civil War (he authored of one of the most widely-read manuals in Army medical history, the “Manual of the Medical Officer of the Army of the United States.”)
Then, the US Army Health Clinic, Schofield Barracks, a 500-bed hospital, was completed in 1929. It was activated as the Station Hospital, Schofield Barracks, Territory of Hawaiʻi.
The attack on Pearl Harbor led to the construction of Tripler Army Medical Center. At the outbreak of World War II, the hospital at Fort Shafter had a 450-bed capacity which, over the years, expanded to 1,000 beds through the addition of one-story barracks-type buildings.
Plans for a new Tripler hospital atop Moanalua ridge were drawn in 1942, construction was authorized in June 1944; the ground was broken August 23, 1944; actual construction began in 1945: and construction was completed in 1948.
When it was completed, Tripler was the tallest building in the Pacific region. (Three additional wings to the hospital were completed in 1985 with other additions/renovations over the years.)
Tripler was dedicated on September 10, 1948 and has been a visible and valuable landmark in Hawaiʻi. It is the largest military medical treatment facility in the entire Pacific Basin.
In 1961, Tripler US Army Hospital became known as US Army Tripler General Hospital, and finally in 1964, the name changed to Tripler Army Medical Center.
In a cooperative agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1992, the Spark M Matsunaga Medical Center was added at Tripler.
Located on a 375-acre site, Tripler Army Medical Center’s geographic area of responsibility spans more than 52-percent of the earth’s surface, from the western coasts of the Americas to the eastern shores of Africa (encompassing three million square miles of ocean and more than 750,000-square miles of land mass.)
Nearly 800,000-beneficiaries in the Pacific Basin are eligible to receive care at Tripler; this includes active-duty service members of all branches of service, their eligible families, military-eligible retirees and their families, veterans, and many residents of Pacific Islands.
In a typical day, more than 2,000-patients are seen in outpatient clinic visits, more than 1,500-prescriptions are filled, more than 30-surgical procedures are performed, and more than 30 patients are admitted. There are more than 200-births each month. (In August 1955, 427-babies are born at Tripler, setting a record for one-month deliveries.)