Remembering the Attack on Pearl HarborPosted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Dec 12, 2014 | 8 comments
As much as Elvis Presley gave back, he could have been nicknamed the King of Generosity.
This week marks the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Today, millions visit the USS Arizona Memorial, thanks, in part, to Elvis.
More than 2,400 were killed and 1,178 were wounded in the surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona was sunk, and 1,177 of its crewmen were killed. The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.
Elvis performed for service personnel and their families at Pearl Harbor on November 11, 1957, his last public performance before he entered the Army. Elvis was drafted into the Army that year, and he served two years before being honorably discharged in the spring of 1960.
Later that year, Elvis and his manager, Col. Tom Parker, learned that there was a fundraiser for a memorial to the USS Arizona, which was sunk at Pearl Harbor. The pair decided to raise money for the memorial with a benefit concert.
Col. Parker announced the concert on January 11, 1961, at the Hawaiian Village Hotel in Honolulu. Every dime raised at the concert would go to the benefit, he said, and even Elvis himself would have to buy a ticket to get in – and he did. “You know,” Parker told the crowd, “Elvis is 26, and that’s about the average age of those boys entombed in the Arizona. I think it’s appropriate that he should be doing this.”
Elvis’ trip to Hawaii was all about TCB – not only was he going to raise money for the memorial, but he also started filming “Blue Hawaii.” Elvis flew to Honolulu with his co-star for the show, Minnie Pearl, on March 25, 1961. Fans lined up to greet him, of course, and he spoke at a press conference. The show took place that night at Pearl Harbor’s Bloch Arena, and Elvis was accompanied by the Jordanaires, Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. Seats closest to the stage sold for $100, while other tickets were sold for $3-10.
It was Elvis’ last public performance until his iconic 1968 television special. It was also the last time he wore his gold lamé suit.
Elvis’ concert raised awareness of the fundraiser, and the remaining funds needed were raised quickly. The memorial was completed a year later, and Elvis yet again proved he was a generous, caring patriot. You can visit the USS Arizona memorial, World War II Valor in the Pacific.
Listen to this week’s Graceland Podcast, which features news segments and interviews with Elvis about his time in the military and raising money for the memorial.