Elvis Presley Helped Raise Funds for a Pearl Harbor Memorial: Here’s How

by Keeli Parkey

When you think of Elvis Presley, you think of many things. His music, his dance moves, his good looks, his legacy, and his famous home.

What most people probably don’t think about – or maybe not even know about is the role he played in establishing a Pearl Harbor Memorial. This is the memorial created in honor of the USS Arizona. That famous ship sank as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. That tragic and significant historical moment took place on Dec. 7, 1941.

According to Biography.com, approximately 1,000 United States sailors died on the USS Arizona. Nine hundred of those soldiers remained inside the fallen ship.

The King of Rock and Roll and his manager were motivated to help raise funds for the monument because of Elvis Presley’s own military career. The star served in the United States Army beginning in 1958. His service came to an end in 1960. At 26 years old, Elvis was “about the average age of those boys entombed in the Arizona,” said his manager Colonel Tom Parker.

Parker learned that organizers of the memorial still needed funds for its creation. The idea for the USS Arizona Memorial was first shared in the 1950s. The cost was also estimated to be $500,000. However, by 1960, not even half of that amount had been collected.

It was Parker who came up with the idea that Elvis Presley should perform a benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial. And, of course, the King of Rock and Roll agreed. Not only did he share a connection due to his own military service, Presley was known for his willingness to help others.

Elvis Presley’s Benefit Concert for Pearl Harbor Memorial Drew a Crowd of Thousands

Unsurprisingly, Elvis Presley’s benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial.

Also, Parker did his part as manager and advertised the concert. He made sure that the King of Rock and Roll’s songs from a religious album played on the radio in Oahu. However, this turned out not to really be necessary.

On March 25, 1961, there were 4,000 fans there to watch Elvis perform many of his most popular songs. And, he wore one of his most famous items of clothing – his gold lamé suit jacket. He debuted this famous item of clothing in 1957.

The benefit concert took place at Block Arena. Interestingly, it would be the last time Elvis Presley would perform live for eight years. Unfortunately, no video recording was made of the benefit concert. Parker had wanted NBC to film a special. However, the Presley’s team and the network failed to come to an arrangement.

Want to learn more about the USS Arizona Memorial? You can by clicking here. The United States National Park Service operates the memorial.