Recognition, restoration and the USS Arizona Memorial

The wooden frame of the USS Arizona Memorial. The monument was constructed from 1960-1962.
Photo Pacific Historic Parks

Last year, 2011, marked the 50th Anniversary of the Benefit concert to help raise funds for the building of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Initiated by Colonel Tom Parker to coincide with the film production of Blue Hawaii in response to a story he read about the efforts in the Los Angeles Examiner, it was a project that Elvis, Scotty and the rest were proud to be involved with and the Pacific War Memorial Commission was truly appreciative of their efforts.

Elvis, with H. Tucker Gratz and the Colonel, receiving his USS Arizona Memorial "Award of Honor" - March 25, 1961
Photo EPE courtesy Pacific Historic Parks

Elvis with the "Outstanding American Award" and fans at the press conference - March 25, 1961
Photo EPE

At a press conference on the day of and prior to the show, Elvis was presented with several awards in recognition, one an "Outstanding American Award" and another a USS Arizona Memorial "Award of Honor."

Elvis and Scotty onstage at the Bloch Arena during the USS Arizona Memorial Benefit Concert - March 25, 1961
Photo EPE courtesy Pacific Historic Parks

Though the concert financially only raised $64,696.73 of the projected $500,000 needed, it increased public awareness for the stalled effort and provided the jumpstart necessary to make completion a reality.

Elvis visiting the Memorial in 1965 and 1968
Photos courtesy web

Always proud of his part in the effort and in respect of its purpose, Elvis, with friends and family, visited the Memorial several times in the years that followed.

Rare angles of the memorial taken during recent inspections of the restoration work currently being completed on the USS Arizona Memorial
Photos by Pacific Historic Parks CEO Brad Wallis Pacific Historic Parks

Unfortunately, in recent years some fans have become disillusioned that Elvis had not been properly acknowledged for his efforts, or at least not as he once was presumed to be. The misconception generally involves a reputed "plaque" said to be no longer on display.  We hope that the following explanation addresses those concerns:

After the Memorial was built, what is now the "flag room," the area that visitors first walk into when they board the Memorial, was an informal museum. The museum included the Arizona bell, a detailed model of the ship, and several displays about the Memorial's construction. A framed certificate was hung on the wall in this area and thanked the many individuals and organizations that raised money to build the Memorial, including Elvis' Bloch Arena concert. Eventually, all of these items--with the exception of the bell, which is on visitor center grounds--were moved inside the original museum to save them from the effects of salt water.

The certificate of acknowledgement as originally displayed
Photo Pacific Historic Parks

When the old visitor center was torn down, some of the items in it were not included in the new museum design and were placed safely in storage. The attached photo shows the certificate in its original frame. We are now working with the National Park service to replicate the certificate and have it placed in the new museum or permanently attached to one of the buildings, such as the exterior of one of the theaters.

We believe that some Elvis fans may be confusing the certificate at the Memorial with the plaque that was outside of Bloch Arena on the Pearl Harbor Naval base.

undated photo of sailors looking at the Shrine Room wall at the USS Arizona Memorial
Mystery Slide Photo Pacific Historic Parks Archives

Pacific Historic Parks would like to stress to the Elvis faithful that there was never a conspiracy to hide or denigrate Elvis' contributions to the building of the USS Arizona Memorial. We should never forget that the Memorial was built to remember and honor those who were killed on December 7, 1941. Elvis understood that and never sought recognition for his part in its realization.

as explained by The Chief Historian at the USS Arizona Memorial, Daniel Martinez

Awards displayed at Graceland, including the Award of Honor and the Outstanding American Award  - August 12, 2012
Photo courtesy Claude Francisci

Today the awards Elvis received for the concert, along with others are still displayed at Graceland.  At 50 years old this past May, the Memorial is part of the National Park Service-managed WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Pacific Historic Parks supports the NPS through bookstore sales, membership donations, and grant acquisition.

Click to view or search for names on an Interactive Memorial
courtesy Fold3

The Shrine Room Wall lists the 1,177 Marines and Sailors who lost their lives aboard the Arizona on December 7, 1941. It is visited by over 1.5 million people each year. Additionally there is a smaller wall in the Shrine room listing the names of the Arizona's survivors who upon death chose to have their ashes ceremoniously placed back into the ship to rejoin their fallen shipmates in their final resting place.  Given the continued exposure to elements and foot traffic of more than 50 million visitors the Memorial is in need of an extensive restoration, including the deteriorating Shrine Room Wall.

The USS Arizona Memorial at sunset
Photo Pacific Historic Parks

Earlier this year Elvis fans again stepped up, helping raise funds for the restoration efforts.  Visit Pacific Historic Parks on Facebook or their website at to see how you too can help.

added December 7, 2012

Special thanks to Ray Sandla, Publications/Special Projects, Pacific Historic Parks for his assistance with this page.


All photos on this page unless otherwise indicated are the property of the designated persons or organization, any unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

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This site created and managed by James V. Roy for Scotty Moore with the sole intent to help promote the arts and history of American popular music and Scotty's major role in it. Every attempt was made to give credit for any images or text borrowed from the World Wide Web and we greatly appreciate the use of it. Technical difficulties or questions dealing with this Server should be addressed to the Webmaster. Copyright 2002, 2014