Remembering the Attack on Pearl Harbor

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.

This is the promotional poster for Elvis' memorial concert.

This is the promotional poster for Elvis’ memorial concert.

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.

"Ringside" seats for the memorial benefit show cost $100. Other tickets were priced from $3-10.

“Ringside” seats for the memorial benefit show cost $100. Other tickets were priced from $3-10.

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 speaks at a press conference in Hawaii.

Elvis speaks at a press conference in Hawaii.

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.

Elvis performs at the USS Arizona memorial concert.

Elvis performs at the USS Arizona memorial concert.

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.

Click here to learn even more about the USS Arizona and its history.

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.


  1. tonya Altemose

    Elvis was a very kind ,caring person , he knew how to TCB.He deserves the highest respect. My he RIP.

  2. Betty Talley

    I don’t think there is a person out there who is as generous as Elvis was. If there isn’t anything in it for them, they don’t want to be bothered. Elvis wasn’t that way.
    May he rest in peace. And the Good Lord willing I hope to make it to Graceland in August for Elvis’ 81st. My husband and I have been there three times and every time we see something we missed from the previous visits. And just sitting around the bar and talking to people from around the world is so enjoyable, thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Dianne Gell

    Elvis was a gift from the Lord, taken away much too soon. We thank Elvis for all of his kindness and the love he had for everyone. He poured his heart out in his music. We thank everyone at Graceland for keeping his memory alive.
    Absent, but not forgotten …
    May the Lord Bless and Keep You, Elvis.
    Adios, till we meet again :)

  4. Vickie Hayes

    Elvis came from very humble beginnings, and he never forgot that. He was the most generous person ever and gave back to so many. He loved his fans and knew, because of them, he wouldn’t have been so enriched in his life. God bless his soul.

  5. Hello from Namibia Africa :)
    My mother taught us that the only thing in life that a person have is your Name….:)
    You can be rich or poor…but if you lost your name…you have nothing….
    Elvis showed me in so many ways what it is to LIVE….
    I will not be remembered like Elvis….BUT I can live by Elvis’s inspiration and surely do :)

  6. Jeff CURTIS



    As a veteran,I want to thank ELVIS for his patriotism and his generosity to the men and woman in the armed forces! We do not see that kind of respect from the entertainers of today! I know that he had a DEEP respect and love for GOD and the men and women in uniform! THANK YOU FOR HONORING THE MEMORY OF PEARL HARBOR!

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