March 25, 1961 marks the 50th Anniversary of Elvis Presley’s USS Arizona Memorial Benefit Concert in Hawaii. Elvis staged the concert to help raise money to build a memorial at Pearl Harbor dedicated to all of those who had lost their lives in the December 7, 1941 attack.
Elvis actually had the idea to host the concert from reading about the memorial in a newspaper article in 1960. The article had been written about how the fundraising efforts for the memorial had slowed and it did not look like it would be built. Elvis had just returned from serving in the military and wanted to do something to help. He and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, agreed to put on a benefit concert in Hawaii in hopes that it might revitalize fundraising efforts.
Sure enough, the concert was a huge success. The day of the show, Elvis was mobbed by over 3,000 fans when his plane touched down in Hawaii (check out this clip of Elvis at the Honolulu Airport). That evening, close to 5,000 fans were in attendance to see Elvis and a list of other great performers. The benefit show at Bloch Arena in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard helped raise over $50,000 and brought national attention to the cause. On Memorial Day the next year, the USS Arizona Memorial was dedicated.
Elvis’ generosity is often overlooked, but here is another great story about The King raising money for the Hungarian Revolution when Elvis was on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.