Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Where Is the King When We Need Him?

Posted on Tue, Dec 12, 2006 at 4:00 AM

It’s been 65 years since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the people of Honolulu are fighting another battle — this time against the elements. The famous memorial over the battleship/tomb Arizona is sinking, and salt water leaking into the monument is causing further damage. Funds are being raised to repair and stabilize the structure.

So where is Elvis Presley now that we need him?

It’s not common knowledge that the King of Rock-and-Roll played a major role in the creation of the Arizona Memorial.

After the war, the U.S. Navy built a wooden structure alongside the Arizona and began a tradition of raising and lowering an American flag over the submerged hulk, which still contains the bodies of some 1,100 sailors killed when the ship was sunk by Japanese bombs. In the late 1950s, a movement was started to build a more impressive monument, and an architect came up with a plan that would cost some $500,000. His design was a soaring bridge that would span the sunken ship without actually touching it. For reasons that are now hard to understand, it wasn’t easy coming up with that money, and the project foundered.

Enter Elvis Presley. On the evening of March 25, 1961, Elvis held a sold-out concert in Honolulu that not only raised awareness of the memorial but raised more than $64,000 toward its construction. That was the spark that got the whole thing started, and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial —sometimes called the Pacific War Memorial — opened to the public on May 25, 1962.

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