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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2001

The King and Us: Support the Arizona

If there is any town that should be enthusiastically behind efforts to raise $10 million to upgrade the USS Arizona Memorial, it is Honolulu.

 •  Want to know more? Go to pearlharbormemorial.com or call 866-60PEARL to learn how you can help.
It is not just that this is hometown pride, the top visitor attraction and a source of inspiration and memory for resident and visitor alike.

In a very real way, it was the citizens of Honolulu (with a strong assist from Elvis Presley and a little prodding from this newspaper) that made the Arizona Memorial a reality.

Back in 1961, the effort to raise enough money to build a memorial at the Arizona was flagging. Well-known Honolulu architect Alfred Preis had come up with an elegant, moving design. The need for a central memorial at Pearl Harbor was obvious.

But the fund-raising drive had stalled. George Chaplin, then editor of The Advertiser, worked with Executive Editor Buck Buchwach to send out close to 1,600 letters to as many newspapers across the country, urging a Pearl Harbor Day editorial boosting the memorial project.

One such editorial, which happened to mention Chaplin, appeared in the Los Angeles Examiner. It caught the eye of legendary promoter Col. Tom Parker, who was managing the career of Presley, then fresh out of the U.S. Army.

Parker, never one to skip a promotional opportunity, picked up the telephone and called Chaplin: "We'll help you build your memorial," he said.

And so they did. Presley came to Honolulu in March of that year and staged a memorial benefit concert at Bloch Arena at Pearl Harbor.

An astounding (for that day) $52,000 was raised, and the project was back on track. Soon, construction began and the USS Arizona became the central historical and emotional experience for visitors to Pearl Harbor.

Today, the memorial is overwhelmed by some 1.5 million visitors a year. There is a strong need for expansion of the museum, waiting areas and other facilities.

The $10 million nationwide fund-raising drive will make those new facilities a reality. As they did in 1961, Hawai'i's residents should be enthusiastic boosters of this effort.