17 MAY 1949
_ORIGINS After the end of World War II, many individuals recognized the need for a memorial to the dead of December 7, 1941. Navy personnel sought a tribute to the sailors who died at Pearl Harbor, while others sought to commentate the Japanese attack itself. In 1946, Mr. Tucker Gratz, a prominent Oahu businessman, spearheaded civilian efforts toward the creation of a shrine to the sunken battleship USS Arizona. The efforts of Mr. Gratz and others led to the creation of the Pacific War Memorial Commission (PWMC) in 1949. The PWMC was tasked with the creation of permanent World War II tributes in Hawaii, including a monument to those killed in the December 7th attack.
_In 1950, Admiral Arthur Radford, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, ordered the construction of a wooden platform and flag mast on the boat deck of the ravaged USS Arizona. The hoisting and striking of the colors over the USS Arizona became a familiar tradition at Pearl Harbor during the 1950s. Admiral Radford also requested funding for the creation of a shrine over the USS Arizona both in 1950 and 1951, but the funding was not available due to Korean War commitments. The combined remembrance efforts of the civilian and military were finally realized when President Eisenhower signed Public Law 85-344, authorizing the creation of the USS Arizona Memorial on March 15, 1958.
DESIGN Navy planners stipulated that the design should be in the form of a bridge spanning the ship without touching it. A committee of US Navy personnel and PWMC board members accepted proposals from many architectural firms, eventually awarding the honor to construct the memorial to Mr. Alfred Preis of Johnson, Perkins, and Preis. Preis’ Memorial design was open and soaring and would span the wreck of the USS Arizona, intertwining symbolism and architectural integrity.
Click below to see the original architectural plans of the Memorial. Large PDF file, please be patient.
FUNDRAISING The Pacific War Memorial Commission was tasked with raising the $500,000 required to build the structure. Several organizations and individuals helped in the effort to raise the required amount. In 1958, the Territory of Hawaii contributed the initial $50,000. On December 3, 1958 the popular television series This is Your Life hosted by Ralph Edwards featured Samuel Fuqua, Medal of Honor recipient and the senior surviving officer from the USS Arizona. Over $95,000 was raised for the new permanent structure. Three years later, singing idol Elvis Presley hosted a benefit concert on March 25, 1961 at Pearl Harbor’s Bloch Arena, raising over $64,000.
Many public and private campaigns continued to raise money for the Memorial's construction, but it wasn't until September 6, 1961 that freshman US Senator Daniel Inouye secured the final $150,000 in federal funding to complete construction.
DEDICATION The USS Arizona Memorial was completed on May 25, 1962 and dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1962. Years of fundraising and dedication to the remembrance ideal had resulted in an eloquent, understated structure. Over 200 guests attended the dedication and listened to stirring speeches and the strains of carillon music. Prayers were said, hymns were sung, and taps echoed hauntingly through the Memorial structure. A Marine honor guard stationed on the remnants of the old Memorial provided the proceedings’ final punctuation with a volley of rifle fire. The USS Arizona Memorial had moved from dream, to an idea, to an icon of America’s past. Today it embodies the tragedy and grief of a nation within an edifice of dignity and grace. It remains a place where the world comes to remember Pearl Harbor.