Tripler celebrates 100 years of trusted care

By Mackenzie WalshJuly 1, 2020

TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii –Tripler Army Medical Center, the big pink hospital on the hill, celebrated 100 years of the name Tripler, June 26.

Aerial Shot of Tripler Army Medical Center
Tripler Army Medical Center - known locally as "the big pink building on the hill" (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The celebration, marking 100 years of trusted care, began with a fitness team challenge among departments comprised of a 100 meter swim, 6.5 mile ruck, 3.2 mile run, and plank challenge in which the winner lasted more than 20 minutes. The day included an awards ceremony, specialty 1940s themed lunch, and cake cutting.

Cake Cutting - 100 Year Celebration
The oldest and youngest employees of Tripler join the hospital commander and command sergeant major in cutting the celebratory cake. (Photo Credit: Tripler Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

During the ceremony, congratulatory notes from Governor David Ige and Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu Kirk Caldwell expressing their gratitude and appreciation of the military ohana were read. Caldwell, in recognition of this important milestone, proclaimed June 26, 2020 as “Tripler Army Medical Center Day” in recognition of their significant contributions over the past century.

“Tripler has a rich history of serving our nation when called for, whether caring for our patients suffering from the Spanish Flu over 100 years ago or firing at Japanese aircraft from our lanais while treating injured service members during the attacks on Pearl Harbor, [Tripler] always responds with resiliency, compassion, and innovation when caring for those in need,” said Col. Martin Doperak, commander, Tripler Army Medical Center. “We were strong then and we are just as strong now as the team showed this morning showing their physical strength.”


Under General Order Number 40 from the War Department in Washington D.C. the Department Hospital Honolulu Hawaii was renamed Tripler General Hospital on June 26, 1920 in honor of Brevet Brigadier General Charles Stuart Tripler who served as the Medical Director for the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Though he was never stationed in Hawaii, he made many significant contributions to military medicine. He wrote Manual of the Medical Officer of the Army of the United States that outlined basic physical requirements for recruits and Handbook for the Military Surgeon which standardized many of the Army’s medical practices to include administration, hygiene, and surgery.

The roots of Tripler Army Medical center can be traced to 1898, during the Spanish-American war when troops were being treated in tents along the shores of Waikiki. In 1907 several wooden structures on Fort Shafter would then be used as the new hospital.

While located at Fort Shafter, those at Tripler, cared for those injured at the attack on Pearl Harbor and through the war’s end. Throughout the World War II, an average of almost 2,000 patients per day were treated. To meet the growing need, the hospital expanded to nearby hospitals and schools. Still the only medical center in the Department of Defense to be so recognized, Tripler was awarded the Central Pacific battle streamer.

Tripler General Hospital
Tripler Hospital while located on Ft. Shafter. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

During the war, it was recognized that a larger facility would be needed, and plans were drafted for a hospital in Moanalua Valley. Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific and military governor of Hawaii at the time, dreamed of a tropical oasis and place of solace for the U.S. Army soldier to rest and recuperate both physically and emotionally. A premier architecture firm was brought in from New York to plan the hospital, replicating the coral pink color and landscaping of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.

The new facility opened in 1948, offering the latest advances in both medicine and building construction, and at the time, claiming the title of tallest skyscraper in the Pacific. The hospital underwent a major expansion in 1985 adding 433,000 square feet of space.

Throughout its history, Tripler has been a popular site to visit amongst presidents, astronauts, kings and queens, sports stars and Hollywood entertainers. It has been home to thousands of physicians, nurses, medics, nutrition care staff, and chaplains providing solace. It has cared for expectant mothers, children afflicted with polio, injured and ill service members, and retirees serving in every conflict going back through the Spanish-American war. For countless thousands wounded or POWs in Korea or Vietnam, Tripler provided the first feeling of being home. Today, Tripler serves more than 430,000 active duty military members, beneficiaries and veterans across the Pacific region.

Billie Holiday visits Tripler
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Billie Holiday visits Tripler (Photo Credit: Col. Mark W. Burnett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Astronauts Visit Tripler
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Gemini and Apollo astronauts visit Tripler (Photo Credit: Col. Mark W. Burnett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Hollywood Stars Visit Tripler
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra visit Tripler and sign a service member's cast. (Photo Credit: Col. Mark W. Burnett) VIEW ORIGINAL

Col. Mark W. Burnett contributed significantly to this story by sharing his historical research.