When you want to establish a military presence in the Persian Gulf, you send in the 6th Fleet. But when you want to raise money for a statue honoring U.S. sailors, you send in The Good Ship Hollywood.

Several veteran actors of films featuring the Navy dropped anchor in Washington last night to appear at a gala that brought in $250,000 for the construction of the U.S. Navy Memorial, which is to be dedicated here Oct. 13.

Tony Curtis made a splash when he arrived at the black-tie affair at the Grand Hyatt Washington wearing a black scarf, a white collarless shirt and snakeskin cowboy boots. "Did you like the movie 'Operation Petticoat'?" a female fan gushed. "Yes I did," replied Curtis. "I was there when you were filming it!" the lady screamed. "Well, what took you so long to say hello?" schmoozed the star.

Clips from "Operation Petticoat" and a score of other Navy films were screened after dinner. The crowd of about 1,200 applauded scenes from such classics as "The Caine Mutiny," "Mister Roberts" and "South Pacific."

The clip that evoked the greatest response, though, was one from "Hellcats of the Navy," starring Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis. The audience erupted into laughter when the future Mrs. Reagan asked the future president, "What are you gonna do after the war, Case?"

Other celebrities attending the benefit were Cliff Robertson ("PT 109"), June Allyson ("Two Girls and a Sailor"), Barbara Eden ("All Hands on Deck"), Charles Durning ("The Final Countdown") and Macdonald Carey ("Wake Island").

After the screening, Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cracked, "I've been in the Navy 45 years and I'm sort of embarrassed -- I've never been in a movie."

Emceeing was former senator John Tower, chairman of the memorial foundation, who jokingly said, "Will Navy aviators please hold their applause" after spontaneous clapping broke out when he mentioned the movie "Top Gun."

Tom Cruise was not invited "because we knew he couldn't {come}," explained foundation president and retired admiral William Thompson. "We would've loved to have had him," he said. "He did a lot" for the Naval Academy. "They're still standing in line to become Naval aviators."

Navy veteran and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Herman Wouk received the first Lone Sailor Award. "The lone sailor looks beyond the shores of battle and the shores of home to a distant shore and to the quintessence of the American Dream," the normally reclusive Wouk told the crowd. "He looks to the day when nation will not lift up hand against nation ... But until that distant day comes, he stands at his station ready to do his job."

The short speech drew sustained applause from the salty and heavily medaled audience.

The pre-dinner reception offered lighter fare. Barbara Eden recalled filming "All Hands on Deck" with costar Pat Boone. She said they were standing near the ship's railing, ready to shoot "Pat's first screen kiss," when the camera crew's raft started sinking. "The crew lost the camera and the film," Eden laughed. "It's funny now, but it wasn't funny then." Was Boone a good kisser? "As I remember, yes he was," Eden said. "A very sweet kisser."

June Allyson was remembering another film, "Royal Wedding," which starred the late Fred Astaire and Jane Powell. Allyson was originally cast for Powell's role but she had to drop out. "When Fred started spinning me around, I'd get so sick to my stomach," recalled Allyson, who taught herself to dance by watching Astaire and Ginger Rogers in "The Gay Divorcee" 18 times. "I thought it was because I was so excited to be dancing with Fred Astaire. But it was because I was expecting my son."