Elvis Presley not only served in the military but had one of the most memorable tours in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces.
As a result, the time Elvis served in the military was nearly as iconic as the extensive catalog of music he released.
The King will always be remembered — first and foremost — as a rock star.
Nonetheless, Elvis also represented the military proudly during his time in service.
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Table of Contents
1. Elvis Military Service Explained
Elvis Presley is a folk hero in pop culture.
For starters, he is the “King of Rock ‘n Roll” for a reason.
Presley sold millions of records including classics like “Hound Dog,” “Suspicious Minds,” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Be that as it may, Elvis also had a recognizable career in the military.
In fact, The King served in the United States Army from 1958-1960, including a noteworthy campaign in Germany (more details, below).
During this time period, Presley repaired his public image, which had previously been damaged by public outrage.
Indeed, many from older generations were appalled by the interpretations of his songs along with his provocative dance performances.
Accordingly, the history of Elvis and his time in the military is a story in itself:
2. History of Elvis in the U.S. Military
Elvis Presley enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1958.
Prior to this, Elvis was facing a public relations crisis regarding some of his recent performances.
Consequently, Elvis’s manager believed it would be a good idea for The King to consider joining the military.
The thought was this would repair his image more than simply entertaining the troops at Special Services events.
So, Elvis joined the United States Army in 1958 and did so as a regular enlisted soldier.
Accordingly, this earned him the respect of fellow soldiers who respected the route Elvis took toward joining the military.
Furthermore, the two years of military service that followed helped cement The King’s legacy, particularly with older or more conservative crowds that had not yet adapted to his music.
In return, Elvis Presley’s public image was completely restored.
Nonetheless, the couple of years Elvis spent in the United States Army was quite the journey.
3. Elvis Presley is drafted into military service
Even though Elvis was already a big rock and roll star, his draft number came up during the Christmas of 1957.
He was scheduled to report for duty in late January but personally requested a deferral in order to complete filming one of his many popular movies.
Elvis reported for duty the following year, on March 24, 1958, and shipped immediately to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, for training.
From there, The King spent 3 days at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas before preparing for Army boot camp.
Initially, many among the military elite attempted to persuade Elvis to consider opportunities for special treatment.
Nonetheless, some in the military branch already had a negative view of the rock star by the time he joined the Army.
It didn’t help the fact that the Army had already granted Elvis special permission to delay his arrival to basic training in order to finish shooting a Hollywood movie.
Thus, by the time Elvis reported for duty, the spotlight was already on the 23-year-old.
4. Elvis completes Army basic training
Elvis joined the military 2 weeks after finishing “King Creole” – the movie that had caused his initial delay.
As a result, Elvis began service on March 24, 1948, a date that was termed “Black Monday” by his advocates and supporters.
Nonetheless, after taking a short amount of time to adjust to military life, Elvis made the transition just fine at Fort Hood.
Presley graduated from Army boot camp in June of 1948 and was assigned to Army Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor.
Elvis excelled during basic training as a pistol sharpshooter and enjoyed training in the tanks obstacle course.
Despite this, the narrative took an ugly turn when Presley’s beloved mother became gravely ill in August.
Sadly, within a couple of weeks, Elvis lost his mother to cirrhosis.
The tragic death left The King feeling demoralized as he prepared to depart for his first overseas tour with the U.S. Army.
5. Elvis goes to Germany for military service
In 1958, Elvis departed for his first overseas duty with the United States Army.
He was still overcoming grief from the death of his mother, well-known as the most important person in The King’s life.
Therefore, Elvis entered Germany humbled, yet determined to leave an impression.
Initially, Elvis served as an Armor Intelligence Specialist for the U.S. Army.
Once again, he was offered the opportunity to bypass traditional enlistment and join Army Special Services.
Notwithstanding, Elvis declined and remained with his regular unit until he was reassigned as a driver for commanding officers.
Additionally, The King learned karate during service, a martial art technique that he would later incorporate into live performances.
During military service, Presley also befriended Charlie Hodge, who would become a lifelong friend.
Hodge helped improve the morale of Elvis who was still adjusting to being away from music.
There is no doubt that Elvis received some special treatment that was not orthodox for a traditional soldier.
For example, he was allowed to live off-post with family and friends and had female admirers seeking his attention from dawn until dusk.
In fact, Elvis met his future wife — Priscilla Beaulieu — while stationed in Germany.
Tragically, the time in Germany was also when Elvis would begin to experiment with amphetamines.
Sadly, this would lead to a destructive addiction that contributed to his untimely death at the age of 42.
6. Elvis is discharged from military service
Elvis Presley left active duty service from the U.S. Army in March of 1960.
However, he was not officially discharged from military service until 1964, because he spent the remainder of his service in the Army Reserve.
The highest rank Elvis achieved in the U.S. Army was that of Sergeant (E-5).
There are many in the military branch who praised The King’s time in service, including his frequent generosity.
In fact, Elvis donated all of his military pay to charity and paid to improve Army posts where fellow soldiers were stationed.
Prior to his departure from Germany, Elvis attended a press conference with Priscilla in attendance.
Related Article – 16 Presidents That Did NOT Serve In The Military
FAQs: Elvis Military Service
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding Elvis “The King” Presley serving in the United States Army:
7. Did Elvis really serve in the military?
Elvis was drafted into the United States Army and served from 1958-1960.
Elvis joined the Army as an enlisted soldier.
The decision helped repair his image with the public, particularly older audiences.
8. Why did Elvis join the military?
Elvis Presley enlisted in the military at the height of his musical career.
The rationale was that joining the military would help restore Elvis’ public image.
At the time, Elvis was taking heat for his provocative live performances and song lyrics.
Therefore, he enlisted to help support the notion that he was “a true American.”
9. Did Elvis learn karate in the military?
Yes, Elvis first took an interest in the martial art during military service.
The King was also reported to enjoy shooting a pistol and engaging in the tank obstacle course.
However, he did not see any combat while serving in Germany.
10. Did Elvis meet his wife in the military?
Yes, Elvis met his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu, while stationed in Germany.
The two met shortly after the death of Elvis’ mother, Gladys, and were introduced by a fellow soldier.
Priscilla would later return with Elvis to America, where they began a multiple-year courtship.
Related Article – Was He In The Military?
Elvis Presley is “The King” for a reason.
He’s not only one of the most beloved rock stars but also a cultural icon who happened to serve in the U.S. military.
As such, Elvis spent a short yet memorable 2-year stint in the military serving in the United States Army.
The time was among the most remarkable periods of Elvis’ life, including the death of his mother along with meeting his future wife, Priscilla.
Today, “The King” may not be the household name it implies had it not been for the time Elvis spent in the military.
Featured Image Source – www.Wikipedia.org
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