The History of Elvis Presley’s Military Career

Elvis Presley taken during a medical examination by a military doctor
Credit: 1958 DC/Black Star

Featured in the April 7, 1958 issue of LIFE Magazine, American singer and actor Elvis Presley served in the United States Army from 1958 to 1960. At the time of his enlistment, he was widely regarded as the most well-known name in the world of entertainment. Before entering the Army, Presley had caused national outrage with his rock and roll music. Many parents, religious leaders, and teachers’ groups welcomed his draft into the military. Despite being offered the chance to enlist in Special Services to entertain the troops and live in priority housing, Presley was persuaded by his manager to serve as a regular soldier. This earned him the respect of many of his fellow soldiers and people back in the United States who previously viewed him in a negative light. During his service, Presley’s life was affected in many ways. Not long before he was transferred to West Germany,[1] his mother, Gladys Presley died of a heart attack brought on by acute hepatitis and cirrhosis at the age of 46. While he was living in Bad Nauheim, he met his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu. He also became reliant on barbiturates and stimulants. Due to this unhealthy addiction, Presley and Beaulieu divorced in 1973. This same addiction partially contributed to his death at the age of 42 in 1977. After his release from the service, Presley found a new fan base among an older age group, thanks in part to his army career and releases of ballads compared to his earlier rock and roll songs. Two weeks after finishing King Creole, Presley reported for his induction on March 24, 1958, a day dubbed “Black Monday” for his fans by the press.[5] Presley was given a physical and assigned army serial number 53310761, before being sworn in and made leader of his group. Parker, with the permission of the army, had arranged for news crews from around the world to be on hand to report Presley’s entry into the army. After his final goodbyes to family and friends, Presley and his fellow U.S. Army recruits were taken by bus to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.[6]
LIFE Magazine April 7, 1958

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