Elvis is Inducted into the Army 

U.S. #5009 – 2015 Music Icons stamp.

On March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the US Army.

Shortly after his 18th birthday on January 19, 1953, Elvis did as all American men must do.  He registered with the U.S. Selective Service System.  As the draft system of the day required, healthy young men were expected to serve two years of active military duty and four years in the reserves.

Over the next four years Elvis became one of the nation’s biggest entertainers, releasing numerous hit songs and starring in popular films. Then on January 4, 1957 he went to the Kennedy Veterans Hospital in Memphis for his army pre-induction physical. On his 22nd birthday the Memphis Draft Board announced at a press conference that Elvis would likely be drafted some time that year.

U.S. #2724 – Part of the Legends of American Music Series.

As the news of Elvis’ draft became public, he received offers from the Navy and Air Force. The Navy wanted to create an Elvis Presley Company and the Air Force wanted him to tour recruitment centers. But Elvis didn’t want any special treatment and turned down their offers. He wanted to serve his country like every other young man.

Item #M10457 pictures Elvis on stage on July 4, 1956.

Then on December 20, 1957, just days before Christmas, Elvis received his draft notice from the Army, requiring him to report for duty on January 20, 1958. Elvis’ draft could not have come at a worse time in his career. His recording career was at its highest point, and he was set to begin filming his fourth movie, King Creole, on the same day he was supposed to report for the Army. Immediately, letters began to pour into the draft board from Elvis’ management, angry fans, and even Paramount Pictures, which had already invested $350,000 in King Creole. Even the President of the United States received letters that claimed Elvis’ draft was an attempt by the government to sabotage his career. The rush of criticism must have worked, because Elvis was given a 60-day deferment in order to film the movie.

Item #M10602 pictures Elvis as a child and later in his career.

On March 24, Elvis arrived at the Memphis Draft Board to begin his military career. He was then assigned to 10 weeks of training at Fort Hood, Texas. The next day Elvis went to Arkansas’ Fort Chaffee where he would receive his physical and perhaps one of the most famous and documented haircuts in history. Elvis paid the 65¢ fee from his own money. Colonel Parker had invited the media to the event and the barbershop was filled with reporters and photographers, making it nearly impossible to move around. It was during the haircut that the world first heard the phrase “hair today and gone tomorrow,” when a photographer asked Elvis to blow some of the hair out of his hand for a playful photo.

Ten weeks later, Elvis boarded a train for New York, where Colonel Parker had scheduled a press conference. At the September 22 press conference, Elvis answered questions about his music, army duty, and his mother, who had recently passed away. With the press conference over, Elvis slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and crossed the gangplank of the USS Randall eight times. This was a courtesy so all the photographers could get a good shot.

Item #M10458 was issued for Elvis’ 75th birthday.

Aboard the ship, Elvis became fast friends with fellow musician Charlie Hodge. The pair bunked together and were in charge of the ship’s talent show, with Elvis playing piano and Hodge serving as MC. Elvis arrived in Germany on October 1.

During his 18 months of service, Elvis worked as a scout and jeep driver. On January 20, 1960, he was promoted to Sergeant. He was given command of the reconnaissance, or scouting, unit of the 3rd Armored Division. His unit was sent on maneuvers a short time later, so he didn’t receive his stripes until February 11. The colonel who promoted Elvis to sergeant was interviewed many years later and recalled Elvis as a “a top-notch soldier, a credit to his parents, to his outfit, to his country.”

Item #M10459 pictures Elvis on stage and in movies through the years.

After nearly two years in the service, Elvis left Germany on March 1, 1960. Elvis’ discharge prompted a whirlwind of media events and studio sessions, many of which had been in the making for months. A press conference was held immediately upon his arrival in New Jersey. Officially discharged, Elvis boarded a train for Memphis with his final paycheck in the amount of $9.81. The press and crowds were everywhere. Fans lined the railroad tracks in a blinding snowstorm to watch him pass by. Thousands of fans went wild when Elvis stepped off the train in Memphis in full dress uniform. Yet another press conference was held at Graceland before he was allowed to return home to civilian life.

Elvis was pleased to find his two-year absence hadn’t hurt his career at all. In fact, his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had released several of Elvis’ recordings while he was in Germany. Elvis was more popular than he had been two years earlier. Within a month, he began shooting his fifth movie, G.I. Blues.

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  1. Elvis is the very best singer in the world nobody comes close to him a wonderful human being and the very best voice in this world . #1 and beatles #2

  2. Elvis, a great singer AND patriot! He also contributed funds for the U.S.S. Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor. A true American.

  3. That was the real Elvis wanting to be a good citizen. I got a big kick out of also going over to Germany by troop ship. The comparison between me and Elvis ended there however except that I did make it to Sgt E-5 in 19 months. I had a lot of respect for Elvis for not looking for special treatment and like that other celebrity Muhammad Ali who stood on his principles and risked some jail time in doing so Elvis took what came and in doing that he proved himself worthy of being an American. Standing up to take what’s coming is risky but you sleep better and looking in the mirror you see a man there looking back at you.

  4. Still the King and served his country, not like so many others, stars and other, who didn’t.

  5. To expand on Martha’s comment of definitely iconic and Wade’s patriotic I would like to add generous and that is to the extreme. He would give away the items that he treasured to those he felt deserving. These included cars ,exotic pets, guitars, money; items too numerous to mention. At the age of 7 years old when I found out he was in the service, well, I guess, I was all shook up.

  6. Elvis was in the 3rd Armored Division and became a squad leader as an E5, not the unit commander. Most people do not know it but the entire proceeds from the concert he gave in Hawaii is what paid for the USS Arizona memorial to be built. While he was in basic training at Fort Hood my 15 yr old sister and her friend played hooky and drove about 300 miles round trip to see him march by in his training unit.

  7. Nice tidbit of The King’s military contributions, and thanks to those who noted his monetary support of the USS Arizona memorial.

  8. He got to Germany two days before my ninth b-day. My Dad was stationed in Wiesbaden so when the train came thru we all went up to see him. Great memory tho’ a little hazy after sixty years. G.I. Blues is one of my favorite Elvis movies.

  9. I was an E5 on active duty in the Navy when Elvis gave that concert in Hawaii. A gentleman came into the Enlisted Men’s club on the base in Pearl Harbor where I was having beers with some of my buddies at the bar and commenced handing out free tickets to everyone at the bar to attend the concert. Therefore, we actually got to attend the concert for free, (in the nose bleed section). During the concert Elvis told the audience that the concert was being beamed live by satellite around the world, a first.

    1. Some guys have all the luck. After Wiesbaden my Dad was stationed at Hickham so off we went via a year and a half at Hill A.F.B. in Utah. By ’73 when I think the concert took place, I was 23 and working and going to UH so I missed the concert.

  10. All things considered … Elvis was a great American in all ways. I served in the Army, too, and I think his time in service contributed to his legacy. If you have not yet visited his estate in TN you should; it’s worth your time. From this visit, you will appreciate Elvis even more for the quality of the talented man he was.

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