What Did Elvis Actually Do During His Stint In The Military?

Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, was at the height of his success in 1957. By then, he'd had numerous major hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Blue Suede Shoes," and "Love Me Tender;" and had starred in several motion pictures, like "Love Me Tender," "Loving You," and "Jailhouse Rock." He toured across North America, attracting teenagers and scaring their parents with his gyrating Elvis Pelvis. 

At this point in his career, it seemed that there was nothing Elvis hadn't done. Well, except for one thing. As stated in History, Elvis received his letter to enlist in the military on December 20, 1957, during some holiday time with his family at Graceland. Of course, Elvis' fans were none too happy about the King of Rock 'n' Roll being drafted into the army and voiced their anger through countless letters demanding that he be given an exemption. However, Elvis decided to fulfill his civic duty, and on March 24, 1958, he enlisted as an army private. The one favor that Elvis got (and received) was to have his induction into the military delayed so that he could finish filming his movie, "King Creole" (via Biography).

Life in the army

According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Elvis' time in the army was pretty much the same as all other men who enlisted. He served in two different armor battalions: Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, from March 28 to September 17, 1958, during which he completed his training; and 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor in Germany from October 1, 1958, to March 2, 1960.

However, considering his massive popularity at the time, Elvis still received numerous perks not afforded to other soldiers — like setting up his unit with television sets — and he was more than happy to share them with his fellow troops (via War History Online). Of course, switching from the celebrity life to the military life took its toll on Elvis, who wasn't a fan of the training and longed to be back home with his family. He was also worried about the effect being in the army would have on his career, fears that ultimately proved to be unfounded.

Return to celebrity life

War History Online states that Elvis Presley was honorably discharged from the army on March 5, 1960, and while his stint in the military only lasted about two years, it had a tremendous impact on his career. He was asked about why he signed up to join the military during a press conference upon his return to civilian life, and he said (per Biography), "People were expecting me to mess up, to goof up in one way or another. They thought I couldn't take it and so forth, and I was determined to go to any limits to prove otherwise, not only to the people who were wondering but to myself."

One of the more fascinating aspects of Elvis' time in the army is how much it improved his career, as chronicled by War History Online. His manager ensured that Elvis was still very much on the audience's minds during his time serving so that he could return to a culture that was eager to have their King back. Another contributing factor to Elvis' surge in popularity is the fact that he won over the older generation that was once frightened by his suggestive dance moves. Notably, they acquired some respect for the performer because they saw his decision to join the military as something only a true patriot would do.