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ELVIS IN THE U.S. ARMY - 60th ANNIVERSARY
March 24,  2018   -   Graceland   /   Elvis Express Radio
On March 24, 1958, Elvis was inducted into the United States Army at the Memphis Draft Board and assigned serial number 53310761. On March 25, at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, he
received his indoctrination exam and traditional, military, G.I. haircut in front of 55 media photographers. Elvis commented to the crowd, “Hair today, gone tomorrow.”

Elvis received basic training at Fort Hood, Texas. Private Presley was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood and received advanced tank instruction. Elvis completed
his basic training by the end of May. He earned a marksman's medal and was classified as a sharpshooter with a pistol. Elvis also was named acting assistant leader of his squad.
Elvis was stationed there for six months and his parents joined him at a temporary home near the base.

In August 1958, Gladys Presley became ill and returned to Memphis where she was hospitalized with acute hepatitis. As her condition became more serious, Elvis requested
emergency leave. He arrived in Memphis on the afternoon of August 12th. Gladys Presley died in the early hours of August 14th at the age of 46. She lay in state at Graceland and
services were held at the Memphis Funeral Home on August 15th. Elvis was devastated by his mother’s passing. They had always been very close and giving his mother and father
a better life had been one of the most heartfelt ambitions in his professional pursuits. He returned to his Army duties on August 25th.

Elvis left the U.S. for his eighteen-month assignment to West Germany in September 1958. Elvis was assigned to Company C, a scout platoon frequently on maneuvers. It was
hoped that in this capacity, Private Presley would be largely out of the public eye and able to do his duty as an active member of the U.S. Army. His father Vernon Presley and
grandmother Minnie Mae Presley lived with him in his off-base residence in Bad Nauheim. Company C left for maneuvers in Grafenwohr, Bavaria, located on the Czech border on
November 2, 1958. Here, Elvis endured the same field conditions as every other soldier. Elvis achieved the rank of private first class in November 1958, specialist fourth class in
June 1959, and sergeant in January 1960. He was honorably discharged on March 5, 1960.

Part of Elvis’ personal commitment was that he did not perform during his two years in the service though he was often asked to do so. Save for a quick recording session on his first
leave from Fort Hood in June 1958 after completing basic training, he took a two-year hiatus from his career. But his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, kept the promotional machinery
running, orchestrating continuing record releases, merchandising and special fan communications and taking full advantage of the intense press interest in the most famous soldier
of the time, all the while making plans with Elvis for the resumption of his career once he returned to civilian life in March 1960. Elvis served his country just like any other G.I., with
none of the special privileges his celebrity status might have afforded him. He was, by all accounts, a model soldier, earning the lasting respect of his fellow soldiers and the public at
large. Elvis worried what the long time away from performing, recording and acting might mean for his career. His fans, however, remained steadfast, new audiences would embrace
him and many of his greatest achievements still lay ahead.

Elvis returned home to Graceland in March 1960 with great press and public fanfare. He quickly went back to the recording studio producing his album “Elvis Is Back!”, which would
hit number two on the charts with three singles going to number one. He starred in Frank Sinatra’s “Welcome Home, Elvis” ABC TV special. For this appearance he was paid
$125,000, a record sum at the time. Then, it was back to the movie studio to resume his film career with the musical romantic comedy “G.I. Blues”, which took advantage of the
attention on Elvis’ real-life army service and became a smash hit.
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