You’ll know Elvis as the ‘King of Rock and Roll,’ but did you know that the Jailhouse Rock singer was, for a short period of time, also a soldier in the United States Army? It’s true. If you’ve ever wondered ‘was Elvis in the Army,’ then this page is for you. We’ll run you through everything you need to know about how one of music’s biggest stars came to serve.
The Draft and Bootcamp Training
Elvis was eligible for the draft, and in late 1957, just before Christmas, the popular singer was summoned to join the United States Army. As you can imagine, the news sent shockwaves through the music world, since, at this time, Elvis was very much a household name.
Originally, he was offered a position with Special Services, which included the military’s entertainment branch. It was thought that Elvis could spend the duration of his military career singing to troops and all-around keeping spirits high.
The King of Rock and Roll, however, had other ideas. He insisted that serve as a regular soldier with other recruits. His arrival at Fort Hood for his boot camp training had to be delayed by two months while Elvis finished filming King Creole. The request for delayed entry into service came only after Elvis had sent a self-written request, which was granted.
It was during his boot camp that one of the most tragic events in Elvis’ life occurred: his mother died. This arguably had a bigger impact on Elvis’ direction in life than his joining the army.
Stationed in Germany
In 1958, not long after he’d completed his boot camp training, Elvis was sent to Germany. There, he was stationed at Ray Barracks and served as part of the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor, 3d Armored Division. Though in his capacity as an armor intelligence specialist Elvis did do “real” military work, the esteemed singer did receive some special privileges. For instance, he was allowed to sleep off barracks with his family.
The singer also engaged in some light musical work in anticipation of his return to the United States. Once, he also performed for the troops, but since he was under strict orders from his manager not to do any shows, he stuck to the background task of playing the piano while others held the limelight.
Elvis excelled in his military career, eventually being promoted to Sergeant. He said that he had worked extra hard while in the US Army as a way to prove to everyone who said he could not do it that he could — and he included himself in that list. In 1960, Elvis was honorably discharged from the US Army and, on March 2, returned to the United States.
Once home, Elvis became a megastar. And that was largely due to his stint in the US Army. Before serving, he was popular only with young fans. Now that he had proven he was a man of the people, he was popular with all demographics and become a massive star.