While Elvis Presley may have played a soldier in films like G.I. Blues, he was a soldier in real life as well, serving in the Army 1958 to 1960.
Elvis, like other young men of the time, had registered for the draft when he turned 18. Then, despite his ensuing fame, right before his 22nd birthday, in 1957, he went in for his pre-induction physical—where he was classified 1A, available for unrestricted military service, which meant the star’s draft notice would arrive sometime that year. It finally came in December, but Elvis was granted a deferment until March so he could finish his current film, King Creole.
Elvis was processed into the Army on 24 March 1958, surrounded by family, friends, and the media. The singer entered regular Army service as a private, rather than joining Special Services, which would have allowed him to attend basic training then only be required to put on a few performances a year for the military. Elvis was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, for basic training and was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division’s Tank Battalion. While he was at Fort Hood, his mother, with whom he was very close, got really ill. Elvis was granted emergency leave, and he was able to make it to her bedside before she passed away.
With his training complete, in September Elvis was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division and was sent to Germany. Apparently, Elvis served dutifully and well, despite the constant media attention, fledgling prescription drug abuse, and rumors of his partying. It was while he was serving in Germany that he met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he would marry seven years later. Elvis achieved the rank of sergeant in February 1960, and a month later, on 5 March, he was honorably discharged from active duty, at the age of 25. He was discharged from the Army Reserve four years later, in March 1964.
While Elvis had been busy with the Army, his manager, Tom Parker, had been busy keeping the singer’s career rolling. Over the two years of Elvis’s service, Parker released songs that had been pre-recorded, and 10 of those became top 40 hits. Less than a month after returning home, Elvis recorded a new album and a single, “Stuck on You,” which hit number one on the charts the following month. Despite his fear that his fans would leave him in his two-year absence, Elvis was back in business.