1957 marked the pinnacle of Elvis Presley’s career as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He had already achieved multiple huge successes by that point, including “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” and had also starred in a number of films, including “Love Me Tender,” “Loving You,” and “Jailhouse Rock.” With his gyrating Elvis Pelvis, he went on tour throughout North America, luring teens and frightening their parents.
At this time in his career, it appeared that Elvis had accomplished everything. Well, with one exception. According to History, Elvis received his letter requesting his military service on December 20, 1957, while spending the holiday season at Graceland with his family.
Elvis’ fans, understandably, were furious that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was being conscripted into the military and expressed their rage through innumerable letters requesting that he be granted an exemption. However, Elvis made the decision to carry out his civic duty and enlisted in the army as a private on March 24, 1958. Elvis only requested (and was granted) one favor: a postponement of his military enlistment so that he could complete the filming of “King Creole.”
Elvis spent about the same amount of time in the army as every other man who enlisted, said the U.S. Army Center of Military History. He served in two distinct armor battalions: the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor in Germany from October 1, 1958 to March 2, 1960; and Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor at Fort Hood, Texas, from March 28 to September 17, 1958, when he finished his training.
Elvis did, however, acquire a number of benefits not given to other soldiers because to his enormous popularity at the time, such as setting up television sets in his unit, and he was more than willing to share these with his fellow soldiers. Elvis’ transition from the celebrity life to the military life undoubtedly had an impact on him; he disliked the training and yearned to return to his family at home. Additionally, he was concerned about how serving in the army might affect his profession; nevertheless, these concerns ultimately turned out to be baseless.
Elvis Presley served in the military for around two years before being honorably discharged on March 5, 1960, according to War History Online. Despite the short duration of his service, it had a significant impact on Presley’s career. When questioned about his decision to enlist in the military during a news conference after returning to civilian life, he responded, “People anticipated that I would make a mistake or make a fool of myself in some way. They believed I couldn’t handle it, and so on. I was determined to prove them wrong, not just to the onlookers but also to myself, and would stop at nothing to do so.”
One of the more intriguing things about Elvis’ service in the army was how much it helped his career. So that he could return to a society that was anxious to have its King back, his management made sure that Elvis was still very much on the minds of the audience throughout his time serving. Elvis’ rise to fame was also aided by his success with the elder generation, who had previously been intimidated by his suggestive dancing. Notably, they developed some respect for the singer as a result of their perception that his decision to enlist in the military was one that only a true patriot would make.