Elvis Presley - Army Fatigues

Rock & Politics: Elvis is Drafted

Elvis Presley was at a career high when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1958 and shipped off to Friedberg, Germany.

As Elvis finished basic training, the Soviet Union issued an ultimatum, giving the U.S. six months to withdraw from Berlin. Elvis became a public relations poster child for the U.S. and its allies against the communists.

How did Elvis feel about his service? “Most people I know don’t want any more Korean War kind of stuff. I mean goin’ around the world and gettin’ killed because some politician wants to show how tough he is,” Elvis told his lieutenant. “What the hell are we doin’ this for anyway?”

Back in the U.S., the Draft Board was inundated with letters from angry fans who saw the conscription as a government attempt to sabotage Elvis’s career. While in the Army, Elvis couldn’t shake his hips on TV or release new rock and roll records. Before Elvis reported for duty, RCA wisely stockpiled recordings and kept the releases flowing while he was overseas — maintaining his iconic status. He was honorably discharged on March 5, 1960.

Elvis Presley served in the U.S. Army from March 24, 1958, to March 5, 1960. He was honorably discharged, having achieved the rank of Sergeant-E5. 

The fatigues and hat that Elvis wore during his service are now on display inside of the Rock Hall's newest featured exhibit. Explore rock & roll's power to change attitudes about patriotism, peace, equality and freedom in Louder than Words: Rock, Power & Politics (open through Nov. 27, 2016).

We’d like to be heroes, but all we do here is march

And they don’t give the Purple Heart for a fallen arch 

Elvis Presley - G.I. Blues (1960)