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Elvis in the Army: All shook up

The King shunned offers of special treatment for regular training

1959
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Rock and roll singer Elvis Presley salutes for a portrait during his tour of duty in Germany in February of 1959.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

When 23-year-old Elvis Presley joined the U. S. Army in March 1958, the Navy and the Air Force—and the Pentagon—were left disappointed.  All the armed services had put considerable effort into being the choice of the King.

The Navy had gone so far as proposing a special “Elvis Presley company,” which would drawn from Presley’s buddies, and others from Memphis. If that wasn’t enough, Elvis would also be assigned quarters entirely for his own use.

The Army, also eager to win his favor, suggested Elvis might be flown globally from base to base in order to boost the morale of the troops. The Pentagon, for its part, floated the idea of Elvis immediately joining the Special Services, thus sidestepping the need for regular training.

But regular training was precisely what Presley wanted.  He joined the army, but turned down all offers of special treatment.  Private Presley he was, and was paid $78 a month. Oh, and another $1000 from his record company.

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Presley may have enlisted as a normal soldier, but by the time his service ended, he had 10 Top 40 records. His last day of active duty was March 5, 1960.

Elvis rests on an army cot.
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Elvis weighing in at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
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Elvis with other recruits at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
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Elvis Presley receives a crew cut on his first full day as a member of the U. S. Army.
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Awaiting issue of more Army clothing at Fort Hood, Texas, for eight weeks of basic training with the Second Armored Division.
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Presley salutes for a portrait during his tour of duty in Germany in February of 1959.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Presley the soldier poses with his guitar.
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Elvis poses for a portrait next to a mirror during his tour of duty in Germany.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Wearing only underwear, Pvt. Elvis Presley raises his arms along with several other inductees during an inspection at Ft. Chaffee.
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Presley in t-shirt, getting a shot from an Army doctor during his pre-induction physical at Kennedy Veterans Hospital.
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Presley clad in Army fatigues.
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Presley clad only in his skivvies as he stands on a scale while an Army doctor measures his height at a pre-induction physical examination at Kennedy Veterans Hospital.
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Presley stands in line with other enlisted men and officers on a military base, Germany.
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Elvis Presley stands with a group of young men at an induction center, raising their right hands as they are sworn into the United States Army by an officer standing next to an American flag.
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