Elvis Presley in the Army: Behind the Scenes Photos of The King’s Time in the Armed Services

by Suzanne Halliburton

Elvis Presley fans called the day he was inducted into the U.S. Army as “black Monday.”

This was on March 24, 1958. Elvis was 23 years old. By then, he already picked up his first No. 1 song, “Heartbreak Hotel.” He was 18 months removed from appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show. That’s when more than 60 million viewers tuned in to make it the most-watched show of the 1950s.

The day Elvis reported to serve in Memphis, he was up before 6 a.m. at Graceland. His mother and dad were with him. The King didn’t know it then, but it would be the last time he saw his mother in good health.

Elvis’ manager, Tom Parker, arranged to have a photographer on hand to snap photos throughout the day.

The Army sent Elvis to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. He spent three days there. Then it was off to Fort Hood, outside Killeen, in Central Texas, for more training.

1958: American rock n’ roll singer Elvis Presley (1935 – 1977) 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. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Elvis Presley Eventually Headed To Germany

According to the U.S. Army, Elvis served in two different armor battalions.

He first served with five months with the Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor. That unit worked from Fort Hood. General George Patton used to lead this unit. It was dubbed “Hell on Wheels.” He also served with the battalion’s Headquarters Company at Friedberg in Germany.

On Elvis’ first leave, he had to come home to see his mother. It was then she was diagnosed with hepatitis. That August, the Army granted another leave so that Elvis could see his mother a final time. She died on Aug. 16, 1958. Elvis shipped to Germany four weeks later.

Singer/Army Pvt. Elvis Presley (C) wearing Army fatigues as he tries on shoes while sitting near his duffel bag on bench w. six other new inductees into the Army at Ft. Chaffee. (Photo by Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Elvis Spent Two Years In Military, Where He Met Future Wife

Elvis served 18 months in West Germany. He met Priscilla Beaulieu, his future wife, there in 1959. She was 14 years old and living with her parents in Wiesbaden. Her father was an Air Force officer. Elvis was a decade older. She showed up at a party at Elvis’ house.

By February 1960, Elvis earned a promotion to sergeant. He finished his stint in Germany the next month and returned to Fort Dix, New Jersey.

In an interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television, Presley said:

“I was in a funny position. Actually, that’s the only way it could be. People were expecting me to mess up, to goof up in one way or another. They thought I couldn’t take it and so forth, and I was determined to go to any limits to prove otherwise, not only to the people who were wondering, but to myself.”

(Original Caption) 1958-Memphis, Tennessee: Vernon Presley, Elvis Presley’s father, looks like any other proud parent as he examines his sons medals, in front of the Presley home.