Elvis Presley Filed Military Draft Card On This Day in 1953: Facts About The King’s Time in U.S. Army

by Emily Morgan
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Elvis Presley was at the height of his success at the end of 1957. With hit singles like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Jailhouse Rock,” he was on his way to becoming an icon of the generation. 

In addition to his musical success, the era of the ’50s brought Elvis fame in Hollywood, appearing in three successful films. 

Despite the rock-n-roll legend’s pathway to fame, it would be threatened in 1957 when the Memphis Draft Board announced that Presley would soon receive his draft notice for the U.S. Army. 

However, Elvis always intended on fulfilling his patriotic duties: just 11 days after the Mississippi-born singer turned 18, he filed his draft card on January 19, 1953. 

He even went for a pre-induction physical on January 4, 1957, to determine his eligibility to join the army. 

Even though many revered Elivs as a God-like entertainer, his status didn’t keep him from proudly removing his celebrity title and fulfilling his duties as a citizen. He received his induction notice on December 20, 1957.

In an interview with The Arizona Daily Star, Presely described feeling proud to be considered to serve the nation that had allowed for him to have musical success. 

“It’s a duty I’ve got to fill and I’m going to do it,” he said. 

Elvis Presley Defers Army induction To finish Movie

Even though Elvis had intentions to serve his country, his professional career hindered him from doing so. On December 24, 1957, Elvis requested a deferral to finish his role in King Creole

Like the classic southern gentlemen he was, his reasoning for the deferral was because he didn’t want the filmmakers to “lose so much money with all they have done so far,” according to Graceland’s official site.

That Christmas, Elvis would get his wish when the army granted the deferral, changing his induction date from March 24 to January 20 of 1958.

During this time, Elvis finished shooting King Creole and also recorded other songs.

In March, Elvis spent time with his Memphis friends and family before being shipped off to fulfill his duties. To soak up his free time, Elivs bought records, got a haircut, and went roller skating. 

That Famous Haircut

On March 24, 1958, Presley reported to the draft board office in Memphis with his entourage in tow. His parents, girlfriend Anita Wood, cousin Patsy Presley and friend Judy Spreckels all went to give their goodbyes. After he bid them farewell, he jumped on a bus with 12 other recruits. 

Once in Arkansas, his army-regulated haircut became a press event when photographers and reporters captured the moment. Despite only being in Arkansas a few days, over 5,000 fan letters bombarded Elvis. 

Elvis Presley’s Emergency Leave

In August 1958, his mother, Gladys, became gravely ill. The news allowed Presley to have emergency leave and took the first train back to Memphis on August 12. Unfortunately, she passed away just two days later. 

Despite the tragic loss, the army required Elvis to return to the army base on August 24. The following month, he was shipped off to Germany.

He Met His Future Love In Germany

Elvis’ tragic loss would be somewhat easier on him when he met his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu, while stationed overseas. 

During a press conference when he returned home, Elivs implied he had met someone special while serving. 

“There was one girl who I was seeing quite often over there. Her father was in the Air Force,” he said when asked about Priscilla sending him off at the airport.

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