Today In History: Elvis Receives Draft Letter

Today In History |

December 20, 1957

Today in 1957, Elvis was on Christmas vacation to his Graceland estate when he received a letter drafting him into service.

San Antonio Express-News

At the time, Elvis was not yet the universally accepted cultural icon that he is now. He was still a controversial figure, whose sashaying hips scandalized the nation. Multiple conservative interest groups saw his drafting as a positive thing, a kind of domesticating, punitive measure. When he was drafted, Elvis was at the peak of his career.

When news of the drafting broke, thousands of people petitioned the army to release him. It was unsuccessful. Elvis wasn't actually interested in having his recruitment waived. He was given a deferment so he could finish the movieĀ King Creole and was then sworn in on March 24, 1958. He held the rank of private.


He spent six months in boot camp. During his training, his mother fell ill. He was granted leave to see her before she died, in August of 1958. Afterwards, Elvis boarded the USS General Randall and embarked for Europe. There, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps, for eighteen months.

Elvis, now a sergeant, lived off base with some friends from home, as well as his father and grandmother. After his duties were discharged, he would host parties at his house. It was at one such party that he met Priscilla Beaulieu, who would eventually become his wife. She was fourteen at the time of their meeting.

Before he left for Europe, Elvis recorded multiple songs that were released in his absence. Elvis, who was previously almost a counterculture figure, was now regarded as a cleancut role model for kids. When he got a polio shot on television, the vaccine rate leapt from 2% to 85% in the United States.

Elvis was discharged from the army on March 2, 1960.

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.