On this day in history, December 20, 1957, Elvis drafted by US Army while awaiting Christmas at Graceland


Elvis Presley, who rocketed to stardom only the year before, received a Christmas card from Uncle Sam when he was drafted by the U.S. Army on this day in history, Dec. 20, 1957.  

“Dodging his civic duty was never even a consideration for the Tupelo, Mississippi-born singer,” according to Biography.com.

“Despite his status as the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Presley gladly put aside that crown and dutifully marched to pick up his induction notice.”


Presley’s pending military service was no surprise.

He filed for his draft card on Jan. 19, 1953, 11 days after his 18th birthday, while still an anonymous American teenager. 

He had taken his pre-induction physical back in January 1957, already a bona fide superstar. 

But the timing of Presley’s call to service shocked and worried millions of Elvis fans around the country. 

Presley, 22 at the time, was getting ready to celebrate Christmas at Graceland, the Memphis mansion he’d purchased earlier that year for $100,000. 

And, unlike any other draftee, Presley was in the midst of an electrifying period of sudden popular success enjoyed by few if any other performers in history. 

He burst onto the national recording scene in 1956, placing five songs atop the Billboard pop charts: “Heartbreak Hotel,” “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender.”

“The king of rock ‘n’ roll dutifully marched to pick up his induction notice on Dec. 20, 1957.”

He released four more no. 1 songs in 1957: “Too Much,” “All Shook Up,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” and “Jailhouse Rock.” 

The raucous American classic “Jailhouse Rock” was in fact the no. 1 song in America the day Elvis was drafted.

Elvis drafted

Elvis spent nearly half of 1956 and 1957 — 50 of 104 weeks — with a No. 1 Billboard song. 

He had also become one of Hollywood’s leading men. 

His first three feature films “Love Me Tender,” “Loving You” and “Jailhouse Rock” were released in rapid succession between November 1956 and November 1957. 


Despite status as the nation’s most famous pop-culture icon, Presley appeared as dutiful as millions of other young American men in fulfilling his draft obligations. 

He declined an offer to join Special Services, which would have allowed him to spend his days in the Army performing for troops around the world. 

Presley “told reporters that serving in the Army was ‘a duty I’ve got to fill and I’m going to do it,’” reports Graceland.com. 

Elvis traffic light Germany

He did however apply for and receive a two-month deferral to finish filming the movie “King Creole,” released in 1958 while he was already in the Army.

Presley entered the United States Army in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 24, 1958, according to the U.S. Army Center of Military History. 

He fulfilled his draft obligation with two years of service in the Army, including a year and a half stationed overseas in Friedberg, Germany, near Frankfurt. 

America’s biggest pop star was, in essence, at the front lines of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

America’s biggest pop star was, in essence, at the front lines of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, with the friction point of the East Germany border just 150 miles away. 

He served n the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. 

“For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends,” writes History.com.  

“After working during the day, Presley returned home at night to host frequent parties and impromptu jam sessions. At one of these, an army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later.”

Elvis joins army

Germany has not forgotten that Elvis was there. 

Among many tributes in the area of Germany in which he served, the town of Friedberg memorializes the king with Elvis Presley Square.

Pedestrians are guided by crosswalk lights around the square featuring silhouettes of Elvis’s signature swivel-hip dance moves. 

Sgt. Presley left active duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 5, 1960, and received his discharge from the Army Reserve on March 23, 1964, according to military records. 

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