Elvis' Military Service Documented In Exhibit

The crowd cheers the unveiling of "Sgt. Elvis Presley: Citizen Soldier" exhibit spotlighting the entertainer's service in the Army. The exhibit will be on display for a year. For two years, Elvis Presley was merely a soldier in the U.S. Army. Now an exhibit at Fort Knox features photos of Presley's time in the service, his uniforms, videos of interviews, and various documents and military paraphernalia used from 1958 through his discharge in 1960. The Army drafted Elvis Presley and sent him to Germany with an armored reconnaissance team — a route Presley took instead of opting into the USO and entertaining the troops. "He decided to play it straight and turned out to be a very good soldier," said Frank Jardim, director of the Patton Museum at Fort Knox. The museum opened an exhibit Wednesday that will run for a year and document Presley's time in the Army. The idea behind the exhibit is to show how the military adapted to having someone so famous in its midst and how a celebrity handled life as a drafted soldier. "Was it a normal military experience? No, it couldn't have been," Jardim said. "That's what we want to show." The museum arranged the exhibit through Elvis Presley Enterprises, which controls the King's estate, because the type of training Presley received to do reconnaissance for tanks is now done at Fort Knox, Jardim said. Wednesday's opening coincides with the day Presley was inducted into the Army. Angie Marchese, archives manager at Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., said Graceland agreed to the museum's request for an exhibit because Presley served in the 3rd Armored Division once headed by Gen. George S. Patton. "Elvis was an admirer of Patton," Marchese said. "Patton was one of his influences." Jardim and Marchese said interest in Presley's Army service is high, with the military constantly in the news right now. "People are starting to appreciate that aspect," Marchese said. "We expect a good turnout." The exhibit also depicts how Presley and his manager, Col. Tom Parker, kept his career alive during the military service. On display are Christmas cards showing a young Presley in a soldier's outfit. Those cards were sent by the thousands to fans around the world, Jardim said. The cards were a way for Presley to stay in contact with the legion of fans that followed him and ease his anxieties about being out of the public eye for two years. "Privately, he was worried his career was going to be over," Jardim said. "Ironically, it helped him." Upon his discharge, Presley's popularity remained high. While in the military, he gained the respect of parents around the country and the parents stopped objecting to their children listening to his music, Jardim said. Presley didn't leave his love of clothes when he joined the army. Tailored uniforms are on display, although they lack his name tags. Gini Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Fort Knox, said the military requires the name tags be removed from uniforms when a soldier is discharged. "You learn something new everyday," Jardim said. "I thought someone would have ripped them off." A kiosk will also play "GI Blues," the army-based movie Presley made right after his discharge. "You've got to have a little Elvis music going with this exhibit," Jardim said. "It's great material." By: Brett Barrouquere - Associated Press
Source: Elvis Australia / Updated: Mar 26, 2004 
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