Between 1958 and 1960, Elvis Presley served in the United States Army. It came as a shocking disappointment to his fans, but it was a welcome development for a young Priscilla Beaulieu. Her stepfather was an officer in the Air Force, and he brought the family to Germany. Elvis was also in the country. When Elvis and Priscilla began a relationship, he crafted a scheme to allow him to spend more time with her.
Elvis Presley faked sick to get out of Army duties, said Priscilla Presley
Toward the end of Elvis’ time in the military, he left for field maneuvers.
“Then, just as the weather turned freezing cold,” Priscilla wrote in the book Elvis and Me, “Elvis was sent out on field maneuvers for ten days, and if there was anything Elvis hated, it was having to sleep outside on the frozen ground.”
While driving home from school, Priscilla heard a radio update about Elvis. He’d been rushed from field maneuvers to a hospital with an acute attack of tonsillitis.
A horrified Priscilla went to the hospital to visit Elvis.
“Of course my parents gave me permission to go to the hospital, and an hour later I entered his room, just as the nurse was leaving,” she wrote. “Elvis was propped up in bed with a thermometer in his mouth, surrounded by dozens of floral arrangements. The moment the nurse was gone, Elvis took the thermometer out of his mouth, lit a match, and carefully held it under the thermometer. Then he stuck the thermometer back in his mouth and slumped down on the bed just as the door opened and the nurse returned, carrying in even more flowers.”
The nurse saw that the thermometer registered a temperature of 103 degrees. She told Elvis he’d have to stay in the hospital for at least a week. When the nurse left, Elvis jumped out of bed to embrace Priscilla.
“He despised maneuvers, and since the weather was so bad and everyone was so worried about his voice, his answer was tonsillitis,” she wrote. “Already susceptible to catching colds, Elvis learned to dramatize his sickness with a little flick of a match.”
Priscilla Presley dreaded the day Elvis left Germany
At this point, any time Priscilla could spend with Elvis was welcome to her. His time in Germany was drawing to a close, and she dreaded his departure. She worried he would meet someone else in America and forget her.
“I dreaded this day very much because I didn’t know, actually, if I was ever going to see him again,” she told Vogue. “One request that he asked, that I not be teary-eyed so you see me smiling here. There are other pictures where I am down and looking away and knowing that I may never see him again.”
Certain fans of Elvis Presley believed his time in the Army hurt his career
Elvis’ time in the Army introduced him to Priscilla. It also, at least in the minds of some fans, was a detriment to his music career. John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles idolized Elvis growing up. They cooled toward him after his time in the military, though. McCartney believed it took away his edge.
“He was brilliant,” McCartney said in the book Conversations With Paul McCartney. “Until he went in the Army, and then he was goosed. He used to call everyone ‘Sir’ after that – mind you, he used to call everyone ‘Sir’ before that, it was just Southern – but he came out of the Army and it felt servile. He went into films and I never got off on him again. But that first period is etched in my mind. I love all the records before the Army.”