Elvis Sails, September 1958


On September 22, 1958, the U.S.S. Randall was docked in New York, prepared for a trip to Germany. Among the U.S. Army soldiers to make the voyage was Elvis Presley, the most famous serviceman of his generation.

His sendoff included a press conference with print media newsreel and television crews who documented his departure for Germany, where he was to be stationed for the remaining 18 months of his two-year stint in the army. Elvis's duffel bag was already aboard ship, so he used a borrowed one when they staged his walk up the ship's gangplank for a media shot. He also carried a gift from one of his fellow soldiers, a book entitled "Poems That Touch The Heart." The walk was staged over and over again so all the media could get their pictures. The Army band played Elvis songs.

Once onboard, he was interviewed again in the ship's library. He recorded a Christmas message for his fans that would be included with a recording of the press conference on an album entitled "Elvis Sails". All too soon the ship left port heading for Germany.

On the ship Elvis began what would become a lifelong friendship with fellow soldier Charlie Hodge. Their had paths crossed briefly several years earlier, then again when they were both soldiers stationed in Texas, then again on the train to New York to board the U.S.S Randall. Elvis and Charlie, who was also an entertainer, shared common acquaintances and interests. The two were put in charge of a talent show staged on the ship during the journey. They auditioned acts and planned the production. Charlie was the show's emcee and Elvis, choosing a supporting rather than starring role, played the piano in the band.

On October 1, 1958, the U.S.S.. Randall docked in Germany at Bremerhaven. Onshore waited a huge contingent of European press and approximately 1,500 fans. Elvis and his fellow servicemen were greeted by much the same scene as they had left in New York. Elvis' battalion traveled by train to Friedberg where he was assigned to the Ray Kaserne barracks. Elvis was bombarded by the press for several more days as they followed his every move until they were sent on their way and normal army life could resume.

Elvis served in the scout platoon, Company C of the Thirty-Second Tank Battalion, Third Armored Division until his return to the U.S. in March of 1960 and discharge from active service.