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Tag: Basic Training

Facial Hair Friday: Elvis has NOT left the building

The most popular photograph at the National Archives (ARC 1634221)

Are these the most famous sideburns in music history? They might be the most famous sideburns in the National Archives.

If you are a fan of Elvis, you’ve seen the photograph: Nixon and Elvis shaking hands in the White House. This is the most-requested image in our holdings. The quirky story behind the meeting of the King of Rock and Roll and the President of the United States is featured in this online exhibit.

But it’s not the only record we have of Elvis.

In December of 1957, Elvis was drafted for the U.S. Army. This career change was an upsetting event for fans. The Eisenhower Library has a letter from three girls in Montana who despaired over a possible shaving of  the singer’s sideburns: “You don’t no how we feel about him, I really don’t see why you have to send him in the Army at all, but we beg you please please don’t give him a G.I. hair cut, oh please please don’t!  If you do we will just about die!”

But their letter writing was in vain. On March 24, 1958, Presley signed his acknowledgement of service obligation and entered the Army. (Alas, his sideburns did not.)

Since Elvis served in the military, his file is part of the permanant holdings of the National Personnel … [ Read all ]

Hit the Road, Jack!

Today’s post is by Miriam Kleiman, public relations specialist at the National Archives.

Jack Kerouac (National Personnel Records Center)

Jack Kerouac—American counterculture hero, king of the Beats, and author of On the Road—was a Navy military recruit who failed boot camp.

Navy doctors found Kerouac delusional, grandiose, and promiscuous, and questioned his strange writing obsession.

I learned this in 2005, right before the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis announced the opening of more than 3,000 military personnel files—including those of some famous folks.

Working in public affairs at the National Archives is a challenge. We’re always trying to make what’s old seem new. Just yesterday someone asked, “What’s new at the National Archives?” I responded “Absolutely nothing, but I can tell you some neat new things about what’s old.”

The St. Louis records release gave us a chance to share some unknown gems about some very well-known people including Elvis, Clark Cable, and Jackie Robinson. Our colleagues in St. Louis sent us files to see what might interest the media, but most of the material didn’t qualify as newsworthy. It’s vision and dental records, physical exam notes, letters of recommendation, or names and addresses of next of kin.

Then, I found Jack Kerouac’s file. Thicker than the rest, it details his 10 days in basic training—and 67 under psychiatric evaluation. This, I thought, is NEWS! … [ Read all ]