June 10, 2005

U.S. opens military files of Elvis, McQueen, Gable

Pfc. Steve McQueen was confined for being absent without leave, Lt. Clark Gable's cameraman enlisted with him and Pfc. Elvis Presley was a public relations headache for the Army, according to U.S. military documents released on Thursday.

"Elvis Presley will not be released in a manner different from any other inductee serving overseas," the Army's adjutant general wrote to citizens who complained following reports that the rock 'n' roll icon would get an early "good behavior" discharge.

When he entered the Army at Memphis, Tennessee, on March 24, 1958, there was a public outcry from his fans, and protests flowed to Washington, including a hand-written plea released by the National Archives and Records Administration.

"Dear Mamie," one correspondent wrote to then-first lady Mamie Eisenhower. "Will you please, please be so sweet and kind as to ask Ike (President Dwight Eisenhower) to please bring Elvis Presley back to us from the Army. We need him in our entertainment world to make us all laugh."

A 1959 Army memo set out the Presley problem: "When Private First Class Presley was first inducted, there was considerable adverse public reaction ... alleging that he would receive preferential treatment in the Army. This impression has been largely replaced by a public impression of a good soldier serving his military obligation. ... Many teenagers who look up to and emulate Private First Class Presley will ... follow his example in the performance of their military service."


Gable, the star of "Gone With The Wind," enlisted Aug. 12, 1942, six months after his wife, actress Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash returning from a war-bond drive. He was described as a "motion picture specialist" and his weekly wage was listed as $7,500.

A movie cameraman, Andrew McIntyre, enlisted along with Gable and trained with him, the documents showed.

"In order to have something definite to describe and some tangible evidence of his experiences, it is proposed that there be enlisted his cameraman to be trained as an aerial gunner also who may make pictures of Gable in various theaters of operations," one Army memo said.

McQueen, who played a rebellious prisoner of war in the film "The Great Escape," was confined for 30 days and fined $90 after being absent without leave from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

McQueen joined the Marines at 17 and worked as a tank driver and mechanic, which the documents indicated may have spurred a lifelong interest in vehicles, especially motorcycles.

He received a commendation for rescuing five Marines in a training accident, and took advantage of military educational benefits to study at the Actors' Studio in New York City.

The archives also released military records on movie legend Humphrey Bogart, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, author Jack Kerouac, aviator Charles Lindbergh, heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis and baseball great Jackie Robinson.

No comments: