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Monday, June 13, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Elvis Presley was considered an exemplary soldier and denied special treatment in the Army despite his enormous celebrity fear that would detract from the "highly favorable public impression" he had made serving as a mere draftee armored scout car driver in Germany.

World heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis won the Legion of Merit for "Outstanding Meritorious Conduct" as an Army sergeant in Wolrd War II and was able to use his influence to gain admission to officer candidate school for fellow soldier and future baseball great Jackie Robinson and other African Americans otherwise discriminated against in the military.

Actor Steve Mcqueen, who played tough-guy, loner roles in "The Great Escape", "The Sand Pebbles" and other memorable movies, was something of the same in real life -- doing 30 days confinement for going AWOL, as a U.S. Marine.

And Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac, remembered for his wild, unfettered stream of consciousness novesl, lasted just eight days in the Navy before being placed under psychiatric observation and later discharged as unfit for military service.

These and other revelations about the military service of notable (and a few ignoble) Americans came to light Thursday as the National Archieves for the first time released the military personnel files of about 1.2 million former U.S. Navy and Marine Corps members who served between 1885 and 1939 -- plus the files of another 150 "persons of exceptional prominence" who served in a variety of armed service branches during and outside that time period.

Officially opened at its headquarters building here in ceremonies at the Archieve' National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, the records will be part of public exhibition displays in both places.

According to United States Archivist Allen Weinstein, all the records meet the requirement that their subjects have been dead for at least 10 years.

Similar records for Army and Air Force personnel, however will not be available until 2022.

"Please bring Elvis Presley Back"

Presley who died in 1977, was drafted in 1958 at a time when there were few loopholes to escape military service. According to the records, the Army was at first inundated with complaints demanding that he not be given any deferential treatment because of his celebrity status, then hit with pleas that he be given special permission to perform and even that he be discharged so he could return to his public.

"Will you please be sweet and kind as to ask Ike (Pres. Eisenhower)to please bring Elvis back to us from the Army", one couple wrote then First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. "We need him in our entertainment world to make us all laugh."

The request was denied, as was another that went up to the vice chief of staff of the Army asking that Presley be flown back to the U.S. to attend a three day disc jockey convention.

Presley was promoted to specialist four and went on to make a movie called "G.I. Blues" following his honorable dischrage.

Boxing legend Joe Louis, who was drafted while a resident of Chicago's South Side in 1942, spent much of his Army time during World War II giving boxing exhibitions and morale talks to soldiers stationed statside and in the European theatre of operations, entertaining an estimated 2 million troops and visiting numerous military hospitals.

The Army held him in such esteem that, at his behest, it allowed Robinson to earn an offider's commission at a time when when the armed servicesa was subsequently racially segregated. A draftee like Louis, Robinson was subsequently court martialed for regusing to sit in the back of the bus. He ultimately won reinstatement, but was discharged in 1944.

Steve Macqueen, who joined the Marines in 1948 at age 17 and became a tank driver and mechanic, served his time for being AWOL, but also won a commendation for rescuing five other Marines in a training accident. As a civilian in 1952. he used his G.I. Bill money to study at New York's Actors Studio, making his broadway debut in 1955 in "A Hatful of Rain."

Patrician born actor Humphrey Bogart was as patriotic in real life as his memorable Rick Blaine character became in "Casablanca". He enlisted in the Navy in Wolrd War I, braving enemy u-boats as a coxswain aborad the troop transport USS Leviathan.

But by World War II, he was a major movie star and expressed his patriotism somewhat differently. He toured North Africa with the USO, and in 1944 volunteered himself and his yacht Santana to the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve. He reported for duty once a week to Balboa, Calig., but, according to the Archieves, used this time "to meet with model turned actress Betty 'Lauren' Bacall", who would later become his wife.

Hollywood did produce some real heroes during this period. Clark Gable, remembered as a submarine captain in "Run Silent, Run Deep" and as a General in "Command Decision", joined the Army Air Corps at age 41 as an enlisted man -- six months after his movew star wife, Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash.

Gable flew a number of bombing missions over Europe as a sergeant machine gunner and shot action training films on gunnery techniques. He was discharged as a major in 1944, having won the Distinguised Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

Politicians came back Heroes.

Supreme Court Justices, members of Congress and of course many presieents served in the military, including Abraham Lincoln, who was a militia captain in the Black Hawk War between the U.S. government and the Sauk and Fox Indian tribes in Illinois.

Some achieved status as genuine war heroes: Teddy Roosevelt for his gallantry at San Juan Hill as a Spanish-American War "Rough Rider", and John F. Kennedy, as the young skipper of a World War II PT boat that was sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer; bringin his crew to safety despite enormous odds, Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for leadership and courage.

Lyndon Johnson, then a leading member of Congress, joined the Naval Reserve after Pearl Harbor as a commander, assigned to war production duties. Traveling to the Pacific, he flew as an observer on a bombing mission over New Guinea and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the most decorated U.S. soldier in history.

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an order banning serving members of Congress from active military duty and Johnson returned to his legislative duties.

(abstracted from CHICTRIB/by Michael Kilian/Washington Bureau.)
For more information about Archieves' Military records is available at WWW.archieves.gov. However, there is no email system yet in place for viewing or requesting copies of records. U.S. Navy and Marine records for service during 1885 - 1939 were released Thursday, but Army and Air Force won't be available until 2022.

People interested in viewing records must do so in person at the research room of the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis and should maked an appointment by calling 314-801-0850, copies which cost 50cents a page, can also be obtained by writing the Records Center at 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, Mo., 63132-5100.
posted by infraternam meam @ 12:14 PM  
  • At 10:07 PM, Blogger tambolista said…

    nasa pinas daw si agnes?kamusta na
    ano punta ba kayo dito.dami kami gig sa july..panay pinoy rock.nood ka para sumakit ulo mo hehehe

  • At 1:09 AM, Blogger infraternam meam said…

    nakabalik na, ngayon lang. sana sinabi mo last week, i was looking for a place to go this weekend, i was off sunday,monday and tuesday. i was thinking going to vancouver, pero puno naman ang flt. titingnan ko ulit kung may chance, i might come over. masigasig si ate na umuwi daw tayong lahat sa oct. si jeebong and his son is coming home with us. i will fly w/korean airlines, i don't want to take the chance sa airline ko, baka ma bump ako. how'd do you like the new blog template? okey bah? gawa ng isang kaibigan na mahusay sa mga template.

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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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