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Newly-found letters, photos highlight Elvis' GI times in Grafenwoehr

Old and recently discovered photos of Elvis at the Culture and Military Museum of Grafenwoehr, Germany, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. The museum is celebrating the 60-year anniversary of when Elvis was in the town and training area.

MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARTIN EGNASH AND MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 5, 2018

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — A special exhibition featuring newly recovered photos of Elvis Presley’s time as a soldier in Germany nearly 60 years ago has opened at a museum near the U.S. Army base in Grafenwoehr.

The exhibit at Grafenwoehr’s Culture and Military museum, which opened Saturday and includes newly discovered pictures, documents and over 30 witness accounts, highlights Elvis’ military career. This includes his stay at Grafenwoehr, where Pfc. Presley conducted maneuver training, just as thousands of soldiers still do today.

Birgit Ploessner, the curator who came up with the idea for the exhibit, told Stars and Stripes that intensive research had uncovered new facts connected with the King’s time here.

“For a long time it was believed that Elvis was just twice in Grafenwoehr,” Ploessner said. But a book the museum recently found showed that Elvis was not just in town from November to December 1958 and in January and February 1960, but also in March 1959.

Some of the new photos of Elvis’ time in Grafenwoehr include him playing the guitar to entertain fellow soldiers and signing autographs for locals.

Local historians studied the photos and determined the buildings Elvis was in, many of which are still standing. They include a barracks in Camp Aachen and the post movie theater where Elvis met a local German girl, who he proceeded to have a short romantic fling with. The theater is still used by soldiers and families.

The museum also tracked down a letter that was believed to be lost, which Elvis had written to Sepp Anderl Mueller, a reporter with the local newspaper Amberger Zeitung.

When Elvis was in Hirschau, a town about 17 miles south of Grafenwoehr, he asked Mueller to send photos he had taken.

“The reporter did so and Elvis wrote back to the reporter,” Ploessner said. “Unfortunately, when the reporter died, we did not know where the letter was.”

The museum recently found out that the reporter’s daughter had the letter. She gave it to the museum.

Ploessner also said the museum tracked down more than 30 people who had met Elvis personally and interviewed them.

She said that the Army was very cooperative in providing base access to assist the museum project.

The exhibit, which includes the clothes worn by the rock n’ roll icon and an autographed beer coaster, also features a piano on which Elvis performed during a private concert at a local boarding house.

Elvis spent a week at the boarding house together with his father. Since the owner allowed them to stay for free, he performed for the owner and his staff. Ploessner said that Elvis’ record company, RCA, wouldn’t let him perform. The King just ignored them.

The exhibition will continue until March 31. Admission costs 4 euros for adults and 2 euros for children.

egnash.martin@stripes.com
Twitter: @Marty_Stripes
kloeckner.marcus@stripes.com

Decorations at the Cuture and Military Museum of Grafenwoehr, Germany, which is celebrating the 60-year anniversary of when Elvis Presley was in the town, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.
MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

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