Berlin - A special exhibition documenting the 18 months Elvis Presley spent in Germany as a GI is currently pulling in visitors to the Allied Museum in Berlin. Entitled Sergeant Elvis Presley in Germany 1958-1960, the display documents the military career of the music legend as well as his life as a rock idol in uniform.
Running until May 18, the exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of the day Elvis set foot on German soil on October 1, 1958.
Like millions of other GIs who performed military service in Germany, Elvis arrived aboard a US Navy troop transporter in the northern port of Bremerhaven.
One of 1,299 soldiers on board, he was transferred by a military train to Friedberg, north of Frankfurt, where he began his training with the US 3rd Armoured Division.
Initially resident in an army barracks, he later lived off base in nearby Bad Nauheim. The town hosted festival last August to mark the 30th anniversary of his death.
The Berlin exhibition traces the star's rise through the ranks, his military training, the manoeuvres he took part in and the daily life of the singer and other soldiers in the army.
Documents show how he coped with his fame and the pressure of dealing with teenage fans who were constantly trying to catch a glimpse of him or obtain his autograph.
"Elvis placed emphasis on being treated just like any other soldier," said a spokesman for the museum, which was set up to document the Allied presence in Berlin from 1945 to 1990.
During that period the city was divided into four zones of occupation, administered by the World War II victors - the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France.
Elvis carried out his duties in an orderly manner and was promoted accordingly. He left Germany in March 1960 and returned to the US where he continued his career in pop music.
Once back, the first film he made dealt mainly with his life in the military. The movie, GI Blues, is the climax of the exhibition in Berlin.
Since 1954, more than 1 billion Elvis records have been sold, a feat no other artist has accomplished. What made him so special in the 1950s was his mixture of white country music and black rhythm and blues backed by the hammer of a bass.
In the conservative United States, his onstage gyrations were at first shocking. But he became an idol for an entire generation: a rebel, who broke the barriers of upbringing, skin colour and convention.
He was just 42 when found dead in the bathroom of his Graceland mansion in Memphis on August 16, 1977. Doctors said his death was caused by heart failure, likely brought on by obesity and years of medication abuse.