Elvis Presley was drafted into the US army in 1958 at age 23. After basic training he was sent to Germany on a troop ship called the USS General Randall, arriving in Bremerhaven on the morning of October 1, 1958. The same day, he travelled by train to Friedberg, where he was assigned a room in building 3707 of Ray Barracks.
The next day, he held a press conference for a hundred and fifty journalists and explained that he was just another typical GI Joe and did not expect any special privileges just because he was a famous rock star.
Soon he applied for permission to live off-base. Since he was already rich from his recordings and concerts, he was able to rent a large house in nearby Bad Nauheim, where he lived with his father, his grandmother and two bodyguards.
When he was on duty, Elvis arrived here every morning at six-thirty by taxi from Bad Nauheim.
To this day there is an Elvis Presley Society in Friedberg and Bad Nauheim, consisting mainly of people who knew him (slightly) at the time he was stationed there, like the German barber who gave him his GI haircuts at the base, the postman who delivered his fan mail and the mechanic who serviced his fleet of automobiles.
Judging from the photos in the Wetterau Museum in Friedberg, Elvis was still reasonably slender during his time in the army — not the obese fast-food addict he would become a decade later. He died in 1977 at age 42, a victim of overeating and prescription drug abuse.
I don’t think I would ever go out of my way just to see an abandoned US army base, not even the one where Elvis Presley used to be stationed, but it turns out that when you cycle into Friedberg from the south, from the direction of Bruchenbrücken, the signposted bicycle route takes you right past Ray Barracks, a former American installation that was deactivated in 2007.
My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2021.