Master Sgt. William (Bill) J. Stanley had only known victory in his 17 years of military service. From the bloody beaches of Normandy France, to the carnage of the Korean War, Bill was a combat soldier who exemplified honor and courage. But the day came, at the height of the Cold War in 1958, when Bill would face a battle waged not with guns, tanks and military might; but with greed, power and money.
A new enemy had arrived at the U.S. military base in Frankfurt, Germany, in the form of Vernon Presley, widowed father of singer, and now U.S. solider, Elvis Aaron Presley. Through a chance meeting with Vernon, Bill would unknowingly be drawn into a war that would not only cost him his family, but the honor of the country he had dedicated his life to defend.
Bill's journey began in Wilmington, North Carolina, during the early days of the Great Depression. Born to working class parents, he lied about his age to join the Maryland National Guard in 1938, when he was just 15.
With war clouds gathering on the horizon, Bill was officially inducted into federal service with the Army's 29th Infantry Division in February 1941. A true patriot who lived by the creed, 'God, Country and Family,' he relished the opportunity to fight for the land he so loved and respected.
On June 6, 1944, Sgt. Stanley stormed the beaches of Normandy France, fighting with a selfless abandon and risking his life to save his fellow comrades. It was due to the heroic efforts of Sgt. Stanley and countless other American soldiers on that dark, gray morning in the north of France that helped mark a turning point in the Allied Victory of World War II.
Returning to the U.S. after the war, Bill was stationed at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, where he met Dee Elliott, a young Scarlet O'Hara-type beauty. Full of youth and enthusiasm, Dee wanted desperately to see the world and experience a higher quality of life than her modest Tennessee upbringing had afforded. She saw her ticket in Bill, a 6'3", 240 lb., heavy drinking, two-fisted mountain of a military man.
Bill and Dee got married in 1949 and had three boys, Billy, Ricky and David. Dee's dream to see the world began to unfold when Bill was assigned to the U.S. base in Orleans, France. In 1958, another transfer moved the Stanley family to Frankfurt, Germany and the 3rd Armored Division.
Not long after their arrival, the Army base was buzzing with the news that a handsome young American singer had arrived and would serve in the same division.
In what would be a chance encounter, Vernon Presley, Elvis Presley's recently widowed father, entered a local NCO Club and took the table next to Bill and Dee. Unaware of the man's identity, Bill noticed he was an American and struck up a light conversation that soon developed into a fast friendship. Handsome and charming, Vernon quickly gained Bill's trust and used their friendship to get close to his star-struck wife, Dee. Unbeknownst to Bill, Vernon and Dee soon began to pursue a secret love affair while Bill was out on maneuvers with his troops. Their affair escalated at a torrid pace, leading to a web of deceit and betrayal.
Bill soon uncovered the truth and threatened to fight back. But his military accomplishments were no match for Vernon's fame, money and power. Denying his friendship with Bill and his affair with Dee, Vernon unleashed his own arsenal. Soon, not even Bill's fellow soldiers believed his accusations against the Presley entourage. His dogged efforts to tell the truth eventually landed him in a straight jacket, and finally a padded room at Walter Reed Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
Defeated, Bill fell into a deep depression. That coupled with a serious drinking problem, led to the harshest punishment imaginable for a soldier--a less than honorable discharge from the Army without pension.
In 1960, Dee divorced Bill and married Vernon, taking his three boys out of Bill's life forever. The nuptials made headlines across the country and around the world – headlines that vindicated Bill and proved his story. But it was too late, the damage was done. Bill had lost his marriage, his boys, his pension and the honor of the country in which he had fought so passionately for nearly twenty years to defend.
In the span of just two years, 1958 to1960, this once proud military warrior and dedicated family man was reduced from combat hero to a broken individual, left with nothing more than heartbreak and the memory of the only battle he'd ever lost.
Since 1960, the years have seen the deaths of Elvis and Vernon Presley. Bill Stanley died in 1991 without a military funeral and without honors. Unlike Elvis Presley's funeral, which drew hundreds of thousands, only a few people visited Bill's gravesite in the small suburb of Jacksonville, Florida. The contributions he made toward securing the freedoms of America were seemingly forgotten.
Bill Stanley never spoke of the wars that rocked the world or the one that shattered his personal and professional life. But through the memoirs presented to his son, David, after his death, the truth can now be told.
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