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Thanks to Hollywood, America’s collective memory of the Vietnam War is now inextricably linked with the popular music of that era. More specifically, it is linked with the music of the late-'60s counterculture and antiwar movement. But opposition to the war was far from widespread back in 1966—a fact that was reflected not just in popular opinion polls, but in the pop charts, too. Near the very height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, on March 5, 1966, American popular-music fans made a #1 hit out of a song called “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler.
Sadler was exactly what his name and uniform implied he was: a real-life, active-duty member of the United States Army Special Forces—the elite unit popularly known as the Green Berets. In early 1965, Sadler suffered a severe punji stick injury that brought a premature end to his tour of duty as a combat medic in Vietnam. During his long hospitalization back in the United States, Sadler, an aspiring musician prior to the war, wrote and submitted to music publishers an epic ballad that eventually made its way in printed form to Robin Moore, author of the then-current nonfiction book called The Green Berets. Moore worked with Sadler to whittle his 12-verse original down to a pop-radio-friendly length, and Sadler recorded the song himself in late 1965, first for distribution only within the military, and later for RCA when the original took off as an underground hit. Within two weeks of its major-label release, The Ballad of the Green Berets had sold more than a million copies, going on to become Billboard magazine’s #1 single for all of 1966.
While it would not be accurate to call “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” a pro-war song, it was certainly a song that enjoyed popularity among those who opposed the growing anti-war movement. A year after “Green Berets” came out, Buffalo Springfield would release the anti-war anthem “For What It’s Worth,” which continues to be Hollywood’s go-to choice for many films and television programs depicting American involvement in the Vietnam War. On this day in 1966, however, the American airwaves belonged to a clean cut, uniformed member of the U.S. Army and his anti-antiwar epic.
Barry Sadler, 49, Balladeer, Dies
Barry Sadler, a former combat medic with the United States Special Forces in Vietnam who recorded ''The Ballad of the Green Berets,'' died today. He was 49 years old.
Mr. Sadler, who suffered brain damage and was partly paralyzed in a shooting in Guatemala in 1988, died at the Alvin C. York Medical Center, a hospital spokesman, Albert Archie, said. The cause of death was not given. Mr. Archie said an autopsy would be performed.
Mr. Sadler had been hospitalized since he was critically wounded in what a companion said was a robbery. The companion said at the time that Mr. Sadler had been training Nicaraguan rebels in Guatemala and had received death threats.
Using his military title of staff sergeant, Mr. Sadler, co-wrote and recorded ''The Ballad of the Green Berets,'' a narrative tribute to the Special Forces. The song No. 1 in the country for five weeks in 1966 and sold nine million singles and albums.
He recorded other similar songs and wrote more than 20 adventure books featuring a mercenary.
Survivors include his wife, Lavona two sons, Thor and Baron, and a daughter, Brooke.
156) SSgt Barry Sadler – “The Ballad of the Green Berets”
To try to analyze “The Ballad of the Green Berets” as a pop song is to miss the point. The people who bought this record didn’t like it because it had a catchy chorus or a charismatic singer. They didn’t buy it to dance to at parties or to marvel at the production through headphones. They bought it for what it represented: a show of support for troops overseas cultural pushback against a tide of apparent unpatriotism a voice for the Silent Majority who remembered the victories of the Good War and believed the US would triumph again. This is a record that rose to #2 on the country charts not because it contained any identifiable C&W elements (unless you count its folk ballad structure), but because its pro-military stance hit home in conservative Middle America. For both creator and consumers, the song existed primarily as a vessel to champion the US Army Special Forces and, by extension, America as a whole. Any thoughts toward art were relegated to distant second place, perhaps even treated with vague suspicion. After all, plenty of antiwar folk and rock records spread their subversive content through hummable melodies and poeticized lyrics. Sadler’s musical unsophistication just made him seem more honest.
But even if “Green Berets” didn’t become a massive hit – the best-selling single of 1966, in fact – by being a great pop song, it’s not entirely without its merits. The minimalist, snare-heavy arrangement lends the record an appropriate degree of martial gravitas. Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s voice isn’t particularly distinctive, but its everysoldier quality suits a song praising collective heroism. Unlike many of its more opportunistic contemporaries (“Dawn of Correction,” for instance), “Green Berets” feels sincere – the product of an actual Green Beret recuperating from injuries in Vietnam – and dignified by not namecalling or taking direct swipes at its opponents.
Even though the song never mentions the Vietnam War by name, it became the closet equivalent the conflict had to an “Over There,” an affirmation that the US was fighting the good fight. The problem is that “Green Berets” isn’t actually all that inspiring. Too slow to rouse like a Sousa march and numbingly repetitive (despite efforts to add a little variety by injecting a new musical element in each verse), “Green Berets” drags on far longer than its breezy 2:27 running time suggests. Its lyrics aren’t a galvanizing call to arms but a dry list of facts and generalizations, delivered with a grim determination that befits an elite soldier but makes for a leaden pop singer. There’s a last-minute bid to elict emotion in the final stanzas with the introduction of a fallen Green Beret, but it comes out of nowhere, making the soldier seem less like a hero who sacrificed his life than a cardboard figure created only to be killed.
The fact that “Green Berets” so blatantly acknowledges the human cost of war – something typically the province of protest songs – proves how differently Vietnam was already being perceived compared with earlier conflicts. The popular folk revival’s leftist activism, combined with the post-WWII rise of mass media (specifically television and recorded music), granted anti-war music an unprecedented ubiquity. Even though the majority of Americans still favored US involvement in Vietnam, “Green Berets” feels defensive, insisting on the necessity of war in the face of waning public support.* As such, it’s as much a product of changing times as any of its anti-war counterparts. The negative side of war could no longer be ignored and popular support could no longer be assumed, leaving pro-war songs in a difficult position. “Green Berets” splits the difference by trying to be both somber and stirring, rugged and sentimental, but it lacks the artistic proficiency to fit these competing impulses together. If something this stiff and staid was the best its side had to offer, it’s no surprise that the more visceral and inventive songs against the war began to seem a lot more appealing. In cultural terms, “Green Berets” may have won the battle for chart dominance, but it couldn’t win the war. 2
*In March 1966, the month “The Ballad of the Green Berets” reached #1, 59% of Americans polled believed the US sending troops to Vietnam was “not a mistake.” Two months later, that percentage had fallen to 49%. (source: William Conrad Gibbons, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War)
Hit #1 on March 12, 1966 total of 5 weeks at #1
156 of 1016 #1’s reviewed 15.35% through the Hot 100
Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler hits #1 with “Ballad of the Green Berets” - HISTORY
The Ballad Of The Green Berets
Fighting soldiers from the sky
Fearless men who jump and die
Men who mean just what they say
The brave men of the Green Beret
Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America's best
One hundred men will test today
But only three win the Green Beret
Trained to live off nature's land
Trained in combat, hand-to-hand
Men who fight by night and day
Courage peak from the Green Berets
Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America's best
One hundred men will test today
But only three win the Green Beret
Back at home a young wife waits
Her Green Beret has met his fate
He has died for those oppressed
Leaving her his last request
Put silver wings on my son's chest
Make him one of America's best
He'll be a man they'll test one day
Have him win the Green Beret.
Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America's best
One hundred men will test today
But only three win the Green Beret
- Henry The Overthinker from St Louis This song is a great testament to the brave men and women of our armed forces. But I always found the 3rd verse shocking. This great man leaves his soon-to-be widowed wife, who will soon be a single parent, with one request: "Regardless of whether you or our son wants it, I want him to be a green beret, potentially leading to an early death like his father, and leaving our grandson fatherless, as was our son" What an incredible sacrifice!
- Joel from Catawba, Nc To Andre from Killvetch, Pa: What makes you an authority on unjust and illegal wars? Did you learn about all that in some far left school or watching the far left news? In this country when we are called to war we go, if we are not called to fight, we support the others that are called. Anyone that don't agree has the freedom to leave, so feel free to go and take the rest of your kind with you.
- Rebecca from Texas I am truly shocked that anybody could find something offensive about this incredible song that was Billboard's Top 100's #1 song of the year in 1966. Two men in the 5th Special Forces from my hometown of about 30,000 people were POW/MIA during the Vietnam War. One escaped after spending five years in a cage in the jungles of South Vietnam, horribly tortured, starved, and treated as less than human. The other served after we sent combat troops into Vietnam in 1965, and as a member of the highly classified MACVSOG program, led missions into Laos to disrupt operations being conducted by the NVA along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Today marks the 49th anniversary of the day he became MIA, actually KIA/BNR. These are highly dedicated men who push themselves to the limits to get the job done. Their sacrifices are immeasurable. They still play a major role in helping indigenous people fight for themselves as they train them and fight with them. There's a great documentary on Netflix titled "Black Ops" and one of the episodes recounts how our Sp Forces aided the Kurds in defeating a very militant al Qaeda group in the mountains of Iraq at the beginning of the war. Humility is a virtue these men possess, and the song was written in honor of the first native Hawaiian killed in Vietnam in 1962, the year Hawaii became a state. They truly fight "for those oppressed".
- Barry from Sauquoit, Ny On March 27th 1966, SSgt. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets" was entering its fifth and final week at #1 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart and way down the chart was another record with 'Green Beret' in its title, Nancy Ames' heart-tugging patriotic "He Wore the Green Beret" was peaking at #89, and it was also the last of its three weeks on the chart.
- Kat from Jacksonville, Fl I just found this site and saw that SSGT Sadler had died in 1989. I'm so sad. I appreciate SSGT Sadler's service. I respect all the brave people who have protected this country. Two of my brothers were in the Air Force. They both served in VN and were able to return home. Thank you for all you did.
- Vernon A Bird from Warner Robins, Ga Barry originally penned 12 verses to this song. Robin Moore helped him trim it down to a radio friendly length, thus his songwriting credit. (And one of those verses referred directly to James Gabriel, Jr, the inspiration for the song.) I have been unable to find those verses, only references to them.
TomCat, from Richmond VA, very well balanced point.
Andre, I can only say that I can't argue with an idiot.
d finally, Mari, and Jas, VERY good points! I mean,, no one here in America, with some very famous exceptions (a-HEM, I won't name anyone), wants to START
a war with Englan, Japan, Vietnam, The Middle East, or whatever, but WE WERE DEFENDING OURSELVES!! I mean, what if a landmark, Andre, which YOU have, was destroyed.
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The Ballad of the Green Berets Singer’s Interesting Life
Anyone familiar with the 1968 movie titled The Green Berets, starring the late actor John Wayne, is likely familiar with the patriotic song used in the film. The ballad is called “The Ballad of the Green Berets” and in 1966 it was the most popular song of the year in America. This song commemorated the fighting men of the U.S. Special Forces then doing battle in the Vietnam War. In that year it was more popular than anything on the music charts coming from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys or from any of the girl bands and it spent five weeks at No. 1. It’s been stated that nine million singles and two million of the album were made and sold. The song was No. 1 for five weeks.
The book jacket notes: The rough-and-tumble life of Special Forces vet and Sixties pop star Barry Sadler
The top Billboard Hot 100 single of 1966 wasn’t The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” or the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”–it was “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” a hyper-patriotic tribute to the men of the Special Forces by Vietnam veteran, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. But Sadler’s clean-cut, all-American image hid a darker side, a Hunter Thompson-esque life of booze, girls, and guns.
Unable to score another hit song, he wrote a string of popular pulp fiction paperbacks that made “Rambo look like a stroll through Disneyland.” He killed a lover’s ex-boyfriend in Tennessee. Settling in Central America, Sadler ran guns, allegedly trained guerrillas, provided medical care to residents, and caroused at his villa. In 1988 he was shot in the head in Guatemala and died a year later. This life-and-times biography of an American pop culture phenomenon recounts the sensational details of Sadler’s life vividly but soberly, setting his meteoric rise and tragic fall against the big picture of American society and culture during and after the Vietnam War.
The song was written by then Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler while he was training to be a Special Forces medic. Sadler was helped along by fellow writer and Special Forces soldier Robin Moore. Moore has an interesting story as well but we’ll save that for another time. Moore wrote the book The Green Berets. He wrote some of the lyrics to the song and also helped Sadler get a recording contract with RCA Records. Sadler performed the song on television on January 30, 1966 on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The story goes that a soldier named Gitell heard Sadler sing the song and Gitell brought Sadler to see the commander of the Army Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. The commander, General William Yarborough, loved it and gave Sadler permission to go to New York and sign a songwriter’s contract. It is noted in history that, “The lyrics were written, in part, in honor of Green Beret U.S. Army Specialist 5 James Gabriel, Jr., the first native Hawaiian to die in Vietnam, who was killed by Viet Cong gunfire while on a training mission with the South Vietnamese Army on April 8, 1962. One verse mentioned Gabriel by name, but it was not used in the recorded version.” Stars and Stripes has a really in-depth look at Sadler’s background and the author of the article dispels some of the rumors behind Sadler’s short life.
After making the song, and having some success with it, Sadler wanted to make more records but it didn’t work out as he planned. In fact nothing that he planned worked out. He opened a failed bar in Tucson, Arizona and many other attempts at beginning his own business was met with further failure. A Hollywood Vietnam War screenplay went nowhere and he soon found himself writing books. This proved to be mildly successful for Sadler. He focused on writing a series of fantasy books called the Casca series.
The series focused on the life of Casca Rufio Longinus, a soldier of the Roman legions, and he is cursed to walk the world as an immortal until Jesus Christ returns to earth. The tale begins when Casca drives a spear through Christ’s side at his crucifixion at Calvary and is therefore cursed to live forever. You may recall the story of a Roman soldier stabbing Jesus with his spear in an attempt to relieve Jesus of his pain and suffering. After Casca does this Jesus speaks to him and says, “Soldier, you are content with what you are. Then that you shall remain until we meet again. As I go now to My Father, you must one day come to Me.” Blood from Jesus trickles down onto Casca’s spear and onto his hand. He unknowingly tastes the blood after wiping sweat from his mouth and convulses in pain. He becomes immortal although he can feel all pain inflicted upon him. He does not age. Casca wanders the world aimlessly for centuries.
What makes the story compelling is Casca as an immortal man meets many interesting characters on his journey through history such as Hitler or Attila the Hun. Many of Sadler’s ideas have been lifted by Hollywood. His first book titled The Eternal Mercenary is his best book. The book starts out with our character Casca in Vietnam. He is a soldier laying in a cot in a field hospital. He has multiple gunshot wounds and a large mortar shell fragment lodged in his skull and into his brain. A surgeon, named Dr. Goldman stationed with the United States Army at the 8th Field Hospital in Nha Trang, cannot believe what he sees. The soldier laying on the cot should be dead from his wounds but instead the man is quickly healing. Casca sits up, asks for a cigarette, and starts to tell Goldman his story.
Casca is highly skilled in weapons and can master any language. Here is a list of some of the characters he met waiting for Jesus: Jesus Christ – book 1, Niccolò Machiavelli – book 3, Adolf Hitler – book 4, Shapur II – book 6, Attila the Hun – book 7, Hernán Cortés – book 10, Moctezuma II – book 10, George Armstrong Custer – book 46. There are many more in the series. Sadler wrote some of the early novels in the series while the others were assigned to ghostwriters.
On December 1, 1978, Sadler killed a country music songwriter named Lee Emerson Bellamy with one gunshot to the head. Darlene Sharpe, who was Bellamy’s former girlfriend, and Sadler’s lover at the time, received many harassing phone calls from Bellamy. Sadler and Sharpe had one violent confrontation in a Nashville bar’s parking lot which eventually led to a deadly encounter. Sadler testified in court that he saw a flash of metal in Bellamy’s hand. Because he believed it to be a gun he killed Bellamy and then placed a handgun in Bellamy’s van in order to strengthen his claim of self-defense. After a plea bargain, on June 1, 1979, Sadler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Sadler’s legal team worked to lower the sentence from the initial 4 to 5 years in prison down to just 30 days in the county workhouse. Sadler served 28 days. He was later sued by Bellamy’s stepson for wrongful death and was ordered to pay compensation of $10,000.
In 1984 Sadler moved to Guatemala City. He continued to write and publish his Casca books. Sadler provided free-medical treatment in rural areas. While sitting in a taxicab in Guatemala City he was shot in the head. Friends and family believed he was shot by a robber or an assassin while witness state he shot himself. Bob Brown the publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine paid for a private jet and had Sadler flown to the United States for treatment. He was operated on at the Nashville Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital, and remained in a coma for about six weeks. Sadler emerged from his coma had suffered significant brain damage and was a quadriplegic. He was removed from the hospital by two former Green Berets and his mother and moved to the Cleveland VA Hospital for specialized treatment. He never recovered from his injury and died of cardiac arrest on November 5, 1989, four days after his 49th birthday.
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.
Remembering Green Beret Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler
Memorial Day is a time to remember our military heroes. One of those who is known to all of us from the Vietnam Era is Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler.
Most people just know him as the guy who sang “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” But few really know anything about him, for therein lies the stunning success and terrible tragedy of his life.
Barry Sadler was born in New Mexico on November 1, 1940. His father died from cancer when Barry was in high school. His mother moved her family around a lot to find work. Barry dropped out of high school in the 10th grade and, as was common in the late 50s, he hitch-hiked around the country.
In 1958, when Barry was 17, he enlisted in the Air Force. He served as a radar technician in Japan, completed his GED, and was discharged in 1962. Restless after his band gig didn’t pan out, Barry enlisted in the Army, completed Airborne Training, and then volunteered for Special Forces. He was trained as a combat medic and wore the Green Beret.
Sadler was sent to Vietnam in 1964, leaving his wife and infant son behind in Fort Bragg. He and his medic team performed minor surgeries, gave inoculations, and treated injuries such as fragment wounds, burns, infections, and diseases.
A self-taught guitarist, Barry always had his guitar with him. He practiced, entertained his comrades, and wrote songs. His musical talents caught the ear of top brass, and Sadler was ordered to write a song for a general’s retirement party. He had already written “The Ballad,” so he performed it in Saigon in March 1965.
In May while on patrol, Barry Sadler was severely wounded in the leg by a punji stick, a vicious bobby trap made of sharp bamboo sticks. His leg became so infected it appeared it might have to be amputated. But after a lengthy hospitalization and treatments, Sadler made a full recovery.
Sadler signed a recording contract with RCA in December 1965 while he was still in the Army. “The Ballad of the Green Berets” was released in January and quickly became a #1 hit song. Sadler performed his song on the Ed Sullivan Show. The song and album sold about 9 million copies, and the title song stayed at #1 on the charts for 5 weeks.
Listen to Green Beret Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler sing the song that has been ranked the #21 song from the 1960s:
Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler was honorably discharged in 1967. He was awarded, among other honors, the Purple Heart Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Parachutist Badge.
Sadler recorded a few more songs, but none reached the iconic status of “The Ballad.” He turned to writing with some success, including his autobiography, “I’m A Lucky One.”
To many, that is the end of the story.
Fast forward about 10 years.
In December 1978, after a lengthy dispute with Lee Emerson Bellamy, Sadler shot and killed Bellamy in what he described as self-defense. Sadler pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, but his 4-5 year sentence was reduced to 30 days in the county workhouse. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Bellamy’s family.
Fast forward another 10 years.
On September 7, 1988, former Green Beret Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, who moved to Guatemala in the mid-80s, was shot in the head while in a cab in Guatemala City. He was flown back to the U.S. and was operated on at the VA Hospital in Nashville. Sadler emerged from a coma after 6 weeks as a quadriplegic with severe brain damage.
There was a court battle between his wife and mother over his care, and the court finally ruled that Sadler would be put in the care of an independent guardian. Sadler was moved to the VA Hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in February of 1989, but he never recovered from his injury.
Green Beret Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler died of cardiac arrest on November 5, 1989. He was just 49 years old.
It is due in large part to Hollywood, that America’s collective memory of the Vietnam War is now inextricably linked with the popular music of that era. Most of those links are with the music of the late-60s counterculture and antiwar movement. But opposition to the war was far from widespread back in 1966—a fact that was reflected not just in popular opinion polls, but in the pop charts, too. Near the very height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, on this day, American popular-music fans made a #1 hit out of a song called “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler.
Barry Sadler was exactly what his name and uniform implied he was: a real-life, active-duty member of the United States Army Special Forces popularly known as the Green Berets. In early 1965, Sadler suffered a severe punji stick injury which prematurely ended his tour of in Vietnam as a combat medic.
While recovering from his wounds Stateside, Sadler, an aspiring musician prior to his enlistment, wrote the epic ballad that eventually made its way in printed form to Robin Moore, author of the then-current nonfiction book called The Green Berets. Moore worked with Sadler to whittle his original 12-verse ballad down to a pop-radio-friendly length, and Sadler recorded the song himself in late 1965.
Originally it was only distributed within the military,but quickly became an underground hit and was later released for RCA. Within two weeks of its major-label release, The “Ballad of the Green Berets” had sold more than a million copies, going on to become Billboard magazine’s #1 single for all of 1966.
Although “The Ballad of the Green Berets” was the biggest hit single of 1966, Sadler never duplicated its blockbuster success, and soon retired from music to become a successful author, Though between his singing and writing careers, he found time to star on the big screen. His biggest film credit was in “Dayton’s Devils” which was released in 1968.
In his writing, Sadler chose to write about soldiers, but his series of books was far different from his music. His popular Casca, the Eternal Mercenary series centers on the title character, Casca Rufio Longinius, the Roman soldier who stabbed Christ during the crucifixion. He was then cursed by Jesus to remain a soldier until the Second Coming. The novels take Casca on his journey through history from one war to the next from warring dynasties in China to the front lines of World War II. While Sadler only wrote the first few books, the popular pulp fiction series was continued by the publishers using ghost writers and remained issued under his name.
While it would not be accurate to call “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” a pro-war song, it was certainly a song that enjoyed popularity among those who opposed the growing anti-war movement. The following year, Buffalo Springfield released the anti-war anthem “For What It’s Worth” which continues to this day to be Hollywood’s go-to choice for a majority of the films and television programs depicting American involvement in the Vietnam War. However, on this day in 1966, however, the American airwaves belonged to a clean cut, uniformed member of the U.S. Army and his anti-antiwar epic.
Today, we celebrate both Barry and the men he sang about with Deputy Dave’s Drink of the Day: The Commando Cocktail
1 ½ oz bourbon
¾ oz triple sec
2 dashes of Pernod Licorice Liqueur
¾ oz lime juice
Pour the bourbon whiskey, triple sec, pernod and lime juice into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.
When I came into SF in 1966 many of us knew both Sadler and his song. in many ways it was what got us dates with female students at their GWU dorms in DC when we showed up wearing the Green Beret. and no one wanted to admit it but there was a certain pride when we heard the song being played on the local radio at Ft. Bragg.
Remember something about the song and Sadler. it went to the heart of how SF recruited in those days. they asked you to join not the other way around as it is today. I was one of three selected by SF out of 1900 basic trainees at Polk then. and when they asked I immediately said yes..
Secondly, remember that many in SF from that period who suffered PTSD and related issues especially alcohol and drugs from the intensity of a war that even today with this SF they have not truly experienced. AND remember the KIA/WIA rates for the 5th were at levels not seen since then for SF especially for a 3K man unit. nor the fact that the 5th had the highest and still does historically the highest level for valor awards of any SF unit.
Example. we had one border camp in III Corp nick named "Ka-boom" which would open a 24 hour Contact Report at mid nigh tand leave it open as they would get an average of 800-1000 rounds of artillery. mortar and GRAD rockets fired at the camp every single day for weeks on end from the NVA out of Cambodia and yet they could not return fire..and all they had were helmets and no body armor as there is today. ran trenches and lived in bunkers to survive it.
AND yet there was not a single SF/Army program to catch those that were suffering from PTSD, alcohol and drugs other than to throw them out of SF and the Army. yet they had served with honor and respect and had fought hard.
I was replaced on my ODA when I left for MAVC SOG by a SSG who I had met a couple of times in Saigon CLD and then as I was out processing in Nha Trang I was informed that my former ODA had been hit the previous night ..10 GRAD rockets for 10 SF fighting positions killing six wounding three and the remaining person was the SSG who had replaced me. was not hit and had to organize the ground fighting. evac the wounded and killed and continued to led the fight. they had been pushing off countless NVA recon teams who were intensively trying to recon the camp prior to the attack and they knew the attack was coming.
Later I met him again when he arrived in Bad Toelz Germany with a warm big hello. one very early Sunday morning his wife stood in front of my apartment door which was in the same building as their apartment was with a loaded 9mm pistol and she was crying that her husband was drunk and wanted to kill himself. and she had come to me as I was the only person who knew what he had been through and knew him personally. When I went there he was in fact truly drunk. sitting on the floor with headphones on and listening to the Doors. "Riders of the Night" at full volume. and crying.
It was a true PTSD phase with a heavy amount of survivors guilt. but both SF and the Army abandoned him as they had nothing in place to assist him. his drinking became worse and then he failed a drug test and was bounced out of SF and the Army with a dishonorable discharge. after having served with honor and respect.
Second example, living under me was a young married SSG VN vet. a medic who had been seriously wounded in a major battle that I had heard about before leaving VN and who was awarded the MOH at Bad Toelz for his actions as a medic in that fight. who partied hard with other single SF soldiers. partied hard on MJ/hash. and who never got caught on pop drug tests.
One day he walked into the unit declared he was on drugs and got bounced out and went back to California and killed himself while high riding his motorcycle. he had gotten hooked on pain killers during his recovery period for the injury pain and both the Army and SF had nothing to help him with. for turning himself in as a drug user he got a "General Discharge".
Third example, while serving in Det A Berlin Bde we had a SF medic who can just come back from VN and was extremely quiet a solid indicator of PTSD as we know it today. well in typical Army fashion they had told him he would not be up for going back to VN for at least three years thus he took Berlin in a reenlistment deal. within six months he had gotten again orders for VN due to a shortage of medics.
Both he and the unit tried hard to get the Army to defer him as he had just come back..Army response was it is not written in the reenlistment papers you signed. thus you are going back as there is a SF shortage of medics.
On a Monday morning formation he was not there and the unit received notification via the US Embassy in Stockholm that he had arrived in Sweden asking for political asylum which had been granted and he was available for debriefing.
The only SF combat vet that I know of to have ever defected to another country..he married, had three children, became a Professor and taught for years and still is in Sweden as he refused to accept the "amnesty" years later. and he served with honor and respect.
Remember VN vets and that included SF vets had to fight for years with VA just to get PTSD accepted as a disability paving the way for future military vets to claim PTSD. let's not even go in Agent Orange/White/Blue recognition.
So in some aspects I do fully understand why Sadler went the way he did and it had nothing to do with a failed singing career.
An interesting article that points to a disturbing trend when the military seeks to influence public opinion by throwing a Soldier or Marine into the media circus. Most don't join the military for this reason, it runs contrary to their values, and their personal lives are often destroyed by this exposure. Barry said it was the worse thing that happened to him. If the movie was accurate, the Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima had a similar experience, as did the Marine who earned the MOH in Afghanistan. We have enough history with this now to prepare our people for the circus and its after effects, but I don't know if we are.
New biography of one-hit wonder Sadler a war story we haven’t heard before
The Vietnam War has been chronicled through a stream of books, films and TV series that began flowing well before Saigon fell in 1975. In a new biography, historian Marc Leepson tells a war story we haven’t heard before.
But the book’s action-packed subtitle reveals just how much the average reader stands to learn about its subject. Most readers, if they know Barry Sadler at all, are likely to recall the clean-cut, active-duty Army medic who shot to the top of the pop charts for five weeks in 1966 with “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” It’s the lesser-known, post-fame story about this one-time musical sensation, though, that plays out like an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music.”
Leepson does an admirable job of representing Sadler, whose shifting stories and penchant for self-aggrandizement regarding his hardscrabble childhood, the origin of “The Ballad” and his activities after the Army made him something of a moving target. Through thorough research and dozens of interviews with people who knew Sadler best or served as Green Berets, the author captures the essence of perhaps the most famous soldier to have fought in Vietnam.
Sadler, who had previously completed a four-year hitch in the Air Force, enlisted in the Army and felt a desire to write a song about Airborne troops upon earning his jump wings in early 1963. Although his accounts about the song’s composition vary, and he continued to revise it, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” became a complete song that year. The song, which was already familiar to his Army buddies, came to the attention of Gen. William Yarborough, the publicity-savvy commander of the Army Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. With the help of an enterprising Green Beret public information officer, Gerry Gitell, Sadler landed a songwriting deal in 1964. By the end of that year, he shipped out to Vietnam. Five months later, fate intervened when Sadler ran into a punji stick while on patrol and a subsequent infection put him in the hospital. Leepson, himself a Vietnam veteran, ends that chapter with a nice piece of foreshadowing: “Barry would walk with a slight limp for the rest of his life.”
It took a few years for the metaphorical limp to become a hindrance. RCA signed Sadler to a recording contract in late 1965 and and his debut album, “Ballads of the Green Berets,” was recorded in a day. The single “The Ballad of the Green Berets” was released in January ’66. It soon shot to the top of the charts, which led to the sales of nine million singles and two million albums. Sadler, though, soon became a victim of his success. The Army, seizing on the opportunity, took Sadler off regular duties and sent him around the country as a human recruiting poster for 15 months. The tour brought adulation, but bred bitterness when the brass declined to send him back into the field. He left the Army in 1967 with the the hopes of making more music and trying his hand at acting.
Sadler remained a staunch supporter of the Vietnam War, an increasingly unpopular conflict to which his fortunes were tied despite “Vietnam” not being mentioned explicitly in his hit song. Some of Sadler’s associates said that had “The Ballad” come out just months later, as the antiwar tide began to rise, he never would have been a pop sensation.
Failing to top the charts might have been the best possible outcome, as Sadler was ill-equipped to handle his sudden fame. He squandered his six-figure royalties from “The Ballad” on women, booze and bad business ventures. In 1978, he killed a lover’s ex-boyfriend and faced a murder charge in Nashville. In part because of his all-American image at the height of his musical success, Sadler avoided substantial jail time. Leepson, who was granted access to the investigating detective’s files, deftly guides the reader through this episode of crime and (light) punishment in vivid detail.
Employing his knowledge of military history, Sadler forged a respectable second act as a pulp-fiction novelist. He wasn’t any more fiscally responsible the second time around. He ended up in Guatemala, where he continued his carousing, ran with shady characters and possibly engaged in shadier activities. In 1988, he took a bullet in the head while riding in a taxicab. Was it a careless accident, or attempted murder?
Although he had control over much of his post-Army life, it’s easy to see Sadler as another casualty of the Vietnam War. As a young man he wished for musical success, but he wanted to be a soldier even more. Then a simple twist of fate took him out of the field and into a recording studio. “I wish that I’d never, ever written that stupid song,” Sadler told one writer in 1971.
Leepson, to his credit, never plays the victim card on Sadler’s behalf. He sticks to the facts, lets those who knew Sadler do most of the talking and holds his subject accountable for his poor choices.
Musically, Sadler wasn’t in the same league as the Beatles, the Beach Boys or the Rolling Stones, who all topped the charts in 1966, and — although he ultimately became one — his hit song was certainly no “Paperback Writer.” So in the hands of a lesser biographer, this balladeer’s story could have been a flimsy clip job covering one of pop’s many one-hit wonders. Instead, Leepson delivers a Vietnam story we haven’t heard before. Like many of the stories tied to that conflict, it stands as a cautionary tale.
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