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Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler

America was split by controversy in 1966 over a single that entered the US chart by this former member of the US Army Special Forces, whose leg was injured in a booby trap while on active service.

Until the late Spring of 1965, Barry had been stationed in Vietnam. It was at that time that he was wounded while leading a small combat patrol: he operated on himself – cleaning the wound between fainting spells – until some members of his patrol found him and carried him to safety.

Somehow, during the long months that Barry was stationed in Vietnam, he found time to compose several tunes about the war which he was fighting with so many others.

They were songs about the perils and dangers faced by fighting men, songs about the very human aspects of war.

After his injury, Barry was sent back home to the States for a complete recuperation.

It was after his arrival that some of his songs were brought to the attention of RCA Victor. Barry was immediately put under contract to the company and within a short time recorded his first record – one of his own compositions, written on duty in Vietnam – The Ballad of the Green Berets.

The Ballad of The Green Berets was a narrative spoken over a martial rhythm, extolling the activities of his unit in Vietnam.

The song went almost immediately to the #1 spot on the US pop charts – put there by a predominantly young record-buying public who had been accused of “not caring”, and following that reception, Barry released an album – The Ballads of the Green Beret – containing a total of 12 of his compositions.


Sadler was not heard of again for some years, although in 1978 he was involved in the Nashville shooting of songwriter Lee Bellamy.

Then in 1981, Sadler was also involved in the shooting of his erstwhile business partner. Sadler protested his innocence by saying “I was a Green Beret – If I’d shot him, he’d be dead”.

Sadler himself died of a heart attack in 1989, a year after being shot in the head during a robbery at his home in Guatemala.