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Barry Sadler in 1966
November 1, 1940|
Carlsbad, New Mexico, U.S.
|Died||November 5, 1989
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch|| United States Air Force
United States Army
|Years of service||1957 – 1966|
|Unit||U.S. Army Special Forces|
Barry Sadler (November 1, 1940 – November 5, 1989) was an American military veteran, author, actor, and singer-songwriter. Sadler served as a Green Beret combat Medic with the rank of Staff Sergeant in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Most of his work has a military theme, and he billed himself as SSG Barry Sadler, although his label credits read SSgt Barry Sadler.
Sadler was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the second son of John Sadler and Bebe Littlefield of Phoenix, Arizona. His parents were both professional gamblers, and the family moved often. His parents divorced when Sadler was very young, and his father died not long after of a rare form of nervous system cancer at the age of 36. His mother took her sons with her as she worked at temporary jobs in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.
According to Sadler's autobiography, I'm a Lucky One, his father developed a successful plumbing and electrical business in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He also owned several farms in the area. He describes his mother as managing restaurants and bars, and, at times, games in casinos.
Sadler dropped out of high school in the tenth grade in Leadville, Colorado. After a year of hitch-hiking across the country, he enlisted at 17 in the U.S. Air Force. He was trained as a radar technician and was stationed in Japan. Following his discharge, Sadler enlisted in the Army, seeking more excitement.
Wounded in action
After completing airborne training, Sadler volunteered for the U.S. Army Special Forces and passed the difficult selections tests. Following lengthy training as a combat medic at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, he was sent to South Vietnam. In May 1965, while on a combat patrol in the Central Highlands southeast of Pleiku, he was severely wounded in the knee by a feces-covered punji stick. He was already taking an antibiotic for dysentery, and no ill effects from the punji stick were seen. He used a cotton swab and an adhesive bandage, then finished the patrol. However, he developed a serious infection in his leg, and was flown to Walter Reed Hospital in the United States. Sadler's doctors were forced to surgically enlarge the wound to drain it and to administer penicillin. While he was recuperating, he heard Senator Robert F. Kennedy dedicate the new JFK Center for Special Warfare at Fort Bragg. Sadler promised himself that if he successfully fought off the infection, he would give away the rights to his song "The Ballad of the Green Berets." He recovered completely and kept his promise.
The Ballad of the Green Berets
Sadler recorded his now-famous song, the "Ballad of the Green Berets", a patriotic song. The recording was encouraged by writer Robin Moore, author of the novel The Green Berets. The book became a 1968 movie, The Green Berets, starring John Wayne, with "The Ballad of the Green Berets" arranged in a choral version by Ken Darby as the title song of the film. Moore wrote an introduction to Sadler's autobiography, I'm a Lucky One, which he dictated to Tom Mahoney and which Macmillan published in 1967. "The Ballad of the Green Berets" was picked up by the RCA Victor Records label in early 1966 and became a fast-selling single, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five consecutive weeks from March 5 to April 2, 1966. It sold more than a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The song was a big hit in many U.S. cities; it spent five weeks at No. 1 on the weekly Good Guys music survey at WMCA, the top pop music radio station in New York in 1966. He sang it for his television début on The Jimmy Dean Show. Sadler recorded an album of similarly themed songs which he titled Ballads of the Green Berets. It sold a million copies in the first five weeks of its release. Sadler landed one follow-up hit, the similarly patriotic-themed "The 'A' Team", later the same year when that single reached #28 in the wake of the success of "The Ballad of the Green Berets."
Awards and decorations
According to the ribbons and badges worn by Sadler in a televised performance of "The Ballad of the Green Berets," he received the following awards for his military service: Purple Heart Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, and the South Vietnamese Parachutist Badge.
The ribbons shown in Sadler's TV performance mentioned above did not reflect all of Sadler's awards. Sadler was also entitled to the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. He had the option of replacing the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with the Vietnam Service Medal.
Sadler was unable to score another major hit, though his "The A-Team " was a Top 30 Billboard chart single in 1966. Sadler took to writing novels. He chose to write about soldiers, but his series of books was far different from his music. His popular Casca series centers on the title character, Casca Rufio Longinius (a sort of combination of Saint Longinus and The Wandering Jew), the Roman soldier who stabbed Christ during the crucifixion, and is thus cursed to remain a soldier until the Second Coming. The novels takes Casca to the 20th century. Sadler himself wrote only the first few books, the remainder being assigned by the publishers to ghost writers though issued under his name. Subsequent books have been written by different authors.
Lee Emerson Bellamy
On December 1, 1978, at around 11:00 p.m., Sadler killed a country music songwriter named Lee Emerson Bellamy with one gunshot to the head. The shooting was the culmination of a month-long dispute the men had over Darlene Sharp, who was Bellamy's former girlfriend, and Sadler's lover at the time. Bellamy was not pleased by her involvement with Sadler. Witnesses gave testimony that prior to the shooting, Bellamy made many harassing phone calls to Sadler, and numerous threats on his life.
On the night in question, Bellamy made several harassing phone calls, including one to the Natchez Trace Restaurant, where Sadler and Sharp were having dinner and drinks with several friends. That led to Sadler asking the bartender to call the police, who never responded. Bellamy later followed the group to Sharp's residence and knocked on the door. Sadler exited a side door to try to catch him in the act, and upon seeing Sadler, Bellamy proceeded to aggressively approach him. It was at this point, Sadler testified, that he saw a flash of metal. Thinking this was a gun, he discharged his weapon once. Bellamy was struck in the head and died the following morning. It was later shown that Bellamy was unarmed, and that the flash of metal was likely from his car keys. After the shooting, according to court records on the case, Sadler then placed a handgun into Bellamy's van. This may have been to strengthen his case for self-defense, which initially, is what Sadler claimed. This was later changed to a plea of guilty. On June 1, 1979, Sadler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Lee Emerson Bellamy, and sentenced to 4–5 years in prison. Upon appeal, due to the circumstances of the case, his sentence was reduced to only 21 days. Sadler was later sued for wrongful death by Bellamy's estate, and was ordered to pay restitution of around $10,000.
Sadler moved to Guatemala City in the mid 1980s and frequented a bar/restaurant called La Europa (also known as Freddie's Bar, after the German proprietor). He continued to publish the Casca books (mostly using various ghostwriters), produced a self-defense video (which was never released) and even helped with vaccination programs in rural villages.
On September 7, 1988 in Guatemala City, Sadler was shot in the head at night in a cab by someone pursuing a robbery attempt. He was airlifted back to the United States by friends from Soldier Of Fortune, where he was hospitalized and remained in a coma for several months. He eventually was released, but with significant brain damage. When released from the hospital in January 1989, he was reported missing by Sadler's family. He was eventually found by the family. He died on November 5, 1989 at his mother's home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, of complications from his gunshot injury.
|1966||Ballads of the Green Berets||1||1||RCA|
|The 'A' Team||30||—|
|US AC||US||US Country||CAN||UK Singles Chart|
|1966||"Ballad of the Green Berets"||1||1||2||26||24||Ballad of the Green Berets|
|"The 'A' Team"||6||28||46||58||–||The 'A' Team|
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 211–212. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- "Ssgt Barry Sadler - The Ballad Of The Green Berets (1966 clip)". YouTube. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
- "Singer Fatally Shoots Songwriter". The Tuscaloosa News. 3 December 1978. pp. 20A. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
- The Discography Legal Encyclopedia of Popular Music: Musicians and Murder Retrieved 11-30-2012
- Coole, Terri. "Articles about Barry Sadler - Orlando Sentinel". Articles.orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
- Nation : Singer Barry Sadler Vanishes Retrieved 11-30-2012
- "Barry Sadler Found". Articles.philly.com. 1989-01-13. Retrieved 2013-06-03. "Lawyers for two friends of Barry Sadler said the man who wrote and sang the 1966 hit "Ballad of the Green Berets" would be present today at a Cleveland hearing to discuss his mental competency. Sadler, 48, was reported missing by his family, who want him declared imcompetent, after checking himself out of a Cleveland hospital Sunday. He had been undergoing treatment for brain damage suffered in a September shooting."
- Barry Sadler, 'Green Berets' Balladeer, Dies Retrieved 11-30-2012
- "| Archives | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle". Chron.com. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 478. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Official site
- Official Casca website
- Barry Sadler at the Internet Movie Database
- Barry Sadler at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Barry Sadler at AllMusic