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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 of the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Most of his work has a military theme, and he credited himself as SSG Barry Sadler, although his music credits read SSgt Barry Sadler.
Sadler was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the second son of John Sadler and Bebe Littlefield of Phoenix, Arizona. According to Sadler's autobiography, I'm A Lucky One, his father developed a successful plumbing and electrical business in Carlsbad and owned several farms in the area. He describes his mother as managing restaurants and bars, and, at times, games in casinos.
The family relocated 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.
Sadler dropped out of high school during the tenth grade in Leadville, Colorado. After a year of hitch-hiking across the country, he enlisted at age 17 in the U.S. Air Force. He was trained as a radar technician and was stationed in Japan. Following his discharge, Sadler enlisted with 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 selection tests. Following lengthy training as a combat medic at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, he was sent to South Vietnam. During 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 recovered from the infection, he would give away the rights to a song he was then helping to write, "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, featuring John Wayne, with "The Ballad of the Green Berets" arranged as a choral version by Ken Darby as the title song of the movie. Moore wrote an introduction to Sadler's autobiography, I'm A Lucky One, which he dictated to Tom Mahoney and which Macmillan Co. published during 1967. The song "The Ballad of the Green Berets" was vended by the RCA Victor Records company first during early 1966 and became a fast-selling single, scoring 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. The song was a great success in many U.S. cities; it scored five weeks at No. 1 on the weekly Good Guys music survey at WMCA, the top popular music radio station in New York during 1966. He sang it for his television début for The Jimmy Dean Show. Sadler recorded a record album of similarly themed songs which he titled Ballads of the Green Berets. It sold a million copies during the first five weeks of its release. Sadler had another success, the similarly patriotic-themed "The 'A' Team", later the same year when that single scored #28 after 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 television performance mentioned above did not represent 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 success, though his "The A-Team " was a Top 30 Billboard chart single during 1966. Sadler began writing novels. He chose to write about soldiers. His popular Casca series concerns 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 feature Casca to the 20th century. Sadler himself wrote only the first few books, the remainder being assigned by the publishers to uncredited writers though issued with his name. Subsequent books have been written by different authors.
Lee Emerson Bellamy
On December 1, 1978, at about 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 concerning 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 telephone calls to Sadler, and numerous threats on his life.
On the night in question, Bellamy made several harassing telephone calls, including one to the Natchez Trace Restaurant, where Sadler and Sharp were having dinner and drinks with several friends. That resulted in Sadler asking the bartender to telephone 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 time, 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 next 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 for 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 about $10,000.
Sadler relocated to Guatemala City during the mid 1980s and frequented a restaurant named 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 taxicab by someone pursuing a robbery attempt. He was airlifted back to the United States by friends from the magazine Soldier Of Fortune, where he was hospitalized and remained in a coma for several months. He was released eventually, but with significant brain damage. When released from the hospital during January 1989, he was reported missing by his family and was eventually found. 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