Barry Sadler

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For the Australian footballer, see Barry Sadler (footballer).
Barry Sadler
Barry Sadler.png
Barry Sadler in 1966
Born (1940-11-01)November 1, 1940
Carlsbad, New Mexico, U.S.
Died November 5, 1989(1989-11-05) (aged 49)
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Air Force(1958-1962)
 United States Army(1962-1967)
Years of service 1958-1967
Rank Army-USA-OR-06.svg Staff Sergeant
Unit US Army Special Forces.Airborne patch.jpg U.S. Army Special Forces - 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Barry Allen Sadler (November 1, 1940 – November 5, 1989) was an American military veteran, author, actor,[1] 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 in the proper Army form as SSG Barry Sadler, although his music usually credits read SSgt Barry Sadler. He is most famously known for his hit song "Ballad of the Green Berets."

Early life[edit]

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 at age 36 from a rare form of nervous system cancer. His mother moved her family around as she worked at temporary jobs in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.



Sadler dropped out of high school in the tenth grade in Leadville, Colorado. After hitch-hiking across the country for about a year, he enlisted at 17 in the U.S. Air Force. He trained as a radar technician and was stationed in Japan. After his discharge, Sadler enlisted in the U.S. Army, seeking more excitement than the Air Force had to offer.

Wounded in action[edit]

When he 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 ordered to South Vietnam. In May 1965, while he was on a combat patrol southeast of Pleiku in the Central Highlands, 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 completed the patrol. However, he developed a serious infection in his leg, and was evacuated to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D C. The doctors were forced to surgically enlarge the wound to drain it and to administer large doses of penicillin. While he was recuperating, he heard U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy dedicate the new JFK Center for Special Warfare at Fort Bragg. Sadler decided that if he recovered from the infection, he would give away the rights to a song he was helping to write, "The Ballad of the Green Berets." He recovered completely and kept his promise.

The Ballad of the Green Berets[edit]

Sadler during 1969, performing the "Ballad of the Green Berets" with his guitar

Sadler recorded his now-famous song, "The Ballad of the Green Berets", a patriotic song about the Special Forces. The recording was encouraged by writer Robin Moore, author of the novel The Green Berets, which became a 1968 movie, The Green Berets, featuring John Wayne. "The Ballad of the Green Berets" arranged as a choral version by Ken Darby was the title song of the movie. Moore also wrote an introduction to Sadler's autobiography, I'm A Lucky One, which he dictated to Tom Mahoney and published by Macmillan Coompany in 1967. "The Ballad of the Green Berets" was released by RCA Victor Records during early 1966 and became a fast-selling single, holding No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five consecutive weeks from March 5 to April 2, 1966. The record sold more than a million copies.[2] 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 an 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.[2] 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[edit]

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.[3]

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.

Later years[edit]

Literary works[edit]

Sadler was unable to score another major success, though his "The A-Team " was a Top 30 Billboard chart single during 1966. He insread began writing novels about the military. His popular Casca series is about the title character, Casca Rufio Longinius (a combination of Saint Longinus and The Wandering Jew), the Roman soldier who thrust his lance into Christ's side during the crucifixion. Because of this, he is cursed to remain a soldier until the Second Coming. The novels feature Casca's life through the 20th century. Sadler wrote the first few books, after which the series was assigned by the publishers to uncredited writers using his name. More recent books have been written by different authors.

Lee Emerson Bellamy[edit]

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.[4] 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 on seeing Sadler, Bellamy proceeded to aggressively approach him.[5] It was at this time, Sadler testified, that he saw a flash of metal. Believing it to be a gun, he fired one shot. Bellamy was struck in the head and died the next morning. It turned out that Bellamy was unarmed, and the flash of metal was probably from his car keys. According to court records, Sadler had then placed a handgun in Bellamy's van, presumably to strengthen his claim of self-defense. However, he later changed this to a plea of guilty. On June 1, 1979, Sadler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the death of Lee Emerson Bellamy, and was sentenced to from 4 to 5 years in prison. He appealed the decision, since he had honestly thought his life was threatened, and his prison sentence was reduced to just 21 days. Sadler was sued for wrongful death by Bellamy's estate, and was ordered to pay compensation of about $10,000.


Sadler moved to Guatemala City during the mid 1980s. He continued to publish his Casca books (mostly now written by ghostwriters), produced a never-released self-defense video, and even helped with vaccination programs in rural villages.

On September 7, 1988, in Guatemala City, Sadler, sitting in a cab, was shot in the head in a robbery attempt.[6] He was flown to the United States by friends from the magazine Soldier Of Fortune. Hospitalized in Cleveland, Ohio, he remained in a coma for several months. He was finally released in January 1989, but he had suffered significant brain damage.[7] He was reported missing by his family, but he soon was found.[8]

Sadler never recovered from his injury, and died of complications on November 5, 1989, at his mother's home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was 49 years old[9][10] Sadler was survived by his wife, Lavona, one daughter, and two sons.[11]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US US Country
1966 Ballads of the Green Berets 1 1 RCA
The 'A' Team 30


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US AC US US Country CAN UK Singles Chart[12]
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


  1. ^ "Barry Sadler (1940–1989)". Retrieved 2015-08-19. 
  2. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 211–212. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  3. ^ "Ssgt Barry Sadler - The Ballad Of The Green Berets (1966 clip)". YouTube. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  4. ^ "Singer Fatally Shoots Songwriter". The Tuscaloosa News. 3 December 1978. pp. 20A. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  5. ^ The Discography Legal Encyclopedia of Popular Music: Musicians and Murder Retrieved 11-30-2012
  6. ^ Coole, Terri. "Articles about Barry Sadler - Orlando Sentinel". Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  7. ^ Nation : Singer Barry Sadler Vanishes Retrieved 11-30-2012
  8. ^ "Barry Sadler Found". 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. 
  9. ^ Barry Sadler, 'Green Berets' Balladeer, Dies Retrieved 11-30-2012
  10. ^ "| Archives | - Houston Chronicle". Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  11. ^ "Barry Sadler, 49, Balladeer, Dies". 1989-11-06. Retrieved 2015-08-19. 
  12. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 478. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

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