Barry Sadler

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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 in 1958. He trained as a radar technician and was stationed in Japan. After his discharge in 1962, Sadler enlisted in the U.S. Army, seeking more excitement than the Air Force had to offer.

Wounded in action[edit]

When he completed 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 apparent at the time. Sadler dressed the wound with a cotton swab and an adhesive bandage, then completed the patrol; however, he subsequently developed a serious infection in his leg, and was evacuated to Clark Air Force Base Hospital in The Philippines. 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 made a complete recovery.

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 in January 1966. 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 Company in 1967. "The Ballad of the Green Berets" was released by RCA Victor Records 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 on January 30 on The Ed Sullivan 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 minor success, the similarly patriotic-themed "The 'A' Team", later the same year when that single scored #28.

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 instead began writing novels about the military. His popular Casca series is about the title character, Casca Rufio Longinius (a combination of 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 twenty-two books. After his death the series continued with recent books written by different authors.

Lee Emerson Bellamy[edit]

On December 1, 1978, at about 11 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 Sharpe, who was Bellamy's former girlfriend, and Sadler's lover at the time. Bellamy made many harassing telephone calls to Sadler and Sharpe, 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 Sharpe were having dinner and drinks with two friends. That resulted in Sadler asking the bartender to telephone the police, who never responded. Bellamy later followed the group to Sharpe's residence and knocked on the door. Sadler exited through a side door. On seeing Sadler, Bellamy fled to his van. 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 several hours later in the hospital. It turned out that Bellamy was unarmed. 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. His legal team worked to lower the sentence, which a judge reduced to just 30 days in the county workhouse. Sadler was sued for wrongful death by Bellamy's stepson, and was ordered to pay compensation of about $10,000.


Sadler moved to Guatemala City during the mid 1980s. He continued to write and publish his Casca books, produced a never-released self-defense video, and provided medical treatment in rural villages.

On September 7, 1988, Sadler was shot in the head while sitting in a cab in Guatemala City. Witnesses said he accidentally shot himself, but his friends claimed he was shot by a robber or an assassin. He was flown to the United States by friends in a private jet paid for by Soldier of Fortune magazine publisher Bob Brown. He was operated on at the Nashville Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital, and remained in a coma for about six weeks. After emerging from the coma, Sadler was all but quadriplegic and had suffered significant brain damage.[5] Moved to the Cleveland VA Hospital for specialized treatment in early November, he was removed from the hospital by two former Green Berets and his mother, Blanche "Bebe" Sadler. After a contentious court battle between his mother and his wife, a court in Tennessee ruled that Sadler be put under the care of an independent guardian.

Sadler was moved to the VA Hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in February 1989, but he never recovered from his injury. He died there of cardiac arrest on November 5, 1989. He was 49 years old.[6][7] Sadler was survived by his wife, Lavona, a daughter, Brooke, and two sons, Thor and Baron.[8]



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[9]
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. ^ Nation : Singer Barry Sadler Vanishes Retrieved 11-30-2012
  6. ^ Barry Sadler, 'Green Berets' Balladeer, Dies Retrieved 11-30-2012
  7. ^ "Archives". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-06-03. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Barry Sadler, 49, Balladeer, Dies". 1989-11-06. Retrieved 2015-08-19. 
  9. ^ 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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