The Strange Life of Barry Sadler

Barry Sadler was born in Carlsbad, NM in 1940. He dropped out of school in tenth grade and wandered across the country. He eventually joined the US Air Force at 17 and later joined the Army and became a Green Berets medic in Vietnam, where he was severely wounded. He recovered from a harrowing knee injury that left him near death and suddenly catapulted to instant stardom with the release of his mega-hit #1 single The Ballad of the Green Berets in 1966.

Sadler tried to duplicate his success with other Vietnam-related songs but there were no hits, so he turned to writing a series of books about soldiers. In the late 70s, he shot and killed Lee Emerson, a country songwriter. He pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and ended up serving only 30 days out of a 4-5 year sentence.

Mystery still surrounds Sadler’s death. He moved to Guatamala City in the mid 80s and was allegedly shot in the head one night in a taxi. He languished for months in a coma, and was transferred to a US hospital by friends from Soldier of Fortune Magazine. Later, he was kidnapped and returned while still in the coma. Sadler died after fourteen months in the hospital. It’s still unclear whether his death was a suicide, a botched robbery or a result of his training Nicaraguan contras, which prompted death threats.

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3 Responses to “The Strange Life of Barry Sadler”

  1. William A. McClellan Says:

    I served with Barry in 65 at Fort Bragg. We were in the 7th Speial Forces Group. His barracks was next to mine. I remember Barry singing the balad on the barracks steps in 65 yet everything you read claims the song the hit in 66. Maybe it was not rated in 65. They were great days and an unusually great group of young soldiers.

  2. Jerry Says:

    That’s incredible! Thanks for the insight, William.

  3. Doug Says:

    The song was released in January, 1966. Sounds like you had the privilege of hearing the finished song before it was recorded and released as a single. How cool is that?

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