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BARRY SADLER 1940-1966




BARRY SADLER 1940-1966

It is September 8, 1966, and Barry Allen Sadler , singer, songwriter , author and former Green Beret lies close to death in a Guatemala City hospital . On his way home in a cab from a day of drinking and carousing, he was shot. A victim  of robbery , assassination ,or general bad luck is uncertain. What is certain , somewhere along the Antigua Highway a jacketed round entered his skull just above  his ear and plowed through his brain destroying one third of it. The cabby says Sadler's .380 Pietro Beretta pistol was out and went off . So does the senorita  riding with Barry who vamoosed shortly after the incident. She was lucky because the cabby spent a year in jail for just being there . This is the beginning of the end of Barry Sadler's tumultuous life.[1]



A woman , a gun and a far off exotic locale reads like pulp fiction , but was Barry Sadler's life . Catapulted to instant stardom in 1966 with his rendering of The Ballad of the Green Berets , Barry became the poster child  of the Vietnam conflict , America's longest and most socially disastrous war . A decorated combat veteran , he penned this song and others about the Special Forces that went on  to sell over 11 million records  with The Ballad  remaining at # 1 for five straight weeks  in 1966. In the late seventies  and throughout the eighties he sold over two million books led by the Casca the eternal Macrenary series , the tale  of the Roman legionnaire  who speared  Christ on the cross and then was damned to live until judgement day as a solider. This is played out in 22 volumes spanning through history . This rare double is the envy  of anyone who has ever dared to make a living picking up a guitar or a pen.

Since 1966 , Barry Sadler lies in Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City  unrecognizable from the swelling wound that has caved his head . Dramatically , less  than seventy-two hours after the shooting , Barry is whisked  away via  air ambulance chartered by Soldier of Fortune  Editor Bobby Brown. He is transportated  to a Veterans Administration  hospital in Nashville  where he is expected  to die. Fourteen months later , he does just that , but not before a custody battle  and a kidnapping of his  comatose body occur, a bizarre  end for a man graced with many  talents , but never the master of any .

Barry was born in Carlsbad , New Mexico on November 1,1940, the second son to John Sadler and Bebe Littlefield both originally from Phoenix, Arizona .His parents divorced shortly thereafter. His father remarried soon but died from a rare form of cancer involving his nervous system .Bebe the took Robert , Barry's older brother, age twelve and Barry , age seven  on an odyssey throughout the southwest where she managed restaurants , bars and gambling casinos.

Barry quit high school in Leadville, CO after the tenth grade  and went hitchhiking across the country . He returned and joined the Air Force on June 2 , 1958. He was seventeen and needed his mother's authorization to enlist. Trained as a radar specialist , he shipped out to Japan before his eighteenth birthday.

Japan was the education Barry never received. His mind and body progressed tremendously in this short year he was there. Unlike most servicemen, he thrived from the exposure  to the culture , learning to speak a little Japanese and socializing with the locals. Under the tutelage of Aikawa Kaiichi  , a martial arts master,  Barry saw more of Japanese life in that short year than most visitors ever would and attained the black belt in Judo.

His year of discovery  was soon over  as Barry found himself back in the U.S. where he was from California to Missouri and then back to Beale  Air Force Base , north of Sacramento, CA.He spent the rest of his enlistment there and promoted to airman first class.

However, the boredom of radar and the strong rumor of a posting to Alaska were enough to drive him back to civilian life after his enlistment was up in June, 1962.

Unable to find work, Barry hit the road with a friend named Walter Lane . Together in Barry's car with Walter's drums and Barry's guitar, they tried  to make a living  playing in bars , honky-tonks and shopping centers. At that time Barry felt that he was getting nowhere.




Barry went back to the only success  he'd ever experienced  and fatefully  enlisted into the Army , volunteering for the airborne paratrooper  service. Barry thrived in the military environs , reveling in the mental and physical competition . He earned his silver wings from a jump school at Fort Benning . He began to think about writing a song involving the airborne . He then had no idea what it would be , but he wanted to include the line " silver wings upon their chests".

 

During the winter of 1963 , while Barry earned his wings , and unbeknownst of most America , the conflict in Vietnam was silently escalating .Barry was now  in medic training at Fort Sam Houston , TX. A fateful encounter  in the mess hall sparked Barry into a whirlwind courtship with the slender  WAC named Lavona Edelman. Five weeks later they married , Lavona left the army , so they were able to live as man and wife.

Now , in 1964 the conflict in Vietnam  was heating up with North Vietnams  dubious attacks on the U.S. warships Maddox and C.

During  May of ´65 , Barry was leading a patrol in the tall grass of the central Highlands southeast of Pleiku and ran his knee into a Vietcong punji stick. Thousands of those razor sharp bamboo sticks were everywhere , covered with excrement .A major infection set in requiring surgeons to enlarge the wound to drain it , while pumping Barry full of penicillin.

Barry was transferred to Clark air base in the Philippines before he was sent home. He would keep his leg. Barry concluded correctly  that he would not return to the field. During his time in hospital he wrote The Ballad .He gave it to Chet Gierlach of Music, Music INC, who then tried to push Barry as a singer and a songwriter.

The Ballad  was released on January 11, 1966 and the album on January 20th. " They took off like a wildfire, " said Barry.

The Ballad  sold two million copies in five weeks. The media was all over Barry. Stories appeared in  Life , Time , Newsweek , Variety , Billboard  and Cash Box  magazines while Barry appeared on the Ed Sullivan show , The Jimmy Dean Show , NBC's Home Front and Martha Raye's ABC-TV  Hollywood Palace Program. On this show, Barry received two industry  gold  records marking the record sales of one million copies for both the single and the album.

Finally, Barry thought the song ruined his life. He was really into the military lifestyle. He loved it -the combat , the action , the whole scene-but once the song became sort of a National Anthem for the military, he was called from the line of duty and used primarily as a PR -figure in the Army. It pulled him away from the part of the military he really loved and made him a poster child .



 Gary Sizemore ,Barry Allen Sadler










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