Summarized by Dick Martin from the August 2017 issue of” Vietnam” magazine
A wounded Green Beret wrote and sang the only pro-military song for the Vietnam War. His name was SSGT Barry Sadler. The song came out of nowhere in January of 1966 to become the number one single of the year.
Sadler dropped out of high school in 1958 to join the Air Force, served four years and then joined the Army and became a Green Beret in 1963. Even though Sadler could not read a note of music, he wrote the song; but it took quite a few years, many settings, many different forms, and lots of input from many different people. All he knew for sure was that he wanted the line “silver wings upon their chests” in the song.
Through “the luck of the draw,” Sadler ran into the right people in the military and was able to get the song produced. Sadler signed a contract with RCA Victor Records, one of the top entertainment talent agencies in the United States. RCA released the single on January 11, 1966.
The song was a smash and became the number one song in the country, but was a one-hit wonder. Sadler gave up his singing career to author a number of pulp fiction novels. He died on his birthday at the age of 49 on November 5, 1989 under murky circumstances.
Link to youtube video of the song below:
Tweet received from Marc Leepson: "Thought you might be interested..My biography of Barry Sadler, Ballad of the Green Beret, has just been published!!