|Army Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler
Author - Ballad of the Green Beret
Soldier, Songwriter, Author,
The following bio was provided by
Thor Sadler, oldest son of Barry Sadler, and is reprinted here
with only minor editing.
Staff Sergeant (SSG) Barry Allen
Born: November 1, 1940, Carlsbad, NM
Died: November 1989
Spouse: Lavona Ruth Edelman
Children: Thor Sadler, 32 (CPT, USA); Baron Sadler, 29 (SSG,
USA); Brooke Sadler, 21 (E3, USN) I still like to know why she
joined the Navy.
Joined the USAF in 1957 as a Air
Traffic Controller. Tired of the Air Force and got out to work
in orchards and bars. When he realized he was getting three
squares from the Air Force he decided to reenlist. The Air Force
recruiter was out and the Army recruiter was in. So hunger drove
my Father into the Army. In those days, welfare of any kind was
frowned upon. A lesson freeloaders today can learn from.
He entered airborne training for
the extra money it offered. Back then airborne school wasn't
some kind of ticket puncher. Unless you think three weeks of
zero week is easy, then additional three weeks of actual
training. During POW and Escape & Evasion training, Dad was
locked into a hotbox for a few days while all his peers got the
shit beat out of them. The hotbox was a small enclosed container
that got very hot during the days and very cold at nights. It's
not nearly as bad as some Motel 6's I have stayed in. ;-)
When the instructors decided to
let my Dad out, Dad barked, "Shut that damn door and leave
me here!" The confused instructors looked at each other and
said this guy oughta go to Special Forces. This was the first
time Dad heard of the Green Berets. So on to the Q Course,
and his specialty was a medic (18D) and weapons specialist
After he earned the coveted beret, he went to Africa, Israel, Europe,
and finally to South East Asia. During the early parts of
Vietnam he was know as a "floater". If a medic in a
A-Team was injured or killed, Dad would fill that slot until a
full-time replacement came in. This still doesn't make sense to
me, perhaps I misunderstood him. In 1967, he landed in a punji
stick pit. It messed his leg up really bad. The doctors
considered removing his leg at one point but decided to leave it
be and keep it clean. To the day he died, Dad's leg would bother
Anyway while Dad was resting at
Da Nang (I think), he would entertain the other wounded and
himself by playing his self-taught guitar. Him and other GI's
would work the words together that would later become know as
"The Ballad of the Green Berets."
On a particular day a news crew
entered the hospital to film America's children dying and
suffering in a foreign land, just in time for the 5 o'clock news
and dinner time. Nice guys. Well, someone suggested that Dad
play that song they were working on. And so he played and sang
Ballad of the Green Berets for the first time to the American
The reaction was stunning. People
were calling all across the nation wanting that song. RCA execs
said let's see if we can sign his guy to cut an album. So I
imagine through the Army they got a hold of Dad. And the Army
now had a poster child for the Vietnam War. Dad cut the album,
did the USO tour thing. Got pissed 'cause he wasn't doing what
he was trained for, and left the service.
For the record, Robin Moore wrote
the last stanza with Dad, about "putting silver wings on my
son's chest." And Dad did pin those wings on me in 1986.
The proudest day of my life!
Dad donated money from the record
to the families surviving their fallen GI's and I believe Dad
paid for part of that statue in front of the JFK Museum. He
opened a bar that went bust and we lived in Tucson, AZ for a
while before moving to Nashville, TN in 1972. There, Dad got
back into the music industry with some unfortunate remakes and
other less-than-successful ventures. He went on the road for a
while doing shows or guest speaking at events.
During the mid 70's Dad killed a
jerk who was threatening him and his girlfriend at the time.
After Dad stomped him in a bar in Nashville, the guy publicly
stated he'll kill my father. Dad retorted, "You're not the
first to try, and you won't be the last." A few weeks
later, at night under a street light, the guy pulls up in his
van next to Dad. Dad saw the sparkle of shining metal in his
hands, Dad then popped a cap on the guy nailing him right
between the eyes. Not bad for a night hit. Anyway, when Dad
checked the corpse, the jerk was unarmed. The scumbag flashed
his keys and my father mistook it for a gun. The dumb ass
shouldn't make threats lightly.
Dad called the cops and later
pleaded guilty to Second Degree Manslaughter. The judge took
everything into consideration and Dad spent 30 days in a
half-way house. I guess that corpse was a real value to the
community. Needless to say the whole affair was less than ideal
for my mother. They asked if us kids would rather move due to
all the publicity and the hazing we could get from school. He
told them we'll stay and face our enemies.
When I was confronted by a
wet-nose punk, who called my father a murderer, I remarked,
"Look asshole. Like father, like son." A public
statement like that usually had a chilling effect on the masses.
Occasionally, Baron and I got into scraps but mostly for wanting
a fight and not over Dad or anything serious.
The Casca Series
In 1983, Dad had his fill of the
American Dream and decided to leave the country. By this time,
Dad had established himself as a published writer, much to his
own surprise. For years my mother has been telling him that he
had a brilliant imagination and he ought to write. He had
several series going, but he his staple crop was the Casca
series. A story about a Roman Soldier who at the time of
Christ's crucifixion pierced the Lord's side with his spear.
Christ then condemns the Roman to live until the second coming.
So in each book Dad chooses an epic in History and places Casca
in the middle of it. It's great men's adventure.
Sadler in Central America
But now why would Barry Sadler go
to Central America? Well at that time the Contra were fighting
the Nicaraguans and Dad needed a vacation. So he volunteered his
services to train and sell weapons and medical supplies, while
joining the ARDE faction (Eden Pastora, aka Commander Zero) in
their little romp with the communists.
Those were the goods days. I
would come down for my summer visits from college and learn
something more important. Such as what a great Dad I had. It was
the closest we ever came to knowing each other and having fun.
Like he said, when we (Baron and I) were young, we weren't
interesting enough to bother. He had always a unique way of
looking at things.
When the war in Central America
cooled down, Dad settled his operations in Guatemala City. There
he rented a ranch house in the mountains, with a family that
tended the small farm, cleaned house, prepared food, and
protected the property for $200/month. Dad sure knew how to
While Dad lived in Guatemala, he
was always hustling to sell helicopters to the military as well
as MASH equipment. He also had a warehouse full of weapons, some
dating prior to World War I! Now the following is speculation:
Drug lords started to ease their way into the Guatemala from
South America as it made a good staging base prior to shipment
of drugs through Mexico or Florida.
A "friend" of Dad's, I
believe, got caught up with this bunch who wanted the guns. When
this friend proposed this "deal" Dad got pissed. And
properly told this guy to pound sand as well other things. Now
this guy WAS a personal friend of mine as well. He was a
drunkard and a mean-spirited, cold-hearted SOB. I think he
planned the hit on my father that night.
This is what happened, Dad got
into the front seat of a cab with his girlfriend in the backseat
to go home. Dad had been drinking. As the cab made it's way
through the winding roads up the mountain, Dad noted a man
standing on the corner with a rifle. Dad (who is right handed)
grabbed his Beretta in his left hand and leaned back towards the
The first shot was from the
gunman that struck Dad in the upper right temple and exited the
back of his head. I believe Dad fired a round that went through
the roof of the cab. All the cab driver noticed was Dad had a
gun in the left hand, a gun shot in the car, and Dad slumped in
his lap. This is where the suicide story plays in. But if you
look at it, it doesn't add up.
Anyway, cab driver did something
remarkable - he drove Dad to the Roosevelt hospital. If you are
wondering what's so remarkable about that, it is because in
Guatemala if their was a crime or suspicious death everyone is
arrested. In fact, that old man spent almost a year in a Latin
American jail until his family could bribe him out. The cab
driver has driven my father home many a night, and my father had
shown kindness to his family, if it were any other cab driver,
Dad's body would have been dumped on the side of the road. The
girl took off, of course.
I won't go into details after the
shooting, other than say, I went to Guatemala as soon as I could
to pull the life support but just as I was flying down, Bob
Brown, editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine paid for the
lifeline LearJet to fly Dad from Guatemala to Vanderbilt
Hospital in Nashville.
Dad's situation was critical. He
later stabilized. Then he came out of his coma. He had suffered
severe brain-damaged (yeah I know "no sh*t"). He had
about 1/3 of his brain tissue destroyed. Until the trach came
out and his throat healed he couldn't talk. We communicated by
touch and motor reflex. It wasn't until later I could piece
everything together what happened and WHO did it. Dad remained
bed-ridden until he died nearly a year later. His heart gave
out. At age 48 my Dad lived a life of a free man and on his own
terms. I love him and it's sad my children will never know what
a great man he was. God bless you Dad, see you in the morning.
I know you asked for a quick bio,
but once I get started talking about Dad, I like to go on. I'm
not a shy person among the brotherhood of warriors. Let me know
if I could be of further assistance.
Come friends and gather around.
Pass the beer while I tell you a tale of noblemen and kings and
- PLEASE READ
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