The rough-and-tumble life of Special Forces vet and Sixties pop star Barry Sadler
The top Billboard Hot 100 single of 1966 wasn’t The Rolling Stones' “Paint It Black” or the Beatles' “Yellow Submarine”--it was “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” a hyper-patriotic tribute to the men of the Special Forces by Vietnam veteran, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. But Sadler’s clean-cut, all-American image hid a darker side, a Hunter Thompson-esque life of booze, girls, and guns. Unable to score another hit song, he wrote a string of popular pulp fiction paperbacks that made “Rambo look like a stroll through Disneyland.” He killed a lover’s ex-boyfriend in Tennessee. Settling in Central America, Sadler ran guns, allegedly trained guerrillas, provided medical care to residents, and caroused at his villa. In 1988 he was shot in the head in Guatemala and died a year later. This life-and-times biography of an American pop culture phenomenon recounts the sensational details of Sadler’s life vividly but soberly, setting his meteoric rise and tragic fall against the big picture of American society and culture during and after the Vietnam War.
Journalist and historian Marc Leepson is a Vietnam veteran and former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly whose work has appeared in Smithsonian, Military History, and Vietnam magazines as well as the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, Fox News, The History Channel, and NPR. His previous books include What So Proudly We Hailed and Saving Monticello. He lives in northern Virginia.