How Barry Sadler’s “The Ballad of the Green Berets” became the No. 1 single of 1966.
By Marc Leepson @ Historynet.com
A little more than 50 years ago, on May 7, 1967, a 26-year-old Green Beret staff sergeant let his term of enlistment expire and took his honorable discharge at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He had served five years, including a tour of duty during 1964-65 as an A Team medic in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. He left the service, he said, to pursue a career in music and movies.
Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler had a good start on the music part. His song, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” came out of nowhere in January 1966 to become the No. 1 single of the year, selling some 9 million copies. The album sold 2 million. Sadler earned $500,000 in royalties in the first six months after the song hit. In the process Sadler—who dropped out of high school to join the Air Force in 1958, served four years and then joined the Army—went viral decades before anyone knew the word “internet.”