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 the author of nine books, including What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life; Saving Monticello; and Lafayette: Idealist General. A former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, his work has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including Smithsonian, Military History, the Civil War Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He has appeared on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, The History Channel, BBC, and NPR; is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica; and edited the Webster's New World Dictionary of the Vietnam War. He served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1967–68, and is arts editor, senior writer, and columnist for TheVVA Veteran. He taught U.S. history at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia, from 2008 to 2015, and lives in northern Virginia. His website is marcleepson.com.