Print Shortlink

Ballad of the Green Berets, The

(Robin Moore/Barry Sadler)

Patriotic military song that inexplicably wound up being the #1 selling song of 1966 in the US, in spite of the public backlash against the Vietnam War.

It was co-penned by Robin Moore, who had written a book called The Green Berets.  The book was later used as the basis for the 1968 John Wayne movie of the same name, and the song was re-recorded for use as the main theme.  Sadler wrote this song while recovering from a serious leg injury suffered during battle.  He played it for his comrades and one day an ABC-TV crew showed up and filmed him.  It was an instant success, luring the advances of record execs.  Sadler re-recorded it with a male chorus and fifteen-string orchestra in an all-day and night session that ended around 11 p.m. on 18th December 1965.  The song skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard pop chart and stayed there for five weeks, ending the year as the #1 song of 1966.  Its accompanying album, Ballads of the Green Berets, also went #1.  It even scored a respectable #28 on the U.K. chart.

The song and album have sold over nine million copies.  It has also become the fodder for a bevy of parodists, most notably The Beach Bums, of which Bob Seger was a part, called “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret”, a view of the war through the eyes of a draft dodger.  Sadler was not amused and sent them a letter telling them to cease and desist.

It remains popular to this today, especially among the U.S. Army Special Forces, for whom it has become an anthem, and is also a staple of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.

Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler recordings
RCA Victor 47-8739 (US 45)
Conductor/Arranger – Sid Bass