Life & Death of Sgt. Barry Sadler / Open Lines

Hosted byIan Punnett

Life & Death of Sgt. Barry Sadler / Open Lines

About the show

Journalist, historian, and the author of nine books, Marc Leepson graduated from George Washington University after serving in the U.S. Army from 1967-69, including a year in the Vietnam War. He received his honorable discharge and went on to earn a master's degree in history from George Washington University. He joined host Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss his book, Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from the Vietnam War and Pop Stardom to Murder and an Unsolved, Violent Death.

After Sadler's parents divorced and his father died of cancer, he moved with his mother to Leadville, Colorado, where they lived in the back of Pioneer Bar, Leepson reported, adding the bar had a brothel upstairs. The Madame acted as a second mother to Sadler, whose "home life was just terrible," Leepson continued. Sadler spent his free time with his high school best friend, Delfino Gomez, and his large Mexican-American family. Leepson credited Delfino's father with inspiring Sadler to make something of his life. He eventually joined the Army and completed Green Beret training — an experience that inspired the song, "The Ballad of the Green Berets."

The song was an enormous hit for Sadler, and at first he loved the success, Leepson revealed. "Later Barry said that song was the worst thing that ever happened to him," he said. The Army took Sadler off his regular duties and sent him around the country to recruit for them. He loathed it, Leepson noted. Sadler blew the money he made on the song and was unable to reproduce its success with anything else he tried. Sadler's final years were marred in tragedy. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of country music singer Lee Emerson Bellamy, and was himself shot in Guatemala City in a cab. He died a year later.

Open Lines was featured for the remainder of the program.

News segment guest: Tim Binnall

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