“The Ballad of the Green Berets”, the song was written by Robin Moore & Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, Barry Sadler recorded it in December 1965, for the RCA label in New York. The song was released in January 1966, produced by Andy Wiswell, on March 19, 1966, it reached # 2 on the US Hot Country Songs charts, and spent a total of 14 weeks on the charts. On the Hot 100 charts, it reached # 1 on March 5, 1966, for five consecutive weeks, and a total of 13 weeks on the charts.
The song was included on the album, Ballads of the Green Berets (RCA 1966), the album was released in January 1966, and on March 26, 1966, it reached number # 1 on the US Top Country Albums charts, remaining a total of 12 weeks on the charts.
“The Ballad of the Green Berets” is a patriotic song in the ballad style about the United States Army Special Forces. It is one of the few popular songs of the Vietnam War years to cast the military in a positive light. The song was written by then Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, beginning when he was training to be a Special Forces medic. The author Robin Moore, who wrote the book, The Green Berets, helped Sadler write the lyrics and get a recording contract with RCA Records.
The lyrics were written, in part, in honor of U.S. Army Specialist 5 James Gabriel, Jr., a Special Forces operator and the first native Hawaiian to die in Vietnam, who was killed by Viet Cong gunfire while on a training mission with the South Vietnamese Army on April 8, 1962. One verse mentioned Gabriel by name, but it was not used in the recorded version.
The song is heard in a choral performance by Ken Darby in the 1968 John Wayne film The Green Berets, based on the Robin Moore book.
The song also appears in the films More American Graffiti and Canadian Bacon. It can also be heard in the gun show scene of the 2002 film Showtime, and in the film Jesus’ Son, in a scene that features a hitch-hiking Jack Black.
The Lancastrians 1966 (PYE Records)
Johnny Paycheck 1966 (Little Darling)
Johnny Wright 1966 (Decca)
The Pick-Ups 1966 (Tip)
Herb Eaton 1966 (Hit Records)
Autry Inman 1968 (Epic)
Dolly Parton 2003 (Blue Eye Records)