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NOTE
: THE DEFINING GENERATION is a project begun by Doug and Pam Sterner in 2002 and completed in 2006. Initially is was prepared for publication as a book, however with their changing focus to development of a database of military awards, was postponed indefinitely so they could concentrate on that larger, more important work. The stories found herein however, need to be shared, and they have consented to make this compilation available in this format. While each story can stand alone, it is recommended that for continuity, readers will be best served by reading the chapters sequentially from first to last.

 

The Defining Generation

-

Defining the New

Barry Sadler

Special Forces soldier Barry Sadler became an instant celebrity when he wrote The Ballad of the Green Berets. The song was an immediate success, remaining number one for five straight weeks in 1966 and was the #1 single for that year. It still ranks #21 for the rock era of 1960-69.

 

Barry Sadler was the shiftless kind of young man who would have given his father ulcers, had there been a father to give them to. Barry's parents divorced when he was quite young and only a few years later when Barry was seven years old, his father died of cancer at the age of 37. Barry was also the kind of young man who would ultimately have made his father proud, had his father survived.

Born in New Mexico, Barry spent his youth bounding around the Southwest with his mother and an older brother. It was a nomadic lifestyle that afforded little security and no opportunity. When Barry was twelve he spent the summer in a logging camp in Mora, New Mexico, where he became enamored with music, primarily Western and Mexican ballads that were popular in the camp. He taught himself to play the harmonica, flute, drums, and the guitar. It was a summer that would follow Barry through the coming years of endless wander in search for self, eventually to find him, and perhaps also ultimately to destroy him.

After the ninth grade, Barry dropped out of high school and spent a brief period hitchhiking cross-country, before deciding he could perhaps find his place in the military. In 1958 at the age of 17, he convinced his mother to sign for him to enlist in the Air Force, where he trained for the none-too-exciting job of a radar specialist. Barry fulfilled his commitment to the U.S. military, but the four-year stint failed to fulfill him. Still restlessly searching for his niche in the world, Barry returned to civilian life and a series of minor musical engagements throughout Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, and Colorado. The slim pickings of the endeavor led Barry to California where he worked loading fruit for barely over a dollar an hour during the day, and made music with his honky-tonk combo at night. Not only did this brief period of his life fail to fill his hunger for something more purposeful in life, he later vouched that it destroyed his appetite for peaches, pears and plums!

Finally, like a prodigal son returning home, Barry wound up in a military recruiting office, this time to join the Army. There he volunteered for jump school because it paid an extra $55 a month. While earning his wings Barry learned about the elite soldiers of the Army Special Forces. They fascinated him and Barry volunteered to join them. Soon thereafter he began training with a class of 50 other would be Green Berets. Only 16 of the young men finished the course. Sergeant Barry Sadler was one of them.

In 1964 while Robin Moore was leaving Vietnam to begin work on his best selling book about the Green Berets, Barry Sadler was arriving in Vietnam work as one of them. He was assigned to a B-Team for a time, working out of Kontum and Song Ba, and then moved to the central highlands at Plei Do Lim to join an A-Team. During his tour of duty in Southeast Asia his music followed him and Barry was a popular balladeer among his fellow soldiers. Ever since his days of airborne training he had wanted to write a special song for American jump-qualified soldiers, "I had no idea what it would be, but I wanted it to include the line, 'silver wings upon their chests'," he said. While serving in Vietnam Barry finally put the finishing touches on what would become his legendary ballad. In Vietnam he even sang it for an ABC film crew while standing in front of a bunker.

By May of 1965 Robin Moore's Green Berets was hitting the bookstores at home, while Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler was wrapping up his tour in Vietnam. It ended abruptly on a routine patrol in the central highlands. Moving through the heavy grass, Staff Sergeant Saddler felt a sudden pain in his knee when it was pierced by a sharp bamboo spike. Punji stakes were a crude but common and often effective weapon, employed by the Viet Cong to protect their jungles. Bamboo poles, hewn to a razor sharp edge and planted in holes or at angles in the grass, were a deadly menace to troop movements. At the least they could score the flesh…at worst they could impale the unsuspecting soldier. To turn even the least dangerous option more dangerous, the tips of the spikes were often coated with human excrement that could cause a rapid and even deadly infection.

At the time of his wounding Barry was already on antibiotics for dysentery, so he assumed that the threat of infection was minor. He shoved a cotton swab into the wound, covered it with a bandage, and finished his patrol. Within days serious infection caused his leg to swell and surgeons had to enlarge the wound to drain it.

The punji stake wound was deemed serious enough to end Sergeant Sadler's tour of duty in Vietnam. He was sent to a hospital in the Philippines where they pumped his body full of penicillin and struggled to save the leg. For a time, there was a very real fear that it would have to be amputated. During his month confined to an Army hospital bed, Sadler used his time to give more thought to the songs he had written, and the ones he still wanted to write.

As Barry's strong constitution fought back for recovery, the Army sent him home to finish his rehabilitation. Barry left his Army post without authorization and went looking for Robin Moore, the writer-hero of the Green Berets.

It was an unconventional way to follow a dream, but for Barry it worked. Robin welcomed his unexpected arrival warmly as one Special Forces soldier and Vietnam veteran to another. Both had battled on foreign shores for the survival of the Vietnamese people. Now they teamed to battle on the home front for the survival of their elite unit. Along the way the 24-year-old Sadler found more than a mentor. In a very real sense he finally found the father he had never been privileged to have in his youth.

Barry's arrival in New York was six months after the initial release of The Green Berets, which was now being prepared for a paperback issue. One morning from his bed on Robin's couch, Sadler could hear Robin on the phone with his publisher. They were having trouble finding a suitable male model to pose in uniform and green beret for the cover of the paper back edition. Robin said into the receiver, "Hell, I got one of the real ones passed out on the couch; why don't I shower him down and send him over?"

Sadler later explained, "That's the reason I have that steely-eyed glassy look in my eyes in that picture (on the cover of the paper back edition), staring straight ahead. I was still about half-bombed."

Though Barry appreciated the $65 he was paid to pose for the book's cover, he had come to New York to find help in getting his music heard, not to become a poster boy. In this effort, Robin Moore came through again. He worked with Barry to polish the songs that would comprise the young balladeers first album, and then called his personal friend Dick Robert at RCA-Victor to arrange for Barry to be heard. Barry walked into RCA an unknown Special Forces Vietnam Veteran, and walked back out an aspiring singer/songwriter with his first contract.

On December 18, 1965, Barry walked back into the RCA studios where a 15-piece orchestra and male chorus waited to help him achieve his dream. Before midnight Barry walked back out, a full 12-song album recorded on tape. Three weeks later The Ballad of the Green Berets was released as a single, immediately shooting to the top of the music charts and selling two million copies in five weeks. Ten days later the full album was released to similar success.

Between Moore's best selling true stories of the Green Berets in action, Barry Sadler's inspiring new ballad, and the wholesome, clean-cut image of the professional soldier depicted by Sadler on the cover of both the LP and the books (glassy eyes notwithstanding), new passions were ignited in America's youth. A generation that was searching for identity and purpose found something appealing in the elite Green Berets, and recruiting offices around the country were swamped with eager volunteers wanting "silver wings upon their chests". One would have thought the United States Army, now facing an ever-escalating involvement in Vietnam, would have been thrilled. They were not, and Robin Moore became the object of their dissent.

The anti-beret faction at the Department of Defense successfully brought pressure to bear on RCA to keep Robin Moore's name off the album jacket, though his name did remain on the label itself. David Wolper was a movie producer with an "in" with the military establishment. Shortly after the initial release of The Green Berets, Wolper signed up for the movie rights to The Green Berets. Army brass promptly notified Mr. Wolper that the Defense Department wanted to get Special Forces OUT of the U.S. Army as a unit, not glorify them by making a movie out of the book. Under this pressure, Robin Moore reluctantly but kindly released Wolper from the contract.

By mid-1966 the book continued to sell at a rapid pace, Sadler's ballad was playing repeatedly across the airwaves, and Sadler himself was making appearances around the country including a stint on The Ed Sullivan Show. Among the younger generation, the concept of U.S. Army Special Forces was generating an excitement that stirred emotions that had only been aroused by one other force in this new generation, Rock and Roll. The older generation responded to both Special Forces and Rock and Roll in the same manner, distrust and derision.

Six months after Robin Moore released David Wolper from his movie contract, a third person joined the battle to preserve the future of the Army Special Forces. This time it was not a little known but budding author, or a virtually unknown songwriter who had appeared out of nowhere. This time it was none other than the hero of the American war movie, John "The Duke" Wayne.

When "The Duke" contacted Robin Moore to obtain the movie rights for The Green Berets, he paid a token $35,000 for the movie rights with the additional promise of 5% of the movie's profits. Robin asked Wayne how much the movie would have to earn before his own 5% kicked in, to which "The Duke" replied, "I dunno, Robin. Haven't figured what my salary is gonna be."

Even the venerable John Wayne was destined to face opposition from the Department of Defense in his bid to put the elite Green Berets on the big screen. According to Wayne's son Mike, The Duke took the opposition in stride and placed a call to the White House. "Lyndon," he said when he had the president on the phone, "I'm going to make this movie with or without you. What's it going to be?"

"Oh, with us, Duke," President Johnson quickly replied. "We'll help."

It was yet a year before filming began on location at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Green Berets. By the time the movie finally opened in New York in 1968 the American military establishment had a bigger war brewing than its efforts to abort the birth of Special Forces, or their NOW very real conflict in Vietnam. By 1968 the tide of public opinion was turning against American involvement in the war in Southeast Asia, and the Pentagon had its hands full just trying to keep up with the outcry and anti-war demonstrations of the populace at home.

Meanwhile the men of the U.S. Army Special Forces continued to do their jobs with courage and professionalism. Born in the conflict of war, these brave young men of a new generation of Americans proved their worth and overcame their detractors.

Robin Moore continued to enjoy enviable success as an American author, though he never lost touch with his roots among the Green Berets. When I interviewed him in December 2001, the 76-year old American icon was preparing for another trip abroad…this time to Afghanistan. "We don't want the Marines to try and take all the publicity," he told me.

Robin passed away on February 21, 2008. He was buried with full military honors, and was eulogized by many including Major General Gary L. Harrell, Deputy Commanding General of the United States Special Operations Command, who said:

“All Special Forces Soldiers, past and present, mourn the passing of Robin Moore; he was a valued and trusted member of the Special Operations family. Robin was a devoted advocate and a true Ambassador for the 'Green Beret' and all they stand for. His writings on Special Forces are textbooks for our modern Unconventional Warriors; they were both educational and inspirational and introduced the world to the 'Green Berets.' He will be missed."

 In 1989 Barry Sadler was shot under mysterious circumstances in Guatemala. The sudden rise to fame took more than its toll on his young life, though he had bounced back to become a successful author himself before his death. Some would view his youthful demise as a tragedy. The fact remains, Barry Sadler did more living in his 49 years than most people will enjoy in twice that span. "He was a wild one," Robin Moore told me in 2001, "but he was a good man."

Perhaps the most fitting epitaph for the U.S. Army's unwanted poster boy of the 1960s was one he wrote himself. It was the title of his 1967 autobiography: I'm a Lucky One.

 

 

The Defining Generation: Copyright © 2006 by Doug and Pam Sterner
All Rights Reserved

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover & Introduction
     Preface
Out With the Old
     The Defining Generation

I. - Defining the New
     John Fitzgerald Kennedy
     Roger H.C. Donlon
     Robert Robin Moore
     Barry Sadler
     The Green Beret

II. - Defining Equality
     When Worlds Collide
     Dr. Martin Luther King
     Jimmy Stanford & Vince Yrineo
     Milton Lee Olive, III
     Specialist Lawrence Joel
     Sammy Lee Davis
     Black MOH Recipients - Vietnam War

III. - Defining the Role of the Sexes
     Evolution of a Husband
     Remember the Ladies
     Rosie the Riveter
     Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
     Linda G. Alvarado
     Karen Irene Offutt
     Women in Military Service
     Lieutenant General Carol Mutter
     The Modern Woman in Combat
IV. - Defining Human Rights
     My Brother's Keeper
     Who is My Brother
     Christopher Dodd & Christopher Shays
     Peace Corps Politicians (Memories)
     Don Bendell
     Sir Edward Artis
     General Colin L. Powell

V. - Defining Entertainment
     Life Imitating Art
     Troubled Waters
     Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
     Brian's Song
     All in the Family
     Adrian Cronauer

VI. - Defining Dissent

     From Berkeley With Love
     The Pen and the Sword
     General David Shoup
     Muhammad Ali
     John Forbes Kerry

VII. - Defining the Future of Politics
     An Act of Congress
     All Politics is....Hereditary?
     Hillary Rodham Clinton
     Condoleezza Rice
     James Henry Webb
The next Section is scheduled for posting on May 20, 2011
VIII. - Defining Memories
     Jaime Pacheco
     The Glory of their Deeds
     Jan Scruggs
     Delbert Schmeling
     Peter C. Lemon

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
The authors extend our thanks to the following who granted personal interviews for this work
: Roger Donlon (MOH), Robin Moore, Don Bendell, Jimmy Stanford, Vince Yrineo, Sammy L. Davis (MOH), Linda Alvarado, Karen Offutt, Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, Sir Edward Artis, General Colin L. Powell, Katharine Houghton, Adrian Cronauer, Jan Scruggs, Delbert Schmeling, and Peter Lemon (MOH).
Our thanks to the staff of the following who either wrote or allowed reprint of their own works for this book: Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Don Bendell, Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Thomas Petri, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Jim Walsh, Governor Jim Doyle, and Scott Baron.
Our special thanks also to the staff of the following who provided information and fact-checked the chapters related to their subject: Staff of Senator John Kerry, Staff of (then) Senator Hillary Clinton, Staff of Senator Jim Webb
A SPECIAL THANKS also to Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard for his assistance in writing and editing the entire section on the Role of the Sexes.

 

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