Forgotten Ballads of the Green Berets: An Exploration of Pro-Vietnam War Music and Viewpoints

Timeline of Relevant Events:

French defeated at Dienbienphu, 1954

Vietnam divided into north and south, 1954

French leave Vietnam, 1956

First involvement of US forces in Vietnam, 1962

Assasination of President Kennedy, 1963

Removal and murder of Diem, 1963

Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 1964

Johnny Wright releases "Hello Vietnam", 1965

Massive surge in US forces, 1965

Operation Rolling Thunder, 1965

Dave Dudley releases "What We're Fightin For" and "Vietnam Blues", 1965-66

Sgt. Barry Sadler releases "Ballad of the Green Berets", 1966

Operation Cedar Falls, 1967

Tet Offensive, 1968

My Lai Massacre, 1968

Richard Nixon elected US President, 1968

Policy of Vietnamization announced, 1969

Richard Nixon bombs Cambodia, 1969

Kent State Massacre, 1970

Pentagon Papers published, 1971

Richard Nixon opens door with China, 1971

APA runs study on American attitudes towards war, 1971

Secret Peace talks revealed, 1972

Richard Nixon wins second term, 1972

Cease-fire signed in Paris, 1973

Last US Troops withdraw from Vietnam, 1973

Resignation of Richard Nixon, 1974

Fall of Saigon, 1975

US Education Department Mandate on Vietnam War Teachings, 1988

Johnny Wright's song "Hello Vietnam", was the #1 song of 1965, and has appeared in many forms of media regarding the Vietnam War, most popularly as the introduction music to Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in March 1965. The troops were moving to attack a Viet Cong camp northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border. (Courtesy of Vintage Everyday and US Archives)
Sgt. Barry Sadler's Pro-Vietnam anthem "Ballad of the Green Berets." Released at a time with high pro-war sentiments, was the #1 song of 1966

The Vietnam War was an extremely bloody and arguably the most divisive conflict in American History. Spanning a time frame of over a decade, almost 50,000 American lives were lost in the war, with many others who would never return home or would never be the same. Today, the conflict is almost universally derided as one of the largest mistakes in American History, for a multitude of reasons. A causal look back on the history of this time period would make one believe that the American public was virtually entirely against the war, with the content that has been preserved and remembered being that of the counter culture protest movements. The anti-war music produced in that time period still remains a popular form of music today, with the rise of many iconic artists and musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. 

However, it is a mistake to assume the entirety of the American public was in favor of the war. In 1971, the American Psychological Association ran a series of experiments around the nation, taking an indicator of how many people would protest the anniversary of the moratorium of the Vietnam War. It turns out, only about 50% participated in the organized protest, with the other 50% refusing to protest. There were many in the nation who believed that as a people we had to stop the protesters and support our troops overseas. As it would happen, these people also created music, some of which the songs were the hit songs of those particular years. Despite this popularity in their own day, these songs and musicians have been lost to history, almost totally having fallen out of our cultural conscience. How many people do we meet that can tell us about artists such as Sgt. Barry Sadler and Johnny Wright? This webpage and associated Research Op-Ed is dedicated to discovering why these artists have been lost to history, and bringing their music together to be listened to and enjoyed as the pieces of history that they are.

Dave Dudley"s "What We're Fightin For" was released in concurrence with the song "Vietnam Blues" between 1965-1966, became some of the top songs in country music.