"The Ballad Of The Green Berets" is a patriotic song in the ballad style about the Green Berets, an elite special force in the U.S. Army. It is one of the very few songs of the 1960s to cast the military in a positive light, yet it became a major hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts for five weeks in 1966. It was also a crossover smash, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart and No. 2 on Billboard's Country survey.
The song was written by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, while the latter was recuperating from a leg wound suffered as a medic in the Vietnam War. Moore also wrote a non-fiction book, The Green Berets, about the force. Lyrics include:
"Back at home a young wife waits/ Her Green Beret has met his fate/ He has died for those oppressed/ Leaving her this last request
Put silver wings on my son's chest/ Make him one of America's best/ He'll be a man they'll test one day/ Have him win the Green Beret"
The lyrics were written in honor of Green Beret James Gabriel, Jr., the first Native Hawaiian who died in Vietnam, who was executed by the Viet Cong while on a training mission on April 8, 1962. One verse was written in honor of Gabriel, but it never made it into the final version.