Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ballad of the Green Berets

I fully admit to my love-hate relationship with the History Channel. This morning rather than ranting about the errors and dumbing down of history, I have to give them a thumbs up for their "This Day in History" newsletter. This morning they included a couple of articles that I enjoyed, both about the Vietnam era.

The first was a reminder that today in 1971, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (the Blackhorse) departed Vietnam. The Regiment, minus the 2nd Squadron who stayed in Vietnam for another year, redeployed to Germany. They would spend the next 21 years there patrolling the East German border. If you have read this blog for a while then you know I'm intimately familiar with that part of the unit's history.

The second item that caught my attention was that on this day back in 1966 Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler hit #1 on the charts with his song "Ballad of the Green Berets." I loved this song when I was in elementary school, listening to it over and over again on my parents' 8-track. When my daughter wanted desperately to sleep in and be late to school, I would wake her up by singing this song at the top of my lungs. What kid could sleep through that? I went to YouTube and found a copy to share with you:

What I liked about History Channel's treatment of this was that they pointed out that when this song hit number one, there was still wide spread support for America's involvement in Southeast Asia. The first song that could be called an anti-war song to gain popularity was "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield that did not come out until 1967. I didn't recognize the title either, but you know it too: "Everybody stop, hey, what's that sound?" I went back to YouTube and found a copy of that as well:

So it made me think that you could use the Billboard Chart of popular music to track popular support for the war in Vietnam. In March of 1966 a "pro military" song goes to number one and is the best selling song of the year, while there are no "anti-war" songs on the charts. The next year, an "anti-war" song appears on the charts and becomes one of the songs most associated with the Vietnam era? Call me a geek, but I thought that was fascinating. Popular culture meets military and political history.

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