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Green Berets' 50th Birthday: Five Best Pop-Culture Moments

One hundred men we'll test today, but only three win the Green Beret.
One hundred men we'll test today, but only three win the Green Beret.

The Green Berets, at least the unit everyone thinks of when they think of the Green Berets, are 50 years old tomorrow. President Kennedy, on one of his romantic James Bond flights of fancy, approved activating the U.S. Army's 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, and okayed their distinctive headgear.

Since then the Green Berets have been a mainstay of pop culture, not to mention special ops.

Here are five of the best -- or worst, you decide -- instances.

5. "Ballad of the Green Berets"

Five fun facts about "The Ballad of the Green Berets," By SSGT Barry Sadler and Robin Moore:

5. Robin Moore went on to write The French Connection and co-authored The Happy Hooker.

4. SSGT Barry Sadler went on to write, ummm, a series of books about, as wiki says, "Casca Rufio Longinius (a sort of combination of Saint Longinus and The Wandering Jew)."

3. It was the Number One song in the U.S. in 1966, beating out "Reach Out I'll Be There," "96 Tears" and anything by the Beatles or Stones.

2. Sadler served 21 days for killing a romantic rival after the song became a hit.

1. He died in 1989 of a gunshot wound he received a year earlier in Guatemala under very mysterious circumstances, with explanations ranging from suicide to retaliation for arming contras. His flight to an American hospital was paid for by Soldier of Fortune magazine.

 

Green Berets' 50th Birthday: Five Best Pop-Culture Moments

4. Second-coolest GI Joe ever Second only to Nazi GI Joe, the Green Beret Joe rocked the ascot like David Niven in Guns of Navarone.

3. Apocalypse Now In real life, the Green Berets fought and trained the Montagnards in the deepest jungles of Vietnam; in Apocalypse Now Beret Col. Kurtz's methods have "become unsound."

The late, great G.D. Spradlin, briefing Martin Sheen's character, offers this:

Well, you see, Willard, in this war, things get confused out there. Power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God. Because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irration, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.

 

2. Comic books If you're going to make dolls action figures, comic books are the next logical step.

In case you can't read the monologue above, it's:

Go ahead, son...cry...Your family, your village...wiped out by the "Cong." If we hadn't arrived when we did, they'd have gotten you, too!

I wish that all those who call us...whatever they do...I wish they could talk to me! I'd tell them why we're here!

This one makes its point more wordlessly:

Green Berets' 50th Birthday: Five Best Pop-Culture Moments

 

1. The Green Berets A bad war movie unrelieved by unintentional hilarity, The Green Berets features David Janssen as a cynical know-it-all reporter who just doesn't understand America is destroying Vietnam in order to save it.

In a debate with the John Wayne character, he offers this: "How do you know we should be fighting for this present government of South Vietnam? They have no constitution. They haven't had any free elections. And six months ago, a committee was appointed to form a constitution... and still no constitution."

Yeah!! Six months and still no constitution!! What kind of country is this, anyway?

If you want to watch the ending, where the sun sets in the east, click here. (And yes, John Wayne defenders can offer up reasons why this wasn't a mistake, dammit.) Also, the Vietnam pictured in the movie doesn't seem to have many palm trees and seems to look a lot like California and Fort Benning, Georgia.


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