On this day in 1965: Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, recuperating at Fort Bragg from a punji-stick wound suffered in Vietnam, records “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” The tribute to his Special Forces comrades (“Fearless men who jump and die. . . . Men who mean just what they say. . . . “) will spend five weeks atop Billboard’s Top 40 list and become the best-selling single of 1966.
The Special Forces, an elite unit created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, are headquartered at Fort Bragg. At the height of the Vietnam War they number about 15,000 men.
Despite the success of “Green Berets,” the nation is fast losing its appetite for war, reinforcing Sadler’s prediction that “In two years I’ll be forgotten.”
The Fayetteville Observer makes smart use of the oft-mocked listicle to lay out “Top 10 game changers in Fayetteville’s history” (June 20), from the town’s failed attempt to secure the state capital in 1788 to the still-disputatious “Big Bang” annexation of 2005.
Here’s Matt Leclercq’s entry on the birth of Fort Bragg:
“Fayetteville was a sleepy town post-Civil War, with a population hovering around 5,000. Then came a ‘dusty June day in 1918’ when two government men from Washington were scouting sites for an artillery range and camp. There were few maps, and few roads, historian Roy Parker Jr. wrote, and they traveled by compass and ‘dead-reckoning.’ On the fourth day of their drive, they came across a rise north of Fayetteville and saw undulating, pine-covered sand ridges, Parker recounts. The War Department soon established Camp Bragg, which would become one of the largest military bases in the world.”
On this day in 1970: The pregnant wife and two young daughters of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald are murdered at their Fort Bragg apartment. MacDonald blames drug-crazed hippie intruders who chant, “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs,” but prosecutors will contend it was he who clubbed and stabbed his wife and 5-year-old in a fit of rage, then killed his 2-year-old to cover up his crime.
In 1979 a federal court in Raleigh convicts MacDonald on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder. The case inspires a TV mini-series, “Fatal Vision,” and numerous books debating his guilt.
MacDonald remains in federal prison but continues to appeal his conviction.