In April of 2020, the Saddler family and the United States Army lost a remarkable man. Richard Nathaniel Saddler passed away at the age of 89, previously serving his country for over 41 years. He was born in Irondale, Alabama, and later moved to Detroit, Michigan where he studied trumpet at Wayne State University. In July of 1952, he was drafted into the Army and upon completion of basic training was assigned to the 298th Army Band of Berlin, Germany. During his time there he met his life-long spouse Hannelore. It was turbulent times in Germany as half the country was oppressed under communist control. Richard would return to Germany multiple times in his career forging remarkable connections with the communities surrounding the Army bases there.
Mr. Saddler continued his musical education throughout his 15 years as an enlisted Soldier, studying with luminary brass players Mel Broiles (New York Metropolitan Opera, West Point Band) and John Coffey (Boston Symphony Orchestra). During this time, he served in Bands stationed at: Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Stuttgart, Germany, and Fort Ord, California.
In 1967, Richard Saddler was appointed as a Warrant Officer and assigned to the 282nd Army Band, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Soon after arriving, he led the band in support of the Vice President and later, President Nixon. Even after being an Army Band Soldier for many years, everything changes when you are the one holding the baton. Richard was keen reader of people, his outgoing nature surely served him well when interacting with high-ranking officials and the public at large.
The summer of 1969, was turbulent time for the United States, and Mr. Saddler found himself in charge of the 1st Cavalry Division Band providing music for troops in Vietnam. In November 1969, the band was giving one of its firebase concerts which were designed to give variety and entertainment to the otherwise repetitive days of jungle outposts. Upon being fired on, from the nearby jungle, the band had to drop their instruments and take up their M-16s. Following the fire fight, they returned to continue their concert. The timing of this event lines up with Mr. Saddler’s command, but this story cannot be corroborated. However, his son (Colonel (R) Richard Saddler), relayed stories of multiple times his father had to hit the dirt/mud during firefights. It was common practice during the Vietnam War for Army Musicians to serve in perimeter security roles along with their primary mission of playing music.
The newspaper of Aberdeen Proving Ground reported on Chief Saddler’s assumption of command of the 324th Army Band in 1970. The writer highlights the band capturing a North Vietnamese lieutenant after getting close to their camp to hear the band’s music. Once again, the band under Saddler’s leadership was a direct contributor to the fight as Soldiers and musicians. Richard knew that music is a binding force that can lift spirits and bring people together. He made sure to bring music to as many troops as possible and along the way interacting with a diverse range of communities.
From Vietnam to the Cold War front in Berlin, Germany, Chief Saddler and his troops made their mark on history. Chief Warrant Officer 5 (R) Dave Ratliff remembers his time serving under Saddler: “…we raised the United States flag at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in East Berlin, and provided music for all the Americans stationed on that side of the wall…..He gave the crowd what they wanted to hear and then he took them on a journey. The stage band, rock combo, and concert band entertained the crowd to thunderous ovations and encores. His interaction with the audience is the primary lesson I learned.” Saddler was a mentor to many and truly understood what it meant to take care of Soldiers and their Families.
The 298th Army Band (Berlin Brigade) was a unit famous for its ability to connect the U.S. Military to the people of Germany, when their country was divided by communism. The town of Einhausen was particularly welcoming and through the band’s performances a long-term trust was built. Often alumni from the band would go back to Einhausen to perform and share memories with the community.
After his time in Germany, Mr. Saddler served the rest of his career with the 392nd Army Band at Fort Lee, Virginia and the 74th Army Band, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. There he continued being an inspiring mentor and leader, helping Soldiers not only join the Army Band but shepherd them through their career. He retired from the Army in 1993, as a Master Warrant Officer 4, the highest warrant officer rank at the time.
COL (R) Saddler remembers his father spending many nights writing and arranging music. Often with his German-style concertina (reed-bellows instrument) by his side. Dick Saddler was a man who learned music from some of the best teachers and used his love of music in service of others through the Army. His kind spirit served him well in taking care of those under his command. The combination of music and Army training allowed him to lead troops in combat environments and high-pressure ceremonies for dignitaries. He is remembered fondly by the hundreds of Soldier-Musicians he served with and led. Mr. Saddler has left an incredible legacy to the United States Army, The Adjutant General’s Corps, and the Army Band community.
Richard N. Saddler is survived by his loving wife, Hannelore Lilli Saddler; children, Susan Starks, Colonel (R) Richard Saddler, and Yvonne Glover; grandchildren, Dr. Sabina Holland, Alisha Saddler, Lindsey Saddler, Derrick Glover, Eric Glover, and Donald Glover; sister, Jeanne Saddler; and brother, Daryl Saddler.