10 Things You Never Realized About Full Metal Jacket

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When it comes to pop-culture allure and romanticized brutality, Stanley Kubrick's “Full Metal Jacket" is arguably the most influential of all Vietnam War movies. R. Lee Ermey's iconic portrayal of the sadistic Gunnery Sgt. Hartman has served as a de facto recruiting mechanism for the Marines since the film's release in 1987. I remember watching the same VHS copy of “Full Metal Jacket" about a hundred times before I enlisted as a Marine combat correspondent, choosing the same military specialty as Private Joker. During the 10 years I served in the Corps, it was a rare occasion to find a Marine who didn't love the film.


Despite FMJ's widespread popularity, there is a crap-ton of behind-the-scenes drama and literary awesomeness from the original novel that gets missed if you've never looked into the film's backstory. Consider this list the enthralling special-features bonus DVD you never saw.

1. The book is better. Okay, yes, this is an opinion, but hear me out. FMJ is based on the novel “The Short Timers" by the late Gustav Hasford, aka, the real Joker. Hasford drew from his experience in Vietnam as a Marine correspondent with the 1st Marine Division to develop the novel. After the book's release in 1978, Newsweek's Walter Clemons called it “the best work of fiction about the Vietnam War." The film is brilliant, yes, but Kubrick — beholden to studio execs at Warner Bros. — had to cater to mainstream sensibilities, which is why the brutally macabre third and final section of the novel never made it to the screen.

Related: 10 things you probably never knew about "Apocalypse Now."

2. Civilian correspondent Michael Herr shared a screenwriter credit with Hasford and Kubrick. “Dispatches" is Herr's memoir about his time as a civilian correspondent for Esquire from 1967 to 1969. Herr's book is a masterpiece of literary nonfiction. While the vast majority of the dialogue in FMJ is taken straight from Hasford's book, the psycho door gunner's darkly comic dialogue is pulled from “Dispatches," which you may or may not find disturbing in light of the fact that Herr's book is nonfiction.

3. There is a psycho-door-gunner scene in both “Dispatches"and “The Short Timers." Noticing this, I briefly wondered if Hasford might have “borrowed" from Herr's book or if there were just a lot of psycho door gunners on Marine helicopters in Vietnam. I lean toward the latter possibility since the scenes' similarities are negligible and the differences distinct. Hasford's gunner, for example, wears a Hawaiian sport shirt and smokes weed while eagerly wasting Vietnamese farmers in the hamlet below.

4. Hasford wrote a sequel to “The Short Timers" called “The Phantom Blooper." In “The Phantom Blooper," Joker spends a year as a POW in a Vietcong village and eventually comes to sympathize with his Vietnamese captors. After he is rescued, he turns against the war and his government. Blooper was supposed to be book two of a trilogy, but Hasford died a few years after publishing it.

5. The peace symbol/born to kill scene is derived from a short story Hasford wrote in community college after the war. The short is called “Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?"

6. Gustav Hasford called R. Lee Ermey “a fucking pogue lifer." Kubrick hired Ermey as a military technical advisor on FMJ. Ermey's background as a Marine drill instructor caught Kubrick's attention, and the director recast Ermey in the iconic role of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. Hasford, who had campaigned to have his friend Dale Dye be the film's technical advisor, decried Ermey as a shill for the Marine Corps' pro-war propaganda machine. (Hasford had a well-known mean streak that often manifested itself in letters he wrote to Kubrick or others he felt had wronged him).

7. Kubrick kind of tried to screw Hasford out of a screenwriting credit (and a lot of money). This (abridged) letter Hasford wrote to his friend Grover Lewis in 1985 explains:

(July 14—return address c/o Michael Herr) Here in London the Great Movie Wars … are going hot and heavy. The situation is very complex, but the basic issue is one of screen credit. I've pretty much written Stanley's movie and Stanley has added a few minor things, but essentially the screenplay is by me. But Stanley wants to give me an “additional dialogue" credit … He threatens to pull the plug on the whole thing. Meanwhile, I am refusing to sign my screenwriter's contract.

8. Hasford won his battle with Kubrick. Hasford's friends kept telling him he was over his head tangling with one of America's most beloved filmmakers and his Hollywood backers, but Hasford never flinched during his year-long battle. He announced his victory in a letter to Grover Lewis in 1986:

(May 20—from Perth) … In the cynical world of L.A., where show *biz* deals are conducted in the back alleys of cocktail parties like self-parodying out-takes from a comedic film noir, you might want to interject this lively note … I won my credit battle with Stanley, I beat Stanley, City Hall, The Powers That Be, and all of the lawyers at Warner Brothers, up to and including the Supreme Boss Lawyer. As a little Canuck … friend of mine would say: I kicked dey butt …

9. FMJ was filmed in England. No, really. Stanley Kubrick somehow managed to make England pass for Vietnam. I feel like that should be the ultimate test in some master-filmmaker gauntlet that directors have to pass before they can be called “masters." Like, “Congratulations, Mr. Aaronofsky, Mr. Fincher, Mr. Nolan. You've made it to the Vietnam-in-England Test, aka, the Kubrick Rubric."

10. This type of upward POV shot is one of Kubrick's visual calling cards. He uses it in the second half of the film when the Lusthog Squad survivors are standing over their dead bros, saying a few words. Also look for it in "The Shining," "A Clockwork Orange" and others. And if you're a Quentin Tarantino fan (who isn't, right?), definitely watch this mashup showing Tarantino's affinity for the same type of “from below" shot. (Bonus: one-point perspective is another Kubrick signature captured brilliantly in this mashup from "Kogonada" on Vimeo.)

Bonus fact: Writing for L.A. Weekly after his friend's death from diabetes in 1994, Grover Lewis found this gem of a “Gus story" from Steve “Bernie" Berntson:

I'd set up a base camp in Hue City, and Walter Cronkite rolls up with a camera crew. He was doing a stand-upper with some pogue colonel, asking about rumors that our guys had been looting. Just then Gus busts in with two black onyx panthers and a stone Buddha on his back. "Hey, there's a whole temple full of this shit," he hollers. "We can get beaucoup bucks for this stuff in Saigon!" I hustled him outside quick, and Cronkite, of course, came back home and declared the war unwinnable on national TV.

Long live the Marine combat correspondent. We'll make you famous. You can read all of Gustav Hasford's books online here.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.

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A former Army soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for stealing weapons from Fort Bliss, along with other charges.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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