Full Metal Jacket (1987) Poster

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  • Regarding his character Sergeant Hartman's brutal discipline of the recruits, R. Lee Ermey once said in an interview that a Marine drill instructor would never physically slap, choke or punch a recruit (at least not openly), even back in his day as a young Marine. Edit

  • Section 8 is a category of discharge from the United States military, used for a service member when they are judged mentally unfit for service. Section 8 was also often given to homosexuals, bisexuals, cross-dressers and transgender people.

    The term comes from Section VIII of the World War II-era United States Army Regulation 615-360, which provided for the discharge of those deemed unfit for military service, a Section 8 discharge often made it difficult for people to find work in civilian life and did not allow veterans benefits.

    Discharge under Section 8 is no longer practiced, as medical discharges for psychological/psychiatric reasons are now covered by a number of regulations. In the Army, such discharges are handled under the provisions of AR 635-200, Active Duty Enlisted Administrative Separations. Chapter 5, paragraph 13 governs the separation of personnel medically diagnosed with a personality disorder. Edit

  • Full Metal Jacket is based on the semi-autobiographical books The Short-Timers (1983) by Gustav Hasford and Dispatches (1977) by Michael Herr. Edit

  • A full metal jacket (or FMJ) is a bullet encased in a copper alloy such as gilding metal, or cupronickel, or a steel alloy shell. This shell can extend around all of the bullet or often just the front and sides with the rear left as exposed lead. The jacket allows for higher muzzle velocities than bare lead without depositing significant amounts of metal in the bore. It also prevents damage to bores from steel or armor piercing core materials. This bullet type distinguishes itself from hollow point bullets. The symbolic meaning of the term is that the recruits on Parris Island have to go through a rigorous training program to turn them into soldiers capable of following orders without question, surviving in combat and to kill their enemies without having any moral complications about doing so. Also, Joker's time in combat in Vietnam is indicative of this concept: by the end of the film, he is a hardened soldier without fear. If you look at the thematic and symbolic meaning of a full metal jacketed bullet, the recruits have developed a hardened exterior for themselves. Edit

  • "Physical Training". It could be either regular scheduled PT or incentive PT which was either individual or group punishment for some minor infraction, or sometimes it would occur if the DI (Drill Instructor) was bored and wanted to toy with trainees. It is where a DI gets a particular trainee or the whole platoon and barks out orders to perform various exercises like side straddle hops (aka: jumping jacks), mountain climbers, squat benders, etc, at a fast pace. It is also referred to as being "Quarterdecked" or "Pitted". Usually it would go on (sometimes for hours) until the DI got tired of yelling. Edit

  • Gomer Pyle was the naive and dim-witted country boy, who worked as a gas station attendant in The Andy Griffith Show (1960) from 1960, and got his own show, Gomer Pyle: USMC (1964) in 1964, where he joined the Marines. The nickname "Gomer Pyle" has since been used in the military for a dimwitted, hard-to-train recruit, like Pvt. Lawrence. Edit

  • They were filmed at the abandoned Beckton Gas Works in the east London borough of Beckton. Much of the area that Kubrick used was being demolished so his production got permission to film there and it was dressed up (including imported palm trees) to look like a blasted out section of Hue. Edit

  • It's an old technique used by soldiers to insure that the primer ends of the rounds of ammo in the magazine are all lined up perfectly against the interior wall of the magazine—which helps prevent jamming in the breech and bolt of an automatic rifle like the M-16. You can see Private Reiben do it in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan (1998) with a magazine for his BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). Edit

  • Like Cowboy says, it was a booby-trap designed to kill anyone who picked up the rabbit. American soldiers in Vietnam often found out-of-place objects (or even "in-place" objects) like the stuffed rabbit or small boxes or containers containing what appeared to be important items that were wired to an explosive device like a mine or grenade. The technique was used by the Viet Cong not only to kill American soldiers but also to kill civilians and their children. As a result, soldiers were strictly forbidden by their commanders to touch any strangely out-of-place objects. Craze momentarily forgot that rule, and it cost him his life. Edit

  • Firstly, the man is obviously crazy; there have been many mentally-imbalanced soldiers in every war that has been fought. Secondly, in South Vietnam, there were many areas that had been occupied by the enemy for a long period of time. The American military declared those regions "free fire zones", where anything that moved could be fired upon, including civilians. The door gunner rationalized this by saying "Anyone who runs, is a VC. Anyone who stands still is a well-disciplined VC.". Obviously using it as an excuse to kill anyone he saw. Edit

  • Yes. By deliberately and methodically wounding their comrades and making them feel either upset or guilty about their buddies being tortured, the sniper hoped more of them would enter her line of fire, or, all of them at once. What Cowboy suspected was that the sniper might not have been alone and was drawing the squad into an ambush that would get them all killed. However, he was an ineffectual squad commander and Animal Mother and Doc decided to ignore his orders. Edit

  • No. A person couldn't lawfully join any branch of the military (Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps or Air Force), let alone be drafted (into the Army), if he/she met any of the following conditions: had been convicted of a felony; was presently on probation or any kind of parole; or had any criminal charges pending. However, judges and prosecutors frequently offered plea deals to lesser criminals before conviction. Basically, the deal was that charges would be dropped if they enlisted in the Armed Forces. If they took the deal, law enforcement officers would often accompany them to the recruiting station, thus ensuring that the contract was inked. (That's how R. Lee Ermey [Gunnery Sergeant Hartman], got into the USMC in real life.) Each U.S. military branch had an Applicant Code for this kind of contract. If they failed to show up for shipping out, the recruiter would notify the authorities. Officially, these kind of deals happened from the early 1950s through the late '70s. Unofficially, they continued into the 1980s and '90s. During the Clinton administration, the Department of Defense effectively "DNQ'd" (instated "do not qualify" upon—i.e. disqualified) plea-bargained contracts. According to rumor, it still happens. Ethically, it is very risky for a recruiter to do such a thing. Fraudulent enlistment is even worse for the recruiter than it is the fraudulent enlistee. Edit

  • Tết is the Vietnamese lunar new year and traditionally a time to pay tribute to ancestors, have family reunions, and celebrate prosperity and good fortune. It is considered so important in the Vietnamese culture that, even in the midst of the Vietnam war, the Communists and allied forces opposing them would arrange for a truce between and call for a temporary cease to any combat operations. Joker & Rafterman's commanding officer, Lt. Lockhart, makes note of the fact of how important the holiday is to the Vietnamese, calling it the "Fourth of July, Christmas and New Year's all rolled into one." However, the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) took advantage of the ceasefire and attacked in a large and coordinated offensive all over the south. The battle that resulted from the breaking of the ceasefire was called the Tet Offensive and proved to be costly for both sides. Edit

Spoilers

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The FAQ items below may give away important plot points.

  • Very. On the evening of January 30th, 1968, the Viet Cong, supplemented by the North Vietnamese Army, broke a ceasefire that was called for the holiday and launched a massive offensive all over South Vietnam, intending for the South Vietnamese population to rise in support of communism. This failed to happen. South Vietnamese intelligence gained advance warning of the attack through captured enemy documents, and the allies were able to largely thwart them, killing the Viet Cong in huge numbers. This film popularized the fallacy that Viet Cong suicide squads overran the US Embassy in Saigon; whereas actually they only occupied part of the garden before being wiped out. (Lt Lockhart's report that the embassy was overrun may have just been incomplete information that he received-reports took time to assemble and send in the late 1960s, even during military operations.) The one major city the VC were able to take was Hue, massacring anywhere from 2,800 to 6,000 local civilians whom they dubbed as "counter revolutionaries", just as depicted in the film. (The scene where Joker and Rafterman see the dead bodies in the mass grave illustrates this fact.) Allied forces eventually retook it after weeks of bitter urban fighting.

    • The actual backdrop of the ruined city, is probably as accurate as the film-makers could get for a medium budget film like this in the 1980's. The portrayal of a Marine force, that appears to be no more than one or two squads of 20 men at the very most, ordered to advance on its own is probably not accurate. Notice the unit started out as platoon sized (40-50 men, the bare minimum for any kind of movement against opposition), did not start out the segment this way, were following behind the tank (which IS accurate - accompanying infantry are very necessary for armor to advance through a city or else it gets quickly destroyed) and simply seemed to disintegrate into their tiny unit after the Lieutenant dies in the opening mortar barrage. A unit that small lacking heavy fire support (but NOT cut off from radio contact, which makes the rest of the unit's actions mystifying) would be easily split up and destroyed, which in the film is almost exactly what happens. Even during the confusion of Tet, a small unit would not be allowed to be cut off so far from the main unit and would be ordered to rejoin the main force (unless the officers leading it were completely derelict of duty, forgot, or just were bumbling fools). Just losing a second lieutenant in combat in Vietnam was not unexpected and would not generally cause the collapse of the unit so long as it still had the radio).


    The portrayal of the unit getting picked off one by one by the sniper was sadly, accurate and happened all the time to confused, badly led or unlucky units facing determined Viet Cong or NVA. The sniper was left behind either as a rear guard for a larger force of VC, or just to slow down the US forces; the VC/NVA saw her almost certain loss as well worth it to take a few American devils and she did a good job of that. But rather than advancing right past the sniper's line of fire like human pop up targets, it would have made sense, for a small isolated unit, to simply GO AROUND the building she was shooting from. Their mission at that point was to rejoin the group NOT engage any enemy they could not immediately destroy. Edit

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