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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Full Metal Jacket can be found here.
Full Metal Jacket is based on the semi-autobiographical books The Short-Timers (1983) by Gustav Hasford and Dispatches (1977) by Michael Herr.
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.
"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.
Gomer Pyle was the naive and dim-witted country boy, who worked as a gas station attendant in The Andy Griffith Show from 1960, and got his own show, Gomer Pyle: USMC in 1964, where he joined the Marines. The nickname "Gomer Pyle" has since been used in the military for a dumb-witted, hard-to-train recruit, like Pvt. Lawrence.
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.
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 with a magazine for his BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle).
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.
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 himself explains this: "Anybody who runs is a VC. Anybody who doesn't run is a well-disciplined VC."
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 run into 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.
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.
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.
Very. On the evening of January 30th, 1968, the Viet Cong, supplemented by the North Vietnamese Army, broke the truce 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.
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