Full metal jacket

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Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket

A Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick & Michael Herr


The following is a replication of the typescript copy; due to the vagaries of HTML, passages in the text which were underscored (representing both voice-over narration and emphasised text) are represented in this instance by italic type; otherwise, the typographic features, formatting, spacing, and spelling (including typographical errors) have been retained. The copy used for this facsimile is an 8.5"x11" photocopy of the original, which was produced on legal-sized paper, using typeface Courier 12pt. with 1.5-line spacing, three-hole punched, and numbered sequentially as shown. Page breaks in the typescript are represented here by dotted lines.

Copyright ©1985,1998 Stanley Kubrick & Michael Herr, All Rights Reserved.




               FULL METAL JACKET





                Stanley Kubrick


                 Michael Herr

              Based on the novel

               THE SHORT-TIMERS


                Gustav Hasford



               1967 - PARRIS ISLAND

             "IS THAT YOU JOHN WAYNE?

                   IS THIS ME?"


     The Marines are looking for a few good men...

     Barbershop.  A row of barbers with electric

clippers work ankle deep in hair as they give the

young Marine recruits a 30-second, skin-head

haircut.  We see Joker, Cowboy and Leonard.

     A drill instructor shouts at the line of

waiting recruits: "You are about to receive your

first Marine Corps recruit haircut.  You will be

shaved completely bald.

     "If you have a mole, bump, scar or anything

else protruding from your head, and by protruding

I mean anything sticking up out of your head, the

minute you sit down in that chair place your

finger on whatever if is on your head, and let the

barber know whatever is there, verbally, by

saying, 'Sir, the Private has a mole on his





     Dawn.  Green Marines.  Two junior drill

instructors screaming, "GET IN LINE! GET IN LINE!


buildings.  Willow trees hung thick with Spanish

moss. The shaved recruits standing tall on yellow

footprints painted in a pattern on the concrete


     Parris Island, South Carolina, the United

     States Marine Corps Recruit Depot, an

     eight-week college for the phoney-tough and

     the crazy-brave.

     "I am Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim, your senior

drill instructor.  And these are your junior drill

instructors, Corporal Durrane and Corporal

Seaton.  From now on, you will speak only when

spoken to, and the first word out of your mouth

will be, sir!  Do you maggots understand that?"

     The recruits mumble "Yes, sir," but not in


     "I can't hear you!  Sound off like you got a


     "YES, SIR!"

Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim spits.  "Listen up,

herd.  You maggots had better start looking like

United States Marine Corps recruits.  Do not think

for one second that you are Marines.  You just

dropped by to pick up a set of dress blues.  Am I

right, ladies?"

     "YES, SIR!"



     Joker says in a John Wayne voice: "I think

I'm going to hate this movie."

     Cowboy laughs.

     Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim laughs, too.  The

senior drill instructor is an obscene little ogre

in immaculate khaki.

     Sergeant Gerheim walks slowly back along the

line of recruits.  "Who said that?"


     Sergeant Gerheim peers into each face.  "Who

said that?"

     "I did, sir," Joker says.

Sergeant Gerheim aims his index finger

between Joker's eyes and says, "Private Joker... I

like honesty.  I like you.  You can come over to

my house and fuck my sister."

     He grins.  He punches Joker in the stomach.

     Joker sinks to his knees.

     "You little scumbag.  I got your name.  I got

your ass.  You will not laugh.  You will not cry.

You will learn by the numbers. I will teach you.

Get up!"

     Joker gets to his feet and comes to attention.

     Leonard Pratt grins.

Sergeant Gerheim puts his fists on his hips.

"If you ladies leave my island, if you survive

recruit training, you will be a weapon, you will

be a minister of death, praying for war. And

proud.  Until that day you are pukes, you are

scumbags, you are the lowest term of life on

Earth.  You are not even human.  You people are

nothing but a lot of little pieces of amphibian


     Leonard Pratt grins.



     "You got a name, scumbag?"

     "Leonard Pratt, sir," he says with a thick

hillbilly accent.

     "Like hell it is!  From now on you're Gomer


        Leonard Grins.

     "Private Pyle thinks I am a real funny guy.

He thinks that Parris Island is more fun then a

sucking chest wound."

     The hillbilly's fact is frozen into a

permanent expression of oat-fed innocence.

     He punches Leonard in the chest.

     "You maggots are not going to have any fun

here.  You are not going to enjoy standing in

straight lines and you are not going to enjoy

massaging your own wand. My orders are to weed

out all nonhackers who do not pack the gear to

serve in my beloved Corps.  Because I am hard, you

will not like me.  But the more you hate me, the

more you will learn.  I am hard but I am fair.

There is no racial bigotry here.  We do not look

down on niggers, kikes, wop or greasers, because

here you are all equally worthless.  Do you


     Some of them mumble, "Yes.  Yeah.  Yes,sir."

     "I can't hear you, ladies!"

     "Yes, sir!"

     "I still can't hear you, ladies!"

        "YES, SIR!"

     "You piss me off. Hit the deck."

     They crumple down onto the parade deck.

     "You got no motivation.  Do you hear me,

maggots? Listen up.  I will give you motivation.

You have no esprit de corp. I will give you



esprit de corps.  You have no traditions.  I will

give you traditions.  And I will show you how to

live up to them.

     Sergeant Gerheim struts, ramrod straight,

hands on hips.  "GET UP! GET UP!"

     They get up, knees Sore, hands gritty.

     Sergeant Gerheim says to his two junior drill

instructors: "What a humble herd."  Then to the

recruits: "You silly scumbags are too slow.  Hit

the deck."





     "HIT IT!"


     Sergeant Gerheim steps over their struggling

bodies, stomps fingers, kicks ribs with the toe of

his boot.  "Jesus H. Christ.  You maggots are

huffing and puffing the way your momma did the

first time your old man put the meat to her."


     "GET UP! GET UP!"

     Up.  Muscles aching.

     Leonard Pratt is slow getting up.

     Sergeant Gerheim stands over him.  "Okay,

scumbag, on your feet."

     Leonard gets up on one knee, hesitates, then

stands up, inhaling and exhaling.  He grins.

     "Why are you grinning at me, Private Pyle?"

     "I don't know, sir."

     "You are grinning at me, you ugly ape!"

     "I can't help it, sir!"

     "You got a crush on me?"



     "No, sir!"

     "You want to smoke my pole?"

     "No, sir!"

     "Then you hate me?  You want to kill me?"

     "No, sir!"

     "Don't lie to me."

     "Sir, I'm not...lying to you."

     "YOU? YOU?  Did you say YOU?  Do you know

what a ewe is?  A ewe is a female sheep.  A female

sheep is for fucking!"


     "Why do you want to fuck your drill


     Sergeant Gerheim punches Leonard in the chest

hard.  Leonard doubles over with pain. "LOCK THEM


     Leonard comes to attention.  Eyes front.  But

the trace of a grin remains.

     "Wipe that grin off your face."

     The grin is involuntary and Leonard cannot

always control it.

     Sergeant Gerheim backhands Leonard across the



     Leonard locks his heels.  Leonard's lips are

busted, pink and purple, and his mouth is bloody,

but Leonard only shrugs and grins as though

Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim had just given him a

birthday present.

     "Why did you join the Marines Cops?"

     "To become a man, Sir!"

     "Private Pyle, you may just be the dumbest

United States Marine recruit in Marine Corps





     Close order drill, Leonard makes a mistake.

     "Private Pyle, what are you trying to do to

my beloved Corps?"

     "I'm sorry, sir," Leonard says.

     "You are dumb Private Pile but do you expect

me to believe you don't know right from left?"

     "No, sir."

     "Then you did it on purpose.  You want to be


     "No, sir."  The trace of a grin appears at

the corners of his mouth.

     "You think I'm stupid."

        "No, sir."

     "Then why are you grinning at me?"

     "I'm not grinning, sir!"

     Gerheim hits Leonard on the right side of his

face, a hard stunning clap.  Pain takes the grin


     "What side was that?"

     "Right ride, sir!"

     "Are you sure?"

        "Yes, sir!"

     He slaps him just as hard on the left side.

"And what side was that?"

     "Left, sir," Leonard says blinking with


     "Don't fuck with me again, scumbag."

     "Yes, sir!"

     The close order drill continues.



     Beatings, we learn, are a routine element of

     life on Parris Island.  And not that

     I'm-only-rough-on-'um-because-I-love-'um crap

     in Mr. John Wayne's "The Sands of Iwo Jima".


     Mess hall.  The recruits move sideways at the

position of attention, trays held flat against

their chests, pressed close to the man in front of

them, the DI's shouting, "Assholes to

belly-button!  Assholes to belly-button!"

     Mounds of scrambled eggs are piled high on

each tray, with sausages, bacon, hashed brown

potatoes, cereal, toast and grapefruit.

     The recruits follow the man in front of them

from the food counter to tables which hold

twelve.  They stand at attention while one recruit

says grace, reading from a printed plastic card

which looks like a menu and which has its own

little stand on each table.

     On the command the recruits sit.  Sergeant

Gerheim suddenly appears at Leonard's place and

bellows, "Private Pyle!"

     Leonard leaps to his feet.  "Yes sir!"

     Sergeant Gerheim sweeps Leonard's tray to the

floor with a loud crash of dishes and cutlery.

     "Private Pyle, the doctors have certified

you as a fatbody.  With those tits on you you

belong in Playboy.  You will receive half-portions

at all meals and no deserts, potatoes, bread, jam

or butter! Is that clear?"

     "Aye, aye, sir!"




     Various training shots. Leonard being

shouted at and beaten.

     For the first four weeks of recruit training

     Leonard continues to grin, even though he

     receives more then his share of the

     beatings. Even having the shit beat out of

     him with calculated regularity fails to

     educate Leonard the way it educates the other

     recruits in Platoon 30-92.  Leonard tries

     harder than any of us.  He can't do anything right.


     At night, as the platoon sleeps in

double-tiered metal bunks, Leonard cries.  Joker

whispers to him to be quiet.  He stops crying.



     On the first day of our fifth week, Sergeant

     Gerheim beats the hell out of me.

     "Private Joker!"

     "Yes, sir!"

     "I want you and Private Cowboy to clean the




     "Yes, sir!"

     "I want it so sanitary and spotless and

sparkling that the Virgin Mary herself would he

proud to go in there and take a dump."

     "Yes, sir!"

     Joker and Cowboy start for the head.

     "Private Joker!"

        "Yes, sir!"

     "Do you believe in the Virgin Mary?"

     "NO SIR!" I say.

     It's a trick question.  Any answer will be

     wrong, and Sergeant Gerheim will heat me

     harder if I reverse myself.

     Sergeant Gerheim punches Joker in the solar

plexus with his elbow.  You little maggot," he

says, and his fist punctuates the sentence.  "Are

you a Jew?"

     "No, sir!"

     "An atheist?"

     "No, sir!"

     "A communist?"

     Joker stands to attention, heels locked, eyes

front, swallowing groans, trying not to flinch.

     "You make me want to vomit, scumbag.  You

goddamn heathen.  You better sound off that you

love the Virgin Mary or I'm going to stomp your

guts out."

     Sergeant Gerheim's face is about an inch from

Joker's left ear.  "EYES FRONT!"  Spit sprinkles

his face.



     "Are you winking at me?"  More spit. Joker


     "No, sir."

     "Are you eye-fucking me?"

     He punches Joker in the stomach.

     "Negative, sir."

     "You want to fuck your drill instructor? You

want to smoke his pole?"  More spit.

"No, sir!" Joker manages not to blink.

     "If I catch you winking at ms again, I'm

going to gouge your eyes out and skullfuck you!"

     "Yes, sir!"

     "Now, sound off, you do love the Virgin Mary,

don't you?"


     "What did you say, prive?"


     Sergeant Gerheim's beefy red face floats by

like a cobra being charmed by music.   His eyes

drill into Joker's, they invite him to look at

him; they dare him to move his eyes one fraction

of an inch.

     "Have you seen the light? The white light?

The great light? The guiding light - do you have

the vision?"

     "SIR, AYE-AYE, SIR!"

     "Who's  your squad leader, scumbag?"



     "Private Snowball,  front and center."

     Private Snowball, a black recruit, runs down

the center of the squad bay snaps to attention in

front of Sergeant Gerheim.  "AYE-AYE, SIR!"

"Private Snowball, you're fired.  Private



Joker is promoted to squad leader."

     Private Snowball hesitates. "AYE-AYE, SIR!"


     Private Snowball does an about-face, runs

back down the squad bay, falls back into line in

front of his rack, snaps to attention.

     Sergeant Gerheim turns to Leonard.  "Private

Pyle, Private Joker is your new bunkmate. Private

Joker is a very bright boy.  He will teach you

everything.  He will teach you how to pee."



     Sergeant Gerheim looks from Joker to Cowboy.

"You queer for Private Cowboy's gear?  You smoke

his pole?"


     "Outstanding.  Then Private Joker will bunk

with Private Pyle.  Private Joker is silly and

he's ignorant, but he's got guts, and guts is



     Training continues.

     Shots feature Joker and Leonard.

     I teach Leonard everything I know, from how

     to lace his black combat boots to the

     assembly and disassembly of the M-14

     semi-automatic shoulder weapon.

     I teach Leonard that Marines work hard.

     Only shitbirds try to avoid work, only



     shitbirds try to skate.  Marines are clean,

     not skuzzy.

     I teach Leonard to value his

     rifle as he values his life.  I teach him

     that blood makes the grass grow.

     "This here gun is one mean-looking piece of

iron, sure enough."  Leonard's clumsy fingers snap

his weapon together.

     "Think of your rifle as a tool, Leonard.

like an axe on the farm."

     Leonard grins.  "Okay.  You're right, Joker."

He looks at Joker.  "I'm sure glad you're helping

me, Joker.  You're my friend. I know I'm slow.  I

always bean slow.  Nobody ever helped me..."

     Joker turns away,  "That sounds like a

personal problem," he says, keeping his eyes on

his weapon.


     Mail Call.

     "Private Pyle."

     Leonard yells his name, runs down the squad

bay and comes to attention in front of Sergeant


     "Private Pyle, sir!"

     Sergeant Gerheim looks at the envelope.

     "Who's Lucie Pratt?"

     "Sir, that's the private's sister."

     "Does she smoke your pole?"

     "No, sir."  Leonard grins.



     "Is she a good fuck?"

     "Sir, I don't know."

     "Maggot, do you expect me to believe there's

a shit-kicker in Alabama who doesn't fuck his


     "Yes, sir,"

     "Maybe she likes coons."

     "No, sir."

     "You think I'm funny?"

     "No, sir!"

     "Then wipe that fucking grin off."

     "Yes, sir!"


     "Aye, aye, sir."

     Leonard claps the letter between his palms,

held out horizontally, takes one step backwards,

does an about face, and runs back to his bunk.


     Outdoor school circle.  The platoon is

grouped in a semi-circle around Sergeant Gerheim.

     Sergeant Gerheim holding an M-14 says, "The

deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his

rifle.  It is your killer instinct which must be

harnessed if you expect to survive in combat.

Your rifle is only a tool; it is a hard heart that

kills.  If your killer instincts are not clean and

strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth.

You will not kill.  You will become dead Marines

and then you will be in a world of shit because

Marines are not allowed to die without permission;

you are government property!"




     During our sixth week, Sergeant Gerheim

     orders us double-time around the squad bay

     with our penises in our left hands and our

     weapons in our right hand, singing:

     This is my rifle

     This is my gun

     One is for fighting

     And one is for fun.


     I don't want no teen-aged queen

     All I want is my M-14.

     Sergeant Gerheim holds up a rifle.  "You will

give your rifle a girl's name. This is the only

pussy you people are going to get.  Your days of

finger-hanging ol' Mary Jane Rottencrotch through

her pretty pink panties are over.  You're married

to this piece, this weapon of iron and wood, and

you will be faithful."

     They run.  And they sing:

     Well, I don't know

     But I been told

     Eskimo pussy

     Is mighty cold...





     Inspection.  My mind isn't on my

     responsibilities and I forget to remind

     Leonard to shave.

     Sergeant Gerheim looks disappointed.

     "Private Joker!"

     "Yes, sir."

     "Private Pyre did not stand close enough to

his razor this morning."

     "No, sir."

     "Private Pyle!"

     "Yes, sir."

     "Into the head on the double!"

     "Yes, sir!"

     Leonard double-times into the head.

     "Recruit squad leaders, into the head, on the


     "Yes, sir!"

     Joker and the other recruit squad leaders

double-time into the head.

     Sergeant Gerheim strides in after them.

     "Recruit squad leaders form a circle around

this toilet."

     They apprehensively group themselves around

the toilet.

     "Now, on my command, you will open your pants

and urinate into the toilet.  Do you understand?"

     "YES, SIR!"

     "Open your pants and urinate in the toilet!

     They hesitate.


     "NO, SIR!"





      They whizz.

      Sergeant Gerheim grabs the back of Leonard's

neck and forces Leonard to his knees, pushes his

head down into the yellow pool.  Leonard

struggles.  Bubbles.  Panic gives Leonard

strength; Sergeant Gerheim holds him down.

      After it seems that Leonard has drowned,

Sergeant Gerheim flushes the toilet.  When the

water stops flowing, Sergeant Gerheim releases his

hold on Leonard's neck.

      Leonard straightens up coughing and

sputtering, his face and hair soaked in urine.

     Gerheim says: "Private Pyle, I wouldn't put

my hands in piss for just anybody.  I hope you

appreciate that."

     "Yes, sir."


     Practise field bayonet training.

     Sergeant Gerheim demonstrates effective

attack techniques to a recruit named Barnard, a

soft-spoken fern boy from Maine.  The beefy drill

instructor knocks out two of Private Barnard's

teeth with a rifle butt.

    Sergeant Gerheim says, "The purpose of

bayonet training is to awaken your killer

instincts.  The killer instinct will make you

strong.  If the meek ever inherit the earth the

strong will take it away from them.  The weak exist

to be devoured by the strong. Every Marine



must pack his own gear.  Every Marine must be the

instrument of his own salvation."


     The confidence course was designed to test

     the recruits' fear of heights.

     The Confidence Course:  they go hand over

hand down a rope strung at a forty-five-degree

angle across a pond - the slide-for-life.  They

hang upside down like monkeys and crawl headfirst

down the rope.

     Leonard falls off the slide-for-life

     repeatedly.  He almost drowns.  He cries.  He

     climbs the tower.  He tries again.  He falls

     off again.  This time he sinks.

     Cowboy and Joker dive into the pond.  They

pull Leonard out of the muddy water.  He's


     Joker says, "Should we take him to the sick

bay, sir?"

     Gerheim kneels down to see how badly he is

hurt.  He says loudly, "It's okay.  It's just a





     Back at the squad bay Sergeant Gerheim fits a

Trojan rubber with a hole in it over the mouth of

a canteen and throws the canteen at Leonard.  The

canteen hits Leonard on the side of the head.

Sergeant Gerheim bellows, "Marines do not cry!

You will fill this canteen with milk, and every

day after chow you will nurse it at the table!"

     "Yes, sir!"


     Mess Hall.  Leonard is nursing on the

canteen.  The recruits at his table try not to

notice but crude and derisory remarks come from

drill instructors at nearby tables.


     Practise field.  Pugil stick fighting.  Two

recruits face each other.  Each man wears a

football style helmet, face mask and groin

protector.  He is armed with a five-foot pole,

padded at each end.  The object being to knock

your opponent down.  The platoon is formed around

the combatants in a large circle.  The DI's yell

at them to be more aggressive.  The recruits

play war with the pugil sticks.  They beat each

other without mercy.




     The recruits enter the barracks from a

training session.  Leonard finds his bedding and

the contents of his opened locker box strewn on

the floor.

     Gerheim stands at the far end of the

barracks, hands on hips.  "Ten...hutt!"

     The recruits line up at attention in front of

their bunks.

     Gerheim says "Private Pyle!"

     "Yes, sir!"

     "Get up here, on the double!"

     "Yes, sir."  Leonard double-times up the

squad bay and comes to attention in front of


     "Do you recognize this?"  He points to a

jelly-donut, placed on a sheet of newspaper on the


     "Yes, sir."

     "What is it?"

     "A jelly-donut, sir."

     "Do you know where I found it?"


     "In my footlocker, sir."

     "How did it get there?"

     "I took it from the mess hall, sir."

     "Private Pyle, are you allowed to eat


     "No, sir."

     "Why not, Private Pyle?"

     "Because I am too heavy, sir."



     "Because you are a disgusting fatbody,

Private Pyle."

     "And is food allowed in the barracks, Private


     "No, sir."

     "Then why did you hide a jelly-donut in your

footlocker, Private Pyle?"

     "Because I was hungry, sir."

     "Because you were hungry?"

     "Yes, sir."

     "Go back to your place, Private Pyle."

     "Yes, sir." Leonard double-times back to his


     "Private Pyle has dishonoured himself and

dishonoured the platoon.  He is a dumbass,

cowardly, fatbody, a ten-percenter who does not

pack the gear to he in my beloved Corps.  I have

tried to help him but I have failed.  I have

failed because you have not helped me.  You have

not given Private Pyle the right motivation.  So

from now on whenever Private Pyle fucks up I will

not punish him, I will punish all of you."


     Outside the barracks,  the platoon does many

squat-thrusts and side-straddle hops many, many

of them.

     Leonard has been positioned, facing the

platoon, standing at ease.




     Leonard touches Joker's arm as they move

through the chow line with their metal trays. "I

just can't do nothing right.  I need some help.  I

don't want you boys to be in trouble.  I-"

     Joker moves away.


     The first night of our seventh week of

     training the platoon gives Leonard a blanket



     The fire watch stands by.  Private Philips,

the House Mouse,  Sergeant Gerheim's "go-fer," pads

barefoot down the squad bay to watch for Sergeant


     In the dark, fifty recruits walk to Leonard's


     Leonard is grinning, even in his sleep.

     The squad leaders hold towels and

bars of soap.

     Four recruits throw a blanket over Leonard.

They grip the corners of the blanket so that

Leonard can't sit up and so that his cries will

be muffled.

     The sound of hard breathing of fifty sweating

bodies and the fump and thud as Cowboy and Private

Barnard beat Leonard with bars of soap slung in




     Leonard's screams are like the braying of a

sick mule, heard far away,  he struggles.

     The eyes of the platoon are on Joker.  Eyes

are aimed at Joker in the dark, eyes like rubies.

     Leonard stops screaming. 

     Joker hesitates.  The eyes are on him.  He

steps back.

     Cowboy punches him in the chest with his

towel and a bar of soap.

     Joker slings the towel, drops in the soap,

and then beats Leonard who has stopped moving. He

lies in silence stunned, gagging for air.  Joker

beat him harder and harder and when he feels tears

being flung from his eyes, he beats him harder for



     The next day, on the parade deck, Leonard

does not grin.

     When Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim asks, "What do

we do for a living, ladies!"  and the platoon

replies, KILL! KILL! KILL!", Leonard remains


     When he asks, What makes the grass grow?"

and they reply "BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!"  L       eonard

remains silent.

    When the junior drill instructors ask, "Do we 

love the beloved Crotch, ladies?"  and the platoon

answers with one voice, "GUNG HO! GUNG HO! GUNG

HO! Leonard is silent.




     Shots of the platoon firing their rifles.

     On the third day of our seventh week we move

     to the rifle range and shoot holes in paper


     Later they are grouped around Gerheim. "Does

anyone known who Charles Whitman was?"

     Blank faces.

     "None of you dumbasses knows?"

     Cowboy slowly raises his hand.

     "Private Cowboy?"

     "Was he the guy that shot a lot of people

from a roof?"

     "That's right, Private Cowboy.  He shot and

killed twelve people from a 28-story observation

tower at the University of Texas, from distances

of up to four hundred yards."

     The recruits look impressed.

     "Does anybody know who Lee Harvey Oswald


     That's easy.  Almost every hand goes up.

     "Private Snowball?"

     Private Snowball says, "He shot Kennedy, Sir!"

     "That's right.  And do you know how far away

he was?"

     "It was pretty far.  From that book

suppository building, sir!"

     "Two hundred and fifty" feet.  He was two

hundred and fifty feet away and shooting at a

moving target.  He got off three shots with a bolt



action rifle in six seconds, and got two hits,

including a head shot.  Do you know where those

men learned to shoot like that?"

     No one knows. Joker raises his hand.

     "Private Joker."

     "In the Marines sir?"

     "In the Marines.  Outstanding!  Now those

people did not put their Marine training to a good

purpose but they showed what a Marina with his

rifle can do, and before I am through you will all

be able to do the same thing."

     Leonard stares at Gerheim.


     Parade deck,  Manual of arms.

     "I want to hear some snap, crackle and pop

with those weapons."

     Leonard and other recruits smartly doing

their manual of arms.

     "When you snap those rifles to port arms, I

only want to hear one pop!"

     By the and of our seventh week Leonard has

     become a model recruit.  Day by day, he is

     more motivated, more squared away.  We decide

     that Leonard's silence is a result of his

     intense concentration.  His manual of arms is

     flawless now, but his eyes are milk glass.




     Barracks,  Night.  Leonard cleaning his

disassembled rifle. He handles each piece lovingly

and seems to be talking to them.

     Leonard cleans his weapon more then any

     recruit in the platoon.  Every night after

     chow Leonard caresses the scarred oak stock

     with linseed oil the way hundreds of earlier

     recruits have caressed the same piece of



     Training shots featuring Leonard.

     Leonard improves at everything, but remains

     silent. He does what he is told but he is no

     longer part of the platoon.

     Sergeant Gerheim is careful not to come

     down too hard on Leonard as long as Leonard remains

     squared away.


     During the hour before Taps, the platoon is

working on its shoes, brass and rifles.  A

Kentucky boy named Perkins lays his rifle down,

steps to the center of the squad bay and slashes

his wrist with his bayonet.

     "Oh, Jesus Christ,"  Cowboy says.



     Leonard slowly gets to his feet but says


     Gerheim gets up from his table at the head of

the room and walks unhurriedly down the squad bay.

     He stops in front of Perkins who is still

holding the bayonet.

     "Private Perkins, sheath your bayonet!"

     Perkins doesn't move.

     "Sheath your bayonet, scumbag!"

     Perkins drops the bayonet on the floor.

     Gerheim walks closer and looks at Perkins'

wrist.  It's a mess but Gerheim decides he's got

some time.

     "Private Perkins, why have you made a mess in

my nice, clean squad bay?"

     Perkins doesn't reply.

     "Private Perkins, I did not have you down as

a shitbird.  Why have you done this?"

     Perkins says nothing.

     "Private Perkins, you have let me down.  You

have let the platoon down.  You are a gutless

piece of shit."

     Perkins just stands looking at the floor.

     "Private Perkins, you can live like a pig in

your own home but not in my barracks! Get a mop

and bucket and clean up this mess.  After that,

double-time to the sick bay."

     Perkins stumbles off to get the mop.

     Gerheim speaks to the platoon.

     "Private Perkins botched the job.  Now, if

any of you other shitbirds ever get the same idea

you better do it right.  (Holds out his arm and

mimes what he says).  The approved U.S. Marine

Corps way is to take a razor blade and cut deep



and vertical from wrist to elbow,  Do you


     "YES, SIR!" the platoon shouts.

     "And do it in the shower - no mess

afterwards - and do it in the middle of the night

so you'll have enough time to bleed before anyone

finds you.  Is that clear?

     "YES, SIR!" the platoon shouts.

     Except Leonard, who says nothing.


     The platoon, led by Sergeant Gerheim is


     Happy Birthday to you,

     Happy Birthday to you,

     Happy Birthday dear Jesus,

     Happy Birthday to you.

     Gerheim says, "God has a hard-on for Marines

because we kill everything we see.  He plays his

games, we play ours.  To show our appreciation for

so much power, we keep heaven packed with fresh


     "The Marine Corps was here before God.  You

can give your heart to Jesus but your ass belongs

to the Corps... Do you understand?"


       "Today is Christmas.  There will be a magic

show at 0930 and the Chaplain expects everyone

there except Jews and atheists..."




     Night Barracks.  The platoon stands by until

Sergeant Gerheim snaps out his last order of the

day: "Prepare to mount....Readddy...MOUNT!" Then

they're lying on their backs in their skivvies, at

attention, their weapons held at port arms.

     They say their prayers:

     "This is my rifle. There are many like it 

     but this one is mine. My rifle is my best

     friend.  It is my life.  I must master it as

     I must master my life.

     "Without my rifle, I am useless.  I must fire

     my rifle true.  I must shoot straighter than

     my enemy who is trying to kill me.  I must

     shoot him before he shoots me.  I will."

     Leonard is speaking for the first time in

weeks.  His voice booms louder and louder.  Heads

turn. Bodies shift. The platoon voice fades.

Leonard is about to explode.  His words are being

coughed up from some deep, ugly place.

     Sergeant Gerheim has the night duty.  He

struts to Leonard's rack and stands by, fists on


     Leonard doesn't see Sergeant Gerheim.  The

veins in Leonard's neck are bulging as he bellows:











     "WE WILL...




     OF MY LIFE.




     Sergeant Gerheim kicks Leonard's rack.

"Hey-you-Private Pyle...."

     "What? Yes? YES, Sir!" Leonard snaps to

attention in his rack.  "AYE-AYE, SIR!

     "What's that weapon's name, maggot?"



     "At ease maggot." Sergeant Gerheim grins.

"You are becoming one sharp recruit, Private

Pyle.  Most motivated prive in my herd.  Why, I

may even allow you to serve as a rifleman in my

beloved Corps.  I had you figured for a shitbird,

but you'll make a good grunt."




     Graduation day. Two hundred new Marines

stand tall on the parade deck, lean and tan in

immaculate khaki, their clean weapons held at port


     They pass in review.

     Joker walks right guide, tall and proud.

     Cowboy carries the platoon guidon.

     Graduation day.  No words can express the way

     we feel.  The moment the Commandant of the

     Marine Corps gives us the word, we will grab

     the Viet Cong guerillas and the battle-

     hardened North Vietnamese regulars by their

     scrawny throats and we'll punch their fucking

     heads off.

     The Commanding General of Parris Island

speaks into a microphone:  "Have you seen the

light?  The white light?  The great light?  The

guiding light?  Do you have the vision?"

     They cheer, happy beyond belief.

     Leonard does not smile.


     After graduation Sergeant Gerheim forms us

     into a school circle to read out our orders.


     "Yes, sir!"

     "0300 - infantry."




     "l800 - engineers.  You go out and find


     "0200 - Intelligence.  None of you shitbirds

were smart enough for that."


     "Yes, sir."

     "0300 - Infantry."

     Pratt!" (That's Leonard)

     "Yes, sir!"


     "Davis!" (That's Joker)

     "4212 - Basic Military Journalism...Basic

Military Journalism?  Do you want to be an office


     "No, sir!"

     "Are you a writer?"

     "I wrote for my high school newspaper sir!"

     "Jesus Christ,  you're not a writer, you're a


     "A killer, yes, sir!"


     When he finishes, Gerheim says "Today you

people are no longer maggots.  Today you are

Marines.  You're part of a brotherhood.  From now

on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every

Marine is your brother.  Every Marine will be

ready to give his life for you, and you will be

ready to give yours.



"Most of you will go to Vietnam.  Some of you

will not come back.  But always remember this:

Marines die - that's what we're here for.  But the

Marine Corps lives forever - and that means you

live forever."


     Our last night on the Island.  I draw fire


     Joker stands by in utility trousers, skivvy

shirt, spit-shined combat boots, and a helmet

liner which had been painted silver.

     Sergeant Gerheim gives him his wristwatch and

flashlight.  "Good night, Marines."

     Joker marches up and down the squad bay

between two perfectly aligned rows of racks.

     One hundred young Marines breathe peacefully

     as they asleep - one hundred survivors from

     the original hundred and twenty.

     The squad bay is as quiet as a funeral parlor

at midnight.  The silence is disturbed only by the

soft creak-creak of bedsprings and an occasional


     A recruit is talking in his sleep.

     Joker stops.  He listens.  A second voice.

Two guys must be swapping scuttlebutt.  "If

Sergeant Gerheim hears them it'll be my ass."

Joker hurries towards the sound.

     It's Leonard.  Leonard is talking to his



rifle. But there is also another voice.  A

whisper.   A cold, seductive moan.

     Leonard's rifle is not slung on his rack.

He's holding his rifle, hugging it.  "I love you!"

Joker snaps on his flashlight.  Leonard ignores



     Leonard's words reverberate down the squad

bay.  Racks Squeak.  Someone rolls over.  One

recruit sits up, rubs his eyes.

     Joker watches the far end of the squad bay.

He waits for the light to go on inside Sergeant

Gerheim's palace.

     He touches Leonard's shoulder.  "Hey, shut

your mouth, Leonard.  Sergeant Gerheim will break

my back."

     Leonard sits up.  He looks at Joker.  He

strips off his skivvy shirt and ties it around his

face to blindfold himself.  He begins to

field-strip his weapon.  He pulls off the

blindfold.  His fingers continue to break down the

rifle into components.  Then, gently, he fondles

each piece.   "Just look at that pretty trigger

guard.  Have you ever seen a more beautiful piece

of metal? He starts snapping the steel

components back together.  "Her connector assembly

is so beautiful..."

     Leonard continues to babble as his trained

fingers reassemble the black metal hardware.

     Leonard reaches under his pillow and comes

out with a loaded magazine.  Gently, he inserts

the metal magazine into his weapon, into Charlene.

     "Leonard...where did you get those live




Now a lot of guys are sitting up, whispering

"What's happening?" to each other.

       Sergeant Gerheim's light floods the far end

of the squad bay.

     "OKAY, LEONARD, LET'S GO," Joker says,

"You're in a world of shit now, Leonard"

The overhead lights explode.  The squad bay

is washed with light.  "WHAT'S THIS MICKEY MOUSE



     Sergeant Gerheim comes at Joker like a mad

dog.  His voice cuts the squad bay in half:  "MY





     Leonard pounces from his rack, confronts

Sergeant Gerheim.

     Now the whole platoon is awake. They all

wait to see what Sergeant Gerheim will do,

confident that it will he worth watching.

     "Private Joker.  You shitbird.  Front and


     Joker moves his ass.  "AYE-AYE, SIR!"

     "Okay, you little maggot, speak.  Why is

Private Pyle out of his rack after lights out?

Why is Private Pyle holding that weapon? Why

ain't you stomping Private Pyle's guts out?

     "SIR, it is the private's duty to report to

the drill instructor that Private ... Pyle ... has

a full magazine and has locked and loaded, SIR!"

     Sergeant Gerheim looks at Leonard and nods.

He sighs.  Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim looks more

than a little ridiculous in his pure white



skivvies and red rubber flip-flop shower shoes and

hairy legs and tattooed forearms and a beer gut

and a face the colour of raw beef, and, on his

bald head, the green and brown Smokey the Bear

campaign cover.

     The senior drill instructor focuses all of

his considerable powers of intimidation into his

best John-Wayne-on-Suribachi voice:  "Listen to

me, Private Pyle.  You will place your weapon on

your rack and-"



     Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim can't control

himself any longer.  "NOW YOU LISTLN TO ME,  YOU






     Leonard aims the weapon at Sergeant Gerheim's

heart, caresses the trigger guard, then caresses

the trigger...

     Sergeant Gerheim is suddenly calm.  His eyes,

his manner are those of a wanderer who has found

his home. He is a man in complete control of

himself and of the world he lives in.  His face is

cold and beautiful as the dark side surfaces.  He

smiles.  It is not a friendly smile, but an evil

smile, as though Sergeant Gerheim were a werewolf

baring its fangs. 

     "Private Pyle, I'm proud-"


     The steel buttplate slams into Leonard's




One 7.62 millimeter, high-velocity, full

metal jacket bullet punches Gunnery Sergeant

Gerheim back.

     He falls.

     They all stare at Sergeant Gerheim.  Nobody


     Sergeant Gerheim sits up as though nothing

has happened.  For one second, the recruits

relax.  Leonard has missed.  Then dark blood

squirts from a little hole in Sergeant Gerheim's

chest.  The red blood blossoms into his white

skivvy shirt like a beautiful flower.  Sergeant

Gerheim's bug eyes are focused upon the blood rose

on his chest, fascinated.  He looks up at

Leonard.  He squints.  Then he relaxes.  The

werewolf smile is frozen on his lips.

     Joker says, "Now, uh, Leonard, we're all your

bros, man, your brothers.  I'm your bunkmate,

right? I-"

     "Sure," says Cowboy.  "Go easy, Leonard.  We

don't want to hurt you."

     "Affirmative," says Private Snowball.

     Leonard aims his rifle at Jokers face.

     Joker doesn't look at the rifle.  He looks

into Leonard's eyes.

     Leonard is grinning at them, the final grin

that is on the face of death, the terrible grin of

the skull.

     The grin changes to a look of surprise and

then to confusion and then to terror as Leonard's

weapon moves up and back and then Leonard takes

the black metal barrel into mouth. "NO! Not-"




     Leonard is dead on the deck. The Marines

slowly gather around the two bodies.

     The civilians will demand yet another

     investigation, of course.  But during the  

     investigation the recruits of Platoon 30-92       

     will testify that Private Pratt, while highly

     motivated, was a ten percenter who did not

     pack the gear to be a Marine in our beloved


     Sergeant Gerheim is still smiling.

     Sergeant Gerheim was a fine drill

     instructor.  Dying, that's what we're here

     for he would have said  blood makes the

     grass grow.  If he could speak, Gunnery

     Sergeant Gerheim would explain to Leonard why

     the guns that we love don't love back.  And

     he would say, "Well done."





              1968 - DA NANG, VIETNAM



     A hundred Marines are seated in the Freedom

Hill PX movie theatre watching John Wayne in "The

Green Berets"

     Joker and Rafter Man sit way down front.

They wear clean uniforms.

     I spend the Vietnamese lunar New Year's

     Eve,  1968, at the Freedom Hill PX near Da

     Nang, watching John Wayne in The Green

     Berets, a Hollywood soap opera about the love

     of guns.

     The rest of the audience is made up of other

cleanly dressed Marines and dirty Marine grunts

who are sprawled across their seats and have

propped muddy jungle boots onto the seats in front

of them.  They are bearded and look lean and mean,

the way human beings look after they've survived a

long hump in the jungle, the boonies, the bad


     Joker props his boots on the seats.

     We watch John Wayne leading the Green

     Beanies.  John Wayne is a beautiful soldier,

     clean-shaven, sharply attired in tailored

     tiger-stripe jungle utilities, wearing boots

     that shine like black glass.  Inspired by



     John Wayne, the fighting soldiers from the

     sky go hand-to-hand with all of the Victor

     Charlies in Southeast Asia.

     He snaps out an order to an Oriental actor

who played Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek.  Mr. Sulu, now

playing an Arvin officer, delivers a line with

great conviction: "First kill...all stinking

Cong...then go home."

     The audience of Marines roars with laughter.

This is the funniest movie they have seen in a

long time.

     A Marine yells at Mr. Sulu, "You fuckin'

asshole, you kill stinking Cong.  I wanna go home



     Freedom Hill PX.

     I'm a combat correspondent assigned to the

     first Marine Division.  I've been in country

     for six months.

     Rafter man tags along behind me like a kid.

     Rafter Man is a combat photographer.  He has

     never been in the shit.  He thinks I'm one

     hard field Marine.

     Joker and Rafter Man move in line up to a

table with the Red Cross emblem on it and two

large coffee urns and trays of donuts. Joker

looks the Red Cross girls over.  They're not



particularly pretty, but Vietnam duty has spoiled


     "Hi Marines," the blonde says.   "I'll bet

some nice hot coffee would go real good about


     Joker smiles.  "Sure would... Girls, I'm

Corporal James Davis.  I'm a reporter for Sea

Tiger.  This is Rafter Man.  He's my



     "How'd you girls like to have a beer with us

when you're through here?"

     "Sorry, guys, we don't go out with enlisted

men," the blonde says.

     "We don't even go out with lieutenants," the

brunette says.

     Joker laughs.  "Hey... just a minute.  You

girls don't expect us to satisfy our lust with a

donut, do you?" The girls laugh.

     "I'd say a donut is all the hole you zoomies



     Outside,  a ten year-old shoe shine boy

collars them.  "Changee money?  Boom-boom

pictures?  Dinky dow Cigarettes?"

     "I'll have a shine," Joker says.

     Nearby an attractive Vietnamese prostitute

starts preening herself for Rafter Man and Joker.

     Rafter says, "Joker, I want to go out into

the field.  I been in country for almost three



months and all I do is take hand-shake shots at

award ceremonies.  A high-school girl could do my


     Joker says, "Rafter, you'll get yourself

wasted the first day you're in the field and it'll

be my fault.  Your mom will find me after I rotate

back to the World and beat the shit out of me.

That's a negative."

     Not getting very far with body language,

the Vietnamese hooker tries conversation.  "Hey,

baby, me so horny.  Me so horny."

     Joker looks her over.  She looks pretty good.

     "Me so horny.  Me love you too much.  Hey,

what you say?  Number one pussy.  Me love you too


     "How much!" Joker asks.

     "Fifteen dolla."

     "For both of us?"

     "No, each you fifteen dolla."

       Suddenly, Rafter Man's Nikon camera is cut

from his neckstrap by a teenage boy who jumps on a

Honda, leaving them in the bike's backwash,

staring in helpless amazement.  Some White Mice

stand around giggling.

    A beefy civilian engineer standing nearby

offers some advice.  "You ever catch one of them

li'l nigs just pinch 'em.  Pinch 'em hard.  Boy,

they hate that."




     The weekly editorial meeting of 'Sea Tiger',

     the Marine Corps newspaper.

     The Da Nang office of Sea Tiger, presided

over by Lieutenant Lockart, seated at a U-shaped

collection of tables.

     A sign on the wall behind him says in

six-inch block letters: FIRST TO GO, LAST TO KNOW,



     Present are, Joker, Rafter Man and six other

combat correspondents and photographers.

     Lieutenant Lockart is hunched over some

letter trays filled with typed copy, telexes, and

8 x 10 photographs.

     The atmosphere of the meeting is breezy but


     "Okay, guys, lets keep it short and sweet

today," Lieutenant Lockart says.  "I gotta leave

for Phu Bai in half an hour."

     "What's up there, sir?" Collins asks.

     "Combat Media Techniques seminar," he says,

sorting through a stack of copy.

     "Okay...anybody got anything new?"

     A pause.

     "There's rumour going around that the Tet

ceasefire's going to be cancelled," Joker says.

     "Rear echelon paranoia," Lieutenant Lockart

says without looking up.

     "A bro in intelligence says Charlie might try

to pull off something big during the Tet holiday."

     "They say the same thing every year."



     "There's a lot of talk about it, sir" Joker


     "Forget it.  Tet is a combination of

Christmas, New Year and July 4th, and every

zipperhead in Nam will be banging gongs, barking

at the moon and visiting his dead relatives.

Anything else?"

     "Sir, my camera was stolen," Rafter Man says.

     "What camera?"

     "Black body Nikon."

     "Gook just shot by on his Honda, sir, whipped

that sucker right off Rafter's neck," Joker says.

"Look at his neck."

     Rafter shows the red welt on his neck.

     "You saw this happen?" Lieutenant Lockart

asks Joker.

     "Yes, sir."

     "Did you try to stop him?"

     "I tried to catch him, sir," Joker says.  "I

encountered difficulty overtaking the Honda on


     "All right," Lieutenant Lockart says  "When

we're finished here, report it to Gunny Slocum."

     Lieutenant Lockart picks up a telex.

     "Ann Margaret and entourage are due here next

week.  I want someone to be there on the airfield

and stick with her for a couple of days."

     "Colour me gone," Joker says

     "You're not a photographer.  Klammer, you

take it."

     "Aye-aye, sir."

     "Get me some good low angle stuff.  Don't

make it too obvious but I wanna see fur, and early

morning dew."



     "Aye-aye, sir."

     "Diplomats In Dungarees...Marine engineers

lend a helping hand rebuilding Dong Phuc village

recently damaged by heavy fighting with VC forces

in the area...Good"

     He picks up a photograph.  "Joker, can't you

come up with a better caption for this picture of

a sentry dog than, 'G-r-r-r'?

     "How about "Bow-wow!" Joker says.

     "How 'bout thinking of a better caption?"

     "Aye-aye, sir." He picks up another sheet of paper.

     "The Lawrence Welk Show will go out on TV in

two weeks.  Chili, do 100 words on it.  AFTV'll

give you some background stuff."

     "We're plugging Lawrence Welk?"

     "Don't you like serious music?"

     He reads again.

     "NVA Soldier Deserts After Reading

Pamphlets...a young North Vietnamese soldier who

realized his side could not win the war deserted

from his unit after reading Open Arms program


     "Sir!" Joker says.


     "Why don't we drop a couple of million of

those suckers and go home?"

     "Too expensive"

     He scans another story.

     "Did General Mossberg really say this: "We

are a nation of high-protein meat-eating hunters,

while the other guy just eats rice and fish

heads"?  Did he really say that to The New York

Times, The Washington Post and Newsweek?"



     "You should have heard the rest."

     Lieutenant Lockart shrugs and picks up

another story.

     "'Not While We're Eating.  NVA learn Marines

don't like to be interrupted while eating chow.'

...Joker, the enemy never runs.  He flees...

patrols aren't dangerous, they're danger-filled...

Style...style, Joker."

     "Yes, sir."

     "And, Joker, where's the weenie?"


     "The kill, Joker.  The kill.  All that fire,

the grunts must have hit something"

     "Didn't see 'em, sir."

     "Were you actually there on that op?"

     "Yes, sir."

     "Joker, I've told you we run two basic

stories here.  Grunts who give half their pay to

buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants - Winning Of

Hearts and Minds.  Okay?  And combat action which

result in a kill - Winning the War.  I don't ask

much of you people but I do expect you to adhere

to my editorial policy."

     "You must have seen blood trails, drag


     "It was raining, sir."

     "Okay, well that's why God passed the law of

probability."  He tosses the pages to Joker.

     "Re-write it and give it a happy ending.  One

killed.  Make it a sapper.  Or an officer.


     "Whatever you say," Joker says.

     "Grunts like reading about dead officers."



     "Okay - an officer.  How about a general?"

     "Joker, maybe you'd like our guys to read the

paper and feel bad.  In case you didn't know it,

this is not a particularly popular war, and it's

our job to report the news that the why-are-we-here

civilian newsmen ignore."

     "Sir, maybe you should go out yourself on

some ops.  It might give you a different


     "Joker, I've had my ass in the grass.  I

didn't like it.  Lots of bugs and too dangerous.

Fortunately, my duties keep me in the rear where I

belong.  In the rear with the gear."


     Midnight. Down in Dogpatch, the gooks are

     shooting off fireworks to celebrate the Lunar

     New Year.

     Early evening in the ISO hootch, a pre-fab

wooden building thirty feet long, with screens at

each end, but otherwise open, with rolled-up

canvas to be let down in case of rain.

     At one end of the room are a number of

bunkbeds.  The other part has several desks, and a


     On the wall are pictures of Bob Dylan, Cesar

Chavez, several Playmates of the Month,

Ann-Margaret, Steve McQeen on a motorcycle and

Lyndon Johnson with a pencilled-in moustache.

     A large hand-written sign says: WE HAVE MET




     Fireworks can be seen through the screened

end of the hootch.

     The men lie on their racks and swap


     Joker writes in his notebook.

     I add some lines to the notebook which I keep

     so that I return to hometown America in

     a rainbow of campaign ribbons across my

     chest, brave beyond belief, the military

     Jesus, I will use it to write the war novel

     which will make James Jones and Ernest

     Hemingway look like a couple of pussies.

     Joker puts down the notebook, lights up a

joint and says, "I got to get back into the shit.

I ain't heard a shot fired in anger in weeks.  I'm

bored to death.  How are we ever going to get used

to being back in the World?  I mean, a day without

blood is like a day without sunshine."

     "Shit."  Corporal Payback turns to Rafter

Man.  "Joker thinks that the bad bush is down the

road in the ville.  He's never been in the shit.

It's hard to talk about it.  Like on Hastings-"

     Chili Vendor, a tough Chicano from East L.A.,

interrupts: "You weren't on Operation Hastings,

Payback.  You weren't even in country."

     Oh, eat shit and die, you fucking Spanish

American.  You poge.  I was there, man.  I was in

the shit with the grunts, man."

     Joker grunts.  "Sea stories."

    "Oh, yeah?  How long you been in country,

Joker? Huh? How much T.I. you got?  How much



fucking time in?  Thirty months, poge.  I got

thirty months in country.  I've been there, man."

     "Yeah," Joker says.  "They've got his

picture on the wall in the Hanoi Post Office."

     "That's affirmative" says Corporal Payback.

"You listen to Joker, New Guy.  He knows ti ti-

very little.  And it be ever does know anything

it'll be because he learned it from me.  You just

know he's newer been in the shit. He ain't got

the stare."

     Rafter Man looks up.  "The stare?"

     "The thousand-yard stare.  A Marine gets it

after he's been in the shit for too long.  It's

like you've really seen...beyond.  I got it. All

field Marines got it.  You'll have it, too."

     Rafter Man says, "I will?"

       Corporal Payback takes a few hits off the

joint and then passes it to Chili Vendor. "I used

to be an atheist when I was a New Guy, a long

time ago..."

     Corporal Payback takes his Zippo lighter out

of his shirt pocket and hands it to Rafter Man.

"See? It says, 'Just you and me, God - right?'"

     Corporal Payback giggles.  He seems to be

trying to focus his vision on some distant

object.  "Nobody is an atheist in a foxhole. 

You'll be praying."

     Rafter Man looks at Joker grins, hands the

lighter back.  "There sure is a lot of stuff to





     Suddenly, there is a series of tremendous

explosions a few hundred yards away.

     "Oh, shit, rockets."

     A sudden swooosssh...

     "Incoming!"  Daytona Dave shouts.

     "Them're outgoin'," says Chili Vendor.

     Daytona Dave hears the deep sliding whistle

of the other shells. That ain' outgoin'".

     "That ain't outgoing," Chili Vendor says.

     "Now what I jus' say?" Daytona Dave yells as

they run for a short trench a few yards away.

     Rafter Man stands there, frozen.  "What..."

     A rocket hits the deck twenty yards away.

Rafter Man hits the ground.

     Joker jerks Rafter to his feet and shoves him

towards a sandbagged trench a few feet away.

     Corporal Payback does a stunt-man dive into

the trench and lets out a scream of pain.

     Guys are running around in their shorts,

firing their M-l6's blind.

     In the trench, Payback is moaning.

     "Where you hit man?" Joker says.

     "I'm not hit.  I think I broke my fucking


    "Then shut the fuck up, man," Daytona Dave

says.  "You're making me nervous."

     Joker peeks cautiously over the sandbags. A

few yards, in front, three Marines lie dead.

     "Jesus Christ I'm not ready for this," Joker

mumbles to himself.

     Corporal Payback is groaning.

     Rafter whimpers.



     All around the hill orange machine-gun

tracers flash up into the sky.

     Outgoing mortars.

     Outgoing artillery.

     Incoming rockets.

     All kinds of noise.

     Illumination rounds pop high above the rice


     The flares sway down, glowing, suspended

beneath little parachutes.

     Joker grabs Rafter Man and pulls him into

their hootch.  "Get your piece."

     Joker picks up his M-16.  He snaps in a

magazine.  He throws a bandolier of full magazines

to Rafter Man.  "Lock and load, recruit.  Lock and


     "But that's against regulations."

     "Do it."

     Outside, headquarters personnel from the

surrounding hootches are stumbling into rifle pits

on the perimeter.  They crouch down in the damp

holes in their skivvies.  They stare out through

the wire.

     The rockets blink like flashbulbs.  The

flashbulbs pop.  And then the sound of drums.

     "Well, happy fuckin' New Year everybody,"

Joker says.

    Chili Vendor says.  "Oh man, why can' they

jus' leave us alone one


     "'Cause they ain't gettin' paid to leave us

alone,"  Daytona Dave says.  "Sides, they do it

'cause they know how it fucks you all up"

     The crumps start again somewhere outside the

wire and walk in like the footsteps of a monster.



     The crumps are becoming thuds.  Thud.  Thud.

THUD.  And then it's a whistle and a roar.


       On the perimeter M-60 machine guns are

banging and the M-79 grenade launchers are

blooping and mortar shells are thumping out of the


     Star flares burst all along the wire,

beautiful clusters of green fire.

     "I hope they're just fucking with us," Joker

says.  "I hope they're not going to hit the wire.

I'm not really ready for this shit."

     Outside their bunker: BANG, BANG, BANG.

     Daytona Pave, huddled against a wall of the

trench, mutters to himself, "Don't worry, baby,

God'll think of something"

     Somewhere someone has left on a radio playing

the Rolling Stones" "Get offa my cloud".

     Inside our damn cave of sandbags we huddle

     elbow-to-elbow in wet skivvies, feeling the

     weight of the darkness, as helpless as 

     cavemen hiding from a monster. 

     Each of us is waiting for the next shell to

     nail him right on the head - the mortar is an

     agent of existential doom.


     Dawn.  Major Lynch's office.  The mortars

have stopped but sporadic rifle and machine gun

fire can be beard in the distance.



     The Informational Services Office on the hill

     is a carnival with green performers - many,

     many of them.  The lifers are all being

     fearless leaders.  The New Guys are about to

     wet their pants.

     Everyone is talking.

     Major Lynch, their commanding officer,

marches in and squares them away.

     "Everyone will shut the fuck up," he says,

"The enemy has used the Tet Ceasefire to launch an

offensive all over the country.  He has hit every

major military target in Vietnam.  In Saigon, the

United States Embassy has been overrun by suicide

squads.  Khe Sanh is standing-by to be overrun."

     Everybody starts talking at once.

Major Lynch is calm.  He stands in the center

of chaos and tries to give them orders. Nobody


      "Everybody will shut the fuck up!" His words

snap out like bullets from a machine gun.  "Zip up

those flak jackets.  Put on that helmet, Marine.

Load your weapons but do not put a round in the

chamber.  Joker!"

     "Aye-aye, sir."

     Major Lynch stands in front of the Marine

Corps flag - blood red, with an eagle, globe, and

anchor of gold, U.S.M.C. and SEMPER FIDELIS.  He

taps Joker's chest with his finger.  "Joker, you

will take off that damned button.  How is it going

to look if you get killed wearing a peace symbol?"

     "Aye-aye, sir!"

     "Get up to Phu Bai.  Captain January will

need all his people."



     Rafter Man steps forward. "Sir? Could I go

with Joker?"

     "What?  Sound off."

     "I'm Compton, sir.  Lance Corporal Compton.

From Photo.  I want to get into the shit."

     "Permission granted. And welcome aboard."

The major turns, starts yelling at the New Guys.

     Joker says, "Sir, I don't think that-"

     Major Lynch turns back to him, irritated.

"You still here?  Vanish, Joker, most ricky-tick.

And take the New Guy with you.  You're responsible

for him."  The major turns away and starts

snapping out orders for the defense of the First

Marine Division's Informational Services Office.


     Joker and Rafter Man look out of the open

door of an S-55 helicopter.

     Thousands of feet below, Vietnam is a narrow

     strip of dried dragon shit upon which God has

     sprinkled toy tanks and airplanes and a lot

     of trees, flies and Marines.

     Joker's ears pop.  He pinches his nose and

puffs out his cheeks.  Rafter man imitates him.

They sit on bales of green rubber-impregnated

canvas body bags.

     It's a beautiful day.  I'm so happy to be

     alive and in one piece. I'm in a world of

     shit, but I'm alive. And I'm not afraid.



     The door gunner smokes marijuana and fires

his M-60 machine gun at a farmer in the rice

paddies below.

     "Git some...git same...harharhar."

     The door gunner has long hair, a bushy

moustache,  and wears an unbuttoned Hawaiian sports

shirt.  On the Hawaiian sport shirt are a hundred

yellow hula dancers.

     The hamlet beneath us is in a free fire zone

     - anybody can shoot at it at any time for any

     reason. We watch the farmer run in the

     shallow water.  The farmer knows only that

     his family needs some rice to eat.  The

     farmer knows only that the bullets are

     tearing him apart.

     "You guys ought to do a story on me suntahm,"

the door gunner shouts above the noise of the helicopter.

     "Why should we do a story about you?"

"Cause I'm so fuckin good," he says, "'n that

ain't no shit neither.  Got me one hunnert 'n

fifty-se'en gooks kilt. 'N' fifty caribou." He

grins and staunches the saliva for a second.

"Them're all certified," he adds.

     "Ever shoot any women or children?"


     "How can you do that?"

     "Easy - you just don't lead "em so much.


     Since lift-off, a bullying Arvin captain and

a big Arvin sergeant have been questioning two VC

prisoners seated on the floor opposite them with



their backs to the open door, the wind tearing at

their shirts, their arms sharply tied behind them.

     The Arvin captain has been concentrating on

one man, a hard-core VC, who won't even look at

him. Suddenly, the captain starts yelling

hysterically but the prisoner keeps his eyes


     The Arvin captain stops shouting, breathes

hard a couple of times and makes a sharp movement

with his head to the Arvin sergeant standing over

the prisoner.

     The sergeant pushes the prisoner out of the

door, a frozen look of horror on the victim's face

in the split second before he disappears.

     It happens so fast, it takes a couple of

seconds to sink in to Joker and Rafter Man.

     Joker looks at the door gunner.

     The door gunner winks amiably at him.

     Joker looks at Rafter.  Rafter's mouth is


     The Arvin captain starts shouting at the

second VC prisoner who looks like he's ready to

give Uncle Ho's Private telephone number.

     Joker gestures to Rafter Man's camera.

Rafter Man looks down and sets his exposure.

     It looks like the prisoner is answering the

questions but he doesn't seem to be making the

Arvin captain any happier.

     Joker says, "Start shooting pictures - lots

of them."

     Rafter starts shooting pictures.

     The captain doesn't like this at all and

angrily gives Rafter Man the traditional



no-pictures-wave-off.  "Hey, you, Marine.  No

camera me!  No camera me!"

     Joker gestures to Rafter to keep shooting.  

     "Number ten! Hey, Marine - why you camera


     Joker leans closer and shouts to be heard.

     "Captain, we are officially accredited US Marine

Corps combat correspondents and if you harm this

prisoner we're going to file an official report of

this entire incident together with our

photographic evidence."

     "You number 10 motherfucker.  Me captain.

Who you talking to?"

     "I'm talking to you, Captain Zipperhead, sir."

     The Arvin captain looks like he's going to

have a stroke.  He shouts something to the

sergeant who draws his pistol but keeps it pointed

at the floor.

     Joker shifts the M-16 across his knees.


     Then, suddenly, the Arvin captain turns and

pushes the prisoner out

of the door.

     He turns back to Joker and laughs, showing

two gold teeth.  The sergeant thinks this is

pretty funny, too.

     Joker fires his M-l6 on full automatic into

the two men, blasting them

out of the door.

     Joker stares at the empty door.

     Rafter flops down on the floor.

     The door gunner grins and leans over to

Joker.  "Ain't war hell?"

     Joker stares at the empty door.




     Captain January is in his plywood cubicle in

the back of the ISO hootch.  Captain January is

the kind of officer who chews an unlit pipe

because he thinks that a pipe will help to make

him a father figure.  He's playing cut-throat

Monopoly with Corporal Kegan.  Captain January

isn't Captain Queeg, but then he's not Humphrey

Bogart, either.

     He picks up his little silver shoe and moves

it to Baltic Avenue, tapping each property along

the way.

     "I'll buy Baltic.  And two houses."  Captain

January reaches for the white and purple deed to

Baltic Avenue.  "That's another monopoly,

Corporal."  He positions tiny green houses on the


     "Joker, I've got big piece of slack for

you."  Captain January picks up a manila guard

mail envelope and pulls out a piece of paper with

fancy writing on it.  "Congratulations, Sergeant

Joker."  He hands him the paper.




     T. DAVIS, 2306777/4312, I DO APPOINT HIM A


    Joker stares at the piece of paper.  Then he

puts the order on Captain January's field desk.

"Number ten.  I mean,  no way, sir."



Captain January stops his silver shoe in

midstride.  "What did you say?"

     "Sir, I rose by sheer military genius to the

rank Of Corporal.  But I'm not a sergeant.  I

guess I'm just a snuffy at heart."

     "Joker, you will belay the Mickey Mouse

shit.  You've got an excellent 6-month record in

country.  You've got enough time-in-grade.  You've

been on enough combat ops.  You rate this

promotion. This is the only was war we've got."

     "Captain January, you know I do my job. I've

fouqht to make the world safe for hypocrisy. My

stories are paper bullets fired into the fat black

heart of Communism. Let me do it as a Corporal."

     "Joker, I don't think you understand how

important our job is.  Grunts are good show

business but we make them what they are.  History

may be written with blood and iron but it's

printed with ink."

     Joker thinks for a few seconds.  "Sir, I shot

two Arvins on the way up here on the helicopter.

They were killing prisoners."

     "You shot two Arvins on the way up here on

the helicopter?" Captain January asks, looking

down at the monopoly board.

     "Yes, sir."

     "You're pulling me leg, right?"

     "No, sir."

     "You're not pulling me leg?"

     "No, sir."

     "Oh, damn."  Captain January slaps a card

onto the field desk.  "Go to jail - go directly to

jail - do not pass go - do not collect two hundred



dollars."  The captain puts his little silver shoe

into jail.

     Captain January looks troubled.  Then he

looks up and says with finality, "Joker, you've

always had a sick sense of humour.  You are

definitely pulling me leg.  You will be wearing

chevrons indicating your proper rank next time I

see you or I will definitely jump on your


     "Yes, sir."

       Captain January shifts into another gear.

"Okay... now I want you to hump up to Hue.

One-One is in the shit.  Two NVA divisions have

overrun the city.  Charlie's finally decided to

dig in and fight."

     Captain January looks at Rafter Man.  "Who's

this?  Sound off, Marine!"

     Rafter Man stutters.

     Joker says, "This is Lance Corporal Compton,

sir.  The New Guy in Photo."

     "Outstanding.  Welcome aboard, Marine."

     "Thank you, sir!"

     "Joker, make sleeping sounds here tonight and

head up to Hue in the morning.  We've had reports

the VC have executed hundreds of civilians, maybe

thousands.  They've uncovered several mass

graves.  Walter Cronkite is due here tomorrow so

we'll be busy.  But your job is important, too.

We need some good, clear photographs. And some

hard-hitting captions.  Get me photographs of

indigenous civilian personnel who have been

executed with their hands tied behind their backs,

people buried alive, priests with their throats

cut, dead babies - you know what I want.  Then get



me come good feature stuff on the fighting with

good body counts.  And remember: we're writing our

own report cards in this country.  Don't be afraid

to give us a few A's."

     "Yes, sir."

     "Joker, before you go up there you will

remove the unauthorized peace button from your

duty uniform."

     "Aye-aye, sir."

     "And Joker..."

     "Yes, sir."

     "Don't even photograph any naked bodies

unless they're mutilated."

     "Aye-aye, sir."

     "And Joker..."

     "Yes, sir?"

     "Get a haircut."

       "Aye-aye, sir."


     The helicopter on it's way to Hue.  Joker and

Rafter Man stare silently out of the door.


     The helicopter settles down at an LZ on the

outskirts of Hue.  Joker

and Rafter hop off.

     The LZ is cluttered with walking wounded,

stretcher cases and body bags.



Corpsmen immediately start carrying canvas

stretchers to the helicopter.  On the stretchers

are bloody rags with men inside.

     Joker stops a master sergeant.  "Top, we want

to get into the shit.

     "The master sergeant is writing on a piece of

yellow paper on a clipboard.  He doesn't look up,

but jerks his thumb over his shoulder.

     "Two-five.  Gasworks...a click north."

     "Gasworks.  Outstanding.  Thanks top."

     The master sergeant walks away, writing on

the yellow paper.  He ignores four skuzzy grunts

who run into the compound, each man holding up one

corner of a poncho.  On the poncho is a dead

Marine.  The grunts are screaming for a corpsman

and when they put the poncho down, very gently, a

pool of dark blood pours out onto the concrete



       Joker and Rafter Man walk up the shattered

street, awed by the sheer destruction.

     A huge, black pall of smoke hangs above the

city in the distance and the sound of distant

firing of M-16's and AK-47's can be heard.

     They pass a tank, its treads blown off, a

huge black hole through its turret.

     Rafter Man photographs it.

     Three or four wounded Marines walk towards

them along side a jeep with stretchers tied to

it.  They're bloody and bandaged, and their

fatigues are torn.



"Whyn't you take a picture?  It'll last

longer," one of the grunts says.

     Rafter does.

     Some Vietnamese who have been huddled by the

side of the road are pointing towards the smoke,

crying and wailing pitifully.

       One of the wounded grunts yells at them,

"Hey, fuck you if you can't take a joke!

     The wounded grunt laughs without humour and

walks on.

     A shell goes off in the distance and Rafter

starts to hit the deck.  Joker gives him a look

and he straightens up, slightly embarrassed.


     A squad of Arvin troops are looting a house.

They are loading a truck with furniture, TV's,

stereos, clothes.  They look like boys in their

outsized helmets and uniforms.

     Another shell goes off in the distance.

Rafter Man checks his impulse to dive for cover

and looks at Joker.

     "Remember this, Rafter Man," Joker says, "Any

time you can see an Arvin you are safe from Victor

Charlie.  That's definite.  You're safe until

they start yelling, 'Beaucoup VC, beaucoup VC!' and

then runaway.  But then you have to he careful,

Arvins are always shooting at chickens, other

people's pigs, and trees.  Arvins will shoot

anything except transistor radios, stereos,

Coca Colas, sun glasses, and the enemy."




     Joker and Rafter Man catch up with a big

Marine lieutenant with an expensive pump shotgun

slung across his back and DEADLY DELTA on his flak

jacket, followed by his radio man.

     "Sir, we're looking for Hotel, 2/5.  I got a

bro in the First Platoon.  They call him Cowboy.

He wears a Cowboy hat."

     "I'm Cowboy's platoon commander.  The Lusthog

Squad's up in the platoon area up by the

gasworks.  You people 1/17?"

     "No, sir. We're correspondents for Sea

Tiger.  I'm Joker, sir, Corporal Joker.  This is

Rafter Man."

     "Glad to see you."

     They walk along with the big Marine.

     Rafter takes a few shots of the lieutenant

who enjoys the attention.

     "If you men have come looking for a story

this is your lucky day.  We've got Condition Red

here and we are definitely expecting rain."

     "Outstanding.  How is it going, sir?"

     "Well, it looks like Charlie's got a whole

division in the town, and he's dug in pretty

good.  We're still working this side of the river

street by street and house by house.  But when we

get 'em out where we can see 'em, we're getting

some really decent kills."

     "Mind if we tag along?"

     "Welcome aboard.  By the way, my name is

Bayer.  Robert M. Bayer, the third.  My people

call me Touchdown. I played a little ball at

SMU.  You here to make Cowboy famous?"



Joker laughs:  "Never happen... Sir, we've

heard the NVA have executed a lot of civilians.

Have you come across anything?"

     "There's a mass grave about half a klick

east, just this side of the Phu Cam Canal."

     Joker takes out a map.  "Can you show me

where, sir?"


     Joker and Rafter Man stand in a small group

of military and civilian officials near a large

excavation containing about 40 bodies.

     It smells really bad.  The snuffies doing the

digging have all tied olive-drab skivvy shirts

around their faces but casualties due to

uncontrollable puking are heavy.

     All of the dead people are grinning that

     hideous, joyless grin of those who have heard

     the joke, of those who have seen the terrible

     secrets of the earth.

     Rafter man shoots a roll fast and reloads.

     Joker asks a lieutenant, "Now many bodies

have you got so far, sir?"

       The lieutenant looks irritably at Joker and

Rafter Man.  "What outfit are you men with?"

     "Sir, we're correspondents from Sea Tiger."

     Complete change of attitude.  The lieutenant

brightens up.  "Oh, hello."

     "I'm Corporal Joker, sir.  This is my

photographer Rafter Man."



     The lieutenant smiles.  I'm Lieutenant

Cleave, I'm from Hartford, Connecticut."

     "Sir, do you have a body count yet?"

     "Unofficially it's about forty."

     "Do we know how it happened, sir?"

     "Well, apparently the NVA came in with lists

of names - government officials, land owners, army

and police officers.  They went around to their

houses and politely told them to report to local

schools for political indoctrination.  They shot

everyone who turned up, some of them were buried


     Joker nods and writes in his notebook with a

ballpoint pen.


Joker looks up and sees a poge Army colonel

marching up to face him.  The poge colonel has a

classic granite jaw.  His jungle utilities are

razor-creased, starched to the consistency of

green armour.  Joker stands to attention.

     "Corporal," the Army colonel says.  "Don't

you know how to execute a hand salute?"

     "Yes, sir!" Joker says.

     I hold the salute until the colonel returns

     it, plus a couple of seconds extra, to

     identify the colonel as an officer to any

     snipers in the area.

     "Marine," the colonel says.  "What is that on

your body armour?"



     "You mean this button, sir?"



     "What is it?" the colonel says.

     "A peace symbol, sir."

     "Where did you get it?"

     Joker thinks for a couple of seconds.  "A

liberal gave it to me, sir," Joker says, keeping

a serious face.

     The colonel jabs Joker's button with a

forefinger and giver him a fairly decent Polished

Glare.  His blue eyes sparkle.  "That's right, son,

act innocent.  But I know what that button means."

     "Yes, sir!

     "It's a ban-the-bomb propaganda button.

     Admit it!"

     "What is that you've got written on your


     "Born To Kill?"

     "You've written 'Born to Kill' on your


     "Yes, sir."

     Why did you do that?"

     "I don't know, sir. Everyone writes things

on their helmets."

     "You write 'Born to Kill' on your helmet and

you wear a peace button.  What is that supposed to

be, some kind of sick joke?"

     "No, sir."

     "Well, what is it supposed to mean?"

     "I don't know, sir."

     "Answer that question, corporal, or you'll be

standing tall before the man."

     "Well, sir," Joker says with exaggerated

thoughtfulness, "I suppose...I was trying to



suggest something about the duality of man."

     "The what?"

     "The dual nature of man?...  You know, sir,

the Ju

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