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Historical Accuracy


A huge issue in movies based on true events is the historical accuracy. Some movies, like The Patriot and Pocahontas bend history greatly to make a better movie. From information gathered through various groups and an interview with a Vietnam veteran (Robert Strickland), it can be verified that Full Metal Jacket is historically accurate.

The first part of the movie could have happened in real life. Parris Island is a real Marine training camp in South Carolina. The website is located at (http://www.mcrdpi.usmc.mil/.) An interview with Robert Strickland provided great information about Marine training during the Vietnam war. Training sergeants were accurately portrayed. Most of them were Korean war veterans, so they knew what war was like. Training back then was much harsher back then then it is today. Although the training was physically harsh, it was mainly mental. The training sergeants tried to replace many years of mental development with wholly reconditioned minds and bodies. Everything was regulated and enforced. Punishments included forced consumption of garbage, the placement of heads in dirty urinals and you transferred to the “Motivational Platoon” (Appy, 88-90). Hartman constantly referred to his trainees as “ladies”. Insults such as these were common because drill instructors tried to get trainees to associate fatigue and weakness to a lack of manhood. Even though sergeants technically were not allowed to hit anyone, they occasionally did. Just like Hartman did, Drill instructors sometimes ordered their men to march with the rifle in one hand and their penis in the other, singing “This is my rifle, this is my gun; one is for fighting, the other’s for fun” (Appy 102). Some sergeants also ordered their trainees to give their rifle a female name as done in the film. R. Lee Ermy, Who played Sergeant Hartman, was a former Parris Island instructor. He definitely knew what training was really like and could use his experiences to flesh out his acting.

My mother is a psychiatrist in the Veterans Administration. I showed her the first part of the movie and asked her if the portrayal of a person like Private Pyle snapping like he did in the movie was realistic. She said yes, and that the condition was called psychosis, and it is induced by stress. A person with psychosis loses touch with reality. The person could have hallucinations, several impaired judgement and hear voices. This adequately describes Private Pyle after he lost it. Pyle talked to his rifle and had a blank stare when talked too. Military training was so harsh that it induced many to attempt suicide. During the Vietnam war, Fort Dix averaged more than 200 suicide attempts a year (Appy 92.)

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