The Vietnam segment started off with a prostitution scene. Many Vietnamese women were forced to become prostitutes to make a living because they were dirt poor. Richard Marlotas, a Vietnam veteran, described what happened when he gave small gifts, such as a bar of soap, to his favorite prostitutes “They loved them! In that country they don’t have things like that. Small things like that they look at as great - a bar of soap! That’s how poor those people are!” (Appy, 291.) In Full Metal Jacket, Joker tried to bargain the fee from $15 to $10. Although this may sound like Joker is being stingy, American soldiers were not paid much for their service in Vietnam. Low ranking soldiers were paid between $150 and $200 a month for their service and an additional $50 to $65 for hazardous duty a month (Appy 290).
The movie then moves to a room with a group of Stars and Stripes journalists. The head asked the writers to exaggerate American kills. This did happen in real life. It is estimated that American commanders exaggerated kills by 100 percent (Appy, 156.) Also the head writer said that the NVA wasn’t planning anything because the Tet holiday was like Christmas, New Year’s and the Fourth of July combined. This was true because many ARVN troops were on leave when the Tet offensive began. Even though the US knew Giap was up to something, it did not expect North Vietnam to launch a grand assault during the Tet holiday.
The movie then moved to a scene in a helicopter where the gunner was shooting at Vietnamese citizens. Atrocities were committed. Many US soldiers were racist and branded all Vietnamese as gooks. US soldiers considered Vietnamese as an inferior animals. They treated them extremely disrespectfully. This disrespect ranged from throwing empty cans at Vietnamese children to brutal atrocities. The soldiers’ exemption from Vietnamese law exacerbated the situation by preventing them from being punished.
The views expressed by the American soldiers were accurate. The loathing of communism was instilled in a soldier during training. One former soldier said:
When you first go in, everybody realizes basic training is a lot of horse s***. They show you all those movies about the good guys getting wiped out by the dirty commies-that they’re going to come over here and rope your mom, and eat your apple pie, and that kind of thing. Everybody realize it’s horse shit, but by the end of training, there were actually guys who started talking about killing the dirty commies-it works. Other people didn’t believe it, but they had been through so much smoke that they outwardly accepted it because it had been impressed on them so much. They realized that in order to survive they had to conform (Appy 95-96.)Many Americans could not see why the Vietnamese were ungrateful when we were “helping” them.
The battle for Hue was very historically accurate. American soldiers had to recapture the city in vicious fighting block-by-block. Wanton bloodshed and desperate fighting was accurately portrayed. The city of Hue was also accurately modeled. The set was designed from real photographs from Hue. The city was totally demolished during the battle. Even though the movie was filmed in Britain, Spanish palm trees were used and a hundred thousand plastic jungle plants were brought in from Hong Kong.
A huge issue with movies that are based on real events is their historical accuracy. Movie-goers are more interested in being entertained than getting a history lesson. Movies take tens of millions of dollars to make, so directors are usually concerned more with making a movie that can sell then a historically accurate movie. When the $140 million Pearl Harbor came out, many WWII veterans were furious because of the historical inaccuracy. Full Metal Jacket is one of my favorite movies. I love the insults, the sniper scene and laughing at Pyle. Fortunately, it does not make a mockery of Vietnam. Full Metal Jacket is an extremely historically accurate movie. The boot camp segment was so accurate that it could have happened in real life. The Vietnam segment was also very accurately portrayed.