The Short-Timers

The Short-Timers is a 1979 semi-autobiographical novel by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gustav Hasford, about his experience in the Vietnam War. Hasford served as a combat correspondent with the 1st Marine Division during the Tet Offensive of 1968. As a military journalist, he wrote stories for Leatherneck Magazine, Pacific Stars and Stripes, and Sea Tiger.[1] The novel was later adapted into the film Full Metal Jacket (1987) by Hasford, Michael Herr, and Stanley Kubrick.

In 1990, Hasford published the sequel The Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam.[2][3] The two books were supposed to be part of a "Vietnam Trilogy", but Hasford died before writing the third installment.[4]

The Short-Timers
The Short timers Cover
First hardcover edition
AuthorGustav Hasford
CountryUnited States
GenreAutobiographical, War novel
PublisherHarper and Row (HB) & Bantam (PB)
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages192 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN0-553-17152-6 (paperback edition)
Followed byThe Phantom Blooper 

Plot summary

The book is divided into three sections, written in completely different styles of prose, and follows James T. "Joker" Davis through his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps and deployment to Vietnam.

"The Spirit of the Bayonet"

"The Spirit of the Bayonet" chronicles Joker's days in recruit training, where a drill instructor (Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim) breaks the men's spirits and then rebuilds them as brutal killers. Here, Joker befriends two recruits nicknamed "Cowboy" and "Gomer Pyle". The latter, whose real name is Leonard Pratt, earns the wrath of both Gerheim and the rest of the platoon through his ineptitude and weak character. Though he eventually shows great improvement and wins honors at graduation, the constant abuse unbalances his mind. In a final act of madness, he kills Gerheim and then himself in front of the whole platoon.

"Body Count"

"Body Count" shows some of Joker's life as a war correspondent for the Marines in 1968. While in Da Nang, he runs across Cowboy, who is now assistant squad leader in the Lusthog Squad. As the Tet Offensive begins, Joker is dispatched to Phu Bai with his photographer, Rafter Man. Here, Joker unwillingly accepts a promotion from Corporal to Sergeant, and the two journalists travel to Huế to cover the enemy's wartime atrocities and reunite Joker with Cowboy. During a battle, Joker is knocked unconscious by an RPG concussion blast and the book enters a psychedelic dream sequence. When Joker comes to several hours later, he learns that the platoon commander was killed by a friendly grenade, and the squad leader went insane and attacked an NVA position with a BB gun only to be shot down. Later, Joker and Rafter Man battle a sniper who killed another Lusthog Marine and an entire second squad; the battle ends with Rafter Man's first confirmed kill and Cowboy's being wounded slightly. As Joker and Rafter Man head back to their base, Rafter Man panics and dashes into the path of an oncoming tank, which fatally crushes him. Joker is reassigned to Cowboy's squad as a rifleman, as punishment for wearing an unauthorized peace button on his uniform.


"Grunts" takes place on a mission through the jungle with Cowboy's squad, outside of Khe Sanh. They encounter another sniper here, who wounds three of the men multiple times. After the company commander goes crazy and begins babbling nonsense over the radio, Cowboy decides to pull the squad back and retreat, rather than sacrifice everyone trying to save the wounded men. Animal Mother, the squad's M60 machine gunner, threatens Cowboy's life and refuses to retreat. Promoting Joker to squad leader, Cowboy runs in with his pistol and kills each victim with a shot to the head. However, he is repeatedly wounded in the process, and before he can kill himself, the sniper shoots the gun out of his hand. Realizing his duty to Cowboy and the squad, Joker kills Cowboy and leads the rest of the men away.

"Short-timer" vs. "lifer" vs. "poge"

Joker and his fellow Marines refer to military personnel in various ways. A "short" service-member, or "short-timer", is one who is approaching the end of his tour of duty in Vietnam, described in the novel as 385 days for Marines and 365 days for members of other armed services. "Lifers" are distinguished not necessarily by their length of time served, but rather by their attitude toward the lower ranks. (Joker describes the distinction as follows: "A lifer is anybody who abuses authority he doesn't deserve to have. There are plenty of civilian lifers.") Finally, the term "poges" (an alternative spelling for the slang term "pogues") is short for "Persons Other than Grunts" - Marines who fill non-combat roles such as cooks, clerks, and mechanics. Poges are a favorite target of the front-line troops' derision, and vice versa.

Film adaptation

Hasford, Michael Herr, and Stanley Kubrick adapted the novel into the film Full Metal Jacket (1987).

The movie faithfully reproduces the first section of the novel, "The Spirit of the Bayonet", with only minor differences in events and names. The most profound difference is that, in the book, when Pvt. Pyle kills Gunny (Gunnery Sergeant) Gerheim (renamed Hartman in the film), Gerheim tells Pyle, "I'm proud [of you]", before dying, finally satisfied that he transformed Pyle into a killer.

The second part of the movie combines certain dialogue and plot elements of "Body Count" and "Grunts". For example, the combat in the film takes place in Huế, and the platoon does take on a sniper, although the on-screen sequence more closely resembles the sniper battle in "Grunts".

Several important sequences are omitted from the movie adaptation, including: a previous meeting between Joker and his squad at the movies, the slaughtering of rats at the camp by Joker and his friends as Rafter Man watches, Rafter Man's lapse into cannibalism, a description of a tank running over a girl and a water buffalo, and a flashback revealing the origins of the nickname Rafter Man (actually named Lance Corporal Compton). In the book, Rafter Man is later run over and killed by the same tank that ran over the girl and water buffalo, and Joker is demoted to a "grunt" (Basic Rifleman) for wearing his peace symbol button.

Additionally, the film adaptation changes some characters' names and omits certain other characters, i.e.: several "lifers" (Capt. January, Major Lynch, and General Motors) have been left out or have been merged into one character; Private Leonard Pratt in the book is renamed Leonard Lawrence in the movie; Gunny Gerheim in the book becomes Gunny Hartman in the movie; and the character of Alice in the book seems to have been renamed and altered slightly to portray Eightball in the movie. In additional divergences from the book, in the film T.H.E. Rock does not die, and Crazy Earl is killed by a booby trap. The book characters Daytona Dave, Chili Vendor, and Mr. Payback appear in the movie, just prior to and during the Tet Offensive, but in the book Daytona Dave is described as a California surfer-type, while in the movie he is played by an African American.


According to the Gustav Hasford website maintained by Hasford's cousin, Jason Aaron, The Short-Timers,[5] The Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam,[6] and Hasford's third and last completed book, a noir detective novel titled A Gypsy Good Time (1992),[7][8] are currently out of print. The texts of the two war novels and an excerpt of A Gypsy Good Time were publicly available at the web-site for at least a decade,[9] but the site has since been redesigned, and Aaron, who manages the site, has stated he "likely won't be reposting the novel" there.[10]


  1. ^ Lewis, Grover (June 28, 1987). "The Several Battles of Gustav Hasford: A Candid Conversation With the Co-Writer and Fierce, Real-Life Protagonist of Full Metal Jacket". Los Angeles Times Magazine. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  2. ^ Hasford, Gustav (January 1, 1990). The Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam (1st ed.). Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0553057188.
  3. ^ Salzberg, Charles (1990). "IN SHORT; FICTION: THE PHANTOM BLOOPER. By Gustav Hasford. (Bantam, $17.95.)". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  4. ^ Ross, Matthew Samuel (2010). "An Examination of the life and work of Gustav Hasford, Paper 236". UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones.
  5. ^ Hasford, Gustav (1979). The Short-Timers (1st (hard cover) ed.). Harper & Rowe. ISBN 978-0060117825. Archived from the original on 2012-11-23.
  6. ^ Hasford, Gustav (January 1, 1990). The Phantom Blooper (1st (hard cover) ed.). Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0553057188.
  7. ^ Hasford, Gustav (March 1992). A Gypsy Good Time (First (paperback) ed.). Washington Square Press. ISBN 978-0671729172.
  8. ^ "Web page dedicated to A Gypsy Good Time". Gustav Hasford's official website. Archived from the original on July 28, 2012.
  9. ^ "Original version". Gustav Hasford home page, with the full text of The Short-Timers and The Phantom Blooper novels included. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011.
  10. ^ Jason Aaron (January 2013). "About This Site". Retrieved September 7, 2014.

External links

60th Academy Awards

The 60th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), took place on April 11, 1988, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles beginning at 6:00 p.m. PST / 9:00 p.m. EST. During the ceremony, AMPAS presented Academy Awards (commonly referred to as Oscars) in 22 categories honoring films released in 1987. The ceremony, televised in the United States by ABC, was produced by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and directed by Marty Pasetta. Actor Chevy Chase hosted the show for the second consecutive year. Two weeks earlier in a ceremony held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California on March 27, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by host Shirley Jones.The Last Emperor won nine awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Bernardo Bertolucci. For their performances in Moonstruck, Cher and Olympia Dukakis won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. Michael Douglas won Best Actor for his role in Wall Street; Sean Connery won Best Supporting Actor for The Untouchables. The telecast garnered 42.2 million viewers in the United States.

As of 2019, this is the most recent Academy Awards ceremony to take place in April.

A Gypsy Good Time

A Gypsy Good Time is a 1992 noir detective novel by Vietnam War veteran Gustav Hasford and the last novel he completed before his death in 1993, at forty-five years old. It is written in the style of classic hardboiled detective fiction and was poorly received by book critics at the time for making too much use of the cliches of the genre. A Gypsy Good Time never received the same critical recognition as Hasford's novels on Viet Nam, The Short-Timers (1979) and The Phantom Blooper (1990), and is relatively unknown even among the author's followers. The book is reportedly based on Hasford's disillusionment with Hollywood during the production of Full Metal Jacket (1987).

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 war film directed, co-written, and produced by Stanley Kubrick and starring Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D'Onofrio and Adam Baldwin. The screenplay by Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford was based on Hasford's novel The Short-Timers (1979). The storyline follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through their training, primarily focusing on two privates, Joker and Pyle, who struggle to get through boot camp under their abusive drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, and the experiences of two of the platoon's Marines in the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The film's title refers to the full metal jacket bullet used by soldiers. The film was released in the United States on June 26, 1987. It was the last of Kubrick's films to be released during his lifetime.

Full Metal Jacket received critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Kubrick, Herr, and Hasford. In 2001, the American Film Institute placed it at No. 95 in their "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills" poll.

Gustav Hasford

Jerry Gustave Hasford (November 28, 1947 – January 29, 1993), also known under his pen name Gustav Hasford was an American novelist, journalist and poet. His semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers (1979) was the basis of the film Full Metal Jacket (1987). He was also a United States Marine Corps veteran, who served during the Vietnam War.

Leatherneck Magazine

Leatherneck Magazine of the Marines (or simply Leatherneck) is a magazine for United States Marines.

List of books with anti-war themes

Books with anti-war themes have explicit anti-war messages or have been described as having significant anti-war themes or sentiments. Not all of these books have a direct connection to any particular anti-war movement. The list includes fiction and non-fiction, and books for children and younger readers.

Lusthog Squad

The Lusthog Squad is a fictional United States Marine Corps squad introduced first in the semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers (1979) by Vietnam veteran Gustav Hasford. The squad was also featured in its sequel, The Phantom Blooper, albeit with most of its members changed. Stanley Kubrick depicted the squad in his 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.

Michael Herr

Michael David Herr (April 13, 1940 – June 23, 2016) was an American writer and war correspondent, known as the author of Dispatches (1977), a memoir of his time as a correspondent for Esquire magazine (1967–1969) during the Vietnam War. The book was called the best "to have been written about the Vietnam War" by The New York Times Book Review. Novelist John le Carré called it "the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time." Herr later was credited with pioneering the literary genre of the nonfiction novel, along with authors such as Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and Tom Wolfe.

Outline of the Vietnam War

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Vietnam War:

Vietnam War – Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

Phu Bai Combat Base

Phu Bai Combat Base (also known as Phu Bai Airfield and Camp Hochmuth) is a former U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps base south of Huế, in central Vietnam.

Rifleman's Creed

The Rifleman's Creed (also known as My Rifle and The Creed of the United States Marine) is a part of basic United States Marine Corps doctrine. Major General William H. Rupertus wrote it during World War II, probably in late 1941 or early 1942. In the past, all enlisted Marines would learn the creed at recruit training. However, in recent years the creed has been relegated to the back pages of the standard recruit training guide book and its memorization is no longer considered doctrine for recruits. Different, more concise versions of the creed have developed since its early days, but those closest to the original version remain the most widely accepted.

Russellville, Alabama

Russellville is a city in Franklin County in the U.S. state of Alabama. At the 2010 census, the population of the city was 9,830, up from 8,971 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Franklin County.

Shaft (TV series)

Shaft is a series of TV movies that aired along with Hawkins and other TV movies during 1973-74 television season on The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies. Broadcast every third week, the series is a continuation of the three films beginning with Shaft (1971), and starring Richard Roundtree as private detective John Shaft.Because it was aired on over-the-air television, CBS felt that the narrative needed to be toned down. Now instead of opposing the police, Shaft worked with them, creating conflicts with Hawkins, another police series with a starkly different viewership. The show was cancelled after one season. Contemporary analysts suggested that since the two shows—Shaft and Hawkins—appealed to vastly different audience bases, alternating them only served to confuse fans of both series, giving neither one the time to build up a large viewership. Richard Roundtree himself has publicly expressed his disdain for the small-screen version of Shaft.

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick (; July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He is frequently cited as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers in cinematic history. His films, which are mostly adaptations of novels or short stories, cover a wide range of genres, and are noted for their realism, dark humor, unique cinematography, extensive set designs, and evocative use of music.

Kubrick was raised in the Bronx, New York City, and attended William Howard Taft High School from 1941 to 1945. He only received average grades, but displayed a keen interest in literature, photography, and film from a young age, and taught himself all aspects of film production and directing after graduating from high school. After working as a photographer for Look magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he began making short films on a shoestring budget, and made his first major Hollywood film, The Killing, for United Artists in 1956. This was followed by two collaborations with Kirk Douglas, the war picture Paths of Glory (1957) and the historical epic Spartacus (1960). His reputation as a filmmaker in Hollywood grew, and he was approached by Marlon Brando to film what would become One-Eyed Jacks (1961), though Brando eventually decided to direct it himself.

Creative differences arising from his work with Douglas and the film studios, a dislike of the Hollywood industry, and a growing concern about crime in America prompted Kubrick to move to the United Kingdom in 1961, where he spent most of the remainder of his life and career. His home at Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire, which he shared with his wife Christiane, became his workplace, where he did his writing, research, editing, and management of production details. This allowed him to have almost complete artistic control over his films, but with the rare advantage of having financial support from major Hollywood studios. His first British productions were two films with Peter Sellers, Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964).

A demanding perfectionist, Kubrick assumed control over most aspects of the filmmaking process, from direction and writing to editing, and took painstaking care with researching his films and staging scenes, working in close coordination with his actors and other collaborators. He often asked for several dozen retakes of the same scene in a movie, which resulted in many conflicts with his casts. Despite the resulting notoriety among actors, many of Kubrick's films broke new ground in cinematography. The scientific realism and innovative special effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) were without precedent in the history of cinema, and the film earned him his only personal Oscar, for Best Visual Effects. Steven Spielberg has referred to the film as his generation's "big bang", and it is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. For the 18th-century period film Barry Lyndon (1975), Kubrick obtained lenses developed by Zeiss for NASA, to film scenes under natural candlelight. With The Shining (1980), he became one of the first directors to make use of a Steadicam for stabilized and fluid tracking shots. While many of Kubrick's films were controversial and initially received mixed reviews upon release—particularly A Clockwork Orange (1971), which Kubrick pulled from circulation in the UK following a mass media frenzy—most were nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, or BAFTA Awards, and underwent critical reevaluations. His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, was completed shortly before his death in 1999 at the age of 70.

The Green Berets (film)

The Green Berets is a 1968 American war film set in Vietnam featuring John Wayne, Jim Hutton, David Janssen, Aldo Ray, Patrick Wayne, and Jack Soo, based on the 1965 novel by Robin Moore. Much of the film was shot in the summer of 1967. Parts of the screenplay bear little relation to the novel, although the portion in which a woman seduces a North Vietnamese communist general and sets him up to be kidnapped by Americans is from the book.

Thematically, The Green Berets is strongly anti-communist and pro-Saigon. It was released at the height of American involvement in the Vietnam War, the same year as the Tet Offensive against the largest cities in South Vietnam. John Wayne, concerned by the anti-war atmosphere in the United States, wanted to make this film to present the pro-military position. He requested and obtained full military cooperation and materiel from 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson and the United States Department of Defense. To please The Pentagon, who were attempting to prosecute author Robin Moore for revealing classified information, Wayne bought Moore out for $35,000 and 5% of undefined profits of the film.The film was a critical failure, but succeeded financially.

The Phantom Blooper

The Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam is a 1990 novel written by Gustav HasfordThe Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam (1990). and the sequel to The Short-Timers (1979). It continues to follow James T. "Joker" Davis through his Vietnam odyssey. The book was supposed to be the second of a "Vietnam Trilogy", but Hasford died before writing the third installment.

There are no atheists in foxholes

The statement "There are no atheists in foxholes" is an aphorism used to argue that in times of extreme stress or fear, such as during war ("in foxholes"), all people will believe in, or hope for, a higher power (and there are therefore no atheists).

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