“The single best piece of entertainment ever fucking created, Full Metal Jacket is the Jesus of badassness. It includes such badass stuff as the U.S. Marines, ten minutes of the best chewing out known to the civilized world, machine guns, Ak-47s, M-16, hookers, R. Lee Ermey,and lots of stuff blowing up, all in one movie.” [source]

Cold War Propaganda.

The image above is an American cartoon about the Cold War. One can tell it’s made by an American because the opponent’s side is depicted as something non-human and threatening – in this case it’s the Soviet Union represented by a bear. In the picture, the USSR is also shown to be advancing out of its boundaries (and way further than they actually managed to) while the States are shown to be pushing it back, with the support of its “allies”. This sort of propaganda was common on both sides during the war. Something I personally have noticed is that USSR propaganda tended to go along the lines of “communism (we) is (are) good, right”, focusing on supporting their ideology, while the US leaned more towards “communism (the threat) is bad and needs to be stopped”, fueling hate towards the other.

Critical Response

“Full Metal Jacket” was far from my cup of tea and objectively more war than history. The plot was rather weak and while the cinematography was very good, some scenes were a bit confusing, mostly because of a bad transition or an out-of-place voice-over.

The movie consists of mainly two parts – the training and the fighting.

The first half of the film follows a group of United States marine recruits training in South Carolina. Though it qualifies as fiction rather than history, its point – that marine training was no picnic – is doubtless valid.”

And no picnic it was indeed. Soldiers in training were in fact treated very harshly under the excuse of preparing them for real fighting. The regimen was no doubt taxing both physically and mentally. However, this raises a question – why was Pyle accepted and further on why was he not kicked out despite being obviously inadequate? This seems to be something the director Stanley Kubrick simply overlooked for the benefit of the story.

The second part portrays the Tet Offensive of 1968, that did truly happen. In that half of the film we no longer encounter any outstanding characters like Pyle and Sergeant Hartman and the majority of the time we are shown moving shots of the marines.

“In Full Metal jacket there is no heart-wrenching personal saga. There are no full-blown characters.  The Marines are just that, Marines–not people.”

And I felt that. While watching “Full Metal Jacket” I thought this was another one of those movies where I won’t remember any characters’ names and/or faces and for me that’s usually an indicator that the movie wasn’t enjoyable. In this case though, if that’s what Kubrick was trying to achieve, he did an amazing job. A fun fact that stuck with me was that Joker – real name J.T. Davis – was named after the first recorded American battlefield casualty in Vietnam.

In summation, the film wasn’t really about the Vietnam War, but rather war in general and how it feels to be “in the shit”. In that, it was successful, “Full Metal Jacket” felt very realistic although at times slow – but then again, so is war.

(“The filming and editing take the place of plot and character, creating a stark, but effective Vietnam War narrative.” I really enjoyed this review because I hadn’t though that way earlier)

Notions

Iron Curtain

The Iron Curtain was the name for the non-physical, but political, military, and ideological barrier dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. The term symbolizes the efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the West and its allied states. Separate international economic and military alliances were developed on each side of the Iron Curtain. The restrictions and the rigidity of the Iron Curtain were somewhat reduced in the years following Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, although the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 restored them. The events that demolished the Iron Curtain started in discontent in Poland, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania.

EAST SIDE: countries that were connected to or influenced by the Soviet Union (Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and the USSR – Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, Estonia, Moldava, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan)

WEST SIDE: countries that were allied to the United States or nominally neutral. (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany (from 1990), West Germany (1955-1990), Greece (from 1952), Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain (from 1982), Turkey (from 1952), United Kingdom, United States)

The term Iron Curtain had been in occasional and varied use as a metaphor since the 19th century, but it came to prominence only after it was used by the former British prime minister Winston Churchill in a speech at Fulton, Missouri, U.S., on March 5, 1946, when he said of the communist states, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

Truman doctrine, policy of containment, arms race

TRUMAN DOCTRINE, pronouncement by U.S. Pres. Harry S. Truman on March 12, 1947, declaring immediate political, economic and military aid to the governments of Greece, threatened by communist insurrection, and Turkey (all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian forces), under pressure from Soviet expansion in the Mediterranean area. As the United States and the Soviet Union struggled to reach a balance of power during the Cold War that followed World War II, Great Britain announced that it could no longer afford to aid those Mediterranean countries, which the West feared were in danger of falling under Soviet influence. The U.S. Congress responded to a message from Truman by promptly appropriating $400,000,000 for this purpose.

The Truman Doctrine effectively reoriented U.S. foreign policy, away from its usual stance of withdrawal from regional conflicts not directly involving the United States, to one of possible intervention in far away conflicts. Truman argued that the United States could no longer stand by and allow the forcible expansion of Soviet totalitarianism into free, independent nations, because American national security now depended upon more than just the physical security of American territory. Rather, in a sharp break with its traditional avoidance of extensive foreign commitments beyond the Western Hemisphere during peacetime, the Truman Doctrine committed the United States to actively offering assistance to preserve the political integrity of democratic nations when such an offer was deemed to be in the best interest of the United States.

CONTAINMENT, strategic foreign policy pursued by the United States in the late 1940s and the early 1950s in order to check the spread of the Soviet Union and communism after the end of WW2. As a component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to the Soviet Union’s move to increase communist influence in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The basis of the Truman doctrine was articulated in a 1946 cable by George F. Kennan, diplomat and U.S. State Department adviser on Soviet affairs. In an anonymous article in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs Kennan suggested a “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies” in the hope that the regime would mellow or collapse. The Truman Doctrine of 1947 was an initial application of the policy of containment. Kennan formulated the policy of “containment,” the basic United States strategy for fighting the cold war (1947–1989) with the Soviet Union.

“The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” To that end, he called for countering “Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world” through the “adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy.” Such a policy, Kennan predicted, would “promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.”

The end of the Cold War in 1991 marked the official end of the containment policy, but the U.S. kept its bases in the areas around Russia, such as those in Iceland, Germany, and Turkey. Also, much of the policy helped influence U.S. foreign policy in later years, such as during the War on Terror and dealing with post-Cold War dictators, such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

ARMS RACE occurs when two or more nations participate in interactive or competitive increases in “persons under arms” as well as “war material”. Simply defined as a competition between two or more states to have superior armed forces; a competition concerning production of weapons, the growth of a military, and the aim of superior military technology.

The nuclear arms race was an arms race competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War, with the Soviet Union attempting first to catch up and then to surpass the Americans. During this period, in addition to the American and Soviet nuclear stockpiles, other countries developed nuclear weapons, though none engaged in warhead production on nearly the same scale as the two superpowers. The Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test in 1949. At the end of 1956, the United States had 2,123 strategic warheads and the Soviet Union had 84. Those numbers increased rapidly over the subsequent 30 years. The U.S. arsenal peaked in 1987 at 13,002 warheads, the Soviet Union two years later at 11,320. The end of the Cold War by the early 1990s effectively ended that arms race

McCarthy era

McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term refers to U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy and has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting from the late 1940s through the 1950s, that saw McCarthy produce a series of investigations and hearings in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government. It was characterized by heightened political repression and a campaign spreading fear of Communist influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents. The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.

McCarthy was elected to the Senate in 1946 and rose to prominence in 1950 when he claimed in a speech that 205 communists had infiltrated the State Department. McCarthy’s subsequent search for communists in the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and elsewhere made him an incredibly polarizing figure. After McCarthy’s reelection in 1952, he obtained the chairmanship of the Committee on Government Operations of the Senate and of its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. For the next two years he was constantly in the spotlight, investigating various government departments and questioning innumerable witnesses about their suspected communist affiliations. Although he failed to make a plausible case against anyone, his colourful and cleverly presented accusations drove some persons out of their jobs and brought popular condemnation to others.

Korean War

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as American officials were concerned, it was a war against the forces of international communism itself. After some early back-and-forth across the 38th parallel, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. (Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III.) Finally, on July 27 1953, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. The agreement allowed the POWs to stay where they liked; drew a new boundary near the 38th parallel that gave South Korea an extra 1,500 square miles of territory; and created a 2-mile-wide “demilitarized zone” that still exists today.

“If the best minds in the world had set out to find us the worst possible location in the world to fight this damnable war,” U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson (1893-1971) once said, “the unanimous choice would have been Korea.” The peninsula had landed in America’s lap almost by accident. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Korea had been a part of the Japanese empire, and after World War II it fell to the Americans and the Soviets to decide what should be done with their enemy’s imperial possessions. In August 1945, two young aides at the State Department divided the Korean peninsula in half along the 38th parallel. The Russians occupied the area north of the line and the United States occupied the area to its south. (The North Korean invasion came as an alarming surprise to American officials. As far as they were concerned, this was not simply a border dispute between two unstable dictatorships on the other side of the globe. Instead, many feared it was the first step in a communist campaign to take over the world. For this reason, nonintervention was not considered an option by many top decision makers.)

The Korean War was relatively short but exceptionally bloody. Nearly 5 million people died. More than half of these–about 10 percent of Korea’s prewar population–were civilians. (This rate of civilian casualties was higher than World War II’s and Vietnam’s.) Almost 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded. Unlike World War II and Vietnam, the Korean War did not get much media attention in the United States.

Role of J. F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, byname JFK, (1917-1963), 35th president of the United States (1961–63), who faced a number of foreign crises, especially in Cuba and Berlin, but managed to secure such achievements as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. He was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas

NUCLEAR TEST-BAN TREATY: Kennedy clashed again with Khrushchev in October 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. After learning that the Soviet Union was constructing a number of nuclear and long-range missile sites in Cuba that could pose a threat to the continental United States, Kennedy announced a naval blockade of Cuba. The tense standoff lasted nearly two weeks before Khrushchev agreed to dismantle Soviet missile sites in Cuba in return for America’s promise not to invade the island and the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey and other sites close to Soviet borders. In July 1963, Kennedy won his greatest foreign affairs victory when Khrushchev agreed to join him and Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in signing a nuclear test ban treaty. In Southeast Asia, however, Kennedy’s desire to curb the spread of communism led him to escalate U.S. involvement in the conflict in Vietnam, even as privately he expressed his dismay over the situation.

ALLIANCE FOR PROGRESS: President John F. Kennedy proposes a 10-year, multibillion-dollar aid program for Latin America. The program came to be known as the Alliance for Progress and was designed to improve U.S. relations with Latin America, which had been severely damaged in recent years. When Kennedy became president in 1961, U.S. relations with Latin America were at an all-time low.

(JFK’s Assassination: On November 22, 1963, the president and his wife landed in Dallas; he had spoken in San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth the day before. From the airfield, the party then traveled in a motorcade to the Dallas Trade Mart, the site of Jack’s next speaking engagement. Shortly after 12:30 p.m., as the motorcade was passing through downtown Dallas, shots rang out; Kennedy was struck twice, in the neck and head, and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital. Lee Harvey Oswald, known to have Communist sympathies, was arrested for the killing but was shot and fatally wounded two days later while being led to jail. Almost immediately, alternative theories of Kennedy’s assassination emerged–including conspiracies run by the KGB, the Mafia and the U.S. military-industrial complex, among others. A presidential commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that Oswald had acted alone, but speculation and debate over the assassination has persisted.)

Bay of Pigs and the Cuban crisis

On January 1, 1959, a young Cuban nationalist named Fidel Castro drove his guerilla army into Havana and overthrew General Fulgencio Batista, the nation’s American-backed president. For the next two years, officials at the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attempted to push Castro from power. In early 1961 President John F. Kennedy concluded that Fidel Castro was a Soviet client working to subvert Latin America. After much debate in his administration Kennedy authorized and the CIA launched a full-scale invasion of Cuba by 1,400 American-trained Cubans who had fled their homes when Castro took over. The brigade hit the beach at the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961, however, the invasion did not go well: The invaders were badly outnumbered by Castro’s troops, and they surrendered after less than 24 hours of fighting. Kennedy took public responsibility for the mistakes made, but remained determined to rid Cuba of Castro.

In November 1961 Kennedy approved Operation Mongoose, a secret plan aimed at stimulating a rebellion in Cuba that the United States could support. While the Kennedy administration planned Operation Mongoose, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev secretly introduced medium-range nuclear missiles into Cuba. U.S intelligence picked up evidence of a general Soviet arms build-up during routine surveillance flights and on September 4, 1962, Kennedy issued a public warning against the introduction of offensive weapons into Cuba. A U-2 flight on October 14 provided the first proof of Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. Kennedy called together advisers to try to resolve the most dangerous U.S.-Soviet confrontation of the cold war. Some advisers argued for an air strike to take out the missiles and destroy the Cuban air force followed by a U.S. invasion of Cuba; others favored warnings to Cuba and the Soviet Union. The President decided upon a middle course. On October 22 Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine of Cuba. He sent a letter to Khrushchev calling upon him to remove the missiles, thus initiating an exchange of correspondence between the two leaders that continued throughout the crisis.

On October 24 Soviet vessels approached the quarantine line but turned back; 3 days later, the Cubans shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane. After these near flash points, Kennedy responded on October 27 to the first of two letters sent by Khrushchev on October 26 and 27 proposing various settlements of the crisis. Kennedy accepted the Soviet offer to withdraw the missiles from Cuba in return for an end to the quarantine and a U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba. The same day Attorney General Robert Kennedy told Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin that if the Soviet Union did not remove the missiles the United States would do so. Robert Kennedy also offered an assurance that Khrushchev needed: several months after the missiles were removed from Cuba, the United States would similarly remove its missiles from Turkey. On the basis of those understandings, the Soviet Union agreed on October 28 to remove its missiles from Cuba. The quarantine and the crisis lingered until the removal of the Soviet missiles was verified at sea on November 20, and the Soviet Union agreed to remove the medium-range Il-28 bombers it had also introduced into Cuba. Exactly how close the United States and the Soviet Union came to nuclear war over Cuba remains one of the most keenly discussed issues of the cold war.

Space Race

The Space Race was a 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US), for supremacy in spaceflight capability. It had its origins in the missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations that occurred following World War II, enabled by captured German rocket technology and personnel. The technological superiority required for such supremacy was seen as necessary for national security, and symbolic of ideological superiority. The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, unmanned space probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.

The competition began on August 2, 1955, when the Soviet Union responded to the US announcement four days earlier of intent to launch artificial satellites for the International Geophysical Year, by declaring they would also launch a satellite “in the near future”. The Soviet Union beat the US to this, with the October 4, 1957 orbiting of Sputnik 1, and later beat the US to the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. The race peaked with the July 20, 1969 US landing of the first humans on the Moon with Apollo 11. By landing on the moon, the United States effectively “won” the space race that had begun with Sputnik’s launch in 1957. For their part, the Soviets made four failed attempts to launch a lunar landing craft between 1969 and 1972, including a spectacular launch-pad explosion in July 1969. The end of the Space Race is harder to pinpoint than its beginning, but it was over by the December, 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, after which true spaceflight cooperation between the US and Russia began.

The Space Race has left a legacy of Earth communications and weather satellites, and continuing human space presence on the International Space Station. It has also sparked increases in spending on education and research and development, which led to beneficial spin-off technologies.

From beginning to end, the American public’s attention was captivated by the space race, and the various developments by the Soviet and U.S. space programs were heavily covered in the national media. This frenzy of interest was further encouraged by the new medium of television. Astronauts came to be seen as the ultimate American heroes, and earth-bound men and women seemed to enjoy living vicariously through them. Soviets, in turn, were pictured as the ultimate villains, with their massive, relentless efforts to surpass America and prove the power of the communist system.

Vietnam War (causes, outcome and consequences)

At the time, Vietnam was a French colony. However, a communist rebellion started to emerge in the country and it repelled the French from Vietnam territory. The US, fearing communism’s rising control in the region, aids France’s effort to reclaim the region. However, the communist side is able to claim control over the conflict. A treaty between France and Vietnam is established: there is to be a northern (communist) region of Vietnam and a southern (western alignment) region of Vietnam. In 1964, missiles are fired at a US ship in the Gulf of Tonkin by Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson got congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which stated that military force could be used in Vietnam – initially only limited to bombings. At home, US citizens were mixed on the topic of the Vietnam war. Some believed that it did not make sense to be expending US lives and fighting for a foreign cause. Eventually the war was lost by the US The loss was obviously a detriment to the image of the US’s government, both at home and abroad. President Lyndon Johnson did not even rerun for president due to the controversy over the Vietnam War.

Richard Nixon and the Watergate Affair

Watergate was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. and President Richard Nixon’s administration’s attempted cover-up of its involvement. When the conspiracy was discovered and investigated by the US Congress, the Nixon administration’s resistance to its probes led to a constitutional crisis.

The term Watergate has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. Those activities included such “dirty tricks” as bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious. Nixon and his close aides ordered harassment of activist groups and political figures, using the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The role of Henry Kissinger

An American diplomat and political scientist (national security advisor). Most of all, Henry Kissinger appeared throughout the global media as a genius, villain, and consummate manipulator who wielded power at the most important points in recent history. Henry Kissinger was Richard Nixon’s key foreign policy adviser. He was influential in negotiating the Paris Peace Accords which ended American involvement in the Vietnam War. Still to this day a very controversial figure in politics.

Counterculture, Summer of Love and Woodstock

Counterculture is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. Rebellion against the establishment appeared in many forms in the United States during the 1960s. Caught up in the rising frustration circling around America’s increased involvement in Vietnam, the racial unrest in many urban areas, and the pressure to conform, a growing number of the younger generation rejected the American way of life. The resulting movement, termed the counterculture, embraced an alternative lifestyle characterized by long hair, brightly colored clothes, communal living, free sex, and rampant drug use. Summer of Love is a phrase given to the summer of 1967 to try to describe the feeling of being in San Francisco that summer, when the so-called “hippie movement” came to full fruition.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.