“Full Metal Jacket” (by Ott)


Iron Curtain

This is the map of the Iron Curtain. The blue countries are NATO members, pink countries members of the Warsaw Pact, green is Yugoslavia and the grey countries are militarily neutral. (Source)

Iron Curtain was the name of the non-physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas after World War II until 1991 (when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, although some speculate that it’s still going on). One area was the west which consisted of NATO members and militarily neutral countries. The other area was the east which consisted of Warsaw Pact countries, so the whole east was controlled by the Soviet Union. Although the term “iron curtain” became popular when Churchill used it in his speech on 5 March 1946, Nazi German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels had already used the term in reference to the Soviet Union. The term hints at the efforts by the Soviet Union to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.

Truman doctrine, the policy of containment, the arms race

President Harry S. Truman in 1947. (Source)

Truman doctrine was an American foreign policy to counter the threat of Soviet geopolitical expansion. The policy was announced to Congress by President Harry S. Truman on 12 March 1947 and further developed on 12 July 1948 when there appeared threats in Greece (a leftist revolt funded by Yugoslavia against an internationally recognised royalist government backed by the British) and Turkey (Soviets wanted to use the Turkish Straits). Many have considered Truman’s speech to the Congress an official declaration of the Cold War.

The policy of containment was also a strategic foreign policy pursued by the United States. Its goal was to contain the geopolitical influence of the Soviet Union. This meant to prevent the spread of communism. The policy was the response to the Soviet policy of spreading communism in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The ideas to create such a policy were born already before the war had ended. The Americans had become frustrated and suspicious of the Soviets (because of the betrayal which featured a not so great relationship between the two big superpowers as, for example, the Soviets were opposed to the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which left the Americans surprised and shocked). The policy was once again enforced by Harry S. Truman.

The arms race was a build-up of arms between the US and the USSR after World War II. During the 1940s, the Americans weren’t in a hurry to rearm themselves, though the threat of Soviets had already begun. The USA increased its nuclear and conventional arms during the Korean War, to which the Soviets responded only partially. But during the 1960s, the USSR made the biggest peacetime build-up of arms in history. In contrast, the USA at this time decided to be more disengaged from the race… but only until 1979 when their last American arms spurt of the Cold War made Soviet military leaders nervous and thus willing to accept Gorbachev’s policies in hopes of raising the technological level of Soviet society. One of the most remarkable and dangerous events during the arms race was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 which featured a stand-off between Khrushchev and Kennedy.

McCarthy era

Joseph McCarthy in 1954. (Source)

Joseph Raymond McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican US Senator from 1947 until his death in 1957 but he became publicly visible at the beginning of 1950 when he started alleging that numerous Communists and Soviet spies had infiltrated the US federal government, universities, film industry and elsewhere. McCarthy had a list of 205 people, mainly from the American Communist Party. Ultimately, his smear tactics were condemned by the US Senate. The word “McCarthyism” was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities but now means the reckless public accusations on the character or patriotism of political opponents. McCarthy era was, therefore, an era of fear of communist spies in the government.

Korean War

The Korean War was a war between North-Korea (who was backed by the Soviet Union and China) and South-Korea (who was backed by the United Nations which meant 15 nations fighting under the flag of the UN but especially the US). The war took place from June 1950 to July 1953. The war began when North-Korea invaded South-Korea in series of clashes along the border. In the end, the invasion was repelled and an armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone, handed North-Korea the city of Kaesong but also took away 3900 km2 worth of land. However, they never signed any peace treaty which means that the two Koreas are still practically at war which has evolved into a frozen conflict. Only later in 2018 the two leaders of Korea met and agreed to work towards formally ending the Korean War.

Role of J. F. Kennedy

JFK in 1957. (Source)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was one of the most successful presidents of the United States. He served as the 35th President from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. He served in the height of the Cold War and the majority of his presidency dealt with managing relations with the Soviet Union. He increased the number of military advisers in South-Vietnam. In April 1961, he ordered a failed joint-CIA attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. This was known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He though rejected Operation Northwoods which would’ve organised a fake attack on American soil to justify the Cuban attempt. He played a huge role in solving the Cuban Missile Crisis which would’ve almost escalated into a full nuclear war. John F. Kennedy was also a supporter of the civil rights movement and after his death, many of his proposals were enacted by the Congress, for example, the Civil Rights Act. Kennedy was killed in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Bay of Pigs and the Cuba crisis

The Bay of Pigs invasion was a military invasion undertaken by the CIA-supported brigade 2506 which consisted of 1400 soldiers who were mainly of Cubans who had fled to the USA from Castro’s regime but also some US military personnel. The invasion lasted 3 days: from 17 April to 20 April 1961. The goal was to overthrow the increasingly communist government of Fidel Castro. The invaders were defeated by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces under the direct command of Fidel Castro.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a crisis which featured a 13-day political and military stand-off between the superpowers of the US and the USSR. The crisis emerged when the Soviets planted their missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles away from the US shores. On 22 October 1962, JFK made a TV announcement notifying the public of the existence of the missiles. He also announced that he decided to enforce a naval blockade around Cuba. The world was on the brink of a nuclear war. The solution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a result of many diplomatic negotiations. Finally, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for the US promise to not attack Cuba and to remove their missiles from Turkey.

Space Race

The Space Race refers to the competition between the US and the USSR to prove the superiority of their technology in spaceflight capability. The race was needed for national security and ideological reasons. The Space Race featured the launch of many artificial satellites, human spaceflight to the Moon and uncrewed robotic spacecraft to the Moon, Venus and Mars. It’s hard to say who won. The Soviets achieved the first successful launch of a satellite and were the first ones to have the first human (Yuri Gagarin) in earth orbit but the Americans were the first ones to land on Moon with Apollo 11 in July 1969. It’s also hard to determine when did the Space Race end. One theory is that it ended in 1972 when there was an agreement in a cooperative Apollo-Soyuz test project which led to a flight in 1975 in earth orbit of a US astronaut crew with a Soviet cosmonaut crew. The Race was most definitely over by 1991 when spaceflight cooperation between the US and Russia began to flourish.

Vietnam War (causes, outcome and consequences)

At the start, Vietnam was a French colony, a pro-communist rebellion emerged and the US aided the French resistance against the rebellion. Eventually, a peace treaty was signed which divided Vietnam into North-Vietnam (pro-communist) and South-Vietnam (pro-western).

In 1965, torpedos were shot at a US ship which was in the Gulf of Tonkin. This was answered with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which was passed in Congress and which allowed the usage of US military force in Vietnam. The war began (initially only by bombing) and the public opinion was mixed as many thought that there’s no point in sending any American soldiers to die in Vietnam.

The US lost the war. Lyndon B. Johnson never became a president again as he didn’t run for the second term. The US reputation and superiority were undermined, the Americans were embarrassed, the American superiority was diminished.

But the consequences were the roughest for the Vietnamese: Vietnam was united to be a communist country, an estimated 2 million Vietnamese were killed, while 3 million were wounded and another 12 million became refugees, warfare had demolished the country’s infrastructure and economy, and reconstruction proceeded slowly.

Richard Nixon and the Watergate Affair

Richard Nixon in August 1974. This was the first appearance after becoming the first president to ever resign. (Source)

Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States. He was in office from 20 January 1969 to 9 August 1974. Nixon’s popularity had its ups and downs but he received a positive response for achievements like the 1972 visit to China, ending the Vietnam war and the 1973 meeting with Brezhnev. The new diplomatic relations with China really improved the US economy. These relations are still a big part of US economy nowadays. Nixon wanted to be a peacemaker and thus started the period of loosening tensions between the Soviet Union and the USA. He was then quite unanimously elected also for the second term.

Richard Nixon was also the first (and to this day the last) president to ever resign. He was forced to resign because of the Watergate Affair. The Watergate Affair was a major political scandal which featured a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex. The involvement of the five thieves was traced down to Nixon’s administration. The point of the break-in was to discover possibly harmful information about the political opponents of Nixon during the presidential elections where Nixon was elected for the second term. The administration did their best to cover up any involvement but they ultimately failed. Nixon was forced to resign.

The role of Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger in March 2013 (while being 89 years old). (Source)

Henry Kissinger (born in 1923, currently 96 years old) is still one of the biggest influencers in foreign policy. He has been extremely talented in his field. An American political scientist, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant. He served as National Security Advisor under Richard Nixon and as Secretary of State under Gerald Ford (Nixon’s successor). Kissinger has also received a Nobel Peace Prize (under controversial circumstances as two members of the Peace Prize committee resigned in protest). He also played a giant role in loosening tensions between the USSR and the US and also opening diplomatic and economic relations with the People’s Republic of China. In the end, Kissinger remains to be also quite controversial as he has been named a war criminal by journalists, political activists, and human rights lawyers.

Counterculture, Summer of Love and Woodstock

A counterculture is a subculture whose members do everything in the exact another way as everyone else does. Their values and norms are vastly different from the mainstream ones. It’s usually associated with the hippie subculture (they became the largest subcultural group in the United States) and punk subculture of the 1970s and 1980s.

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon which occurred in 1967 in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. There was an estimated number of 100 000 participants. This was a hippie gathering. Although hippies also gathered in many other places in the US, Canada and Europe, San Francisco was at that time the most publicized location for hippie subculture.

Woodstock was a rock-music festival in 1969 in New York. There was an estimated number of 400 000 participants. The event was advertised as “3 days of peace & music” which eventually led to a 4-day-event. The event was held on farmland and there were 32 acts in total. The festival is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation.


This was the song that was played during the end credits of “Full Metal Jacket”. It instantly caught my ear. I actually read that the director Stanley Kubrick had never heard the Rolling Stones before filming and that he finally got around to listening to the legendary rockers when researching the top 100 Billboard hits from 1962 through 1968, and chose “Paint It Black” for the end credits. But why choose it as my visual? Well, I think the answer lies in the lyrics. I totally imagine this being the “world of shit” mentioned at the end of the film (I’m sorry for the vulgarity). I imagine this being the world of Joker and many other soldiers who survived the horrors of the Vietnam War. Anyway, I added the song to my songs list and whenever I hear the song I shall think about the world of the veterans of the Vietnam War.


The Runner-Up

“Full Metal Jacket” is a 1987 American film, featuring Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D’Onofrio. The length of the film is 1 hour and 56 minutes. The film has received an Oscar (for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) and a Golden Globe (for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture by R. Lee Ermey). “Full Metal Jacket” is about “a pragmatic US Marine who observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue”. (IMDb)

The wide public opinion of the viewers has been largely positive. Based on 600 000 user reviews, IMDb has given “Full Metal Jacket” 8.3 out of 10 (IMDb). Based on 19 critic reviews, metacritic.com has given the film a score of 76 out of 100 (metacritic.com). Based on 78 critic reviews, Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a score of 91% and based on 300 000 user reviews, the site has given “Full Metal Jacket” a score of 94% (Rotten Tomatoes). So, we can say that the regular viewer feedback has been abnormally high compared to other films. “Full Metal Jacket” has also been very popular. The film’s opening weekend saw it making 2 million US dollars. As of 1998, the film had grossed 120 million dollars worldwide.

The feedback from the critics has not been that generous. One of the most iconic late film critics, Roger Ebert, has said: “This is a strangely shapeless film from the man whose work usually imposes a ferociously consistent vision on his material.” Ebert recognises that “the movie has great moments” but otherwise “Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is more like a book of short stories than a novel.” (Ebert, 1987) An anonymous critic said that the film was “a massive artistic misfire.” (THR, 2017) All the critics agree that the dedication to detail and quality is absolutely magnificent but the content of the film was unfortunately lacklustre. For example, Ebert felt it was too scattershot to achieve its aims.

The historical accuracy has been deemed to be quite good. Anthony Swofford wrote that he was seduced by the film. He actually went to the Marines Corps and admitted that the training was extremely similar. (Swofford, 2018) The drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey who also got a Golden Globe for his role) in the film was an actual drill instructor during the Vietnam War. Swofford wrote that they received the same insults and phrases as depicted in the film.

In the end, the opinion is mixed as always. Viewers have welcomed the film with open arms but the critics have not been that generous. They have praised the dedication on quality and detail but reprimanded for the content. The film has received quite a few rewards and a lot of money. Ultimately, the film continues to be an all-time classic and a runner-up in depicting the Vietnam War.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *