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on February 6, 2004
To date there is no film that is more accurate a depiction of Parris Island Marine Corps recruit training than this (I speak from first-hand experience). My Third Battalion platoon endured the same level of ridicule from two of our junior Drill Instructors (not the third junior or Senior Drill Instructor), and we took our share of beatings from them and even beat on each other every now and then. It was not a wild rampage of chaos but the result of conforming and adjusting to a team mentality where we all understood and accepted the required level of commitment and sacrifice that the title of Marine might some day demand of us. Lee Ermey (FMJ's Senior Drill Instructor) was himself an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor. He gave a believable performance in the film, The Boys in Company C, during the late 1960's or early 1970's, but the setting was the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, quite different in it's depiction of basic training than Full Metal Jacket.
The boot camp scene in FMJ had all the look and feel of Parris Island, especially the super-wide cement and brick squad-bays of Second Battalion, which faces the Parris Island parade field. The foot lockers, racks (beds), rifles and other equipment, the drill instructor's commands and tactics, the running chants, the behaviors of the recruits, and the entire mood of the boot camp scene is incredibly accurate. I can see how people who have served in other services or different eras of the Corps might not be able to agree, but my experience at Parris Island WAS the Lee Ermey exprience. A typical platoon started with 72 recruits and graduated with 50-60. One platoon in another series actually graduated 25 out of its original 70. It was that tough physically and psychologically. Rifle Range suicides were common. I saw one. Many times the drill instructors would order us off of equipment (a common use of reverse psychology on those who were naturally prone to giving up), but God help the recruit who did give up and jump off. I was ordered to quit what I was doing many times, but I never did quit because I was wise to the trick tactics. After graduation we expected to shake hands and have our pictures taken with our drill instructors, but instead they ordered us, "the f**k off my G*dd**n island!!!"
With all this said, Lee Ermey's character was a loud, obnoxious, wild-eyed, inhuman beast who was "full of piss and vinegar," and nothing even remotely compassionate. But that's how it was. I highly recommend that anyone who is curious about the Marine Corps basic training environment (at least how it was) buy this disc and supplement it with true film footage from a modern Discovery Channel series called, The Making of Marines. Otherwise the film is not worth the plastic disc it is authored on, unless, of course this was similar to your own experience in Viet-nam. For me the show ends with the boot camp scene. Thankfully it consumes about a third to half of the movie. For good Viet-nam films I recommend Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and We Were Soldiers.
With a feeling of (questionably sadistic?) nostalgia: SEMPER FI