The Real Platoon Leader in Platoon

30 01 2008

An article by Bob Johnson

QUOTE: Although flawed with dramatic license, [Platoon] was based on Stone’s actual experiences with 2nd platoon, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, of the 25th Infantry Division. Leading that platoon was Second Lieutenant Steve Wilder.(…)

After a few months at Polk, Wilder came down on orders for Vietnam, arriving there in September 1967. He took over 2nd platoon of Bravo Company, 3/22 and was on his first trip to the field when his company commander stepped on a mine and was replaced by Captain Bob Hemphill. Hemphill later wrote the book Platoon, Bravo Company partly to dispel the literary license taken by Stone in Platoon.

Message On a Helmet: Another Mystery

22 01 2008

While trying to decipher what’s written on the paper snippet on Barnes’ helmet, I noticed small, hardly visible graffiti on the strap, up side down, as if to prevent the viewer from reading it: on the right there is “Chi-Town hustler” written in thin letters, on the left ?ELLEZ written in capitals. Looked through all visual evidence I own, the first letter could be T or F.

Chi-town is the nickname of Chicago, Berenger’s birthplace, but what the hell is TELLEZ? Googling didn’t help much, both versions are popular second names, ellez seems to be a word in Turkish and French. Again, your only friend in such case is patience and strike of luck.

Then I thought what if it is a name of the “real” Barnes? Looked up at The Virtual Wall website, getting multiple hits and my heart started to beat faster… But again, the details don’t fit. Too young, a pfc, wrong branch, wrong time… sigh. It’s not good for my blood pressure. 

What the hell is it? A number (835539/335539)? Name? Acronym? A damn hidden message?

The Things They Carried… on their helmets

22 01 2008

For someone who had no clue about military, it was easy to recognize only one sort of helmet attachments in the movie. Cigarette packets.

Warren and Lerner also wore rosaries, the little metal thing clearly visible on Lerner’s helmet in the village scene is a can opener. By chance, I own a similar one – a simply but surprisingly effective tool. 

I guessed that the plastic bottles contain the insect repellent, which plays prominent part in the story. The smaller packs looked like wound dressings to me, I think it was good to have them handy.

Ace and Morehouse wear Ace of Spades cards.

For some reason, one of those helmet attachments has been driving me crazy for 20 years now. The little square piece of paper(?) on Barnes’ helmet, placed in the front and slightly right. Since I have seen the first decent photo of Barnes and kind of recognized that there are lines of text on this item, I wonder what can it be. A piece of newspaper? Unlike the Marlboro pack and other “crap” (as a friend described it), it seems to be always in the same place. Would a newspaper survive 6 weeks of shooting in the jungle, not to mention several months of the story the movie shows? I asked all possible people about it but noone knew.

Recently the DVD and the high resolution of a computer monitor allowed me to see a whole load of new details, but in that case it was still not enough. I think I can recognize words “when wet” and “long exposure”, so at least I was right about the text. I successfully googled more crazy sets of words, but not this time. All I can do is to sit and wait — I don’t know if there is an adequate Murphy’s Law for searching, but JP’s Law would go: If you look for something, you will find it as soon as you start looking for something else. 

Another thing on Barnes’ helmet is a toothbrush (for cleaning weapons, as some friendly soul explained to me on IMDB board), wondrously appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the church battle, and disappearing: as Barnes shoots Elias, there is nothing on his helmet at all, (not even the Mystery Paper Thingy, he apparently has lost it in the village brawl), then there is that pack of Marlboros again. … which is a small continuity goof.

Chris seems to carry a hand made pipe under the strap, but it doesn’t last for long. 

Hmmm, I think the matter still needs some further research. 🙂

Funnies: T-shirts for Platoon Fans

18 01 2008


Strange post at Wikipedia

17 01 2008

Browsing through Wikipedia I found a little note that literally made me jump:

This is from Shakespeare Henry IV, where Falstaff has stabbed himself in the thigh to feign death. When he is resurrected in front of the prince he says “Come friend John, Let us to the highest ground, to see what friends are living, who are dead.”

Which immediately made you think about the scene with Francis first stabbing himself and then talking to Chris about “getting HIGH”.

The funniest thing: the poster is most probably wrong. Couldn’t find such occurance in Henry IV, at least as far as I could guess from overlooking the play’s text (Shakespeare in original is a bit too much for me…).

I do have some unhealthy knack for weirdness, but such harmless serendipities always creep me out. It seems like the poster was reading this long essay about Henry IV, which NOONE seemed to know. Such moments leave me sitting there, mouth open, with big question mark floating above my head.

Evil In The Early Cinema Of Oliver Stone…

15 01 2008

…Platoon and Wall Street as Modern Modality Plays.
From: Journal of Popular Film and Television  |  Date: 6/22/2000  |  Author: STONE, JOHN

QUOTE: From the outset, there is little doubt about the nature of Barnes and Gekko–the viewer knows plenty about both before they say or do a thing. (…)

Moreover, in films that appear so conscious of using the camera and making editing decisions that prompt the viewer to accept the authenticity of the setting and the characters, it is noteworthy that these are the only characters to be treated with nondiegetic filmic manipulations. Gekko’s final offer to Bud to join him as an inside trader is marked by a sudden and inexplicable fading of backlight. As Gekko stands in total darkness, with a hard sidelight now casting his face with ominous shadows, his apocalyptic offer to Bud, “get dressed and I’ll show you my charts,” is punctuated by a sudden clap of thunder that clearly originates outside the story-world. Likewise, at very purposeful points, Barnes is depicted with eyes that are optically printed as angry red points–synecdochically cast as “the essence of evil: wrath, obsession, anger, fear, hatred, [and] permanence” (Stone 123).

It is a very good article, sadly it’s not free. Which leads me to a rant:

If the information should be free of charge or not, is another question, but what really infuriates me about all those subscription (and many other, btw.) services, is that there is no way to find out how much they charge, before you made it at least half way through the registration. You can spend hours looking around in terms of use. There is no damn price! Which makes me want to sue them for the time I’ve lost searching in vain. For now, they can kiss my virtual butt!

Platoon – Analysis of the Movie and Comparison to Business World Today

15 01 2008


It looks like an university project. First I was wondering (for the n-th time) if we (me and the author) really saw the same movie, but IMO, aside from getting some facts messed up, the author also made some points at least worth to think about:

QUOTE: In its portrayal of the conflict between Barnes and Elias, the film is an example of a morality play – the narrative form in which conflicts between allegorical depictions of good (Elias) and evil (Barnes) leave plenty of room for moral lessons to be drawn (…)

Sgt. Barnes is a typical transactional leader. According to Robbins (2000) a transactional leader is one who “guide[s] or motivate[s] their followers in the direction of established goals by clarifying role and task requirements” (p. 43). Taggart (2001) says followers of transactional leaders “simply obey orders” (cited in Taggart, 2001). Such leadership is necessary within the military since failure means the loss of lives. Barnes demonstrates his leadership style the afternoon before the ambush, when he gives the orders of who will go on duty that night. However the failure of this style is shown, with the death of the new recruit, Gardner. Yet Barnes is able to give the orders, and effectively run the platoon, because of his reliance on deterrence-based trust. “Deterrence-based trust will work only to the degree that punishment is possible, consequences are clear and the punishment is actually imposed” 

The actions of Sgt. Barnes make it painfully obvious that transactional leadership may not be the most effective type of leadership. In order to retain his place as leader, Barnes eliminates his conflict, his enemy, his fellow soldier and American, quite ruthlessly, without much thought as to the consequences or considering the “Big Picture.” His ability to give orders also caused him to not objectively consider the objections raised by Sgt. Elias and could have prevented the death of Gardner. (…)

Sgt. Elias’s leadership style is transformational, rather than transactional. A charismatic leader is a leader who “provide[s] followers with meaning by constructing and communicating a vision, or image, that articulates followers’ values while allowing them to express their identity through a shared collective vision.” 

Elias displays two key attributes of a charismatic leader, extraordinary behavior and acting as an agent of change (Robbins, p. 144). As a change agent, it is Sgt. Elias’s challenge to Sgt. Barnes in the village scene with the little girl and the reporting to the Captain. His extraordinary behavior is shown in his prescience of knowing where the enemy will come from (and how to outflank them) and his superhuman effort to take on a seemingly entire Viet Cong army by himself. (…)

His unwavering belief in his vision ultimately leads to his death by the hands of Sgt. Barnes. While his values and parts of his vision are cherished by the rest of the Grunts, Sgt. Elias embodies the vision. When he died, in essence, there is no one to stand up and support what he believed – there is no new standard bearer.

Okay, okay, but I’d like to know what exactly Elias vision should be. Keeping clean hands in a dirty situation?

Another key leadership lesson from the movie that can be applied to the business world is that bad things can happen when members of the organization are not trained or oriented properly. It becomes immediately apparent in the film that Taylor, and all other new infantry in the war, are simply thrown to the wolves to fend for themselves with little training or orientation.(…)

In the platoon of the film, not only is there not a culture of training and education for the new men, the new members are often thrust into the most dangerous situations to protect the more experienced men who are close to fulfilling their one year commitment in the war and are close to going home. As a result of the culture of thrusting the untrained, inexperienced men into these situations, the new men make grave mistakes that get other people killed. If new members of an organization are expected to contribute quickly, then orientation, training and ongoing education is essential in developing the members’ skill sets.

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