Barnes vs. Elias Discussion at

22 02 2008

Another Barnes vs Elias discussion, similar to this on IMDB board but it’s more civilized, many interesting points, I allow myself to quote some snippets:
Paul Man III: More than weed vs. booze or city vs. rural it becomes a battle in the platoon over Search and Destroy or Liberate and Protect. What type of soldier and leader woud you be (or were you)? 
RapierfighterI would follow into combat the man who knows how to be both, and when to be which

Paul Man III: It’s the same reason I don’t own a dog I guess, I don’t need that shallow, base affection all the time. I have cats, they say **** you, like Platoon does to conventional soldier-ego stroking war films

L’zard: For Nam, methinx Barnes is just slightly more likely to get me ( as just a grunt) home than Elias, tho I’ll admit Barnes isnt someone I’d like to give my home address to, LOL!


What caught my attention was that the poster PaulManIII is claiming that Barnes prototype lives, and that Stone says it in the commentary. Sigh, my ability of understanding Stone’s mumbling is still far below satisfactory.

If Barnes prototype survived the war, there only small chance of ever finding him. Finding fallen veterans is —  ironically — much easier.

The Things they Carried… On Their Helmets: A Surprise

18 02 2008

Haven’t I told you? Google is on my side. Sometimes.


Ladies and Gentlemen, the end of the mystery: From left to right:
A pack of toilet paper, matches, bottle of insect repellent, matches


So the piece of paper on Barnes’ helmet is something as trivial as weatherproof matches. Beside that, the pack (bottom) used in the movie is an anachronism: it’s the version produced now, the original from 1960s is that one on the top. And the brown thing is toilet paper and not wound dressing as I was so sure.

And what I was looking for? Watches: on some pictures I spotted Wolfe and Barnes wearing identical ones. As I told you, I’m an ignorant to the military matters, I wanted to look it up and see if there was something like army issue of watches. There are. Found them on this nice website for re-enactors together with the picture above.

A side note: at the beginning of the movie Chris uses a metal “civil” watch, it’s that one he can hardly read through the fogged glass during the night ambush. Later he obviously decides to replace it by the waterproof army version.

The Real Platoon (3): Finding William O. Stone

16 02 2008

For a background research, most valuable detail in Platoon: Bravo Company turned out to be a little remark on one of the last pages. That the soldiers from the unit founded an organisation named Bravo Regulars. It was not mentioned in the text, but — of course — they have a website.

Went through the pages, finding some familiar names from Hemphill’s book, and then learning a new word in English: roster. There are scans of the Company rosters here. And here is one that has the name: William O. Stone’s. 

I almost overlooked it, but then I recalled Child’s Night Dream I read in German ages ago, and that Stone was using his real first name William there for the more macho side of his protagonist (who is clearly based on OS himself), saving his middle name, Oliver for the artistic part. It doesn’t surprise me that he decided to stick with Oliver for his career. It also can explain why people were accusing OS that he’d never served in Vietnam, because there was no Oliver Stone in any military archive.

The Bookshelf: Platoon. Bravo Company by R. Hemphill

15 02 2008

Finally I took a plunge and re-read the book. To my surprise it was a much better read than my first attempt in 1997. Which is good indicator for my increasing English skills. *proudly tapping myself on the shoulder* I still get lost in the military and radio lingo though, so it is nothing I will read again just for fun. 

There is a striking dissonance between the moods in the book and in Platoon. It felt as if Bravo Company belonged to a completely different universe, to another, cleaner, more logical war than that described by Stone. Hemphill’s war is like a strategy game: there were some bloody moments, but recalling it I have an impression of observing everything from a bird’s eye view. Probably it’s because Hemphill did have a different perspective. He knew the tactics, the “bigger picture” of what’s going on, but it was not a grunt’s POV.

There are two particular moments echoing the movie. The first is the attack at the Firebase Burt near the Cambodian border, on the New Years Day 1968 when the 9th VC Main Force Division overran the perimeter and the air support had to drop napalm dangerously close to American positions. There was some hand to hand fighting that night, and in the morning bulldozers were digging mass graves for the dead Vietcong — the enemy body count was about 500, against surprisingly low american casualties (unlike in the movie, where it was like a final extermination of the platoon’s leftovers).

Another incident reminds of the church battle: the point man was killed as the unit entered a bunker complex masked by ant hills (remember Chris hiding behind an anthill?) There is a piece of dialog surprisingly similar to the radio talk between capt Harris and a panicked soldier, and a glimpse of bodies uncovered by wind blow.

And I think that capt Harris is based on Hemphill himself. 


The book was clearly written as an answer and a counterbalance to Platoon. But if people see it as “denouncing Oliver Stone’s lies” it’s because of a misunderstanding. IMO the problem is caused by Stone showing the unit’s name so prominently at the beginning of the film. Is suggests that all what happened took place in that one unit. Stone explained, over and over again, that the movie’s story is a compilation of his experience in four different units, but that statement is easy to overlook. 

Stone was in Vietnam from September 67 to November 68. Hemphill — from October 67 to February 68, which means he left before things started to worsen. And to state accidents like drug use, fragging etc., didn’t happen at all only because they didn’t happen in Hemphill’s company during Hemphill’s tour, make as much sense as stating that Platoon is the only true movie about the Vietnam war. To me both, the movie and the book, are parts of a bigger picture.

ARCHIVE FILE | Regarding Patches

13 02 2008

Unit patch
The only insignia I was aware of for a long time were the “electric strawberries”, the 25th Infantry Division patches. And very soon I started to wonder why there are two arts of them: red/yellow and green. 

Later I found out that during the Vietnam War the US army was changing the insignia from bright to “subdued”, and it was a step-by-step process. So soldiers who were there for longer time were more likely to wear the red insignia, but it’s not a rule. Probably it’s just about who is wearing newer fatigues. Soldiers wearing the old, red insignia are: Warren, Wolfe, Bunny, Ace, Rhah, Francis, Tubbs, Morehouse.

Name Tabs
There are none. I noticed it looking for some evidence of Elias being a second name. The other tabs with US ARMY were missing too. On many photos from Vietnam soldiers seem not to wear those tabs either, I wonder if there was a regulation for this.

Spotted while looking for the tabs. First I thought I would have to ask someone, as one can hardly google things based on how they look, but soon I’ve found it in Platoon: Bravo Company. It was CIB, Combat Infantryman Badge, which

…is an award of the United States Army which is presented to those officers, warrant officers and enlisted soldiers, in the grade of Colonel and below, who participate in active ground combat while assigned as a member of an infantry or special forces unit (…) sources: Wikipedia | Army Study Guide 

Chris apparently earns his CIB in the church battle. But there seem to be no rule about wearing them, at least in the movie: Elias not always wears his (or is it another goof?), Wolfe has none… it’s hard to say as they are mostly covered by something.

Harris and Barnes seemed to have another badges above the CIB, but they are always covered by collars:

BTW the patch on Harris’ collar is a branch (infantry) patch.

There is only one picture showing Barnes’ second badge: the title picture from The Time Magazine (Jan 1987)

It looks very much like a paraschutist badge


Former units patches
are worn on the right sleeve. Elias has a 1st Air Cavalry patch, Warren and capt Harris — 4th Infantry Division patches. I don’t know how to classify the AirCav patch on Crawford’s “leisure vest” he wears in the underground.

source | source for rank insignia

Article scans at Oliver Stone website

7 02 2008

There is a plenty of stuff to read, sadly the quality isn’t the best. 

Also scans of OS’s Certificates of Awarding of Purple Heart and Bronze Star

Connections: Poster Motive

4 02 2008

Actually I really hate the “official” poster for Platoon. It’s so over-dramatic. For an observant viewer it actually gives the plot away. 

It was several times compared to the photo of Art Greenspon but from the first time I have seen the picture of dying Elias, I have seen some similar image and it seemed to be somehow related to an antiwar poster I remembered from my childhood. It had definitely nothing to do with the Vietnam photo. IMO the parallel doesn’t really work, as the photograph doesn’t show a dying soldier. The context is totally different. Robert Capa’s photograph from the Spanish Civil War would be closer… 

But I knew there was something else… 

I was looking for it for ages, probably the stars are in some favorable constelation today. Then this is the image I meant:

Still haven’t found the name of the photographer though, but at least I know I wasn’t dreaming.

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