Sgt. Barnes finally found

18 01 2019

Well, while I was away doing other things some information about the real life Sgt. Barnes surfaced on the internet. Didn’t expect this as I didn’t expect Stone was using the real name in this case.

Platoon depicts two soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP), specifically, S/Sgt. John Barnes portrayed by Tom Berenger and Sgt. Juan Angel Elias portrayed by Willem Dafoe. Stone melds his experience as an infantryman and the characters of Barnes and Elias through the eyes of a green young soldier, Charlie Sheen. The film shows troops of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment in 1967/1968.

Sgt. Barnes honorably retired from the US Army as a Sergeant Major. Sgt. Elias was killed in action in Quang Tri Province on May 29, 1968, when a grenade he and his team were rigging as a booby trap on an enemy trail accidentally exploded causing the loss of his life and that of Cpl. Donald Robert Miller, and fellow team member, Sgt. Larry Curtis, to lose an eye.

from Wikipedia

It’s also mentioned in a newsletter here

And there is an alleged photo posted at www.lrrprangers.com (found via Pinterest)

22

From the Newsletter found under this link

I understand that when Barnes was recruiting for our unit, his line was;
“We prefer men with no wife, no girl friend, no kids, and who have suicidal tendencies.”

HISTORICAL OCCURRENCES
THE BARNES TECHNIQUE FOR PRISONER SNATCHES
From Ken White
I remember one mission in particular. We were working the eastern side of the Da Dan Mountains, approximately 10 kilometers northwest of Bong Son, in the vicinity of Cu Nghi, when we spotted an NVA rice-carrying detail about 200 meters east of our position parallel to our northward movement. They had just emerged from the village and were moving northward balancing bags of rice across their shoulders. We called in the sighting and were directed by brigade to get a prisoner.
Suddenly, the enemy soldiers spotted us, dropped what they were carrying, broke formation and bee-lined it back to the village. Well, our team leader, Sgt. John Barnes (Barney), Clarksville, TN, just as suddenly ripped off his rucksack, dropped it in the elephant grass, reached into the pocket of his fatigues and pulled out a big fat cigar, and lit it. Then with a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson in one hand and a CAR-15 automatic rifle in the other, he bolted down the hill towards the village right after them.
Spanky Seymour, the team’s RTO, and Sgt. Burt Penkunis, assistant team leader, Elk City, Idaho, decided that they better go after him if we ever hoped to see him again, so off they went down the hill towards the village. Jim Dempsey, Laredo, TX, and I stayed behind taking cover in a cluster of trees on the hillside.
Several hours later, who do we see coming up the hill but Sgt. Barnes with two enemy prisoners in tow. The prisoners were wearing khaki pants rolled up above the knees, black pajama tops, and scandals. Spanky and Sgt. Penkunis were right behind them.
By then it was dark and the nightly monsoon rain had started. The summer monsoon was petering out by this time but it still had some punch left to it. We knew that because of the rain we would likely have to hang on to the prisoners until daybreak before a 1st Cav helicopter would be able to come out and get them.
By midnight, however, we started hearing movement around our position, but because of the rain, which was now heavy, it was difficult to determine if in fact it was enemy movement that we were hearing or if our minds were simply playing head games with us.
By about 3:00am or so, we were getting anxious about the prisoner situation. We knew that we would have to move from our position to a more defendable one before dawn as a precautionary measure, but taking the prisoners with us could be a fatal mistake – both for us and for them.
If there were enemy soldiers nearby, the prisoners might try to hinder our movement or make noise to give away our position, and we knew that we couldn’t just leave them there to fight another day. By about 5:00 am, the rain started to let up and Sgt. Barnes was able to convince brigade to come get the prisoners.
Shortly afterwards, a helicopter arrived on site, picked up the two of them, and off it went to LZ English or An Khe, or wherever they took prisoners for interrogation.
I can assure you that we wasted no time in getting off that hillside and into a tree line at the base of the hill that offered some protection from approaching enemy soldiers.
I never really heard the story of what happened in that village anyway.

Company E in film
Oliver Stones’ movie Platoon (1986) was based on two soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP). Specifically, S/Sgt, John Barnes portrayed by Tom Berenger and Sgt. Juan Angel Elias portrayed by Willem Dafoe.
Oliver Stone served as a rifleman in both the 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division. In April 1968 Oliver Stone volunteered for the 1st Cavalry Division’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol training, but was dropped from the course because “he was too aggressive and was not a team player.” Nevertheless, Stone melds his line experience as an infantryman and the characters of Barnes and Elias through the eyes of a green young soldier, Charlie Sheen. The film depicts troops of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment in 1967, who are often drug-induced and undisciplined, and divided between Sgt. Elias’ integrity and the battle hardened, but heartless Sgt. Barnes—a dark portrayal of American servicemen and exaggeration of facts (the drug epidemic did not reach the battlefield till near the end of the Vietnam War).
Sgt. Barnes honorably retired from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant Major and Sgt. Elias was killed in action in Quang Tri Province on May 29, 1968, when a grenade he and his team were rigging as a booby trap on an enemy trail accidentally exploded causing the loss of his life and that of Pfc. Donald Robert Miller, and fellow team member, Sgt. Larry Curtis, to lose an eye.

 

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