This Book is the inspiration behind Full Metal Jacket.
The Short-Timers is a semi-autobiographical novel by former Marine Gustav Hasford about his experience in the Vietnam War. It was later adapted into the film Full Metal Jacket by Hasford, Michael Herr, and Stanley Kubrick.
The book is divided into three sections, written in completely different styles of prose.
"The Spirit of the Bayonet" chronicles Pvt. James T. "Joker" Davis' days in the Marine Corps boot camp, where a drill instructor (Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim) breaks the men's spirits and then rebuilds them as brutal killers. Here Joker befriends two privates nicknamed "Cowboy" and "Gomer Pyle." The latter, whose real name is Leonard Pratt, earns the wrath of both Gerheim and the rest of the platoon through his ineptitude and weak character. Though he eventually shows great improvement and wins honors at graduation, the constant abuse has unbalanced his mind. In a final act of madness, he kills Gerheim and then himself in front of the whole platoon. This section is written in a very simple, savage style.
"Body Count" shows some of Joker's life as a war correspondent for the Marines. He travels to Huế with Rafter Man, his photographer, and is reunited with Cowboy, now assistant squad leader in the Lusthog Squad. During a battle, Joker is "wounded" (actually only knocked out by an RPG concussion blast) and the book goes into a psychedelic dream sequence. After his quick recovery, Joker learns that the platoon lieutenant was killed by a friendly grenade, while the squad leader went insane and attacked an NVA position with a BB gun only to be shot down. Later, Joker and Rafter Man battle a sniper that killed another Lusthog soldier and an entire second squad; the battle ends with Rafter Man's first confirmed kill and Cowboy being wounded slightly. As Joker and Rafter Man head back to their base, Rafter Man panics and dashes into the path of an oncoming tank, which fatally crushes him. Joker is reassigned to Cowboy's squad as a rifleman (a grunt) for wearing an unauthorized peace button on his uniform. The writing style in "Body Count" is more complex than that in "The Spirit of the Bayonet."
"Grunts" takes place on a mission through the jungle with Cowboy's squad, outside of Khe Sanh. They encounter another sniper here, who wounds three of the men multiple times. After the company commander goes crazy and begins babbling nonsense over the radio, Cowboy decides to pull the squad back and retreat, rather than sacrifice everyone trying to save the wounded men. Animal Mother, the squad's M60 machine gun carrier, threatens Cowboy's life and refuses to retreat. Promoting Joker to squad leader, Cowboy runs in with his pistol and kills each victim with a shot to the head. However, he himself is repeatedly wounded in the process; before he can kill himself, the sniper shoots the gun out of his hand. Realizing his duty to Cowboy and the squad, Joker kills Cowboy and leads the rest of the men away. This section is written in a more complex style than the previous two, with more time spent on Joker's inner thoughts.
The first section of the novel, "The Spirit of the Bayonet," is very faithfully reproduced in the movie. There are only minor differences of events, and names. The most profound difference is that, in the book, when Pvt. Pyle kills Gunny Gerheim (Hartman), Gerheim tells Pyle "I'm proud [of you]" before being killed, finally being assured that he turned him into a killer. Also, Pyle not only talks to his rifle, but also considers it his wife, and kills Gerheim because he looked at her funny.
The movie then combines certain elements of "Body Count" and "Grunts" for the second part of the movie. In the film the combat is in Hue, and they do take on a sniper, although the actual sequence more closely resembles the sniper battle in "Grunts". Dialog in the second part of the movie is also a mix of elements from "Body Count" and "Grunts".
Several important sequences are left out from the movie adaptation: a previous meeting between Joker and his squad at the movies, the slaughtering of rats at the camp by Joker and his friends as Rafter Man watches, Rafter Man's lapse of cannibalism and a part where the tank Joker and Rafter Man ride runs over a little girl and a water buffalo. A flashback revealing the origins of Rafter Man's nickname is also omitted. His real name is Lance Corporal Compton. Also Rafter Man is later run over and killed by the same tank that ran over the little girl and water buffalo. Then Joker is demoted to a grunt for wearing his peace sign button.
Additionally, some names are changed and certain characters in the book do not appear in the movie, and vice-versa. Several "lifers" (Capt. January, Mayor Lynch, General Motors) have been left out or been merged into one. Private Leonard Pratt (book), Leonard Lawrence (movie); Gunny Gerheim (Book), Gunny Hartman (Movie). The character of Alice (in the book) seems to have been renamed and altered slightly to Eightball (movie). Also, in the movie, T.H.E. Rock doesn't die and Crazy Earl is killed by a booby-trap. Daytona Dave, Chili Vendor and Mr. Payback are all in the movie. However in the novel Daytona Dave is described as a California surf-type while in the movie he is played by an African American. All of the three can be seen in the movie just prior to and during the Tet Offensive.