"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Real Men of "Full Metal Jacket"

By Allen J. Folk

["Real" Sgt. Kurtz, Played by R. Lee Ermy]
CJ, I want to tell you a true story:

On November, 1966, a recruit by the name of Jerry Gustav Hasford, graduated from Parris Island, South Carolina.

Jerry was in Platoon #3092 and Sgt. Frank J. Kurtz, and Cpl. Ron Guidry were his drill instructors.

During the Vietnam War, Jerry Hasford was a Marine war combat correspondent. After he was discharged from the Marine Corps, he went on to become a writer and in 1979, he wrote an autobiographical novel called: "The Short Timers". 

That novel was used to make the movie, "Full Metal Jacket", and Jerry was asked by Hollywood, to help to write the script for the movie. 

Jerry told the producers of the movie that since his book was based on his own wartime experiences, he wanted the men from his Platoon to be used for the movie.  Of course, the movie star, Mathew Modine, was the one who played the part of him, the wise-cracking Pvt, Joker. 

Author, Jerry Gustav Hasford
Also, Jerry was friends with a recruit named Dick Koehn.  Dick was the soldier that Sgt. Frank J. Kurtz caught stealing the doughnuts from the drill instructor quarters. 

Actor R. Lee Ermy
Well, Jerry wanted that to be in the movie, too, and of course Vincent D'onofrio, was the movie star who played the goofy recruit, Pvt. Plye, who got caught with the jelly doughnut in his foot locker.

E. Ray Ermy, the movie star who played tough and gritty Gunny Hartman, was actually playing the part of the real Sgt. Frank J. Kurtz.

Unfortunately, Jerry Gustav died impoverished at the age of 45 on January 29, 1993, on the island of Aegina, Greece, from his out of control diabetes. It was thought to have been caused by the agent orange that was sprayed in Vietnam.

Below is a picture of Dick Koehn. When Dick was in Platoon #3092, he was friends with Jerry Gustav Hasford. Dick was the coffee boy for the drill instructors. We called them “house mouses”. 

Dick Koehn
One day, the senior drill instructor, Sgt. Frank J. Kurtz, caught Dick stealing a couple of doughnuts from the drill instructor’s quarters and the rest of the platoon paid for them.

When Jerry was writing some of the script for the movie, he told the producers that he wanted this fact to be portrayed in the movie and, of course, they got Vincent D'onofrio, the movie star, to act out the part about when Dick Koehn got caught with the doughnuts. 

When I went to boot camp on August 18, 1965, Cpl. Frank J. Kurtz was our Jr. drill instructor for our platoon #361.  

After we left boot camp, Frank got promoted to E-5 Sgt, and became the senior drill instructor for platoon #3092, along with Cpl. Ron Guidry.  He was the Jr. drill instructor who trained Jerry Gustav Hasford.

Frank and his wife, Margaret, are very good friends of my wife and I and we get together every year, along with two other friends that I grew up with and went to boot camp with in platoon #361.  

We all have a lot of respect for Frank Kurtz.  His training is what kept us alive in Vietnam.

Allen J. Folk 

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale


  1. Great story! I can recall my first DI in boot camp. I say the 1st because after 5 weeks into basic training he was relieved and replaced by another DI. This happened due to the fact he was determined to be "overly abusive" to the recruits in our platoon. The DI had served 2 tours in Nam already - and his last tour his platoon was overrun at night. He "played" dead as the enemy had stripped what was needed off him as well as his dead comrades. They remained there and he continued playing dead while the enemy ate and laughed - then slept. They withdrew in the morning. They say he was "mentally" affected by the event (I would think so) and that was the contributing factor to his being what was deemed overly abusive to the recruits. However - to me - as well as many of the others in my platoon - he had basically been doing his job. To make young boys into soldiers - willing to kill or be killed - in order for one and his buddies to survive in Nam. I thought he did a good job of achieving that goal - and his intent was to prepare us for everything that we may encounter in the land of the little people. I always wondered what happened to him.

  2. I was at Parris Island in February of 1966 and there was nothing even close to the abuse shown in the Movie "Full Metal Jacket. I think this preceded my arrival by about 5 years. Don't get me wrong. The 8 weeks I spent in PI were tough and the Drill Instructors were hard and tough (Gy. Sgt. Curly was lead DI) - But they were professional Marines out to train us for what was sure to come in the months following PI. I am sure there are Marines alive today because of what we learned and the discipline that was imbued. I enjoyed the movie but I think many liberties were taken with the reality of PI at the time the movie was set. The 'Nam stuff was first class and reflected that reality quite well. Semper Fi.

  3. My DI in Ft Benning said if you want to stay alive in Nam pay attention ! [2 tours for him] I did ! Nam 69 70 71 &72
    Later Dee [815th/102nd Cbt Eng 75Rng. US Army ]

  4. To all recruits in all services - PAY ATTENTION!

  5. I remember most of everything from this story and movie as I was in 3092 Sept 1966. I am a proud Marine that has a history to cling to and to be able to repeat this story. Remebering each recruit is still hard but I look at their graduation pictures from Parris Island almost monthly so to keep in my mind their memories. DI Frank Kurtz was toughest DI instructor. Parnell, Wasirick and Guidry were are other DI instructors. Neil Fountaine - Semper Fi brothers


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