Gustav Hasford

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Gustav Hasford
Hasford during his time in Vietnam
Hasford during his time in Vietnam
BornJerry Gustave Hasford
(1947-11-28)November 28, 1947
Russellville, Alabama, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 1993(1993-01-29) (aged 45)
Aegina, Greece
Resting placeHaleyville, Alabama
Pen nameGustav Hasford
OccupationWriter, military veteran
Notable works

Jerry Gustave Hasford (November 28, 1947 – January 29, 1993), also known under his pen name Gustav Hasford was an American novelist, journalist and poet. His semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers (1979) was the basis for the film Full Metal Jacket (1987).[1] He was a United States Marine Corps veteran, who served as a war correspondent during the Vietnam War.


Early life[edit]

Born in Russellville, Alabama, Hasford joined the United States Marine Corps in 1966 and served as a combat correspondent during the Vietnam War. As a military journalist, he wrote stories for Leatherneck Magazine, Pacific Stars and Stripes, and Sea Tiger.[2] During his tour in Vietnam, Hasford was awarded the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Valor Device, during the Battle of Huế in 1968.

Early literary career[edit]

Hasford attended the Clarion Workshop[3] and associated with various science fiction writers of the 1970s, including Arthur Byron Cover and David J. Skal. He had works published in magazines and anthologies such as Space and Time and Damon Knight's Orbit series. He also published the poem "Bedtime Story" in a 1972 edition of Winning Hearts and Minds, the first anthology of writing about the war by veterans.[4] The poem was reprinted in Carrying the Darkness in 1985.[5]

The Short-Timers[edit]

In 1978, Hasford attended the Milford Writer's Workshop and met veteran science fiction author Frederik Pohl, who was then an editor at Bantam Books. At Pohl's suggestion, Hasford submitted The Short-Timers, and Pohl promptly bought it for Bantam.[6]

The Short-Timers was published in 1979 and became a best-seller, described in Newsweek as "[t]he best work of fiction about the Vietnam War".[1] It was adapted into the feature film Full Metal Jacket (1987), directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by Hasford, Kubrick, and screenwriter Michael Herr was nominated for an Academy Award. Hasford's actual contributions were a subject of dispute among the three, and ultimately Hasford chose not to attend the Oscar ceremonies.[1]

Library books theft charges[edit]

In 1985, Hasford had borrowed 98 books from the Sacramento, California public library but never returned them. An arrest warrant for misdemeanor grand theft was issued, but local authorities were unable to find him.[7] In March 1988, shortly before the Academy Awards ceremony, campus police from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California found nearly 10,000 library books in his rented storage locker. At that time, he had 87 overdue books and five years of Civil War Times magazine issues checked out from the Cal Poly-SLO library; the materials were initially valued at $3,000 (they were later revalued at $20,000).[8]

Hasford's book collection included books borrowed (and never returned) from dozens of libraries across the United States, from libraries in Australia and the United Kingdom, and, allegedly, books taken from the homes of acquaintances. Among them were 19th-century books on Edgar Allan Poe and the American Civil War. Hasford had obtained borrowing privileges at Cal Poly-SLO as a California resident, using the residential address of a motel near campus and a false Social Security number.[7][9]

In June 1988, he was charged with two counts of grand theft and ten counts of possession of stolen property.[10] Judge Harry Woolpert of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court scheduled the trial hearings to begin on December 5.[11] During the trial, Hasford rearranged to plead guilty to possession of stolen property. On January 4, 1989, Hasford was sentenced to six months' imprisonment (of which he served three months) and promised to pay $1,100 in restitution from the royalties of his future works. He was also ordered to pay the shipping costs for the return of 748 books to nine libraries throughout the United States.[12][13]

In a form letter addressed to friends and family, Hasford claimed that he wanted the books to research a never-published book on the Civil War. He described his difficulties as "a vicious attack launched against me by Moral Majority fanatics backed up by the full power of the Fascist State."[14]

Second and third novels[edit]

In 1990, he published a second novel, The Phantom Blooper,[15] which was a sequel to The Short-Timers.[16] The sequel was intended to be the second installment of a "Vietnam Trilogy", but Hasford died before writing the third installment.[17] Hasford's final novel titled A Gypsy Good Time, a hardboiled, noir detective story set in Los Angeles, was published in 1992.

Later life and death[edit]

Hasford, impoverished[18][17] and suffering from untreated diabetes, moved to the Greek island of Aegina and died there of heart failure on 29 January 1993, aged 45. He is interred at Winston Memorial Cemetery in Haleyville, Alabama.[1]


Vietnam Trilogy[16]
  1. The Short-Timers (1979) ISBN 0-553-23945-7
  2. The Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam (1990) ISBN 0-553-05718-9
  3. Unpublished[19]
Standalone novel


  1. ^ a b c d Lewis, Grover (June 4–10, 1993). "The Killing of Gus Hasford". LA Weekly. Retrieved March 16, 2014 – via Bronx Banter.
  2. ^ Lewis, Grover (June 28, 1987). "The Several Battles of Gustav Hasford: A Candid Conversation With the Co-Writer and Fierce, Real-Life Protagonist of Full Metal Jacket". Los Angeles Times Magazine. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  3. ^ "Clarion's Distinguished Alumni & Faculty – Clarion Workshop".
  4. ^ Barry, Jan; Paquet, Basil T.; Rottmann, Larry, eds. (1972). "Bedtime Story". Winning Hearts and Minds. 1st Casualty Press. Archived from the original on September 1, 2011. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  5. ^ Ehrhart, W.D., ed. (1985). "Bedtime Story". Texas Tech University Press. Archived from the original on November 12, 2003. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Pohl, Frederik (January 26, 2010). "Gus Hasford: The Libraries' Very Best Customer". The Way The Future Blogs. Archived from the original on January 29, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Corwin, Miles (April 4, 1988). "Odd Chapter for Author". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  8. ^ "10,000 Books Found; Oscar Nominee Sought". The New York Times. March 21, 1988. p. A16. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  9. ^ "Police Want to Question Oscar-Nominated Writer About Huge Book Find". Associated Press. March 20, 1988. Archived from the original on December 15, 2022. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  10. ^ "'Full Metal Jacket' Writer Charged With Stealing Books". Associated Press. June 12, 1988. Archived from the original on December 15, 2022. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  11. ^ "Oscar-nominated Writer Pleads Innocent To Charges He Stole Library Books". Associated Press. October 3, 1988. Archived from the original on December 15, 2022. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  12. ^ Corwin, Miles (January 5, 1989). "Novelist Gets Six Months in Jail for Stealing Books". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  13. ^ "Writer Gets 6 Months for Stealing Library Books". Deseret News. January 5, 1989. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  14. ^ "Book theft articles". Archived from the original on August 8, 2003.
  15. ^ Hasford, Gustav (January 1, 1990). The Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam (1st ed.). Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0553057188.
  16. ^ a b Salzberg, Charles (April 5, 1990). "In Short; Fiction: The Phantom Blooper". The New York Times. ISBN 0553057189.
  17. ^ a b Ross, Matthew Samuel (2010). "An Examination of the life and work of Gustav Hasford, Paper 236". UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. doi:10.34917/1449240.
  18. ^ "Jerry Gustave 'Gus' Hasford". Findagrave.
  19. ^ Bierce, Ambrose. "Unpublished: The Vietnam Trilogy". Archived from the original on 2011-03-04. "Apparently by the time he'd finished The Phantom Blooper, Gus was already planning to write a third Viet Nam novel.  Apparently, not much work was ever completed on this book, which had many possible titles, one of them Exit Wounds.  The story involved Private Joker taking a job as a reporter in Los Angeles in the years after the war."

Further reading[edit]

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