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The Lusthog Squad is a fictional United States Marine Corps squad introduced first in the semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers (1979) by Vietnam veteran Gustav Hasford. The squad was also featured in its sequel, The Phantom Blooper, albeit with most of its members changed. Stanley Kubrick depicted the squad in his 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.
Corporal/Sergeant/Private James T. 'Joker' Davis: The protagonist and narrator of the book, Joker is sent on a mission to join the Lusthog Squad (which is being run by Cowboy then) at Phu Bai along with Lance Corporal Compton ('Rafter Man'). Promoted from Corporal to Sergeant before starting this mission, Joker survives an encounter with a female sniper in the Citadel and mercy-kills her before returning with his report. Not long afterward, he incurs the wrath of a colonel for wearing an unauthorized peace sign button on his uniform; as a result, Joker is assigned to the squad as a fireteam leader. During a mission in the jungle where a sniper lures the team one by one to an ambush, Cowboy promotes him to squad leader before running into the trap to kill three wounded squad members. Cowboy's hand is blown away before he can kill himself, so Joker shoots him through the eye and leads the team away. In The Phantom Blooper, the reader learns that Joker has been demoted to Private for failing to recover the body.
Lance Corporal 'Rafter Man' Compton: A 'New Guy' taking pictures for Joker's articles, Rafter Man is constantly shocked by the horrors of war as he travels with Joker to team up with Cowboy. His nickname comes from an incident at an enlisted men's club in which he climbed up into the rafters for a better view of the stage, then fell onto the table of a visiting general. He kills the female sniper in the Citadel, which greatly excites him, but after seeing his reflection in glass he is disturbed. While returning to Da Nang, the still-shocked Rafter Man is run over by a tank, cutting him in half.
Sergeant John 'Cowboy' Rucker/Sergeant Robert 'Cowboy' Evans: Cowboy is Joker's oldest and best friend. The two meet at Parris Island, where he laughs at his jokes. Later on in 1968, Cowboy is the leader of the Lusthog Squad. After being wounded at the Citadel by the female sniper, he leaves Animal Mother temporarily in command. In the jungle, Cowboy sacrifices himself by shooting all his dying men so that nobody else will run into the trap to save them. Before he can kill himself, though, the sniper shoots the pistol out of his hand and wounds him repeatedly. Joker then shoots him, having been given command of the squad. His last words are an ambiguous rant: "I NEVER LIKED YOU, JOKER. I NEVER THOUGHT YOU WERE FUNNY--". Joker takes Cowboy's pearl-grey Stetson hat as a souvenir, wearing it and carrying it with him throughout The Phantom Blooper. Cowboy presents himself as being from Dallas, but Joker learns in this second book that he had actually lived in Kansas.
Animal Mother: A former platoon sergeant, Animal Mother was demoted to Private after he gave the finger to a colonel. Described as monstrous and giant, he wears an ammunition belt across his chest "like a big Mexican bandit." He is a rapist and shows no mercy to anyone. Nonetheless, he remains loyal to all Marines and is willing to sacrifice himself for them. Animal Mother joined the Marines after he was arrested on an auto theft charge and offered the choice of enlistment or a prison sentence. He carries an M60 machine gun with him at all times. In the jungle encounter with the sniper, Animal Mother nearly shoots Joker, with whom he shares bitter friction, but then obeys him after Cowboy gives him command of the squad. In The Phantom Blooper, Joker learns that Animal Mother was captured by the Viet Cong, but escaped from a POW camp and is back on active duty with the Marines.
Alice: Also nicknamed "Midnight Buccaneer", "Ace of Spades" and "Jungle Bunny" by Cowboy, Animal Mother and Joker, respectively. As the "point man" of the squad, he walks in front of all others and is keen on sensing danger and noticing booby-traps. He has also a foot fetish: he believes in voodoo and cuts off his kills' feet with his machete, carrying them in a blue shopping bag. The "Alice" nickname stems from the fact that his favorite record album is Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie. He is the first to step into the jungle ambush (because Cowboy hurried him), and is mercy-killed by Cowboy after being wounded multiple times.
Donlon: The radioman of Lusthog Squad, he is portrayed as somewhat sensitive (crying over the dead). Donlon can be something of a nuisance, since he insists on doing his job as a radioman during the hairiest of situations. He is nearly killed by the sniper in the jungle; the bullet smashes his radio before he is pulled away by Joker. In The Phantom Blooper, Joker finds him living in California, studying political science at UCLA and protesting the war. The two attend an anti-war demonstration that is forcefully broken up by the police, resulting in Donlon losing an eye. His first name is given as "Tom" in The Short-Timers, and as "Bob" in The Phantom Blooper.
Doc Jay: The corpsman of the team, Doc Jay claims to have "magic hands" and, if it were up to him, would stay in Vietnam forever to help out even the dead. Doc Jay goes after Alice during the jungle ambush, and he is shot by the sniper as well. He then performs a tracheotomy on the fallen New Guy, and is subsequently mercy-killed by Cowboy. Referred to as "Doc J-for-Joint" in The Phantom Blooper.
Crazy Earl: The squad leader before Cowboy, he is a frail, sick man who, during Joker's blackout at the Citadel, goes crazy and starts shooting at the enemy with a BB gun. He is killed during this frenzy, and Cowboy takes the lead after him.
T.H.E. Rock: Rock is nicknamed thus due to a small quartz rock he wears around his neck, allegedly for identifying him in case he should die in battle. He does die at the Citadel, shot in the head by the female sniper. The squad then takes on a personal vendetta on the sniper and kills her.
Lt. Robert M. 'Mr. Shortround' Bayer III: Commander of the platoon that includes this squad, Bayer came by his nickname due to his small stature. He welcomes Joker and Rafter Man into the squad and is killed by a friendly grenade (Animal Mother's) during the Citadel attack, while trying to rescue a fallen Marine.
Lance Corporal Stutten: The most underdeveloped of the Lusthog Squad members. Stutten is a fireteam leader and sides with Animal Mother during the jungle ambush, disregarding Joker's orders.
Private Henry "New Guy" Parker: The newest member of the squad when the jungle ambush occurs, he "goes John Wayne" and tries to rescue Doc Jay and Alice, whereupon he himself is shot in the neck and mercy-killed by Cowboy after receiving a tracheotomy from Doc Jay.
Out of the above members of the original Lusthog Squad, the only ones to survive the novel are Joker, having been promoted to sergeant and squad leader, along with Animal Mother (who takes the point), Donlon the radioman, and Lance Corporal Stutten. Several other members are mentioned only in passing; some of these recur in The Phantom Blooper.
Differences from movie adaptation
- The last two thirds of the book are merged into the last end of the movie adaptation; thus, many of the events and fates of the characters are redistributed. There is only one "sniper showdown" in the movie, and Alice (renamed Eightball) and Doc Jay fall victims of it. Cowboy, instead of sacrificing himself and mercy-killing them, is shot through the back by the sniper while calling for back-up. After Rafter Man and Joker kill the sniper, the movie ends; whereas in the book Rafter Man is run over and split in half by a tank. Likewise, Crazy Earl does not die from a booby-trapped toy, but rather goes crazy and is killed during his frenzy. Also, T.H.E. Rock survives in the movie, whereas he is beheaded by the first sniper in the book.
- Shortround, Stutten, and Parker do not appear in the film, replaced by the original characters of Lieutenant Walter "Touchdown" Schinowski, Sergeant Murphy (a cameo by Stanley Kubrick), and Handjob. Touchdown and Handjob are killed in an ambush upon entering Huế, while Murphy survives.