Gustav Hasford (1947-1993), was the author of two major novels of the Vietnam war, The Short Timers and The Phantom Blooper, as well as a third book, A Gypsy Good Time. At the time of his death in 1993, he was perhaps best known for a screenwriting credit he shared with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and author Michael Herr for the film Full Metal Jacket (1987), a screen adaptation of The Short Timers. The film is regarded as being one of the greatest depictions of the Vietnam war.
Hasford was born in Haleyville, Winston County, on November 28, 1947, to Hassell and Hazel Hasford; he had one younger brother, Terry. Hasford's cousin, Jasper native Jason Aaron, is an award-winning comic book writer. After leaving high school in Russellville, Franklin County, in 1966, and refusing to take his graduation exams in protest over the state's poor education system, Hasford joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Vietnam as a combat correspondent with the First Marine Division. Upon his return from Vietnam, he moved with his parents to Washington State and attended Lower Columbia Community College, where he published his first story, which would later serve as the basis for The Short Timers, in the school newspaper.
The Short Timers was published in 1979, The Phantom Blooper in 1990, and A Gypsy Good Time in 1992. The Short Timers follows the story of Private Joker, a character supposedly based on Hasford himself, from basic training through the Tet offensive in Vietnam. The Phantom Blooper once again features Joker as he comes to terms with the death of many of his friends and his own survival, through his time as a POW, and to his return to the United States. A Gypsy Good Time is a departure, best characterized as a parody of the hard-boiled detective novel genre.
Hasford came into conflict with director Stanley Kubrick over writing credits for the screenplay of Full Metal Jacket, which is based on The Short Timers. The financial bonanza that Hasford expected from that film never materialized. Hasford also gained significant notoriety as a literary eccentric, described in newspaper stories as having secreted himself illegally with a "research" hoard of more than 700 books from libraries in the United States and Great Britain, some of them 12 years overdue. Hasford was arrested in 1988 on a charge of possessing stolen property; a San Luis Obispo, California, judge sentenced him to six months in the local jail.
Hasford was active in anti-war veterans' activities. At the time of his death at age 45 from untreated diabetes on January
29, 1993, Hasford was residing alone in Greece. He is buried in Winston Memorial Cemetery in Haleyville.
Works by Gustav Hasford
The Short-Timers (1979)
The Phantom Blooper (1990)
A Gypsy Good Time (1992)
Beidler, Philip D. American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982.
———. Re-Writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Dunnaway, Jen. "Approaching a Truer Form of Truth: The Appropriation of the Oral Narrative Form in Vietnam War Literature." Soldier Talk: The Vietnam War in Oral Narrative. Ed. Michael Zeitlin. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. 26-51.
Puhr, Katherine M. "Four Fictional Faces of the Vietnam War." MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 30 (Spring 1984): 99-118.
Reaves, Terri. "From Hasford's The Short-Timers to Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket." Literature/Film Quarterly 16.4 (1988): 232-37.
University of Alabama
Published September 3, 2009
Last updated July 12, 2013