How did Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence get into the Marines at all? Hes clearly unfit both physically and mentally for service. The Boot Camp segment takes place in 1967 or late '66, after "Project 100,000" was put in place, and hes one of the "New Standards Men." Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ, had the brilliant idea of lowering the minimum standards for military recruits, allowing in men who were physically unfit, mentally challenged, and/or had serious criminal records. To nobodys great surprise, the "New Standards Men" frequently proved to be untrainable and a majority of these men (who couldnt qualify for any kind of technician specialty) wound up in the infantry, where their teamwork and discipline were abysmal, resulting in higher casualties in combat. The reduced standards were also applied to officer candidates, with William Calleynote Calley was widely disliked and distrusted by the men of his platoon and his superiors even before My Lai. He had flunked out of junior college and was known for berating and threatening his men at every opportunity, and for being incapable of reading a map or using a compass. Many of the men involved in the incident told investigators that they acted out of fear that Calley would murder them if they refused, and at least one man shot himself in the leg to avoid participating in it. General consensus is that Calley was totally unfit for command and should never have been put in charge of anythingthe lieutenant responsible for the infamous My Lai Massacrebeing a notorious example. Other veterans who served with New Standards Men generally agree that would-be 4-Fs like Pyle can hardly be blamed for their poor performance since they should never have been inducted in the first place. Many also point to the fact that Project 100,000 also accepted men with violent criminal records when discussing reports of Americans brutalizing Vietnamese civilians.
In addition to this is when Pyle snaps. In addition to meeting the quota standards, the "Project 100,000" was also intended to give these men additional training by using the "new" technology such as videotapes and computer analyses (which [McNamara] believed would make the men trainable), ensuring they would be able to apply for specialty positions and thus stay out of infantry. Unfortunately, the training [McNamara] believed would help unable to be provided, we know now that wasn't the end-all, be-all solution he was hoping it to be. Pyle was most likely promised that he'd be trained for a specialty position as a member of the "New Standards Men" when he was drafted/enlisted...and finding out he was going to be sent off to be cannon fodder anyway broke him.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman really cared for private Lawrence. He knew how slow and soft and dim-witted Lawrence was, and that he would in all likelihood get himself and his fellow soldiers killed. Hartman did his best to give Lawrence an environment which would make him tough enough to survive. Hartman even shows pride in Lawrence later on at the rifle range and proclaims that the private is now "Born again hard!" The training just worked too well.
Even though many people have said (rightfully) that Hartman's yelling at Pyle while Pyle was clearly unhinged and carrying a loaded rifle was a dumb idea at best...it does make sense considering that he believed cowing Pyle into submission by shouting would work like it had in the past. Unfortunately, he didn't recognize that Joker's kindness and willingness to help Pyle was probably the only thing that kept Pyle from snapping sooner. If Hartman had kept talking to Pyle as Joker was doing, he might've been able to convince Pyle to put down the weapon sooner.
It's really Joker, not Lawrence, who is unfit for service. Joker finds a clearly unbalanced man in the head loading a rifle (a violation of at least three regulations), and makes no attempt to either disarm him (the rifle was empty and leaning against a wall when Joker finds him) or alert the MPs to someone loading a rifle in the head, which results in a DI getting killed and a recruit killing himself. Though given the situation (Pyle's larger size compared to Joker, the rifle leaning against the toilet tank and not accessible to Joker but well within Pyle's reach, Pyle's mental state and potential to go berserk, etc) Joker freezing up and not doing anything isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Why do the two halves of the film seem like two separate movies? Because it shows how different war and boot camp are. They may try to prepare you for what happens in war, but training and trying to shoot people while they try to kill you and your comrades are not the same thing.
"I hope they're just fuckin' with us... I ain't ready for this shit..." Joker mutters just before the base attack. He's not just talking about a siege in general... a few scenes ago he described the rumors of a Tet Offensive: he knows if they really are coming, they are coming BIG.
When he kills the sniper Joker's body is angled in a way to hide his peace button and 'Born to Kill' on his helmet is on full display.
By the time Private Lawrence is speaking to his rifle as if it is his only friend, he's pretty much irrevocably insane.
When Hartman is issuing deployment assignments, Lawrence already has the Thousand-Yard Stare. And he hasn't even been in combat yet.
The door gunner is shooting civilians to simply pass the time.
Crazy Earl's speech on the main page. It's not about winning a war or furthering a great cause. It's a big frat party where you can gun down people and do whatever the fuck you want.
His death counts as Fridge Horror as well — just picking up a strange-looking stuffed animal gets him killed.
Lieutenant "Touchdown's" demise. He was behind a platoon of tanks, surrounded by his squad — as safe as someone could be, one assumes — and he still gets killed out of nowhere.
Doc Jay screaming as he is mortally wounded, over the corpse of the man he tried to save. The squad sees it all and are powerless to help.
Also Animal Muther's blind charge towards them was extremely likely to have gotten him killed. He was just massively lucky — it makes one wonder how much longer he was going to be alive, taking risks like this.
The squad pursuing the sniper was exactly what gets Cowboy killed. If they'd moved on like he said, it would have never happened.
The sniper turns out to be an extremely young Vietnamese girl. This underscores the fact that the VC could be anybody.
This child, who very likely didn't receive any formal army training, nearly takes out a squad of seasoned marines through basic marksmanship and her cunning.
Private Pyle could have planned to kill Hartman earlier in training rather than it be a opportunity he got on the last night when Joker interrupted his suicide or just as a crazed act from a mental breakdown. Pyle got fitter, faster and stronger after being trained by Joker not only cause he was nicer and more encouraging to him but also because he was pushing himself to get back at the man who was responsible for his abuse by him and the other marines (except Joker who treated him with some respect and concern) and he was pushing through to be a really good marksman so he'd be able to effectively and be able to find the opportunity to kill Hartman. This was the last night before they were shipped possibly because it was his last chance of doing so and probably wanted to gain maximum training by then. Also think about he went out of his have to more than one bullet and he didn't just kill himself straight. He could have been waiting on Joker to find him out of bunk so he could have caused a scene (such as the loud rifle speech) and gained the attention of Hartman in an area where the other recruits would have less chance to protect him (in bed at night away from the bathroom) and chose the night Joker was on cause he felt he'd be the least likely to stop him (as he seemed to be the only one who was upset he died, thinner than Pyle, and him along with the other recruits may not have liked Hartman. Remember even R. Lee Ermey the actor/DI who played him said he was a bad DS). It ultimately ended with Pyle killing himself to end his mental suffering, avoid punishment and not have to go to war.
Alternatively, him loading more than one bullet could have meant that - if he had not been found - he would have left the head and simply shot whoever he saw. After all, all but Joker had ended up torturing him, so Joker being guard could have guaranteed him being the only one awake and standing, making him easy to recognize in a room full of sleeping people.