Thursday, August 13, 2009


Maybe you picked up the news in one of the trades. G.I. Joe is now a bigtime Hollywood movie. Cool. Yep. G.I. Joe, or rather, G.I.J.O.E. -- which per Variety will stand for "Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, an international co-ed force of operatives who use hi-tech equipment to battle Cobra, an evil organization headed by a double-crossing Scottish arms dealer." Based out of Brussels.

Isn’t that a boss name? Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity. Cool. Of course "Integrated" and "Joint" sort of mean the same thing. And for that matter "Global" and "Integrated Joint" more or less cover the same territory. And "Entity" is a little sci fi. And "Operating" -- sort of vague, don’t you think? Now that I think about it, it only sounds boss. Grasping Instrumentally Jaunty Organ Enthusiasts. Gonadally-Infected Jazz Orchestra Entrepreneurs. Gas-Inhaling Jellyfishoid Oceanic Exhaustpipes.

Paramount marketing outside of the US emphasizes the fact that G.I.J.O.E. is an international team of crack operatives and not some transplanted transgressing cowboy. The message, according to bigtime Hollywood elite director Stephen Sommers -- no doubt a pervert and a drug-user -- is that "this is not a George Bush movie — it's an Obama world. Right from the writing stage we said to ourselves, this can't be about beefy guys on steroids who all met each other in the Vietnam War, but an elite organization that's made up of the best of the best from around the world." Gooooo, globalism!

Alas. Alas. Y’see, there's a problem. G.I. stands for something. "Government Issue". It was stamped on American military equipment during WWII, and became synonymous with the men who used the equipment. Typical American self-deprecating humor. Ironic -- Americans are not government issued. Government is American issued. We get it, of course. That’s why we fight wars. It’s why we win wars. The Persians drove their solders into battle with whips. The Hellenes raced to see who would draw first blood. Slavery contrasted with Freedom.

"Joe," on the other hand, doesn’t stand for anything. Not in the specific. Generally, it’s an archetypal American name. Interchangeable -- most any man can step into it. Then again, I’m wrong. "Joe" does stand for something. It stands, specifically, for one single man, not named Joe. His name was Mitchell Paige. One-time Marine platoon sergeant. Retired as a Colonel. Died at age 85 in 2003.

When Hasbro, Inc. conceived the idea of making a doll for boys -- well, I said it right there, didn’t I. No dolls for boys. So it really had to be manly, this doll. Not a doll at all. An "Action Figure". And it needed a history, a connection to a hero, whose face they could model the figure after. Mitchell Paige. Of course G.I. Mitchell doesn’t sound all that manly. So, Joe.

Why Mitchell Paige?

The Marines were called to build in the grim days of 1942 an airfield on Guadalcanal, a malarial island strategically situated to protect Australia from Japanese attack. Thus, vital. They set up defenses against the expected onslaught of the Imperial Japanese forces.

Vin Suprynowicz tells of the late October night when Sgt. Paige and his 33 riflemen dug in on their anonymous hilltop with their four water-cooled .30-caliber Brownings, awaiting with their 2000 comrades the assault of perhaps 8000 Japanese infantrymen.

Paige’s position bore the brunt of the assault. During the night every one of his 33 men were killed or seriously wounded. Only Paige remained. He "moved up and down his line, pulling his dead and wounded comrades back into their foxholes and firing a few bursts from each of the four Brownings in turn, convincing the Japanese forces down the hill that the positions were still manned.

"The citation for Paige's Medal of Honor picks up the tale: ‘When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machine gun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire.’

"In the end, Sgt. Paige picked up the last of the 40-pound, belt-fed Brownings and did something for which the weapon was never designed. Sgt. Paige walked down the hill toward the place where he could hear the last Japanese survivors rallying to move around his flank, the belt-fed gun cradled under his arm, firing as he went. ..."

When dawn broke and the battle was done, on "a hill where the bodies were piled like cordwood, Mitchell Paige alone sat upright behind his 30-caliber Browning...

"And that's where the unstoppable wave of Japanese conquest finally crested, broke, and began to recede. On an unnamed jungle ridge on an insignificant island no one ever heard of, called Guadalcanal."

Ninety Marines were killed. "The American estimate of 2,200 Japanese dead is probably too low."

Some years later, in 1964, Hasbro gave Mitchell Paige a call, wondering if they might use his likeness on a doll. He would have thought they were mad. They were slick talkers, though, because they convinced him. He had one condition. "That G.I. Joe must always remain a United States Marine."

There must have been no actual contract, because G.I. Joe is no longer a Marine. He's a Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity. No contract -- only someone’s word of honor.

You can’t guarantee honor. Not unless you’re a man like Mitchell Paige.



Will C. said...

Thanks for reposting this now that the movie is out. You should add how the director in an interview stated that this was definetly not a "George Bush movie" but more like an "Obama world". What an idiot. And for that matter what is an Obamaworld exactly, where every contry apologizes profusely? Nah...won't be seeing it now for sure. But it'll probably play well in Europe.

Jack H said...

Third paragraph, m'lad. Bases covered.

Obamaworld -- wasn't that a song about a doll a few years back?