Initially posted on 9.4.15 but revised: I took part in a paintball game when I was working at Cannon Films in the summer of ’87. What happened was hugely embarassing, certainly from my vantage point
As we all know the basic objective in any paintball game is for somebody on your home team to steal the opposing team’s flag and make it back to your side without getting killed.
I had suggested a bold kamikaze strategy to my fellow warriors. Instead of individual skirmishing and taking cover behind trees and bushes while trying to “kill” guys on the other team, I suggested winning the battle in less than three or four minutes.
The idea was for nine or ten of us to charge into enemy territory as a tight group — a Toshiro Mifune-style flying wedge. Three guys on both sides (6), one guy in the lead forward-thrust position, another guy in the rear-center position, and a guy in the middle. We come out guns blazing and just go for it.
Shock and surprise on the part of the enemy, I was thinking. Five or six of us might get killed right away, but in the process they could also shoot back and kill some of the enemy. Hold the formation, hold the formation. There might be only four or five of us left when we grab their flag, but at least we’d have it and could run right the hell back.
I was basically suggesting an Inchon invasion strategy. Nobody plays paintball with this kind of Douglas MacArthur-style determination. If we do it immediately when the whistle sounds, the enemy will be so surprised and off-balance they won’t be able to kill us all. Perhaps half or even two thirds, but they wouldn’t get all of us and we could definitely inflict harm on them while capturing their banner.
Alas, my flying wedge idea wasn’t unanimously supported. It couldn’t work unless we were all on the same gung-ho page, so that was that.
Plus when you actually get out there with your paintball gun in that sticky and sweltering Los Angeles heat and you’re dealing with dust and sweat and the sobering fact that you’re not exactly Steve McQueen in Hell Is For Heroes, things are a little different.
The Cannon team lost that day, and I was one of the reasons.
I’m just going to spit this out. We were losing and I was in a bad position, surrounded by the opposing team and anxious and furious that we were getting clobbered, and in my haste and rage I saw someone suddenly appear in the corner of my left eye and I whipped around and fired. I shot one of our own guys. Actually it was a woman. I got her in the right thigh…thwack! She let go with a loud and angry “aah!” She was expressing two things: (1) “That hurts!” and (2) “You just shot someone on your team, asshole!”
I know that many thousands of U.S. soldiers have died from friendly fire over the years. One out of five World War II fatalites were from friendly fire, according to this chart. Close to 40% of Vietnam War casualties. Over 50% in the Persian Gulf conflict of the early ’90s. But it still feels shitty when you take out one of your own.