One thing comic fans notice in the film American Sniper is that Chris Kyle and his group of American Soldiers often don gear and equipment bearing the symbol of the Marvel character the Punisher. The symbol is known as the death's head and is a jawless, white skull with long teeth.
Having seen and enjoyed the film I became interested in the use of the Punisher symbol. I began researching how the symbol was used, and to see if Chris really was a fan of the Punisher. In my research I came across all kinds of stuff. Chris has become a beacon for those who support the Iraq War and those who do not. My take is that turning the film or worse the man, Chris Kyle into a symbol for the war is erroneous and borderline offensive. I understand those who criticize the war, but you should be targeting George Bush, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld that ordered soldiers like Chris to go to war not Chris for fighting in it. Nuff Said on this.
The Punisher Symbol use in the military:
Skulls have long been a part of military symbolism. A great article on its uses over time can be found Here (Specialforces Newsletter)
The use of the Punisher symbol specifically seemed to begin during the Iraq War.
Deuce Four Skull of 24th Regiment:
The Deuce Four Skull became the unofficial symbol and calling card of the 24th infantry regiment during operation Iraqi Free. The Deuce Four symbol appears to be nearly an exact copy of the Punisher emblem with a 2 and 4 added into its forehead. Members of the regiment are said to have adorned themselves with the symbol and marked buildings where they had fought and killed enemy combatants. The symbol made them one of the most infamous and feared groups during the Iraqi War.
Punisher Skull by Seal Team 3
Seal Team 3 which Chris Kyle was a part of also adopted the Punisher Skull symbol.
Daily Mail noted that,“the members of the unit adopted the white skull of the gun-wielding comic book vigilante The Punisher. They painted the symbol on their body armor, their vehicles and even their weapons.”
The New Yorker noted that Chris Kyle went beyond liking the symbol, “Kyle seemed to consider himself a cross between a lawman and an executioner. His platoon had spray-painted the image of the Punisher—a Marvel Comics character who wages ‘a one-man war upon crime’—on their flak jackets and helmets.” When Chris created his own company Craft International LLC the company used a similar skull logo. The group that Chris Kyle fought with also called themselves the Punishers. In his autobiography Chris Kyle's said he confronted other American groups attempting to use the symbol, “We told them we are the Punishers. They had to get their own symbol,”
Punisher Symbol in Iraqi Armed Forces
|Iraqi Fighter preparing Tikrit|
The use of Punisher Symbol is now being used by Iraqi Armed Forces as well as Shiite Militias
Some of these forces may use it to pay homage to US Platoon the Punishers or at least draw upon their infamy. Most likely they just appropriated because it looked cool and intimidating.
Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher at the Philadelphia-based think tank Middle East Forum pointed out that the use of Punisher symbol by Iraqi Armed forces paralleled its use by Shiite Milities.
The Iraqi Shiite militia Faylaq al-Wa'ad al Sadiq uses a symbol of American origins as well. They use an emblem based off the Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima. Tamimi commented on the group saying they were “ as anti-American as you can get. It was a proxy group set up to attack U.S. forces in the days of the Iraq war,” ...‘I think they come to the point where they forget about the American connection and they just see these as general symbols of military might and strength.”
Reasons for popularity in the US Military:
The Punisher is a popular character in the American Military. The reasons for this are many. On his face the Punisher character was trained in the military, and uses military weapons and tactics to defeat his foes. These attributes immediately synchronize the armed forces with the character.
There is also a philosophical synchronicity. The Punisher goes after the bad guys with violence. His ethos is that there is a time and place for violence. Violence can be used to help protect the innocent from the bad guys. This is very similar to the Sheepdog philosophy preached by Chris Kyle in the American Sniper Film. In this philosophy he breaks down the world into sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. Sheep are those people who are essentially good but unable to defend themselves. The wolves are those capable of violence and use it to prey on the sheep. The sheep dog is what Chris tells his kids they should aspire to be. The sheep dog is capable of violence but uses it to defend itself and the sheep from the wolves. The Punisher and Sheep Dogs seem to have a lot in common.
Beyond the this there is the fact that the Punisher is a bad ass and soldiers naturally flock to bad asses. The symbol is scary and intimidating looking and that always makes for a good symbol when going to war.
Chris Kyle and the Punisher
It is hard to say how much Chris read Punisher. There is a moment in the film where he speaks to a soldier reading a Punisher comic. He also could have seen one of the films representing the character. From the use of the symbol by his platoon and company it is very clear that he was aware of who the Punisher was and what he was about.
From Chris Kyle's autobiography he wrote the following on the Punisher:
“He righted wrongs. He killed bad guys. He made wrongdoers fear him,”... “We spray-painted it on our Hummers and body armor, and our helmets and all our guns. We spray-painted it on every building or wall we could, We wanted people to know, We’re here and we want to f**k with you.”
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