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John James Rambo is a fictional character and the basis of the Rambo saga. He first appeared in the 1972 novel First Blood by David Morrell, but later became more famous in the film series, played by Sylvester Stallone.


Early life

John Rambo was born on July 6, 1947 in Bowie, Arizonamarker to a Native American (Navajo) father (R. Rambo according to the last film) and an Italian American mother (Marie Dragoo). However, in Rambo: First Blood Part II, Marshall Murdock states that Rambo is of American Indian/German descent. Rambo graduated from Rangeford High School, and then was drafted into the United States Army at the age of 17 on June 8, 1964. He was deployed to South Vietnam in September 1966. He returned to the U.S. in 1967 and began training in the Special Forces (Green Berets) at Fort Bragg, North Carolinamarker. In late 1969, Rambo was re-deployed to Vietnam. In November 1971, he was captured by North Vietnamese forces near the Chinese-Vietnamese border and held at a POW camp, where he and other American POWs were repeatedly tortured. Rambo escaped captivity in May 1972, but was then re-deployed.

Upon his return to the U.S., Rambo discovered that many American civilians hated the returning soldiers, and he himself was subject to humiliation and embarrassment by having anti-war "hippies" throw garbage at him, call him "baby killer", and exclude him from society. His experiences in Vietnam and back home resulted in an extreme case of post-traumatic stress disorder. At the same time, inner questions of self identity and reflectiveness cause Rambo to lash out at society rather than handling difficult situations in a "civilized" manner. This is where First Blood picks up from.

First Blood


John Rambo in 1982, after returning to civilian life.
The film First Blood takes place in December 1982, and begins with John Rambo (now a homeless, out-of-work drifter) searching for Delmore Barry, an old friend who he served with in Vietnam. He goes to Barry's home but is told by his mother that he died from cancer due to Agent Orange exposure. This means that Rambo is now the last surviving member of his Special Forces unit (besides Colonel Samuel Trautman). He then travels to the small town of Hope, Washingtonmarker, where he is quickly spotted by the town's overzealous and paranoid sheriff, Will Teasle, due to his long hair, military-style coat and all round scruffy appearance. Teasle soon picks him up and drives him to the edge of town, while stressing his dislike of drifters and "trouble makers". However it is actually the fact that Rambo has some details such as his jacket that shows he is from Vietnam and is getting so much attention (even though it's not pleasurable attention), in wich Will was a soldier in the Korean War and is a forgotten veteran (who received the Distinguished Service Cross). So Rambo begins heading back into town immediately after being dropped off, and Teasle then arrests him and takes him to the local police station. When searching Rambo, Teasle discovers a large hunting knife on Rambo's belt. At the station, the Deputy Sheriff, Art Galt, harassed and beat Rambo, who began having flashbacks to the war. When officers attempt to dry shave him, Rambo finally snaps and fights his way out of the station, retrieving his knife. Outside, he hijacks a motorcycle from a man driving past and flees into the nearby mountains while being pursued by Teasle in his police car. Teasle crashes his car, however, and Rambo escapes. More officers are called in for assistance, while Rambo abandons his motorcycle and makes his way into the deep terrain on foot. While climbing down a steep cliff face, he is spotted by a search helicopter with Galt in the passenger's seat. Galt fires at him a number of times with his rifle, and Rambo is forced to jump from the cliff, landing amongst some trees. He begins throwing rocks at the helicopter, and while the pilot swerves to avoid them, Galt is thrown to his death.

Teasle then leads his inexperienced deputies into the woods, who become less confident upon learning of Rambo's combat experience. Rambo quickly disables the small, disorganized team using guerrilla tactics and booby traps, severely wounding — but not killing — the deputies. In the chaos, Rambo isolates and confronts Teasle with a knife to the throat. "Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe. Let it go", he warns, before disappearing into the woods. The National Guard are called in and a base camp is assembled near the site. Colonel Samuel Trautman soon arrives, who takes credit for training Rambo. He is surprised to find any of the deputies still alive, and warns that it would be safer to let Rambo go and find him after the situation has calmed down. Teasle refuses to give in, however. Eventually, Rambo becomes trapped when the National Guardsmen corner him in an abandoned mine. They fire a rocket launcher into the face of the mine, collapsing it. They assume that Rambo is dead, but he actually has made his way through the tunnels of the mine and escaped through an exit near a main road. Once out, Rambo hijacks an Army truck and drives it back into town, crashing into a gas station. After stealing an M60-machine-gun, he lights the spilling petrol on fire and destroys a number of other shops before making his way to the police station where Teasle is hiding on the roof.

There, a gun fight ensues between the two before Teasle falls through the roof. Rambo then prepares to kill him but Trautman appears and stops him from doing so. He tells him that there is no hope of escaping alive. Rambo, now surrounded by the police, rages about the horrors of war, and the difficulties he has faced adapting to civilian life. He weeps as he recounts a particularly gruesome story about witnessing his friend's death. Rambo then turns himself in to Trautman, and is arrested.


The original novel is nearly similar to its film adaptation, but contains several notable differences.

In the novel, Rambo is hitch hiking in Madison, Kentucky. He is picked up by Sheriff Teasle and dropped off at the city limits. Repeatedly coming back, Teasle arrests him and drives him to the station. He is charged with vagrancy and resisting arrest and is sentenced to 35 days in jail. Being trapped inside the cold, wet, small cells gives Rambo a flashback of his days as a POW in Vietnam, and he fights off the cops as they attempt to cut his hair and shave him, beating one man and slashing another with the straight razor. He flees, steals a motorcycle, and hides in the nearby mountains. He becomes the focus of a manhunt that results in the deaths of many police officers and National Guardsmen.

In a climactic ending in the town where his conflict with Teasle began, Rambo is finally hunted down by Special Forces Colonel Trautman and Teasle. Teasle, using his local knowledge, manages to surprise Rambo and shoots him in the chest, but is himself wounded in the stomach by a return shot. He then tries to pursue Rambo as he makes a final attempt to escape back out of the town. Both men are essentially dying by this point, but are driven by pride and a desire to justify their actions. Rambo, having found a spot he feels comfortable in, prepares to commit suicide by detonating a stick of dynamite against his body; however, he then sees Teasle following his trail and decides that it would be more honourable to continue fighting and be killed by Teasle's return fire.

Rambo fires at Teasle and, to his surprise and disappointment, hits him. For a moment he reflects on how he had missed his chance of a decent death, because he is now too weak to light the dynamite, but then suddenly feels the explosion he had expected - but in the head, not the stomach where the dynamite was placed. Rambo dies satisfied that he has come to a fitting end. Trautman returns to the dying Teasle and tells him that he has killed Rambo with his shotgun.

Rambo: First Blood Part II

After the incident in Washington, John Rambo was sent to a labour camp prison. At the beginning of Rambo: First Blood Part II (set in 1985), he was visited by Colonel Samuel Trautman who offered him the chance to be released from prison if he went to Vietnammarker to search for American POWs. He accepts and later meets with Marshal Murdock, an American bureaucrat who is in charge of the operation. He tells Rambo that he is only to photograph the POWs and not to rescue them, nor is he to engage any enemy soldiers. Rambo reluctantly agrees and he is then told that an agent of the American government will be there to receive him in the jungles of Vietnam. He is then parachuted into the Vietnamese jungles. However, while parachuting, he loses some of his equipment and is left with only his knives, his bow, and arrows. On the ground, he met with Co Bau, a local woman working with the Americans. She takes him to a POW camp where he is able to rescue a captive. However, escaping requires him to kill a number of enemy soldiers with his bow. The trio then escape by boat but are attacked by a gunboat. Rambo destroys the gunboat with a rocket-launcher. When Rambo calls for extraction, he is denied as Murdock fears what will happen to him and his party if the American public come to know about it. After the violence at the camp and on the river, Sovietmarker and Vietnamese troops were scrambled to search and kill Rambo. In order to get out of the country, Rambo must go to a nearby military base, kill almost everyone there and steal a helicopter. After this, he flies back to the POW camp where he killed the remaining guards and picked up the captives in the chopper. Whilst flying to Thailandmarker, another Soviet attack helicopter tailed Rambo's. After being shot down, Rambo shot the pilot of the other helicopter which had landed.

Rambo then returned to the base and, using the M60E3 machine gun from the helicopter, destroyed Murdock's command center. He then unsheathes his knife and threatens Murdock to find and rescue the remaining American POWs in Vietnam. Trautman then comforts Rambo and tries to pacify him. Rambo however gets angry and says that he only wants his country to love its soldiers as much as its soldiers love it. Rambo then moves towards an unknown destination. Trautman asks him: "How will you live, John?" To which Rambo replies: "Day by day". The film ends as Rambo walks off into the distance while his mentor watches him.

Rambo III

The film opens with Colonel Samuel Trautman returning to Thailandmarker to once again enlist the help of Rambo. After witnessing Rambo's victory in a stick-fighting match, Trautman visits the construction site of the temple Rambo is helping to build and asks Rambo to join him on a mission to Afghanistanmarker. The mission is meant to supply weapons, including FIM-92 Stinger missiles, to Afghan rebels, the Mujahideen, who are fighting the Sovietsmarker in the Soviet-Afghan War. Despite showing him photos of civilians suffering under Soviet military intervention, Rambo refuses and Trautman chooses to go on his own.

While in Afghanistan, Trautman's troops are ambushed by Soviet troops while passing through the mountains at night. Trautman is imprisoned in a Soviet base and coerced for information by Colonel Zaysen and his henchman Kourov. Rambo learns of the incident from embassy field officer Robert Griggs and convinces Griggs to take him through an unofficial operation, despite Grigg's warning that the U.S. government will deny any knowledge of his actions if killed or caught. Rambo immediately flies to Pakistan where he meets up with Mousa, a weapons supplier who agrees to take him to a village deep in the Afghan desert, close to the Soviet base where Trautman is kept. The Mujahideen in the village are already hesitant to help Rambo in the first place, but are definitely convinced not to help him when their village is attacked by Soviet helicopters after one of Mousa's shop assistants has informed the Soviets of Rambo's presence. Aided only by Mousa and a young boy named Hamid, Rambo makes his way to the Soviet base and starts his attempts to free Trautman. The first attempt is unsuccessful and results not only in Hamid getting shot in the leg, but also in Rambo himself getting wood shrapnel in the side. After escaping from the base, Rambo tends to Hamid's wounds and sends him and Mousa away to safety.

The next day, Rambo returns to the base once again, just in time to rescue Trautman from being tortured with a blow-torch. After rescuing several other prisoners, Rambo steals a helicopter and escapes from the base. However, the helicopter soon crashes and Rambo and Trautman are forced to continue on foot. After a confrontation in a cave, where Rambo and Trautman eliminate several Soviet Spetsnaz commandos including Kourov, they are confronted by an entire army of Soviet tanks, headed by Zaysen. Just as they are about to be overwhelmed by the might of the Red Army, the Mujahideen warriors, together with Mousa and Hamid, ride onto the battlefield by the hundreds in a cavalry charge, overwhelming the Communists. In the ensuing battle, in which both Trautman and John are wounded, Rambo manages to kill Zaysen by driving a tank into the Russian's helicopter. Rambo survives the explosion and gets out of the tank. At the end of the battle Rambo and Trautman say goodbye to their Mujahideen friends and leave Afghanistan to go home.


The film opens with newsreels of the crisis in Burma. Burmamarker (now known as Myanmar) is under the iron fist rule of Than Shwe and takes harsher stances against the nation's pro-democracy movement. Rebels are thrown into a mine-infested marsh and then gunned down by the Tatmadaw, while the Burmese military officer Major Pa Tee Tint gazes grimly at the scene.

Former U.S. soldier John Rambo is still living in Thailandmarker and resides in a village near the Burmese border. He makes a living capturing snakes and selling them in a nearby village. He also transports roamers in his boat. A missionary, Michael Burnett, asks Rambo to take him and his associates up the Salween Rivermarker to Burma on a humanitarian mission to give aid to Karen tribespeople. Rambo refuses but is convinced by Sarah Miller to take them.

The boat is stopped by pirates who demand Sarah in exchange for passage. After negotiations fail, Rambo kills them all. Although his actions save the missionaries, it greatly disturbs them. Upon arrival, Michael says that they will travel by road and will not need Rambo's help for the return trip. The mission goes well until the Tatmadaw, led by Major Tint, attack. They kill most of the villagers and two missionaries and kidnap the rest, including Michael and Sarah. When the missionaries fail to come back after ten days, their pastor comes to ask Rambo's help in guiding hired mercenaries to the village where the missionaries were last seen.

Rambo agrees to accompany the soldiers. After seeing the destroyed village, they plan to save the hostages at a P.O.W. camp. Rambo helps Sarah and the others to escape. The Tatmadaw unit finds the hostages missing and organizes a massive manhunt. Everyone except for Rambo, Sarah, and the mercenary "School Boy" is captured. Just as the group is to be executed, Rambo seizes a truck-mounted .50-caliber machine gun and engages the Burmese army. Karen rebels join the fight to help Rambo and the mercenaries win. Major Tint attempts to get away, but is personally disemboweled by Rambo.

Encouraged by Sarah's words, Rambo returns to the United Statesmarker. A silent last scene shows him walking along a rural highway, past a horse farm and a rusted mailbox bearing the name "R. Rambo." (When previously asked if he had any living family, Rambo said his father might still be alive.) He makes his way down the gravel driveway as the credits roll.

Rambo V

On September 4th 2009, it was reported by Harry Knowles (after a conversation over the phone with Stallone) that the story of Rambo V has been changed. This plot takes place: in the Pacific Northwest where there is a U.S. Military installation that is doing experiments on elite soldiers as part of some sort of program where they're attempting to tap into that SAVAGERY that we have deeply embedded into us. The plan is create brilliantly instinctual killer soldiers that have no qualms about taking life. Sly brought up the ancient Immortals, which were cartoonishly glimpsed in 300. They were children trained from the time they were infants to kill.

The experiment is a success but then goes wrong, after the soldiers escape. Rambo is brought in with a Black Ops squad to hunt, capture or kill the blood thirsty soldiers.


In First Blood is mentioned: Per dialogue in Rambo: First Blood Part II, during his Vietnam era service, Rambo was awarded: In a deleted scene from Rambo III, Rambo's "Class A" uniform can clearly be seen with the following 13 ribbons:

In a measure of discontinuity within the storyline, Rambo's Silver Stars and Distinguished Service Cross were missing from his ribbon rack as well as the National Defense Medal and the Good Conduct Medal, both of which he would have been awarded.

Various special duty badges can also be seen on Rambo's "Class A" uniform, including:

Additionally, in this same scene, Rambo's Social Security Number is revealed: 936-01-1758. However, the Social Security Administration does not issue a SSN with the prefix 936. Citizens in Arizona, Rambo's home state, are issued SSNs with the prefixes 526-527, 600-601, and 764-765. This was probably done to avoid the chances that Rambo's fictional SSN would match that of a real living person.


David Morrell says that in choosing the name Rambo he was inspired by "the sound of force" in the name of Rambo apples, which he encountered in Pennsylvania. Peter Gunnarsson Rambo sailed from Sweden to New Sweden (SE Pennsylvania/Southern NJ/Northern Delaware) in the 1640s, and soon the name would flourish in New Sweden. Today, many of his descendants can still be found in this region of the US. Morrell felt that its pronunciation was similar to the surname of Arthur Rimbaud, the title of whose most famous work A Season in Hell, seemed to him "an apt metaphor for the prisoner-of-war experiences that I imagined Rambo suffering".


In all four films, Rambo is portrayed by Sylvester Stallone, and he will reprise the role in the upcoming fifth film. In the animated TV series, the character is voiced by Neil Ross.




Video games

Television series


External links


  2. Where did you come up with the name Rambo?, David Morrell's FAQ on his website, accessed February 17, 2008

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