counter create hit A Rumor of War - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

A Rumor of War

Availability: Ready to download

The 40th-anniversary edition of the classic Vietnam memoir—featured in the PBS documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick—with a new foreword by Kevin Powers. In March of 1965, Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo landed at Danang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history’s ugl The 40th-anniversary edition of the classic Vietnam memoir—featured in the PBS documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick—with a new foreword by Kevin Powers. In March of 1965, Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo landed at Danang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history’s ugliest wars, he returned home—physically whole but emotionally wasted, his youthful idealism forever gone. A Rumor of War is far more than one soldier’s story. Upon its publication in 1977, it shattered America’s indifference to the fate of the men sent to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. In the years since then, it has become not only a basic text on the Vietnam War but also a renowned classic in the literature of wars throughout history and, as the author writes, of "the things men do in war and the things war does to them." "Heartbreaking, terrifying, and enraging. It belongs to the literature of men at war."--Los Angeles Times Book Review


Compare
Ads Banner

The 40th-anniversary edition of the classic Vietnam memoir—featured in the PBS documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick—with a new foreword by Kevin Powers. In March of 1965, Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo landed at Danang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history’s ugl The 40th-anniversary edition of the classic Vietnam memoir—featured in the PBS documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick—with a new foreword by Kevin Powers. In March of 1965, Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo landed at Danang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history’s ugliest wars, he returned home—physically whole but emotionally wasted, his youthful idealism forever gone. A Rumor of War is far more than one soldier’s story. Upon its publication in 1977, it shattered America’s indifference to the fate of the men sent to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. In the years since then, it has become not only a basic text on the Vietnam War but also a renowned classic in the literature of wars throughout history and, as the author writes, of "the things men do in war and the things war does to them." "Heartbreaking, terrifying, and enraging. It belongs to the literature of men at war."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

30 review for A Rumor of War

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Putnam

    Full five stars on this one. I'm always foraging around in the back lists for a good book to read and hit the jackpot on this one. Sometimes the Pulitzer prize winners are a little too snooty for me and can't get out of the way of themselves. But every now and then I find a real beaut. This is one of those. I can see how the topic, The Vietnam war, would not be for everyone but it intrigues me. My favorites on the subject so far are The 13th Valley by Del Vecchio and Matterhorn by Marlante (wond Full five stars on this one. I'm always foraging around in the back lists for a good book to read and hit the jackpot on this one. Sometimes the Pulitzer prize winners are a little too snooty for me and can't get out of the way of themselves. But every now and then I find a real beaut. This is one of those. I can see how the topic, The Vietnam war, would not be for everyone but it intrigues me. My favorites on the subject so far are The 13th Valley by Del Vecchio and Matterhorn by Marlante (wonderful books don't miss this one either). A Rumor of War just shouldered it's way above these. It's an amazing read. If you could wash the words off the page, they'd clog the drain, fat and luscious without being pretentious. What makes this book great is Caputo's unflinching description of his emotions, raw, innocent, and too real. I can see how this one won the Pulitzer. David Putnam Author of The Bruno Johnson series.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    After recently having the pleasure of the powerful big-picture view of the Vietnam War in Burns and Novick’s masterful documentary, I found compelled to get immersed in more details of the soldier’s experience in Vietnam. It has been a long time since I enjoyed books by Herr, O’Brien, Del Vecchio, and Marlantes. The variety in these memoirs and fictional portrayals makes it clear how complex the issues are, both in the general topic of men at war and the situation of different people at differen After recently having the pleasure of the powerful big-picture view of the Vietnam War in Burns and Novick’s masterful documentary, I found compelled to get immersed in more details of the soldier’s experience in Vietnam. It has been a long time since I enjoyed books by Herr, O’Brien, Del Vecchio, and Marlantes. The variety in these memoirs and fictional portrayals makes it clear how complex the issues are, both in the general topic of men at war and the situation of different people at different times and locations during the war. Here we get a memoir from the early part of the war. Caputo grew up in a suburb of Chicago and was a student at Loyola University when he was recruited by the Marines in 1960. After substantial training at Quantico and achieving status as a lieutenant, he was shipped to Danang among the first waves of Johnson’s build-up in 1965. He digs deep to portray his path to gaining his platoon’s trust and expertise enough to survive, and even enjoy, the organized savagery of war. Slowly he gets jaded from the futility of long defensive duties, dangerous patrols with frequent small skirmishes, and rare pitched battles for territory often abandoned soon after securing. Caputo clearly has talent in telling engaging stories and conveying the “band of brothers” sense of fighting for your own fellow soldiers. Because this was completed about 10 years after his time there (he was also to return at the final stages of America’s role there as a war correspondent), the account seems to include premature wisdom on his part that the war was not winnable. That conclusion may have been in the mind of the President and top advisors by 1966, but Marlantes complained in the PBS documentary how he had to learn about that twisted outlook the hard way after he arrived in 1968. Caputo experienced the beginning of the McNamara and Westmoreland’s policy of judging daily progress in the war by body counts and ratios of enemy to American deaths, but the whole scam of inflated figures I believe took longer to emerge. He also sees the beginnings of casual killing of civilians by a growing minority of soldiers. Once a soldier has experienced the death of buddies from snipers or mines, the frustration of not being able to distinguish innocent peasants from Viet Cong was too much to put a governor on the outlet of violent action. The honesty of Caputo stands out where it comes to his own crossing of moral boundaries. From small personal intuition and comments of one native under interrogation, he is sure at one point that he knows the identity of a couple of VC in the nearby village. When he can’t persuade his superiors of this truth, he persuades men under him to kidnap the suspects, and once they are confined get the informant to openly ID them. Unfortunately, his men have a hair-trigger over resistance, and they end up killing two men, one of which turns out to be the informant. Long before atrocities like Mei Lai came to pass, we see in his arrest for murder a nice example of the military trying to do the right thing. Needless to say, the charge soon gets reduced to minor infraction, but one that ends his service in combat. Caputo is forgiving of himself (which some readers may object to). The calculus of morality is to him makes these accidental deaths on the same scale as deaths of civilians after a mortar attack or tactical bombing (though different from the mindless slaughter of civilians with the massive bombings later in the war). In sum, this war memoir is a well written, accessible, and revelatory account of the early experience of regular combat soldiers in Vietnam. It makes a perfect complement to watching the PBS series.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I have just finished experiencing this book for the second time. The first time I read it in the standard book format six years ago although this book was first published in 1977 and was immediately hailed as a star of the then beginning of Vietnam as a popular topic. There are 3500 books about Vietnam in 1996 according to author Caputo in the post script to this book. Six years after first reading it I have now almost totally moved into the Kindle and Audible world of book rating. This audible I have just finished experiencing this book for the second time. The first time I read it in the standard book format six years ago although this book was first published in 1977 and was immediately hailed as a star of the then beginning of Vietnam as a popular topic. There are 3500 books about Vietnam in 1996 according to author Caputo in the post script to this book. Six years after first reading it I have now almost totally moved into the Kindle and Audible world of book rating. This audible book goes quickly and is captivating as the story of one person who went to the war in Asia in it’s very beginning in 1965. He was there for 16 months and left after a military murder case against him was dropped. I had forgotten that part of the book amazingly enough. He next return to Vietnam in 1975 as a journalist and was there when Saigon fell. And the post script in 1996 tells more about The story of writing the book and it’s 1977 release to extreme adulation. This book does not pretend to be history. It has nothing to do with politics, power, strategy, national interests, or foreign policy; nor is it an indictment of the great men who lead us into Indochina and whose mistakes were paid for with the blood of some quite ordinary men. In a general sense, it is simply a story about war, about the things men do in war and the things war does to them. More strictly, it is a soldier’s account of our longest conflict, the only one we have ever lost, as well as the record of a long and sometimes painful personal experience. A Rumor of War was published in 1977, two years after the Vietnam War ended in April 1975 with the U.S. fleeing in the face of advancing North Vietnamese forces. (In Vietnam it was called the American War.) Two years is a short time for the healing of wounds so some of the wounds detailed in this book are still ugly and bloody. This is a personal story of a boy becoming a man, a boy who volunteered to become a Marine, seeing it as his patriotic duty, and became a man in the process. He came home from the war jaded and disillusioned and against the war. I was involved in the antiwar movement at the time and struggles, unsuccessfully, to reconcile my opposition to the war with the nostalgia. Later, I realized a reconciliation was impossible; I would never be able to hate the war with anything like the undiluted passion of my friends in the movement. Because I had fought in it, it was not an abstract issue, but a deeply emotionally experience, the most significant thing that had happened to me. It held my thoughts, senses, and feelings in an unbreakable embrace. I would hear in thunder the roar of artillery. I could not listen to the rain without recalling those drenched nights on the line, nor walk through woods without instinctively searching for a trip wire or an ambush. I could protest as loudly as the most convinced activist, but I could not deny the grip the war had on me, nor the fact that it had been an experience as fascinating as it was repulsive, as exhilarating as it was sad, as tender as it was cruel. Ordinary men became crazed killers under the right conditions: Weeks of bottled-up tensions would be released in a few minutes of orgiastic violence, men screaming and shouting obscenities above the explosions of grenades and the rapid, ripping bursts of automatic rifles. . . . He and Peterson try to stop the destruction, but it is no use: 3rd platoon seems to have gone crazy. They destroy with uncontrolled fury. At last it is over. The hamlet which is marked on our maps as Giao-Tri (3) no longer exists. All that remains are piles of smoldering ash and a few charred poles still standing. . . . With the mud, heat, leeches, and clawing thorns, and the risk of a wounded VC lobbing a grenade from his hiding place, the mood of the company turned savage. This was especially true of 1st platoon; they had done the actual killing, and once men begin killing it is not easy to stop them. . . . An enormous amount of blood had poured out of him and he was lying in it, a crimson puddle in which floated bits of skin and white cartilage. There was nothing on him, no photographs, no letters or identification. That would disappoint the boys at intelligence, but it was fine with me. I wanted this boy to remain anonymous; I wanted to think of him, not as a dead human being, with a name, age, and family, but as a dead enemy. That made everything easier. . . . We didn’t say to ourselves, We’ve been under fire, we’ve shed blood, now we’re men. We were simply aware, in a way we could not express, that something significant had happened to us. . . . Men were killed, evacuated with wounds, or rotated home at a constant rate, then replaced by other men who were killed, evacuated, or rotated in their turn. By that time, a loss only meant a gap in the line that needed filling. I like some books so much that I could quote the entire book and call it a review. This is one of those books. One good paragraph after another, page after page. What could there possibly be about war that could make such good copy? How do you tell parents that all the years that they had spent raising and educating their son were for nothing? Wasted. In that war, soldier’s slang for death was “wasted.” So-and-so was wasted. It was a good word. Author Caputo actually lived this book; it is nonfiction, a memoir. A memoir. That almost makes it sound literary rather than horrific. After some months in the rear, safe from bullets and booby-traps, Caputo asked to be sent back to the front line. He tired of compiling casualty reports – the daily dead and wounded – but why would someone put themselves in harm’s way again? I was sure that another few months of identifying bodies would land me in a psychiatric ward. On staff, there was too much time to brood over those corpses; there would be very little time to think in a line company. That is the secret to emotional survival in war, not thinking. Finally, there was hatred, a hatred buried so deep that I could not then admit its existence. I can now, though it is still painful. I burned with a hatred for the Viet Cong and with an emotion that dwells in most of us, one closer to the surface than we care to admit: a desire for retribution. I did not hate the enemy for their politics, but for murdering Simpson, for executing that boy whose body had been found in the river, for blasting the life out of Walt Levy. Revenge was one of the reasons I volunteered for a line company. I wanted a chance to kill somebody. Can you dig it? Caputo tells it like it is. In the patriotic fervor of the Kennedy years, we had asked, “What can we do for our country?” and our country answered, “Kill VC.” That was the strategy, the best that our best military minds could come up with: organized butchery. But organized or not, butchery was butchery, so who was to speak of rules and ethics in a war that had none? . . . … he asked how I liked Saigon. I said that I liked it very much. It was a beautiful city when you compared it to the mess in the countryside. “Yes, you are right,” he said sadly. “There is something wrong with the country. I think it is the war.” If you are fighting in a war, you think about death. And if you are writing a book about fighting in a war, you write about thinking about death. Thousands of people died each week in the war, and the sum of all their deaths did not make any difference. The war went on without them, and as it went on without them, so would it go on without me. My death would not alter a thing. Walking down the trail, I could not remember having a felt an emotion more sublime or liberating than that indifference toward my own death. The men like Philip Caputo who write the books like A Rumor of War are the ones who live to tell the story. How many likely authors die with war stories unwritten? How many war stories are untold by the thousands of men of come home damaged and remain mute for the rest of their lives? How many men can honestly tell of the atrocities they have themselves committed? Then it happened. The platoon exploded. It was a collective emotional detonation of men who had been pushed to the extremity of endurance. I lost control of them and even myself. Desperate to get to the hill, we rampaged through the rest of the village, whooping like savages, torching thatch huts, tossing grenades into the cement houses we could not burn. In our frenzy, we crashed through the hedgerows without feeling the stabs of the thorns. We did not feel anything. We were past feeling anything for ourselves, let alone for others. We shut our ears to the cries and pleas of the villagers. One elderly man ran up to me, and, grabbing me by the front of my shirt, asked, “Tai Sao? Tai Sao?” Why? Why? This is what an ashamed Philip Caputo was to write when he had survived the rampage. After their time in Vietnam, soldiers voluntarily came to testify at public hearings and at the Winter Soldier Investigations to committing atrocities in the war. A Rumor of War has something of a Hollywood conclusion. Caputo, a military officer, and five other soldiers are charged with murder for the killing of two young South Vietnamese men who were mistakenly thought to be Viet Cong. He is guilty but the charges are eventually dropped and he leaves Vietnam having traveled the distance from being an patriotic idealist about the war to being an antiwar protestor. I find I need to regularly remind myself that this story is nonfiction. I cannot give this book less than five stars. It makes it as clear as any book I have read that the American War in Vietnam made criminals of many young Americans who followed leaders down an immoral path. A few days later, Neal told me and the other officers that he was adopting a new policy: from now on, any marine in the company who killed a confirmed Viet Cong would be given an extra beer ration and the time to drink it. Because our men were so exhausted, we knew the promise of time off would be as great an inducement as the extra ration of beer. So we went along with the captain’s policy, without reflecting on its moral implications. That is the level to which we had sunk from the lofty idealism of a year before. We were going to kill people for a few cans of beer and the time to drink them. Definitely five stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    El

    I've talked before about a class I took in high school that didn't feel completely worthless the way a lot of my other classes did. I took that class because one of my brothers took it the first year it was offered and I remember thinking, "Man, when I'm a Senior, I hope that class is still offered." Because there was a tradition of my brothers getting to take cool classes (like Latin) or having cool teachers (and I'd get the crazy assholes) and then the classes and teachers not existing by the I've talked before about a class I took in high school that didn't feel completely worthless the way a lot of my other classes did. I took that class because one of my brothers took it the first year it was offered and I remember thinking, "Man, when I'm a Senior, I hope that class is still offered." Because there was a tradition of my brothers getting to take cool classes (like Latin) or having cool teachers (and I'd get the crazy assholes) and then the classes and teachers not existing by the time I get there a couple years later. The US/Vietnam Experience was still offered when I was a Senior and it was a heart-breaking and hard class to take. But I will never forget it. A Rumor of War was a book I took from my brother's shelf some time after we were both in college and he no longer had any need for it. He read this book for the class when he took it, and I was the sort of person who liked to read all the books my older brothers were reading. Even if, as in this case, it's years later. This is not an easy book to read. The book is split into three parts: the first details Caputo's reasons for joining the Marines in the first place and his training. The second part focuses on the unfortunate desk job Caputo held recording casualties. I will now probably forever think about that position any time (like every day) when I whine about my own job which is more in line of helping keep people alive rather than having to write down the disturbing details of young people killed in action. The third part is about Caputo's reassignment to a rifle company. This last section is, not surprisingly, the most difficult to read. Not only is it bloody and honest, there are also bureaucratic frustrations that I'm aware the conflict was rife with. Reading about bureaucracy is about as much fun for me as watching it go on around me. I'm glad to have finally read this book. I remember my brother being greatly affected by it when he read it in high school, and I can see why, especially considering he's a bit more sensitive than even I am (which is saying a lot). In many ways I'm glad I waited until now to read this book; had I read it in high school I would likely have not understood as much or had the right amount of focus to give to it. Now as an adult I read it and think this is one of those books that more people should read so they have a better understanding as to what happened in Vietnam. Yes, this is one man's memoir of his experiences which, I learned from that class in school, is not universal. But it's a start in the right direction on the road of understanding So much was lost with you, so much talent and intelligence and decency. You were the first from our class of 1964 to die. There were others, but you were the first and more: you embodied the best that was in us. You were a part of us, and a part of us died with you, the small part that was still young, that had not yet grown cynical, grown bitter and old with death. Your courage was an example to us, and whatever the rights or wrongs of the war, nothing can diminish the rightness of what you tried to do. Yours was the greater love. You died for the man you tried to save, and you died pro patria. It was not altogether sweet and fitting, your death, but I'm sure you died believing it was pro patria. You were faithful. Your country is not. As I write this, eleven years after your death, the country for which you died wishes to forget the war in which you died. Its very name is a curse. There are no monuments to its heroes, no statues in small-town squares and city parks, no plaques, nor public wreaths, nor memorials. For plaques and wreaths and memorials are reminders, and they would make it harder for your country to sink into the amnesia for which it longs. It wishes to forget and it has forgotten. But there are a few of us who do remember because of the small things that made us love you—your gestures, the words you spoke, and the way you looked. We loved you for what you were and what you stood for. (p 223-4)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    I just finished Philip Caputo’s riveting A Rumor of War. It clearly belongs in the elite pantheon of books about the Vietnam War along with Michael Herr’s Dispatches, Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried, and Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History. Caputo writes about his experiences that led him to enlist in 1965 in order to satisfy his romantic ideals about war. His experiences vary as his company defends an airstrip then engages in search and destroy missions before bei I just finished Philip Caputo’s riveting A Rumor of War. It clearly belongs in the elite pantheon of books about the Vietnam War along with Michael Herr’s Dispatches, Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried, and Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History. Caputo writes about his experiences that led him to enlist in 1965 in order to satisfy his romantic ideals about war. His experiences vary as his company defends an airstrip then engages in search and destroy missions before being put in charge of the dead at a base camp. Then he joins another rifleman unit for search and destory missions. The apex occurs in which a couple of civilian noncombatants are killed and he faces court martial and is eventually cleared of the charges. But throughout these experiences Caputo loses his illusion and romantic ideals and begins to question the validity of the war and the reasoning that fuels the war. But the beauty of the book lies in the details: the stifling heat, the insects, the fatigue, constant worry about snipers and booby traps, an enemy that is indistinguishable from the noncombatant general population, inept officers caught up in the bottom line of kills, lack of the basic joys of life, and so on. My only criticism is that it would have been nice to have put his operations in perspective with the general strategies of the American forces, but it is a minor fault. It is a powerful account of one’s man’s life changing experience fighting in the Vietnam War.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tim Mercer

    This was a really interesting memoir. The author was a newly minted US Marine Corp 2nd Lieutenant whose unit was transferred to Na-dang to take over defence of the base from the ARVN who were departing on a counter offensive. His view is naturally that of a small unit commander with the largest body of men under him a platoon of infantry. He describes in detail what it was like to go out on patrol, and the effect the body count process had on the psychology of himself and his men. Over his tour This was a really interesting memoir. The author was a newly minted US Marine Corp 2nd Lieutenant whose unit was transferred to Na-dang to take over defence of the base from the ARVN who were departing on a counter offensive. His view is naturally that of a small unit commander with the largest body of men under him a platoon of infantry. He describes in detail what it was like to go out on patrol, and the effect the body count process had on the psychology of himself and his men. Over his tour he initially commanded a line platoon, worked at Regimental HQ then took command of a line platoon again. This is his personal account so it focuses on about how he felt about what he saw did himself and ordered others to do. It contains details of his experiences on patrol, in ambush, assault, time on base and on leave. At times this is very direct and graphic. It is not an analysis of the Vietnam/2nd Indochina War but does clearly show what he thought and felt about the conflict which naturally changes as his war experience grew. Well worth the time reading 4 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    "A Rumor of War" is a deeply disturbing book. Like "Dispatches", by Michael Herr, it is a gripping first person narrative of what it was like to be in Vietnam- but Herr was there as a war correspondent, and the worst action he sees is brief visits to forward camps. Caputo, on the other hand, is a Second Lt. in the Marines, and his best days in Vietnam are much worse than the worst things Herr reported in his book. Months spent sleeping in foxholes deep in VC territory, dozens of fellow soldiers "A Rumor of War" is a deeply disturbing book. Like "Dispatches", by Michael Herr, it is a gripping first person narrative of what it was like to be in Vietnam- but Herr was there as a war correspondent, and the worst action he sees is brief visits to forward camps. Caputo, on the other hand, is a Second Lt. in the Marines, and his best days in Vietnam are much worse than the worst things Herr reported in his book. Months spent sleeping in foxholes deep in VC territory, dozens of fellow soldiers killed in the bloodiest ways imaginable right in front of him, and finally, participation in obscene war crimes. But it isn't the facts of his experience that make this book so disturbing. Caputo's strength is that he forces you to stand in his shoes, and by the end, you come to realize that you would have probably comported yourself in much the same way he did. And that erases any sense of moral superiority you might feel towards soldiers, and leaves you with the very uncomfortable feeling that as a citizen, you bear direct culpability for these things terrible things our country makes them do. Caputo begins describes his indoctrination into the Marines. He is the real deal— deeply courageous, committed to his job, and unquestioning about the larger issues at play in the war: "Napoleon once said that he could make men die for little pieces of ribbon. By the time the battalion left for Vietnam, I was ready to die for considerably less, for a few favorable remarks in a fitness report. Words." He is desperately eager to fight: "After I came home from the war, I was often asked how it felt, going into combat for the first time. I never answered truthfully, afraid that people would think of me as some sort of war-lover. The truth is, I felt happy." Of course, like soldiers of previous generations, he quickly finds that his ideas about war have very little to do with the brutal reality- especially in a dirty, ugly war like Vietnam, fought mostly in small, undistinguished battles in the jungles: "Everything rotted and corroded quickly over there: bodies, boot leather, canvas, metal, morals." A typical battle involves parachuting into a hot landing zone, taking fire from an invisible enemy, slaughtering a few of them with overwhelming force, and then retreating to bury many young Americans. A brief respite in the rear command base, tallying the numbers of MIAs and KIAs and WIAs just makes him feel worse, and soon, like many of his fellow soldiers, Caputo is on the edge of losing his mind. He asks for a return to forward command, and quickly finds himself even deeper in the shit. What follows is the most gruesome and strangely beautiful series of scenes I've ever read in literature. For instance, regarding courage in battle:"...he is also attracted by the danger, for he knows he can overcome his fear only by facing it. His blind rage then begins to focus on the men who are the source of the danger- and of his fear. It concentrates inside him, and through some chemistry is transformed into a fierce resolve to fight until the danger ceases to exist. But this resolve, which is sometimes called courage, cannot be separated from the fear that has aroused it. Its very measure is the measure of that fear. It is, in fact, a powerful urge not to be afraid anymore, to rid himself of fear by eliminating the source of it. This inner, emotional war produces a tension almost sexual in its intensity. It is too painful to endure for long. All a soldier can think about is the moment when he can escape his impotent confinement and release this tension. All other considerations, the rights and wrongs of what he is doing... become so absurd as to be less than irrelevant. Nothing matters except the final, critical instant when he leaps out into the violent catharsis he both seeks and dreads."The action builds to a bloody climax: after months in the jungle, Caputo orders his men to kidnap some local VCs, making clear that he doesn't care if they murder them in the process. The men are duly killed, and it turns out that they weren't VC at all, but instead, loyal South Vietnamese citizens. He and his men are then put on trial for war crimes. In his own mind, he is clearly guilty, but despite his guilt, and a number of other shocking incidents that he has been involved in (torching villages, shooting civilians), he finds himself acquitted and returned home. As I said, deeply disturbing stuff, all the more so because Caputo is such a skilled writer (after the war he became a Pulitzer prize winning journalist and war correspondent.) He clearly suffered deeply in the war, and is haunted by his experiences. It's impossible not to feel sympathy for him and his fellow soldiers. It's easy to forget now, but sympathy for Vietnam vets was in somewhat short supply after the war— as a country we were embarrassed by the loss and ashamed of the atrocities we committed at places like My Lai and Hue. So Caputo's book was deeply revolutionary, and led to a whole-scale reconsideration of the war by many readers, as well as a flood of similar books and films. In his preface, Caputo writes "This book ought not to be regarded as a protest... it might, perhaps, prevent the next generation from being crucified in the next war. But I don't think so." But the effect of reading the book is a deep reconsideration of one's feelings about soldiers and about war. For a liberal, it makes you feel a sympathy for soldiers you might have never experienced before. For a conservative, it might make you question the high price of war, and reconsider if war is justified for anything short of existential threats to the country. And for all Americans, it will make you feel a deep sense of shame and responsibility for what we put these soldiers through, and the terrible damage we inflicted on Vietnam. The record of the last forty years has proved that we (or the leaders we elect) haven't learned much from the experience- our tribulations in Latin America, Iraq, and Afghanistan continue to be bloody and largely pointless. But there is always time to change, and that's why "A Rumor of War" and books like it will always remain timely and important reads.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Cannon

    This memior of a marine lt in Vientam was hard for me to rate. On a technical score, this book earns three stars. It is well-written and readable. In terms of content and message, however, I could not say that I certainly liked it. Caputo was about 6 months ahead of my dad on the Quantico-to-Vietnam trajectory. Many of the officers mentioned in the book were men my dad also knew/served with. I read the book largely to learn more about my dad's experiences as a young marine in training and in com This memior of a marine lt in Vientam was hard for me to rate. On a technical score, this book earns three stars. It is well-written and readable. In terms of content and message, however, I could not say that I certainly liked it. Caputo was about 6 months ahead of my dad on the Quantico-to-Vietnam trajectory. Many of the officers mentioned in the book were men my dad also knew/served with. I read the book largely to learn more about my dad's experiences as a young marine in training and in combat. Caputo was just so whiny and hystrionic that he lost a degree of credibility with me. For one small ex, he makes a big deal about the coppermouth snakes living in the swamps of Quantico. He acts like the marines' lives were on the line from that mortal enemy even before arriving in Vietnam, which is simply laughable. My dad said that he supposed the snakes were there, but that absolutely nobody made an issue of it, and that includes the 12 year old girls from our church who recently went camping there. The bigger problem with the book, though, had to do with his moralizing and arguments against our involvement in Vietnam. First, he claims to have realized as a 22 year old kid in 1965 that the war was a lost cause. He doesn't really give any support to that claim other than to remark that American soldiers were being killed, but it is just not truthful to say that anyone could have known at that stage what the outcome of the war was to be, particularly when the loss took place on campuses of America's colleges rather than in the jungles of Vietnam. Second, he argues that America should not have been in Vietnam at all. That is a perfectly legit proposition, but his supporting arguments are not. His reasoning is, essentially, that because men died, sometimes in horrible ways, we should not have fought. Of course, death (and horrible death) is a part of war and an objection to it is simply an objection to all wars, not just Vietnam. But Caputo does not object to all wars. His argument is just not logical. He also argued that because a small minority of soldiers in Vietnam committed brutal, illegal acts (himself included) the war was wrong. Well, there is an element of the soldiering population in all wars that react in a crazy way and do brutal or illegal things. A marine in WWII ripped out the gold teeth of a wounded but conscious Japanese soldier for the value of the gold. Americans also murdered a couple hundred German POWs upon learning that a troop of German SS had shot a regiment of US soldiers who had surrendured (the Germans claimed to not have had the manpower to take the US soldiers to any sort of camp so they had to just shoot them). All of those things are horrible, but are they an argument to have not resisted Nazi occupation of Europe? I am a little tired of the much-touted bit of misinformation based purely on anecdote that Vietnam held a disproportionate number of war crimes as compared to other wars and that most of the soldiers there were a bunch of murderers. Vietnam just happens to be a war it is popular to villify; WWII, on the other hand, is the hero's war and therefore you will not often hear about the cruel or illegal acts committed by those soldiering it, even though such acts did take place. While only a small minority of soldiers were guilty of war crimes, Caputo was one of them. (I suppose his order would not have *technically* been improper had there not been a tragic, tragic case of mistaken identity). Rather than take responsibility for his own actions, he choses to blame American foreign policy. From start to finish, Caputo is a whiner who credits himself with a prescience about the war's outcome that no one in any position of authority had and shifts blame for a lynching off of himself and onto generalized America. while I enjoyed his appreciation for the best soldier-writers of the WWI generation (Sasson and Owen), he mistakenly appropriates some of their feelings of bitterness about their military leaders. He says something about the generals sending better men than themselves to go die. Better men? The generals in Vietnam were the same guys who were soldiers in WWII and Korea. While there was a lot of reason to disparage the generals directing the men in WWI to be mowed down by the hundreds of thousands to earn a few square feet, there just was not that cause for bitterness against the military personel in Vietnam. At least, Caputo didn't show me one. Maybe I shouldntbe giving this book 3 stars . . .

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Tim O'Brien arguably wrote the best work of fiction about the Vietnam war in The Things They Carried. To me, Philip Caputo inarguably wrote its best memoir. Unlike more recent attempts in the genre, Caputo's account of combat is never blinkered, gung-ho, or glamourised. Blunt as a boulder, vivid, and unforgettable, I rate it higher than even Michael Herr's Dispatches.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Maberry

    Caputo's book doesn't need another review. I will offer mine anyway, if nothing else to contrast it with Wolff's "In Pharoah's Army," an inferior book. First, I wish I could have written "A Rumor of War." I wasn't ready to write about the war soon after I returned from Vietnam, in 1967. Not even after a couple years of college in 1971, when I camped on the mall with 1,200 other Vietnam Vets Against the War (including John Kerry). Caputo had the advantage of education on me. Not just that, I need Caputo's book doesn't need another review. I will offer mine anyway, if nothing else to contrast it with Wolff's "In Pharoah's Army," an inferior book. First, I wish I could have written "A Rumor of War." I wasn't ready to write about the war soon after I returned from Vietnam, in 1967. Not even after a couple years of college in 1971, when I camped on the mall with 1,200 other Vietnam Vets Against the War (including John Kerry). Caputo had the advantage of education on me. Not just that, I needed a lot more time to experience other things and gain a broader perspective. But he made it all perfectly clear when he had a dialogue in the officer's mess with the chaplain and the doctor, "The chaplain's morally superior attitude had rankled me, but his sermon had managed to plant doubt in my mind, doubt about the war. Much of what he had said made sense: our tactical operations did seem futile and directed toward no apparent end. . . . Twelve wrecked homes. The chaplain's words echoed. That's twelve wrecked homes. The doctor and I think in terms of human suffering, not statistics." AND THIS WAS IN 1965, before things really got going in Vietnam. If you want to know what the BS about body counts was--that ended up in a lawsuit by General Westmoreland against Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, if you want to know what Vietnam was like because you are too young to have learned about it during that time in America and the world's history, read this book. If you want to know how it relates to more recent events, try my own memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland, that finally came out so many years later.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erin Rouleau

    Easy read. He had some good points on war that of course never having been through a war - I would never have thought about. It wasn't as philosophical or even maybe horrific as I needed. He didn't sell me on why exactly did the Vietnam war effect men's psyches more than other wars. I guess that's what I was looking for. To understand their psyche. He only would delve into that a few times. I guess I felt this book was a good overall view on the Vietnam war. But really it didn't make me feel a wh Easy read. He had some good points on war that of course never having been through a war - I would never have thought about. It wasn't as philosophical or even maybe horrific as I needed. He didn't sell me on why exactly did the Vietnam war effect men's psyches more than other wars. I guess that's what I was looking for. To understand their psyche. He only would delve into that a few times. I guess I felt this book was a good overall view on the Vietnam war. But really it didn't make me feel a whole lot and didn't make me think a whole lot either.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bastian Greshake Tzovaras

    I must say this is even a stronger book than Dispatches by Michael Herr, which I must have read last year or so. Herr's perspective is that of what we nowadays probably would call an embedded journalist. He accompanied the Vietnam war as a journalist for the Esquire, and while his account is disturbing in it's own way A Rumor Of War is even harder on the reader in that respect, as Caputo signed up for the USMC and was amongst the first US troops to be deployed. So you're not only confronted with I must say this is even a stronger book than Dispatches by Michael Herr, which I must have read last year or so. Herr's perspective is that of what we nowadays probably would call an embedded journalist. He accompanied the Vietnam war as a journalist for the Esquire, and while his account is disturbing in it's own way A Rumor Of War is even harder on the reader in that respect, as Caputo signed up for the USMC and was amongst the first US troops to be deployed. So you're not only confronted with the sheer brutality of war itself, but you get an account of someone who not was in place, but actively engaged in doing morally ambiguous and I'd argue even outright wrong actions. Recommended for: Everyone who needs a brief reminder why you shouldn't go to war.

  13. 5 out of 5

    SirLordBaltimore

    Caputo's incorporation of sensationalism in this work betrays him miserably. It seems as if someone (like a producer or agent) may have whispered into this guy's ear, listen don't be afraid to ham it up a little. You want this book to sell, right? Follow this pattern, etc. Notwithstanding the undeniable factual events he shares with the reader, Caputo's sense of sincerity is clearly and unfortunately diluted with his zealous ambition to be more skilled at the craft of writing than he actually is. Caputo's incorporation of sensationalism in this work betrays him miserably. It seems as if someone (like a producer or agent) may have whispered into this guy's ear, listen don't be afraid to ham it up a little. You want this book to sell, right? Follow this pattern, etc. Notwithstanding the undeniable factual events he shares with the reader, Caputo's sense of sincerity is clearly and unfortunately diluted with his zealous ambition to be more skilled at the craft of writing than he actually is. Honestly and plain talk would have served him so much better. The facts of what happened to him are incredible enough. We don't need all the superfluous drama Philip.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Reichenbaugh

    A detour from Oz into another world of confusion, frustration, boredom and terror that so uniquely describes a tour of duty in wartime. I bought this book in paperback many years ago when I was still in high school, not long before I joined the Air Force. Of course that was during piece time, so I had none of the apprehension and anticipation of heroics that the author had when he joined the marines in the early days of the Vietnam war. I didn't get around to reading it back then in 1982 because A detour from Oz into another world of confusion, frustration, boredom and terror that so uniquely describes a tour of duty in wartime. I bought this book in paperback many years ago when I was still in high school, not long before I joined the Air Force. Of course that was during piece time, so I had none of the apprehension and anticipation of heroics that the author had when he joined the marines in the early days of the Vietnam war. I didn't get around to reading it back then in 1982 because it got lost somewhere in my confused moving around and disintegration of my family back home. Reading it now I thought it was a compelling narrative of another time, far removed from today's wars and military life. Yet things haven't changed much in how wars are managed for political means. And of course there is no longer a draft to pull young men and women from their lives at home into the war machine. Just "forever wars" for the few volunteers who go while the rest of the country pursues the latest iPhones and America's Got Talent back home. I don't mean to sound bitter, because it's a good book for anyone interested in a personal perspective of duty in a war.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell Knapp

    I received Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War as a gift a few years ago, but did not read it until now. After reading it, I am glad I waited. Caputo’s memoir seems to be the type of book that as the reader ages, there are more thoughts he/she is able to extract from this terrific book. Philip Caputo divides his memoir into three distinct sections. The first covers his reasons for enlisting in the Marine Corps prior to the war and his initial deployment as part of the first ground combat unit of the V I received Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War as a gift a few years ago, but did not read it until now. After reading it, I am glad I waited. Caputo’s memoir seems to be the type of book that as the reader ages, there are more thoughts he/she is able to extract from this terrific book. Philip Caputo divides his memoir into three distinct sections. The first covers his reasons for enlisting in the Marine Corps prior to the war and his initial deployment as part of the first ground combat unit of the Vietnam War. Part two covers Caputo being reassigned to an office job keeping track of the casualty reports – a gut-wrenching task as he continued to hear his friends’ names on the other end of the line. The final section follows Caputo as he left the desk job and returned to the front where he experienced many horrific events and countless deaths of his comrades. Caputo was able to describe the feelings and experiences he faced in dramatic fashion. He devotes pages to his nightmares that he had after seeing two of his friends’ dead bodies and his imagination overwhelming his mind by picturing his living comrades in their dead state. Together with the nightmares, Caputo also manages to describe the conditions which resulted in so many men going mad. He piles on with the never-ending heat and humidity of the dry season with the incessant downpours and winds of the wet. He describes the suffocating jungle that has become so synonymous with Vietnam as follows (p. 85): “The company seemed to be … haunted by a presence intangible yet real, a sense of being surrounded by something we could not see. It was the inability to see that vexed us most. In that lies the jungle’s power to cause fear: it blinds.” On top of this, Caputo writes of the monotonous interviews with Vietnamese villagers regarding local Viet Cong forces with the frustrating reply of, “No VC. No VC. VC di-di,” only to be sniped at and hit by mines on the patrol out of the village. One such instance towards the end of the book, Caputo’s men were leaving a hamlet after a Christmas ceasefire was declared. On the way out, his men were hit by a mine and enemy gunfire resulting in heavy casualties. About one severely injured man in his unit, Caputo writes (p. 282): “It was his eyes that troubled me most. They were the hurt, dumb eyes of a child who has been severely beaten and does not know why. It was his eyes and his silence and the foamy blood and the gurgling, wheezing sound in his chest that aroused in me a sorrow so deep and a rage so strong that I could not distinguish the one emotion from the other.” After this event, Caputo ordered his men to burn the hamlet down with white phosphorous grenades. In this lies the true greatness of A Rumor of War. Throughout the book, Caputo manages to force the reader to ask him/herself difficult questions – the very questions those men from 1965-1973 faced on a daily basis. How would I react in a situation like that? Would I be able to last the 12-month tour in those hellish conditions? What would I be like after a terrifying deployment like this? Would I lose my ability to feel emotions as many of these men did? To what lengths would I have gone to ensure my men and I would survive? It is easy to sit back and judge the actions of others. It is more difficult, however, to listen to their stories and imagine yourself in their position – to face the unbearable heat and rains, to patrol a jungle and see no farther than a foot in front of you, to constantly be under the threat of an ambush, to not get any serious answers from the locals, to see another one of your friends cut down every day, knowing it could very well be you next. Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War puts you in those positions, and you will end the book with a whole new perspective of those men who faced an unbelievable challenge both physically and mentally.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matt Adams

    Although I'm giving this book 5 stars, it's a little hard for me to simply say that I enjoyed it. It's not a pleasant read. It's dark. It's ugly. It's war. And this book throws you right in the midst of it. The reason I gave it 5 stars is because it's important. As Caputo says early on, there are plenty of TV shows and movies about war that may be exciting, but many of them focus on building this image of being a hero. Books such as this one strip the make up off and describe every horrific deta Although I'm giving this book 5 stars, it's a little hard for me to simply say that I enjoyed it. It's not a pleasant read. It's dark. It's ugly. It's war. And this book throws you right in the midst of it. The reason I gave it 5 stars is because it's important. As Caputo says early on, there are plenty of TV shows and movies about war that may be exciting, but many of them focus on building this image of being a hero. Books such as this one strip the make up off and describe every horrific detail. When a soldier fights, he isn't thinking of heroics, he's thinking of survival. This book is proof of just how removed from humanity people can become after months or years of constant battle. It isn't just mud and rain that soldiers trudge through. It's frustration, pain, anger, fear, and paranoia. Imagine being envious of someone who's been badly wounded or even killed by shrapnel from a bomb. Imagine digging graves for bodies that show up by the truckload, day after day. This is the type of war you'll learn about here. This book is not for the faint of heart.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris Wray

    In reviewing a recent reprint of this book, Max Hastings says this: "It is said that all men who go to war experience a moral as well as a physical odyssey, and that is amply demonstrated in Philip Caputo's memoir of his time as a Marine Corps platoon commander in Vietnam. A Rumor of War was published at a time when Americans self torture about what they had done to themselves and to Vietnam was at a peak." Those two sentences capture the essence of this book perfectly: the commonality of experi In reviewing a recent reprint of this book, Max Hastings says this: "It is said that all men who go to war experience a moral as well as a physical odyssey, and that is amply demonstrated in Philip Caputo's memoir of his time as a Marine Corps platoon commander in Vietnam. A Rumor of War was published at a time when Americans self torture about what they had done to themselves and to Vietnam was at a peak." Those two sentences capture the essence of this book perfectly: the commonality of experience with other warriors, and the historical snapshot that is the Vietnam war and the American sense of revulsion towards it. Caputo writes a searingly honest account of his experiences in Vietnam. He captures well the Americans early confidence in Vietnam, and how that was eroded as they came to realise that the enemy they had scorned as peasant guerrillas were in fact a well organised, determined and lethal enemy. As the casualty lists got ever longer with nothing to show for them, a weary cynicism rapidly began to set in, and a disillusionment with the lack of progress, purpose or plan from those in high command: "The measures of a unit's performance in Vietnam were not the distances it had advanced or the number of victories it had won, but the number of enemy soldiers it had killed (the body count) and the proportion between that number and the number of its own dead (the kill ratio)." He chronicles both the callousness and futility of the war (casual killings of civilians, endless sweeps of the war ravaged Vietnamese wilderness) and the inhumanity displayed by many of the participants in it. Talking about the men he commanded he said, "Many had petty jealousies, hatred and prejudices. And an arrogance tempered their ingrained American idealism." His sergeant also commented to him that, "Before you leave here, sir, you're going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average 19-year-old American boy." He also comments on the lack of restraining and civilising influences on the men who fought in Vietnam: "It was the dawn of creation in the Indochina bush, an ethical as well as geographical wilderness. Out there, lacking restraints, sanctioned to kill, confronted by a hostile country and a relentless enemy, we sank into a brutish state. The descent could be checked only by the net of a man's inner moral values, the attribute that is called character. There were a few - and I suspect Lieutenant Calley [the officer commanding the troops who perpetrated the My Lai massacre] was one - who had no net and plunged all the way down, discovering in their bottom-most depths a capacity for malice they probably never suspected was there." Caputo's own description of how he lost control of his platoon before they rampaged through a village, burning every building to the ground, is terrifying and shows how even well trained and disciplined troops can carry out atrocities. Most American casualties were caused by mines and booby traps which led to a constant edginess whenever the men patrolled, and they were fighting VC guerrillas that were by definition hard to distinguish from civilians. None of this excuses murder, rape and casual destruction, but it does go some way to explaining the context in which these kinds of things could happen. To my mind, this is really a failure of command, and a failure to recognise the cumulative effect of time spent on operations in a hostile environment, among a hostile population, without any respite, and without any sense of progress or purpose. On the other hand, atrocities have been perpetrated in all wars, and are perhaps as much a reflection of inherent human wickedness as an indication of naive and incompetent generalship. In many respects, what Caputo writes about his time in Vietnam could have been written by any soldier fighting in any war: "An invisible enemy shot at us from distant tree lines. The rare instances when the VC chose to fight a set-piece battle provided the only excitement; not ordinary excitement, but the manic ecstasy of contact. Weeks of bottled-up tensions would be released in a few minutes of orgiastic violence, men screaming and shouting obscenities above the explosions of grenades and the rapid, rippling bursts of automatic rifles. Beyond adding a few more corpses to the weekly body count, none of these encounters achieved anything; none will ever appear in military histories or be studied by cadets at West Point. Still, they changed us and taught us, the men who fought in them; in those obscure skirmishes we learned the old lessons about fear, cowardice, courage, suffering, cruelty and comradeship. Most of all, we learned about death at an age when it is common to think of oneself as immortal." Reflecting on his experience after returning from Vietnam, Caputo says this: "I could protest as loudly as the most convinced activist, but I could not deny the grip the war had on me, nor the fact that it had been an experience as fascinating as it was repulsive, as exhilarating as it was sad, as tender as it was cruel." This is an uncomfortable truth; despite the fear, squalor and danger, young men often thoroughly enjoy the experience of going to war. All this raises the question of how much the American revulsion towards Vietnam flows from principled opposition to a doubtful cause, and how much flows from the simple failure of the war to achieve anything worthwhile. The similarities with the experiences of British troops in North America (as I read recently in Mark Urban's 'Fusiliers'), and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, are striking. All were unpopular and divisive wars, and all were perceived to have ended in failure. A further similarity with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is pointed out by Sir Max Hastings in his review, as it is "hard for the armed forces of rich western nations to achieve useful outcomes amid a relatively primitive society with an utterly different culture and an incomprehensible language, in which foreign soldiers are merely brief birds of passage. The Americans in Vietnam could go on winning battle indefinitely, yet their tactical victories were meaningless when there was no credible local polity to exploit them." This explains how the war was lost to an enemy, in the VC and NVA, that could not compete with the Americans in terms of resources and firepower. All they had to do was hold on long enough for the American appetite to keep sustaining casualties to be exhausted, while suppressing any indigenous political co-operation with the US administration. The ultimate futility of it all is captured well by Caputo in the memorable passage with which he finishes his book: "A replacement draft filed off the big transport plane. They fell into formation and tried to ignore the dusty, tanned, ragged-looking men who jeered them. The replacements looked strangely young, far younger than we, and awkward and bewildered by this scorched land to which an indifferent government had sent them. I did not join in the mockery. I felt sorry for these children, knowing that they would all grow old in this land of endless dying. I pitied them, knowing that out of every ten, one would die, two more would be maimed for life, another two would be less seriously wounded and sent out to fight again, and all the rest would be wounded in other, more hidden ways. The replacements were marched off towards the convoy that waited to carry them to their assigned units and their assigned fates. None of them looked at us. They marched away. Shouldering our seabags, we climbed up the ramp into the plane, the plane we had all dreamed about, the grand, mythological Freedom Bird. A joyous shout went up as the transport lurched off the runway and climbed into the placid sky. Below lay the rice paddies and the green, folded hills where we had lost our friends and our youth. The plane banked and headed out over the China Sea, toward Okinawa, toward freedom from death's embrace. None of us was a hero. We would not return to cheering crowds, parades, and the pealing of great cathedral bells. We had done nothing more than endure. We had survived, and that was our only victory."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shane Woolf

    “The greatest tragedy is war, but so long as there is mankind, there will be war.” -Jomini, The Art of War Emotionally powerful. Personally riveting. A simple story about war without all the preachy judgement and rhetoric. A perspective on infantry life written by an infantryman. To quote Caputo, “This book does not pretend to be history. It has nothing to do with politics, power, strategy, influence, national interests, or foreign policy; nor is it indictment of the great men who led us into In “The greatest tragedy is war, but so long as there is mankind, there will be war.” -Jomini, The Art of War Emotionally powerful. Personally riveting. A simple story about war without all the preachy judgement and rhetoric. A perspective on infantry life written by an infantryman. To quote Caputo, “This book does not pretend to be history. It has nothing to do with politics, power, strategy, influence, national interests, or foreign policy; nor is it indictment of the great men who led us into Indochina and whose mistakes were paid for with the blood of some quite ordinary men. In a general sense, it is simply a story about war, about the things men do in war and the things war does to them. More strictly, it is a soldier’s account of our longest conflict, the only war we have ever lost, as well as the record of a long sometimes painful personal experience." In the afterward of the book Caputo tells us that he really wanted to “…make people uncomfortable-in effect, to blow them out of their snug polemical bunkers into confusing, disturbing emotional and moral no-man’s-land where we warriors dwelled…to experience the snipers, booby traps, and ambushes. Above all, I wanted to communicate the moral ambiguities of conflict in which demons and angels traded places too often to tell one from the other, even within yourself."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    I just finished A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, which amply deserves 4 stars. What a powerful book. This memoir about Vietnam gives the reader a virtual, firsthand experience of war, with all its violence, boredom, suffering, terror and thrills. The author is brutally honest and insightful, and the passages about the morality of war and the seesawing between hatred and guilt that he experiences are extremely thought-provoking. I must admit that I skimmed through some of the detailed day-to-day I just finished A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, which amply deserves 4 stars. What a powerful book. This memoir about Vietnam gives the reader a virtual, firsthand experience of war, with all its violence, boredom, suffering, terror and thrills. The author is brutally honest and insightful, and the passages about the morality of war and the seesawing between hatred and guilt that he experiences are extremely thought-provoking. I must admit that I skimmed through some of the detailed day-to-day descriptions in the middle of the book. But the last few chapters and the epilogue are must-reads. Not an easy book, but very worthwhile.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mrtruscott

    A re-read for me, inspired by the interminably heartbreaking, often infuriating Ken Burns series. This is far less flashy than many VN books, with much minutiae about the rear echelon bureaucracy of “war,” which I (being the granddaughter of a general and daughter of a colonel) happily slogged through. I have military acronyms in my DNA. The visual picture of Vietnam in the pages of this book, and the descriptions of the weather - which for soldiers was a special circle of hell - were so vivid th A re-read for me, inspired by the interminably heartbreaking, often infuriating Ken Burns series. This is far less flashy than many VN books, with much minutiae about the rear echelon bureaucracy of “war,” which I (being the granddaughter of a general and daughter of a colonel) happily slogged through. I have military acronyms in my DNA. The visual picture of Vietnam in the pages of this book, and the descriptions of the weather - which for soldiers was a special circle of hell - were so vivid that I can literally smell that humid jungle rot odor that clung to the footlockers my dad and brother brought home. How is it possible to love a book about hell.

  21. 4 out of 5

    James

    For years, I'd been scared away from reading this because of the terrible movie that had been made from it in the 80s. Glad I finally followed through. Terrific writing from a conscientious agent, trapped - like so many marines/GIs - in a war that made so little sense, especially when contrasted with the wars of their fathers and grandfathers. Caputo's prose in lovely, well-paced and lucid. I put it right up there with Michael Herr's "Dispatches."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    Rescued this from a window seat in the local hospital, where someone had "abandoned" it. I definitely remember the title but as far as I know I haven't read it. Despite the fact that I am a Vietnam vet I don't make any special point of reading Vietnam books. I've read a few ... this one's pretty famous. Read the more recent author's Prologue last night. - The author says that Vietnam was the first war "lost" by The United States. What about Korea? I guess that's viewed as a stalemate, but we cert Rescued this from a window seat in the local hospital, where someone had "abandoned" it. I definitely remember the title but as far as I know I haven't read it. Despite the fact that I am a Vietnam vet I don't make any special point of reading Vietnam books. I've read a few ... this one's pretty famous. Read the more recent author's Prologue last night. - The author says that Vietnam was the first war "lost" by The United States. What about Korea? I guess that's viewed as a stalemate, but we certainly didn't win that one either. Started reading this last night and couldn't put it down. Not that it's exciting or suspenseful, but rather intensely nostalgic. And very smooth and easy to read. The language ... "You numba one, Joe!" Lt. Caputo and his mates arrived "in country" about six months before I joined the Navy, and about 2 years before I got there myself. The whole "thing" was just getting revved up. The only view I ever got of Danang was from my ship. Moving on ... the book has gotten the teeniest bit tedious as day after day passes in the swelter of the jungle environment. Heat stroke is as much of a problem as enemy bullets. And, speaking of those bullets and that enemy, Caputo and his comrades experience being shot at regularly by an enemy that prefers to disengage and vanish rather abruptly. Frustrating for those young, amped-up American "warriors"(a term rarely, if ever, used during the Vietnam War period). The author gets a ten-day reprieve from Danang to go to Yokosuka(Yoh KOO skah) for training. I spent a couple of months there in '67 while my ship was in dry-dock. That's where I saw Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. Visited Yokohama and Tokyo too. Then he's back to the war but in a safer place. While he was away ... his troops suffer their first fatalities - an inevitable shock to all of them. 2nd Lt. Caputo is stuck in his base-bound office job(s). Oh well ... somebody had to do them. One surreal and absurd incident of military insanity is described. You had to be there to really appreciate how f'ing scary-silly the military can be at times. I spent most of my reading time last night getting close to the end of this. If you want to get a pretty good outside perspective and understanding of "what it was like" to be a grunt in the perilous jungles of Vietnam, this is the book for you. It very much parallels "With the Old Breed," a documentary book about Marines in the Pacific in WWII. The main difference in the writing is that Mr. Caputo's approach is more emotional/less dry. He does emphasize that no matter what opinions they might have had going in, the main struggle was one of survival for him and his mates. Nasty ... nasty ... nasty. One G'reads reviewer complained about melodramatic language, but for the most part I think PC does a good job in bring the reader the FEEL of the situation. - Misquotes the lyrics of "Detroit City" Finished over the weekend. Not a whole lot more to say about it. The author's own brush with murder-in-war might give one pause in passing judgment on Lt. Calley and his men. Also reminds of the Sean Penn-Michael J. Fox film "Casualties of War." Like Mr. Caputo, I became opposed to the war fairly quickly, but because I had been there I was never virulent about it. This is certainly one of the books to read if you're inclined to learn about Vietnam. - Mentions Portsmouth(NH)'s Naval(and Marine) prison. Its been closed many-a-year now but the hulking stone structure still stands at the Portsmouth-Kittery Naval Shipyard, across the water from my parents ex-house(my semi-home for a few months in 1969) in Kittery. The name(but not the actual place, which was substituted for by some place in Canada) crops up in "The Last Detail" - movie and book. - Dude! Columbus is NOT a hero!

  23. 4 out of 5

    AC

    I found the beginning of this utterly fascinating, but then tired of the narrative. And so moving on. That should not be taken as a criticism of the book, but only of my interests and my own restlessness.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alfred Searls

    In January of 1961 the newly elected President John F Kennedy stood on the steps of the Capital building in Washington and famously challenged the youth of America to “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”. Away in windy Chicago a young student at Loyola University knew just how to answer that call; he would join the United States Marine Corp and play a man’s part in defending the new Camelot against all enemies, foreign and domestic. A Rumor of War is P In January of 1961 the newly elected President John F Kennedy stood on the steps of the Capital building in Washington and famously challenged the youth of America to “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”. Away in windy Chicago a young student at Loyola University knew just how to answer that call; he would join the United States Marine Corp and play a man’s part in defending the new Camelot against all enemies, foreign and domestic. A Rumor of War is Philip Caputo’s frank and compelling memoir of his transformation from excitable undergraduate to experienced infantry officer amid the humid misery of South Vietnam. Raised in the suburban serenity of Westchester Illinois, where the lulling drone of lawn mowers sought to anaesthetise his youth, Caputo was like generations of young men before him; eager for adventure, eager to be tested and absolutely terrified of being found wanting. Indeed, this fear of failure, a fear that eclipses both fatigue and the terrors of combat alike, plays an important role in driving the young Caputo to endure the gruelling ordeal of officer training school and the boredom and terror of his service on the front line in Vietnam. From the beginning this book stands out in the crowded genre of the war memoir. For a start the man is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and a terrific writer; he’s clearly highly literate and populates the book with well-judged literary references; and crucially from where I was sitting he was also painfully honest. And I’m not just talking about the kind of ‘honesty’ that publishers routinely demand of combat memoirs. No, Caputo goes far beyond the usual confessions of fear and guilt; in A Rumor of War he writes with great frankness about the secret shared by many soldiers – that combat can be addictive, intoxicating and unbelievably exciting. In his description of the camaraderie he found within his unit he turns the reader into a willing confederate to his nostalgic prose; passages which for him are often underwritten by memories of almost unbearable tenderness. At the same time he evokes with enervating exactness the numbing boredom of static warfare, the deadening routine of manning fixed positions and the remote, pointless obsessions of those running the war at far remove front the front line. Only once did I feel this honestly thinning in the book, during those passages which deal with an incident in which men under his command shot and killed two suspected Viet Cong prisoners. I personally felt a shadow of reticence fall across the narrative and if reticence there was then I’d be willing to put money on it having being deployed in the protection of his soldiers and not in the defence of his own reputation. For Caputo honour and duty are sacred concepts and even though he had no part in the killings he took full responsibility for the actions of his men, who were brutalised by a war in a place, in which as Caputo himself puts it “a callus begins to grow around our hearts”. After his honourable discharge in 1967 Caputo got involved with the anti-war movement but found that he could not hate the war on the simplistic terms of those who had not experienced it. He built a successful career for himself as a journalist and the book ends poignantly with his eye witness account of the fall of Saigon in 1975. A Rumor of War is not only an outstanding account of war and the man, but also a touching reminiscence on the loss of innocence. In it he mourns for not only the dead, but also for the idealistic young man who gradually faded away, amid the heat haze and smoke of battle, in a land very far away from Westchester, Illinois.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    This was a book club selection. And not by me :-) Philip Caputo was a marine lieutenant among the first units in Vietnam in 1965. And his unit, like all such who are the first of their generation to go to war, was unsure of what they would find, looking to their few veterans from Korea to what it would be like, and the guidance from above. And the guidance from above was that it would be easy. It was not. And Caputo shows what it was like at the ground, the walking into the unknown, not knowing wh This was a book club selection. And not by me :-) Philip Caputo was a marine lieutenant among the first units in Vietnam in 1965. And his unit, like all such who are the first of their generation to go to war, was unsure of what they would find, looking to their few veterans from Korea to what it would be like, and the guidance from above. And the guidance from above was that it would be easy. It was not. And Caputo shows what it was like at the ground, the walking into the unknown, not knowing what was ahead. A war where they did not know who was the enemy, and in every village, they did not know how to tell who was who. Their good intentions on dealing with the local population, spoiled by the fact that their opposition was embedded with that same local population and using that as their striking ground for their attacks on Caputo and his marines. It is this description of dealing with the uncertainty of war that makes this stand out. And to make the example more stark, the second part of the book takes Caputo on his next assignment, staff officer in Vietnam. Far from the unknown of the battlefield, he is now in a war that is measured in numbers on a board, where the planners of war create their plans in willful ignorance of conditions on the ground, asking for certainty that does not exist. And you realize what others like Halberstrom and McMaster have stated in their books on the same era, that this pattern of making decisions in ignorance was even higher as you got further away from the battlefield. Caputo also shows what a difference it makes to have a commander who desires to get beyond this. He describes a change of command, where the new commander insists on recognizing the reality of war, almost in opposition to the staff that he inherited. And the two commanders contrast with Rick Atkinson's description of the general of the 101st Airborne during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, whose recognition of facts on the ground which higher levels were denying changed the way the 101st went into battle. This was a good war book, not one that focused on glory or horrors, but what it meant for men on a battlefield to deal with all the unknowns of war. Very apart from those who speak with assurance based on ideology instead of experience.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Things this book does: - Delves deep into the psyche of a soldier in combat - Looks brazenly at the emotional and psychological toll of turning boys into killers for the state - Airs out the truth about how vicious US policy in Vietnam was from the earliest days of the war - Grapples with the utter futility and meaningless of the staggering death toll on both sides of the war - Scares the reader about how easy it is for humans to descend into carnage under the wrong circumstances - Casts undeniable g Things this book does: - Delves deep into the psyche of a soldier in combat - Looks brazenly at the emotional and psychological toll of turning boys into killers for the state - Airs out the truth about how vicious US policy in Vietnam was from the earliest days of the war - Grapples with the utter futility and meaningless of the staggering death toll on both sides of the war - Scares the reader about how easy it is for humans to descend into carnage under the wrong circumstances - Casts undeniable gloom and doubt over the USA's whole military and imperial operation Things this book does not do: - Give any historical background or context for the Vietnam War - Delve deeply into the humanity of the Vietnamese victims of the war - Speculate or describe the Vietnamese version of events in any way - Describe the worst of the atrocities inflicted on the entire nation of Vietnam as a result of this war I highly recommend this book for the former category of things it accomplishes, and would love recommendations for the latter. I have never had to take such a realistic look at what it means, on an individual level, to engage in warfare, stripped of all the romance and glorifying that usually accompanies those narratives. It's brutal and terrifying. I especially recommend this for people who have a loved one that was shipped off to this war in particular. Not an easy read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gmaharriet

    Wow! I'd give it more stars if that were possible. My late husband was in that first batch of Marines who were sent from Okinawa to fight in Vietnam in March 1965, and he was very possibly the Pfc Buchanan who Lt. Caputo found in terror, firing his rifle into the darkness on their first night bivouacked in the jungle, putting himself in danger of being located by the enemy from his muzzle flashes. If so, thank you Mr Caputo for stopping that and saving his life. This memoir feels so gritty and re Wow! I'd give it more stars if that were possible. My late husband was in that first batch of Marines who were sent from Okinawa to fight in Vietnam in March 1965, and he was very possibly the Pfc Buchanan who Lt. Caputo found in terror, firing his rifle into the darkness on their first night bivouacked in the jungle, putting himself in danger of being located by the enemy from his muzzle flashes. If so, thank you Mr Caputo for stopping that and saving his life. This memoir feels so gritty and real. As a female in that time, there was no way I could have been fighting there, but this book gave me some idea of the miserable conditions our guys experienced physically and emotionally, the noise, smells, pain and confusion. That we lost the war cannot be blamed on our young men who fought there. Those guys will always have my admiration and, I hope, some understanding of what the war did to them and why. Highly recommended!!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Tremendously powerful memoir of a 2nd lieutenant in the Marines who was in the first wave of Marines coming into Vietnam in March of 1965. From gung-ho teenagers to hardened cynical veterans in just a few months, this book shows, in no uncertain terms, the misery and futility of the war and the damage it did to all the participants and non-combatants alike. Read it in conjunction with Patriots: An Oral History of Vietnam (which is told in interviews with US troops, ARVN, Viet Cong, North Vietnam Tremendously powerful memoir of a 2nd lieutenant in the Marines who was in the first wave of Marines coming into Vietnam in March of 1965. From gung-ho teenagers to hardened cynical veterans in just a few months, this book shows, in no uncertain terms, the misery and futility of the war and the damage it did to all the participants and non-combatants alike. Read it in conjunction with Patriots: An Oral History of Vietnam (which is told in interviews with US troops, ARVN, Viet Cong, North Vietnamese Regulars, Antiwar Protestors, Westmorland, MacNamara and many others)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    A quick read as a Vietnam autobiography from a Marine, Phillip Caputo (the book's author) and his 16 month tour in Vietnam. I felt in addition to describing North Vietnamse snipers, it best describes what survival constituted a Marine experienced, the horrors of the muddy jungle, constant insects I didn't expect always on your body, heat/sweat to endure, what it was like without/lack of sleep and watching your the person next to you killed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    This was a bit tough to start. Once I get about 25% of the way through I was hooked and able to push through easily. Mr. Caputo writes in a style that is both very descriptive and easy to follow. I truly felt as though I was right there with him in Vietnam. This story also serves as a cautionary tale. Regardless of your political or ideological views this is a must read.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.