Rumors of War

8 August 2016

Philip Caputo, the author of A Rumor of War, was born in 1941. He grew up to be an American author and journalist. Caputo is best known for A Rumor of War but has written 14 other books. He attended college at Loyola University of Chicago and after receiving his college education, in 1965 he went to serve in the Republic of Vietnam as a platoon commander in the United States Marine Corps. He served in combat and also received a number of awards and medals due to his good service. After serving in the war, Caputo took up journalism in 1968 and joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune.

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From 1968 to 1973, he was a foreign correspondent for the Tribune and covered the fall of Saigon, served in Italy, the Soviet Union and the Middle East. A Rumor of War is divided into three sections. The first part Caputo named “The Splendid Little War” and in this part he explains why he joined the U. S. Marine Corps, describes his training, and tells about his arrival in Vietnam. In the U. S. Marine Corps, Lieutenant Philip Caputo was a part of the ninth Expeditionary Brigade, which was the first group of troops sent into the Vietnam War.

His brigade was deployed to Da Nang and they were supposed to set the perimeter for an airstrip that would ensure the arrival and departure of military troops and goods. Caputo and the ninth Expeditionary Brigade had clashed with the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, leading to combat that proved that this war was going to be one they could not lose and would have to fight hard for a victory. The second section of the book is called “The Officer in Charge of the Dead. ” In this part, Caputo tells about when he was reassigned from engaging in combat with his brigade to sitting at a desk documenting casualties.

He was not happy with his enrollment into the Joint Staff of the brigade because he preferred to be out in the battlefield engaging in combat rather than sitting inside at a desk. Caputo was proud of serving his country and fighting with a rifle and did not want to be cooped up inside. However, his time away from the battlefields gave Caputo a different outlook on the war. He started to notice that the officers were more concerned over trivial matters rather than strategies. Caputo also describes soldiers showing off the dead bodies of their enemies that they defeated and were almost seen as trophies.

He also witnessed American corpses holding evidence of Viet Cong torture. The last section Caputo titled “In Death’s Grey Land” and it is in this section when he gets reassigned to his rifle company. He admits that he views the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong as fierce and skilled fighters and that they have earned his and other American soldiers’ respect. Caputo and his fellow troops had wished and hoped for World War II type battles but instead learned to detect boobytraps and how to survive and make their way through the Vietnam jungles.

One day, troops under Caputo’s command miscarried orders and deliberately shot two suspects. Lieutenant Philip Caputo took full responsibility of his troops poor decisions and was forced to face a court martial. The charges against him were eventually dropped, he was reassigned to training in North Carolina, then received an honorable discharge from serving in the United States Marine Corps. Philip Caputo uses himself as a source for his book A Rumor of War.

He does not create a fictitious character to portray himself and instead creates more of an auto-biog]\[=’raphy or memior by using his own name and describing the events that occurred in his life while serving in the United States Marine Corps. In the book’s foreward, he states his purpose for writing the book. He makes it clear that it is not a history book nor is it a historical accusation. Caputo acts as a primary source for A Rumor of War and used his personal experiences to create his story. He states in his book that, “this is simply a story about war, about the things men do in war and the things war does to them.

Caputo stated that his purpose of the book was just to inform American readers and all readers about the Vietnam War, including the whole ugly truth of the Vietnam War and wars in general. Americans were blinded to the truth of war and had no clue what was going on with the soldiers fighting in battle and representing their country during the Vietnam War until A Rumor of War and other books and articles were published. As Theodore Solotaroff wrote in the New York Times Book Review, ‘the troubled conscience of America speaking passionately, truthfully, finally’.

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