It was a war that took almost 11 years leading to the deaths of numerous innocent lives. Vietnam War a historical war fought by America and other parties saw the recruitment of young soldiers to the U.S Marine to defend their territorial boundaries against enemy attacks. In light of this, Phillip Caputo recounts, in his personal memoir cum book, A Rumor of War individual experiences during the Vietnam War. The author narrates the various occurrences that he witnessed as a Marine Lieutenant in the wake of the Vietnam War.
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A Rumor of War chronicles the various occurrences witnessed during the Vietnam War. It articulates how Caputo, in his early teens, became enlisted in the United States Marine Corps soon after completion of his high school education with high hopes of ending the war in a couple of weeks and return home to a heroic welcome. Divided into three parts, the first it gives the author's reason for joining the marine, it also highlights about the training and the subsequent arrival in Vietnam.
Prior to his enlistment at the Marine Corps, Phillip Caputo viewed warfare as polite and dignified way of dealing with human kind. However, upon his tour to Vietnam, it dawns on him that warfare is a dehumanizing affair that often leads to massive innocent lives. He was enthusiastic to engage in splendid little war. "For my part, I was elated the moment I signed up and swore to defend the United States 'against all enemies foreign and domestic'" (p. 7) "We thought we were going to win the war in a few months and then march home to ticker-tape parades" (190)
Going into the war meant victory since the American country had previously come into war victorious. The U.S marines boasted about their military thus assuming that the same would be replicated to their utter surprise after the war took years to culminate to a deadly end, with numerous people losing their lives. At the Vietnam War, caputo is assigned the duty to record war casualties, job that not only causes physical but also psychological torture. At some point he indicates that success was merely measured through dead body counts. As a child, Caputo concentrated on watching war movies with stars such as John Wayne and John Agar among others. This invigorated his urge to join the marines and defend his country.
Previously, he viewed war as a patriotic way of defending one's country. In light of this, he saw warfare as the only solution to solve differences. After several months in the marine training, Caputo had changed his mentality and ideological viewpoints. For example, at the age of 24, he asserts that was more prepared for death more than life. In light of this, Caputo vowed to protect his country against defeat. He was optimistic that they would come out victorious since the country had not lost previously in a war. His entry into the war changed his perception of human beings as sacred living things. After viewing bodies at the war, death also came in hardy as a normal incident in marine life.
The Vietnam War had arguably corrupted the soldiers' morals to the extent of them killing individuals yet life was sacred. For example, constant exposure to death scenes of their colleagues and enemy forces raped them psychologically. Although, he was a non-drunkard, his entry in the Marine Corps dramatically changed his behaviors; he started drinking and abusing drugs. "Profitt and I stayed up half the night, drinking our beer, smoking the last of his dope" (340). The drinking habit aimed at hiding their pains and emotions propagated by the effects of the war. Moreover, involvement in the war prompts Caputo to engage in heinous acts of bravery, as platoon leader, he directs his juniors per se to kill innocent Vietnamese civilians and burn homestead something an ordinary normal individual ca not do.
Caputo and his colleagues had gone to the war knowing that the war would turn them into heroes but their ideological viewpoints were shattered after the war took new shape and lasting for eleven agonizing years. Caputo and his fellow soldiers experienced difficulties at their time at the war. This included heavy downpour at the time of the monsoon season of 1965. The aftermath of the rains led to the increment in the number of casualties as soldiers were required to do more than what they had been trained for back in the training school. "The expedition had become a war of attrition, a drawn- out struggle in the mud and rain" (217).
In addition, the soldiers found it hard to distinguish armed between the enemy and civilians, thus killing innocent individuals. In the course of the war, Caputo is assigned the duty to command a section of his fellow soldiers. Caputo's downfall is precipitated by his unusual directive. He instructs soldiers under his command to go on an operation that ends up killing two Vietnamese civilians. This prompts his immediate demotion and subsequent arraignment in a court martial which later acquits him on grounds of not being guilty. Upon discharge at the Vietnam War, he came out weaker and emotionally degraded from the energetic individual with no fame. He, however, returned to Vietnam to come up with such a historical book.
At the end of the war, the soldiers received a rather somber welcome quite different from their expectations. For example, they lacked a hero's welcome from their countrymen, since most of the citizenry were not supportive of their course at the Vietnam War. Most of the soldiers who had gone to the war as youths came back old enough due to the sufferings they underwent at the decade-long war. The war changed the American perspective of warfare and their soldiers as well. Although he returned home alive, he had become a victim as opposed to a victor in the war.
The book provides a personal account of the Vietnam War creating a good historical reference to those who were not there at the time. It brought out themes of human conscience and the good and evil. A rumor of war forms a critical analysis of the extremes marines and military undergo in protecting the sovereignty of their territorial boundaries. In finality, Caputo engraved this book as a critical commemorative and learning experience of how war can adversely change a person's morality.