A moving, intimate account of the early days of Vietnam. Captures the undying spirit of the proud marine struggling to figure out how to apply all of his training to such an unfamiliar battleground. Compelling, insightful, brutal and frightening.
I read this after reading "Matterhorn" and was jolted by how similar the authors' experiences had been. Caputo succeeded at his goal, making the reader experience the war as he did--- exhilarating, terrifying, disgusting, confusing and boring by turns. A well-crafted read.
One of the best books I've ever read about the experiences of a U.S.M.C. lieutenant in Viet Nam. Like Caputo, I too was a young Marine lieutenant who served in Viet Nam. Unlike him, I ran convoys to combat bases throughout northern South Viet Nam and didn't tramp the 'boonies' in search of the foe. In fact, my mission was to hope to never see combat, as truck convoys were sitting targets on the roads built above the rice paddies.
Still, I too remember the initial enthusiasm of serving my country when arriving 'in country,' and, like him, undergoing gradual disenchantment of war and the fighting in Viet Nam, until I realized that my primary mission was to get me and my men back home in one piece.
If you want to know what it was like to be a Marine in Viet Nam, read "A Rumor of War."
A Rumor of War ranks up there with Gen. Harold Moore's, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young," and Col. David Hackworth's, "About Face." All three show how debates that raged in Washington, Paris, Saigon, and Hanoi were ultimately scored. Whether you were a "hawk or a dove," a liberal or a conservative, a professor or student, you will benefit from reading this book that answers the question authoritatively: "Hey! What was Vietnam really like?"
Caputo describes "the splendid little war" as his road from an enthusiastic idealist poisoned by the romanticized view of war as a chivalrous and noble enterprise to the dehumanized and desensitized wreck that he becomes during his tour in Vietnam. The book is an amazing testimony about the true nature of war with all its atrocities and horrors. Caputo brilliantly captures the endless despair of being strained in the jungle with no clear reason for being there, the hopeless madness of chasing the guerillas and the agony of loosing friends. But the most important aspect of this book is that it shows how a normal mentally healthy person can be turned into a thoughtless killing machine in the course of a few months, fast on the trigger, without any remorse for his victims. Caputo uses very strong and vivid images such as "pigs eating napalm-charred human corpses" to force the reader into his story and feel what Caputo has felt. Very realistic book that cannot leave you indifferent, definitely up there with Remarque's "All quiet on the Western front." If you want to know what fighting the Vietnam War was really like, I can't imagine how any book can possibly be better than Rumor of War.
AMAZON.COM READER'S REVIEW
This is the best book I have ever read on the ground war in Viet Nam from the infantryman's perspective. Don't read this if helicopters flying by in the middle of the night still give you cold chills. A well deserved Pulitzer winner!