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A Rumor of War

Phillp Caputo's memoir A Rumor of War documents the transformation in his views about the conflict in Vietnam. Caputo enthusiastically joined the army for idealistic-if not naively idealistic-reasons, however his experiences dealing with the army bureaucracy and fighting the Viet Cong left him largely disillusioned about the conflict and the nature of war in general.

As a young man, Caputo longed to escape his quotidian life in the Chicago suburbs. He describes:

I wanted to find in a commonplace world a chance to live heroically. Having known nothing but security, comfort, and peace, I hungered for danger, challenges, and violence (5).

After stopping at a Marine recruiting booth, Caputo had a sudden moment of realization that fighting in a war would fulfill these desires. He joined without any persuasion by the recruiters. His enlistment had several underlying motivations: the desire to prove his masculinity, the desire to defy his parents' wishes, and the desire to serve his country, however the need to be a warrior seemed to encompass them all (6-7). Throughout the Marine's brutal training regimen, Caputo's seemingly innate yearning for conflict remained unabated. He recounts, "I wanted the romance of war, bayonet charges, and desperate battles against impossible odds" (14).

Caputo's military career would not meet these expectations. Experiences with the army bureaucracy and actual combat would rob him of his romantic view of war. Caputo began his formal service as a lieutenant in command of a rifle platoon stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He recounts that his tenure on the base "did not fulfill" his "ever romantic" view of military life (31). In fact much of his duty seemed completely banal. Caputo describes how most senior officers "had a reverence for the formalities of military bureaucracy" that extended to nearly laughable extremes (31). He describes being rebuked by


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A Rumor of War. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:09, July 01, 2022, from