“A Rumor of War,” by Phillip Caputo

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”–Matthews 24:6

A Rumor of War is a 1977 memoir by Philip Caputo about his service in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in the early years of the Vietnam War.  It is a famous memoir that was turned into a television miniseries that aired in 1980.

“Heartbreaking, terrifying, and enraging. It belongs to the literature of men at war.”–Los Angeles Times Book Review

               *****Final Rating*****

The Nonfiction Book Club met on “Rumor of War” on October 16, 2018.  The ratings, on a five-point scale, are as follows:

Readability: 4.11

Content: 3.78

Overall: 3.88

Comments include:

“This book captured me,”

Enjoyed the book as much a a book about war can be “enjoyed.”  Caputo’s “insights were very raw.”

“Worth the read” but “The Things they Carried” is better

“Loved this book”–the information, history, and author’s personal situation

****************************************

Rumor of War Life Magazine

Rumor of War Map with DaNang

Danang Province

Rumor of War HIll 327 and 268 Base Camps

Hill 327 and 268 Base Camps (1965)

Rumor of War Ambushes are Murder
“Ambushes Are Murder and Murder Is Fun.”

“Before you leave here, Sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.”
― Philip Caputo, A Rumor Of War

Discussion Questions:

1.  In the foreword, author Caputo states his purpose for writing this book. He makes clear that this is not a history book, nor is it a historical accusation. The author states that his book is a story about war, based on his own personal experience.  What does Caputo want the reader to realize about the war and the marines whose stories he tells?

Rumor-S. Vietnam Officer Executes Prisoner

Harrowing photos, including this of a South Vietnam officer executing a Viet Cong fighter, capture the brutality of the Vietnam War

A Vietnamese civilian with a gun pointed at the side of her head.

2.  What was “la cafard” (see p. 68) and how did it affect the Marines during their first two months in Danang? How did the “symptoms” of la cafard change as combat intensified? (see p. 99)

Rumor Demoralized Marine

A dirty and exhausted looking US Marine on patrol with his squad near the demilitarised zone during the Vietnam War

Rumor of War In the Thick of Things

US soldiers stand in the jungle as yellow smoke marking their location wafts into the air

3.   Caputo explains “we have learned that, in the bush, nothing ever happens according to plan. Things just happen, randomly, like automobile accidents.” How did that affect the marines who operated under these conditions?

Rumor of War Chaos

This iconic photograph, taken in 1968, demonstrates the chaos and horror of a jungle ambush.

4.  How did Caputo know the American marines were learning to hate? Why is this significant? (see p. 110)

Vietnam War, US forces, South Vietnam, December 1967

Who is the enemy here? The soldier, seen from the back, facing a Vietnamese woman hugging a baby, with a half-naked boy by her side? Or is it the young woman and her two children being confronted by an American GI? Are there not always two sides to a coin? Taken at a hamlet near Dakto in 1967.

Rumor-Woman at Gunpoint

A Vietnamese civilian with a gun pointed at the side of her head.

5.  Why did marines experience guilt mixed with pride when they found the VC soldiers’ photos? (see p. 124)

Rumor of War Leading Prisoners

A US Marine leads two Viet Cong suspects in restraints during the Tet Offensive

6.  How did the terrain and weather affect the marines?

Rumor of War Stuck in the Mud

Tank stuck in the mud during the Vietnam War

Rumor of War Rice PaddiesRumor of War Immersion Foot7.  Why did Caputo believe the entire court marshall process he went through was absurd? How did the conduct of the trial reveal that the US government continued to cling to myths and ignore reality? Rumor of War Cartoon

8.  Finally, did you think the book was effective?  How can the experiences of one soldier shed light on the entire US experience in Vietnam? What insights does Caputo provide to those trying to understand the “big picture”?

Rumor of War Soldier MaterialsRumor of War Remembering Vietnam

About the Author:

Rumor of War About the Author

Rumor Philip Caputo PhotoAmerican author and journalist. Author of 16 books, including the upcoming novel “Some Rise by Sin.”  Best known for “A Rumor of War “, a best-selling memoir of his experiences during the Vietnam War

One thought on ““A Rumor of War,” by Phillip Caputo

  1. *****Final Rating*****
    The Nonfiction Book Club met on “Rumor of War” on October 16, 2018. The ratings, on a five-point scale, are as follows:

    Readability: 4.11
    Content: 3.78
    Overall: 3.88

    Comments include:
    “This book captured me,”
    Enjoyed the book as much a a book about war can be “enjoyed.” Caputo’s “insights were very raw.”
    “Worth the read” but “The Things they Carried” is better
    “Loved this book”–the information, history, and author’s personal situation
    ****************************************

    Like

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