Rumor of war is an amazing work of literature by Philip Caputo being a non-fictional book describing his experiences as a Lieutenant during the Vietnam War. The book describes the Vietnam War from a personal perspective, the event from the time he decided to join the Marine Corps and the reason which led him to join the corps and the various experiences he learnt. Caputo describes the feeling of being part of the feeling of being part of the American Marine Corps as “Heroic”. The most amazing aspect about the book is that Caputo does not criticize or take sides but just describes the life of a young man with no prior pre-meditation or thoughts about war. His joining the army is completely incidental as the description in the foreword outline. As a student at the Loyola University he decides to enroll for corps and he subsequently succeeds and he is sent to Vietnam in 1965.
Caputo does not just tell his story but explains of the experiences of other young Americans who in a bid to express patriotism and heroism enrolled in a War totally oblivious of the dangers and the unpleasant experiences associated with such sacrifices. The book is an autobiography containing very detailed descriptions of feelings and emotions and that is why Caputo spent so much time before completing the book and handing it over for publication. He says that there were times that he spent as much as several weeks without looking at the manuscript of the book. In most books and movies concerning the Vietnam the stories are always based on the analysis of reporters or from politicians or movie producers who may have had other aims when writing their stories. However Caputo’s story is told from a young solders perspective and therefore offers much credibility. There could be no better source to hear the stories of war from than from a solder.
One of the themes in the book is life in a military camp as told from a solders perspective. Caputo tells of the details of war ranging from the logistics associated with war. As a result Caputo does not just confine himself in writing about gun shooting experiences and encounters with enemy troops but he also goes on to describe details such as life in towns of Vietnam. The place setting of the book is in Japan and Vietnam. Caputo details that his first assignment after being deployed was in Okinawa, Japan under the 2nd platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion and 3rd Marines. Caputo initially served as the Platoon Commander for a rifle platoon. Caputo describes the situation and his first perception when he landed in Vietnam. He describes the first camp he went to which was called the Schwab Camp as having nothing exciting whatsoever. His detailed description gives the reader a cold perception about the camp and perhaps Caputo intended to describe how there is nothing exciting about wars contrary to the popular and heroic aspects displayed by Hollywood movies and other works of fiction. Caputo says that the camp resembled a maximum security prison than a home. He describes the differences of life in a military camp in Vietnam in comparison to the experiences he had in Military camps in the U.S. He outlines that the only thing that acts as evidence of civilization in the area was a “short Taxi ride.”
Caputo describes how solders who had been born and spent their lives in America and other areas of peace attempted to adapt to the obviously boring and scary life within enemy territory. Caputo describes one particular place where the solders liked to spend their free time when they were not engaging in war. He says that the place called Heneko had streets which had joints given bizarre names such as Bar New York and Club California. The solders spent most of their free time drinking if only to relieve the anxieties that accompanied the fact that they could be called to battle any time. Caputo explains that the hardest moments for new solders had to adapt to the climate of Vietnam. The weather was different and furthermore the solders had to sleep unprotected from dangerous insects such as mosquitoes. Specifically Caputo explains how the insect repellants and the mosquito nets that they were given were no match for these insects. He describes them as being “flying, creeping, crawling buzzing, biting things”. Caputo also describes the not only the topography but also various diseases that the soldiers were prone to. He explains that the terrain consisted of a long dense jungle that was impassable and the fear of a sudden attack from the enemy who knew the terrain very well. He also outlines that there were other dangers such as attack from wild animals that the solders had to live with. Perhaps Caputo’s major aim in providing this detailed description was to both provide credible information in face of all the rumors heard and written concerning the War and to explain that it was everything about sacrifice and perseverance for one’s country. He also expresses his shock after being disillusioned at his first sight of the battle field.
Perhaps this is the most outstanding of all the themes because all the descriptions and events provided are related to war. His first description is that war is all about sacrifice. Caputo explains how the stay of the solders in Vietnam was full of anxiety. He specifically mentions the period when the North Vietnamese had invaded the South Vietnam territories with the aim of conquering the whole country. Anxiety spread over the whole country with conflicting news concerning the ongoing attacks. Caputo describes the situation as being first of excitement that finally they would have the chance of actually engaging in battle followed by confusion when the reality dawned on them. In most instances solders are in anticipation of the war before they actually go to the battlefield because they are eager to actually show their brevity and prowess. However when they finally come face to face with the horrors associated with war their perception becomes different. Caputo explains how the war led to much causality as he experienced when he worked as a clerk taking the records of dead soldiers and how the corpses of American soldiers bore the evidence of torture by the enemy.
Most people especially young people sign up for war mainly due to the heroic perceptions depicted by movies, while some join for other benefits. Others still join under the guise that it will provide for them the adventure they have always yearned for. However as Caputo explains war has nothing to do with the heroic dreams of a young man. Furthermore Caputo explains that war in a foreign country may be difficult to solders especially when the environment in general is different. It would sometimes mean living in very harsh environmental condition a situation compounded with the fear of enemy attack especially if the enemy knows the terrain very well. Caputo also explains that war leads to death as he describes the huge number of corpses he had to register. As a young man perhaps it was a lesson that he yearned to share with other young men.