A Rumor of War
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A Rumor of War

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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  6,033 ratings  ·  318 reviews
The classic Vietnam memoir, as relevant today as it was almost thirty years ago.

In March of 1965, Marine Lieutenent Philip J. Caputo landed at Da Nang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history's ugliest wars, he returned home--physically whole but emotionally wasted, his youthful idealis...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1977)
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Larry Bassett
This book does not pretend to be history. It has nothing to do with politics, power, strategy, national interests, or foreign policy; nor is it an indictment of the great men who lead us into Indochina and whose mistakes were paid for with the blood of some quite ordinary men. In a general sense, it is simply a story about war, about the things men do in war and the things war does to them. More strictly, it is a soldier’s account of our longest conflict, the only one we have ever lost, as well
...more
Patrick McCoy
I just finished Philip Caputo’s riveting A Rumor of War. It clearly belongs in the elite pantheon of books about the Vietnam War along with Michael Herr’s Dispatches, Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried, and Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History. Caputo writes about his experiences that led him to enlist in 1965 in order to satisfy his romantic ideals about war. His experiences vary as his company defends an airstrip then engages in search and destroy missions before bei...more
Jake
"A Rumor of War" is a deeply disturbing book. Like "Dispatches", by Michael Herr, it is a gripping first person narrative of what it was like to be in Vietnam- but Herr was there as a war correspondent, and the worst action he sees is brief visits to forward camps. Caputo, on the other hand, is a Second Lt. in the Marines, and his best days in Vietnam are much worse than the worst things Herr reported in his book. Months spent sleeping in foxholes deep in VC territory, dozens of fellow soldiers...more
Alexandra
This memior of a marine lt in Vientam was hard for me to rate. On a technical score, this book earns three stars. It is well-written and readable. In terms of content and message, however, I could not say that I certainly liked it.

Caputo was about 6 months ahead of my dad on the Quantico-to-Vietnam trajectory. Many of the officers mentioned in the book were men my dad also knew/served with. I read the book largely to learn more about my dad's experiences as a young marine in training and in com...more
Erin
Jan 23, 2008 Erin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Erin by: Breanne Larsen
Easy read. He had some good points on war that of course never having been through a war - I would never have thought about.

It wasn't as philosophical or even maybe horrific as I needed. He didn't sell me on why exactly did the Vietnam war effect men's psyches more than other wars. I guess that's what I was looking for. To understand their psyche. He only would delve into that a few times.

I guess I felt this book was a good overall view on the Vietnam war. But really it didn't make me feel a wh...more
Alfred Searls
In January of 1961 the newly elected President John F Kennedy stood on the steps of the Capital building in Washington and famously challenged the youth of America to “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”.

Away in windy Chicago a young student at Loyola University knew just how to answer that call; he would join the United States Marine Corp and play a man’s part in defending the new Camelot against all enemies, foreign and domestic. A Rumor of War is P...more
SirLordBaltimore
Caputo's incorporation of sensationalism in this work betrays him miserably. It seems as if someone (like a producer or agent) may have whispered into this guy's ear, listen don't be afraid to ham it up a little. You want this book to sell, right? Follow this pattern, etc.

Notwithstanding the undeniable factual events he shares with the reader, Caputo's sense of sincerity is clearly and unfortunately diluted with his zealous ambition to be more skilled at the craft of writing than he actually is....more
Bastian Greshake
I must say this is even a stronger book than Dispatches by Michael Herr, which I must have read last year or so. Herr's perspective is that of what we nowadays probably would call an embedded journalist. He accompanied the Vietnam war as a journalist for the Esquire, and while his account is disturbing in it's own way A Rumor Of War is even harder on the reader in that respect, as Caputo signed up for the USMC and was amongst the first US troops to be deployed. So you're not only confronted with...more
John Maberry
Mar 13, 2008 John Maberry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, especially young neocons
Caputo's book doesn't need another review. I will offer mine anyway, if nothing else to contrast it with Wolff's "In Pharoah's Army," an inferior book. First, I wish I could have written "A Rumor of War." I wasn't ready to write about the war soon after I returned from Vietnam, in 1967. Not even after a couple years of college in 1971, when I camped on the mall with 1,200 other Vietnam Vets Against the War (including John Kerry). Caputo had the advantage of education on me. Not just that, I need...more
Shane Woolf
“The greatest tragedy is war, but so long as there is mankind, there will be war.” -Jomini, The Art of War


Emotionally powerful. Personally riveting. A simple story about war without all the preachy judgement and rhetoric. A perspective on infantry life written by an infantryman.

To quote Caputo,

“This book does not pretend to be history. It has nothing to do with politics, power, strategy, influence, national interests, or foreign policy; nor is it indictment of the great men who led us into In
...more
Alan
Tremendously powerful memoir of a 2nd lieutenant in the Marines who was in the first wave of Marines coming into Vietnam in March of 1965. From gung-ho teenagers to hardened cynical veterans in just a few months, this book shows, in no uncertain terms, the misery and futility of the war and the damage it did to all the participants and non-combatants alike. Read it in conjunction with Patriots: An Oral History of Vietnam (which is told in interviews with US troops, ARVN, Viet Cong, North Vietnam...more
Matt Adams
Although I'm giving this book 5 stars, it's a little hard for me to simply say that I enjoyed it. It's not a pleasant read. It's dark. It's ugly. It's war. And this book throws you right in the midst of it. The reason I gave it 5 stars is because it's important. As Caputo says early on, there are plenty of TV shows and movies about war that may be exciting, but many of them focus on building this image of being a hero. Books such as this one strip the make up off and describe every horrific deta...more
Tim
I bought a spare used paperback version of this book for 3.95. I think it represents the most focused narrative of what combat must have meant for American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Similar to Norman Mailer's Naked and the Dead in its focus on the present, limited perspective of soldiers in combat on a small island in the Pacific, little connected to the sweep of the conflict, or perhaps played out a thousand times, all merging into the course of the war.

In this book the author Caputo keeps h...more
Barbara
Philip Caputo enlisted in the Marines in 1960, and admits to being motivated by both a desire to escape the humdrum existence of suburban Illinois and the glowing enthusiasm engendered by the euphoria that was Camelot. He envisioned himself as a courageous patriot, becoming a man by surviving the rigors of military life, and being eventually discharged as a recognized hero. After college and officers' training, he became part of the first group of Americans to be dropped on Vietnamese soil; this...more
Dusty
Jan 07, 2012 Dusty rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dusty by: Carly Sweder
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'll admit that it took me awhile to warm up to Caputo's rather technical account of his year in Vietnam. The problem is that I'd already read Tim O'brien's bewitching The Things They Carried, which sets the bar for literary memoirs of soldiering in the Indochinese swamplands absurdly high, and while Caputo's book isn't without literary merit, he can't quite match O'brien's poetry. Plenty of men get blown up in both books. In A Rumor of War those men are exactly what they are: too-young American...more
Carol Storm
I loved this book as a kid, but since I met several Marines during the Desert Storm era who said it inspired them to enlist I don't think it qualifies as an anti-war classic.

The truth is, Caputo is much better at capturing the allure of the Marine Corps -- the chance to belong, to prove oneself, to escape the trivial and materialistic side of suburban life -- than he is at describing the destructive horrors of war. One almost gets the impression that the anti-war stuff at the very end was tacke...more
Louis
This was a book club selection. And not by me :-)

Philip Caputo was a marine lieutenant among the first units in Vietnam in 1965. And his unit, like all such who are the first of their generation to go to war, was unsure of what they would find, looking to their few veterans from Korea to what it would be like, and the guidance from above. And the guidance from above was that it would be easy.

It was not. And Caputo shows what it was like at the ground, the walking into the unknown, not knowing wh...more
Martin
Jul 20, 2007 Martin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended by my brother-in-law Aaron - this was a powerful book. While there there certainly parts that grip you powerfully and hold you - the real strength of this book is in its timelessness. The issues to an infantryman in Vietnam are no different than the issues of an infantryman in Iraq. It's a war whose purpose is questioned and human nature is human nature. Anger is anger. VietCong = Iraqi Insurgent.
It begs the question, 'when will we learn our lesson?' America is about to lose it's ne...more
Megan Jones
Definitely not the incredible war book that is portrayed in the Prologue. Maybe after reading a more literary work like, The Things They Carried this book seemed rather dry. This book does an excellent job documenting war strategies, plotting the author's movement through Vietnam but lacks the psychological aspect I was hoping for.
Maureen
Jun 05, 2008 Maureen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone: we need to understand what war does to people
I have read a lot of books about the Vietnam war, and this is the one of finest. Like many Vietnam vets, Caputo physically came home, but part of him remained in Vietnam. To this day, I know Vietnam vets who are still working on coming home, reclaiming their lives piece by piece. To a man, they revere Phillip Caputo. So do I.
Stephanie
incredible real-life account of the first wave of marines in the city of vietnam where my father ended up a few years after the author. made better by the poem my sister wrote in the front cover for my dad - your copy won't have that, but it is still worth the read.
Kim Dawson
When I read this book I didn't know that it was somewhat of a classic work on the Vietnam War. After reading it, I can understand why. I found it to be a captivating and engrossing retelling of the author's experience in the war. His writing style pulls you in so that you feel like you are there with all the sights, smells and sounds of war. And time progresses, you see and understand the gradual transformation of the soldiers' attitudes and actions. I think the author's well-crafted portrayal o...more
Andrew
This book is absolutely FANTASTIC. Mr. Caputo does an amazing job of describing the vietnam conflict in vivid detail, beginning with his unit's landing at the airfield near Da Nang, to the Fall of Saigon. The author keeps you riveted to the page with impressive descriptions of the cruel beauty of the Vietnamese jungle as a place that is nice to look at, but dangerous to enter. In this book Mr. Caputo makes no attempt to romanticize warfare, or describe himself as a hero, and indeed denies that a...more
Jessi Bishop-Royse
It took me 11 years to read this book. I'd picked it up 6 or 7 times over the last decade, always mesmerized by Caputo's prose, but with a heavy heart because it's heavy material. It takes a certain mindset to be keep reading Caputo's dense but depressing narrative. It has much more military strategy than O'Brien's "The Things they Carried". I had an excellent sense of what Caputo's platoon did and where they moved.

The somberness of "A Rumor of War" parallels anything written by Wilfred Owen, b...more
Ronald Roumanis
This is one of the best narratives I've read about the war in Vietnam. Capito vivifies the early (1965-66) period of US fighting in this previously little-known country. What I like best is the account of the transition from a small "quaint" action for the military into a full-scale all-out war. Much attention is given to the psychological effects of using snipers and booby traps as an important Viet Cong fighting tactic. This element quickly took the spirit and confidence out of any fighting so...more
Kate Virden
I read this book with an open mind, ready and willing to learn about the gruesome aspects of the Vietnam War. The book exceeded all of my expectations in the writing style, tone, and descriptions.
Hol
Apr 14, 2014 Hol rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in war
This book was such a struggle to get through. I don't know what it was but it felt like wading through mud while trying to read it. So much was happening and yet I still had so many pages to get through to the end.

To be honest I had to read this book for university and I'm also trying to read more books on soldiers for research for my own writing. I think that if I didn't have the pressure of getting it read for university then I probably would have enjoyed it more.

If you're interested in war, e...more
Groucho
I first read this book in college, and have been meaning to revisit it for a long time. I wasn’t disappointed (although I should point out that Tim O'Brien's books are superior).

The book gives the reader a pretty accurate description of what it was like at the beginning of the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam—long stretches of tediousness, punctuated by confusion, terror, and violence. The author spares no one—least of all himself—in his indictment of how Vietnam was (mis)managed.

One of Caputo’s...more
Lindsey
This review is by an admitted Vietnam War novice who was looking to learn more. Caputo served in the war for about 18 months starting in early 1965. What I gathered from this book is that America decided to intervene on behalf of the South Vietnamese army against Viet Cong gorillas who were under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh who was trying to take over the government and turn Vietnam into a Communist state. Unfortunately, the Viet Cong were very good at ambush, booby traps, mines and hiding in...more
Steve Woods
This is a very personal account of one man's war, set in the very earliest days of the US commitment to Vietnam. It is told with scarifying clarity and honesty that sets it among the great literature that came from the First World War, from authors like Owen, Graves Sassoon and Remarque- towering story tellers of that horrific tragedy whose words Caputo acknowledges as a primary influence in the style and presentation he has employed to tell his tale.... and what a tale. Anyone can feel, and tas...more
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A Rumor of War 8 30 Oct 03, 2011 07:41AM  
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15509
American author and journalist. Latest book is the travel memoir THE LONGEST ROAD. Best-known for A Rumor of War , a best-selling memoir of his experiences during the Vietnam War.
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“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.” 5 likes
“The essence of the Marine Corps experience, I decided, was pain.” 0 likes
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