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A Rumor of War

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  12,184 ratings  ·  573 reviews
The 40th-anniversary edition of the classic Vietnam memoir—featured in the PBS documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick—with a new foreword by Kevin Powers.

In March of 1965, Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo landed at Danang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history’s
Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Picador (first published 1977)
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Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: howard
After recently having the pleasure of the powerful big-picture view of the Vietnam War in Burns and Novick’s masterful documentary, I found compelled to get immersed in more details of the soldier’s experience in Vietnam. It has been a long time since I enjoyed books by Herr, O’Brien, Del Vecchio, and Marlantes. The variety in these memoirs and fictional portrayals makes it clear how complex the issues are, both in the general topic of men at war and the situation of different people at ...more
Larry Bassett
I have just finished experiencing this book for the second time. The first time I read it in the standard book format six years ago although this book was first published in 1977 and was immediately hailed as a star of the then beginning of Vietnam as a popular topic. There are 3500 books about Vietnam in 1996 according to author Caputo in the post script to this book. Six years after first reading it I have now almost totally moved into the Kindle and Audible world of book rating. This audible ...more
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've talked before about a class I took in high school that didn't feel completely worthless the way a lot of my other classes did. I took that class because one of my brothers took it the first year it was offered and I remember thinking, "Man, when I'm a Senior, I hope that class is still offered." Because there was a tradition of my brothers getting to take cool classes (like Latin) or having cool teachers (and I'd get the crazy assholes) and then the classes and teachers not existing by the ...more
Tim Mercer
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting memoir. The author was a newly minted US Marine Corp 2nd Lieutenant whose unit was transferred to Na-dang to take over defence of the base from the ARVN who were departing on a counter offensive. His view is naturally that of a small unit commander with the largest body of men under him a platoon of infantry. He describes in detail what it was like to go out on patrol, and the effect the body count process had on the psychology of himself and his men. Over his tour ...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 ...more
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, sociology
"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 Cannon
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
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tim O'Brien arguably wrote the best work of fiction about the Vietnam war in The Things They Carried. To me, Philip Caputo inarguably wrote its best memoir. Unlike more recent attempts in the genre, Caputo's account of combat is never blinkered, gung-ho, or glamourised.

Blunt as a boulder, vivid, and unforgettable, I rate it higher than even Michael Herr's Dispatches.
John Maberry
Mar 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 ...more
Erin Rouleau
Jun 21, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
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
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.
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A detour from Oz into another world of confusion, frustration, boredom and terror that so uniquely describes a tour of duty in wartime. I bought this book in paperback many years ago when I was still in high school, not long before I joined the Air Force. Of course that was during piece time, so I had none of the apprehension and anticipation of heroics that the author had when he joined the marines in the early days of the Vietnam war. I didn't get around to reading it back then in 1982 because ...more
Mitchell Knapp
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War as a gift a few years ago, but did not read it until now. After reading it, I am glad I waited. Caputo’s memoir seems to be the type of book that as the reader ages, there are more thoughts he/she is able to extract from this terrific book.

Philip Caputo divides his memoir into three distinct sections. The first covers his reasons for enlisting in the Marine Corps prior to the war and his initial deployment as part of the first ground combat unit of the
Matt Adams
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
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 ...more
Shane Woolf
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“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
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I just finished A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, which amply deserves 4 stars. What a powerful book. This memoir about Vietnam gives the reader a virtual, firsthand experience of war, with all its violence, boredom, suffering, terror and thrills. The author is brutally honest and insightful, and the passages about the morality of war and the seesawing between hatred and guilt that he experiences are extremely thought-provoking. I must admit that I skimmed through some of the detailed day-to-day ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A re-read for me, inspired by the interminably heartbreaking, often infuriating Ken Burns series.

This is far less flashy than many VN books, with much minutiae about the rear echelon bureaucracy of “war,” which I (being the granddaughter of a general and daughter of a colonel) happily slogged through. I have military acronyms in my DNA.

The visual picture of Vietnam in the pages of this book, and the descriptions of the weather - which for soldiers was a special circle of hell - were so vivid
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For years, I'd been scared away from reading this because of the terrible movie that had been made from it in the 80s. Glad I finally followed through. Terrific writing from a conscientious agent, trapped - like so many marines/GIs - in a war that made so little sense, especially when contrasted with the wars of their fathers and grandfathers. Caputo's prose in lovely, well-paced and lucid. I put it right up there with Michael Herr's "Dispatches."
Chris Gager
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rescued this from a window seat in the local hospital, where someone had "abandoned" it. I definitely remember the title but as far as I know I haven't read it. Despite the fact that I am a Vietnam vet I don't make any special point of reading Vietnam books. I've read a few ... this one's pretty famous. Read the more recent author's Prologue last night.

- The author says that Vietnam was the first war "lost" by The United States. What about Korea? I guess that's viewed as a stalemate, but we
I found the beginning of this utterly fascinating, but then tired of the narrative. And so moving on. That should not be taken as a criticism of the book, but only of my interests and my own restlessness.
Alfred Searls
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Things this book does:
- Delves deep into the psyche of a soldier in combat
- Looks brazenly at the emotional and psychological toll of turning boys into killers for the state
- Airs out the truth about how vicious US policy in Vietnam was from the earliest days of the war
- Grapples with the utter futility and meaningless of the staggering death toll on both sides of the war
- Scares the reader about how easy it is for humans to descend into carnage under the wrong circumstances
- Casts undeniable
David Putnam
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full five stars on this one. I'm always foraging around in the back lists for a good book to read and hit the jackpot on this one. Sometimes the Pulitzer prize winners are a little too snooty for me and can't get out of the way of themselves. But every now and then I find a real beaut. This is one of those. I can see how the topic, The Vietnam war, would not be for everyone but it intrigues me. My favorites on the subject so far are The 13th Valley by Del Vecchio and Matterhorn by Marlante ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I'd give it more stars if that were possible. My late husband was in that first batch of Marines who were sent from Okinawa to fight in Vietnam in March 1965, and he was very possibly the Pfc Buchanan who Lt. Caputo found in terror, firing his rifle into the darkness on their first night bivouacked in the jungle, putting himself in danger of being located by the enemy from his muzzle flashes. If so, thank you Mr Caputo for stopping that and saving his life.

This memoir feels so gritty and
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read as a Vietnam autobiography from a Marine, Phillip Caputo (the book's author) and his 16 month tour in Vietnam. I felt in addition to describing North Vietnamse snipers, it best describes what survival constituted a Marine experienced, the horrors of the muddy jungle, constant insects I didn't expect always on your body, heat/sweat to endure, what it was like without/lack of sleep and watching your the person next to you killed.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a bit tough to start. Once I get about 25% of the way through I was hooked and able to push through easily. Mr. Caputo writes in a style that is both very descriptive and easy to follow. I truly felt as though I was right there with him in Vietnam. This story also serves as a cautionary tale. Regardless of your political or ideological views this is a must read.
Books Ring Mah Bell
I forgot I read this! What I do remember was it blew me away at the time. Something about it still resonates with me, years later, I can give it a solid 5 stars.
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SSG: Spy/Spec-Ops...: Caputo! it's Game Time! 2 7 Apr 13, 2016 10:48PM  
A Rumor of War 8 35 Oct 03, 2011 07:41AM  

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American author and journalist. Author of 17 books, including the new HUNTER’S MOON: A Novel in Stories. Best known for A Rumor of War, a best-selling memoir of his experiences during the Vietnam War. Website:
“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.” 18 likes
“The essence of the Marine Corps experience, I decided, was pain.” 6 likes
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