Rumor of War By Philip Caputo
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Reading “Rumor of War” by Philip Caputo was a great read and very dramatic. Philip Caputo makes the reader feel as if they are standing right beside him going through the same trials and tribulations he was going through. The emotional roller coaster of emotions of war are very real. Philip Caputo and his platoon will experience a variety of emotions.
Philip Caputo was your average 20 year old man growing up in a small prairie town, Westchester, Illinois. Just like any other man growing up in this era had the same desires of proving himself as a man. Listening to John F. Kennedy’s famous inaugural address to the nation really encouraged Philip Caputo wanting to prove himself as a man and defend his country. While attending Loyola College he enlisted in the schools Reserve Officer Training for the Marines.
After graduation he attends Marine Boot Camp where he learns the history of the United States Marines, battle tactics and basic weaponry Caputo wanted to go out and prove himself as a man and to get out of the everyday life of a small town boy in Illinois. Boot camp was not easy for any new soldier; they were tormented and pushed to a breaking point in order to make each of them a United States Marine. Philip Caputo wanted to war to be over quickly so he could have all his friends slap him on the back and welcome him home as a hero and ask about all the things he experienced, Caputo felt Communism in Asia could and would end with brute force by the United States Marines. What he found though, was a totally different world when he arrived in Vietnam. He was digging in the trenches fighting for his life and it was a rude awakening for himself and many other young men who felt they were not told the truth about the U.S.A’s involvement.
Philip was with the Marine Corp and he received his first post as an officer in Okinawa, Japan with a group of around 40 Marines in the Third Division. When he arrived he was caught off-guard as he expected to be greeted by hard working soldiers that worked 24/7 on the battlefield but what he found was soldiers by day and those same soldiers drinking with the prostitute’s at night. Caputo found it difficult to fit in with his platoon they had trained and traveled with each other from the beginning; he felt like a stranger in a strange land. He finally started to fit in and realized that his whole platoon was tired of sitting around and that they were ready for action. In short he and his platoon would go to Vietnam.
When they arrived in Vietnam was a surprise for many of them spent their first days packing and piling sandbags and digging the foxholes that some would hold very close to their hearts. Philip Caputo and his platoon thought they were going to war and were disappointed was manual labor and stories of death also hearing gunfire. After a few weeks of building sandbags and foxholes the soldier’s attitudes started to change about the concept of war. Even-though the men were at company headquarters they soon realized the reality of war is real and also very dangerous; they have still not experienced life outside the headquarters and it will become clear what they are involved in. For over a month the men continued the same old routine of digging foxholes and filling and piling sandbag. The men started to become ill with a variety of ailments from diarrhea, malaria and dysentery the men sink into a hug hole and it is filled with depression.
Their day finally comes and they are to relieve another platoon out in the field but yet they get their and are told to wait longer. They waited for what seems an eternity and then all of a sudden their spirits are lifted as their first combat is taking place for them and the adrenaline is flowing and this turns into a search and destroy mission. Caputo and his boys are like little kids in a candy store as the day is finally here to do what they had originally planned on doing in Vietnam. Many of the platoon sergeants tried to warn the men of what laid ahead for them but the words were lost with all the excitement in the young soldiers minds.
Caputo awoke as guns are going off, his emotions and those of the other guys in the platoon were a huge roller coaster ride. This was their first major battle and it would not be the last of . As they went into the jungle, the men could not see the person in front of them, it was so dark because the vegetation was overgrown and very dense. When the platoon found signs of enemy activity it frightened the men and they ran across an older lady making weapons for the Viet Cong. Caputo’s realizes he had some compassion and releases the elderly woman only to be shot at by enemy snipers and to be forced back into the vast jungle once again. Once in the jungle they were surrounded by the VC and were immobilized completely. When they finally leave the area Caputo realized that nothing was accomplished but the men and himself are starting to learn the lessons of war the hard way. They realize that even with all their training and brainwashing by the military that they are not invincible and they will and can be shot at or even killed. Even Philip Caputo and his platoon had a hard time with all the training they have received and all the propaganda of them being invincible and conquering all and riding off into the sunset.
As the war continued the platoon started to strip away anything they had been trained for and realize it is reality. When they finally experience head to head combat it really opens their eyes about death and it becomes more personal than ever before. The emotions of the soldiers become a reality and they start to realized the enemy they had been killing is just like them. This makes all of the men saddened and full of guilt. Because they realize that death is right next to them and it is not just out on the horizon. The fear of death has become a constant thought on everyone’s minds. The platoon really began to bond and become very close. Emotions are still a wild ride on a roller coaster.
Philips is reassigned to a different company than he was and he is responsible for administrative work of counting and tagging the deceased. Philips motions are really starting to mess with his minds and he is constantly thinking of what he was trained to do and on the other side the guilt he feels inside from all the killing and violence he has become involved with. Philips gets deep into his thoughts and eventually he is feeling like every other American with the same question of why we are even here and is it really worth it. Things really hit him emotionally when he is doing his casualty counts and he has to tag three soldiers from his old platoon. Philips emotions are in total chaos and like him and many others they are coming unglued and are ready to go home.
Philips realizes that he needs to get back on the front lines and fight in the trench’s as he wants to romanticize it once again. Once he returns to the trench’s he nearly caves as being away for so long has softened him and he is scared and feels like a little child with a gun for the first time. Philips is scared once again and soon madness steps in. Philip’s mind finally caves in a battle he orders the capture and execution of know VC’s in the area. They capture and kill the VC and have no feelings towards it and move on with theirs lives and five moths later Philips is court marshaled for the murder of Viet Cong and he is blindsided by the military courts as he feels he is being tried as if he was walking down the street in America and killed someone instead of actually being in a war. Philips is found not guilty of the crimes and is honorably discharged and is flown back to the United States. Philips is filled with some many thoughts of guilt and remorse for what war has made him do and he feels betrayed by his own country the United States. I believe the United States was at fault as they drove these young men to commit acts of violence and then try them criminally.
Ten years later Philips returns this time as a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and rumors of the wars ending circles the globe and he is relieved to leave this war that has haunted him for so many years.
In closing the emotional roller coaster that the Vietnam war created is something very real and many people like Philip Caputo experience the trauma in their daily lives to this day. The United States involvement in the Vietnam war is often debated as to why we did we get involved in a battle we could not win. Over 55,000 men and women from the United States lost their lives and over 300,000 were injured for a battle that should have never been fought in the first place. Many Vietnam vets still have vivid nightmares and psychological issues as resulting from this war.