The Pequod Review:
A Rumor of War is one of the finest Vietnam War memoirs, superior in my mind to Michael Herr’s and Tim O’Brien’s more famous books. The story details Philip Caputo’s training and experience as a U.S. Marine in the early years of the war (primarily 1965-66). It is more experiential than factual, refreshingly free of any obvious political agenda, and the best parts intelligently capture the on-the-ground experience and psychological mindset of the soldiers:
The noise of the battle was constant and maddening, as maddening as the barbed hedges and the heat of the fire raging just behind us.
Then it happened. The platoon exploded. It was a collective emotional detonation of men who had been pushed to the extremities of endurance. I lost control of them and even of myself. Desperate to get to the hill, we rampaged through the rest of the village, whooping like savages, torching thatch huts, tossing grenades into the cement houses we could not burn. In our frenzy we crashed through the hedgerows without feeling the stabs of the thorns. We did not feel anything. We were past feeling anything for ourselves, let alone for others. We shut our ears to the cries and pleas of the villagers. One elderly man ran up to me, and, grabbing me by the front of my shirt, asked, “Tai Sao? Tai Sao?” Why? Why?
“Get out of the goddamned way,” I said, pulling his hands off. I took hold of his shirt and flung him down hard, feeling as if I were watching myself in a movie…