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Richard Garrison

US History Comprehensive
Dr. Jonathan Bryant
03 December 2015
A Rumor of War
Philip Caputo served as a lieutenant in the United States Marin Corps during
one most gruesome, destructive wars of the 20 th century. As trying as Caputos
ordeal was his story was more common than what should have been endured. His
story is one of disillusionment, anger, confusion, and in the end a sense of
acceptance. While his tribulations range over several years the turning point would
occur when he is placed on trial by the military due to the conduct of his men during
a search mission.
The situation that led up to the trial involves the search of a known VC (Viet
Cong) village. Three young military aged men were found in the village carrying
false identification with forged ages. After being interrogated, the villagers were let
go due to a lack of evidence of Communist activity. Later the youngest of the three
men would return and inform Crowe that the other two were in fact VC. Hence, a
mission was carried out to capture the suspects. Caputo and the other components
of his outfit were under pressure from their commanders to become more
aggressive and build a body count. The stress of an insensitive chain of command
and a growing hate created an environment for senseless killing. After entering the
ville, the two young men made a run for it and were promptly shot while fleeing.
Perhaps it was due to the fog of war, but Caputo couldnt help but notice the young
age of the suspects.
The Marine Corps were quick to bring up charges for gross negligence and
murder against Caputo and his squad leaders. However, Caputo would not be
convicted of murder as perhaps the jury understood the fog of war. They understood
that the orders given to Caputo contradicted what they were being charged for. The
jury seemed to understand the hypocrisy of the whole ordeal.
It is easily understood that the trial was unfair to Caputo. The Uniform Code
of Military Justice was used as a mechanism for disgruntled officers to cover their
tracks and Caputo was almost an unfortunate scapegoat.
Throughout the book Caputo analyzes the treatment of the Vietnamese
people. One can understand how confused and frightful the South Vietnamese felt
towards American military operations. Supposedly the United States were to stem
the tide of aggressive Communist insurrection and sustain democratic institutions,
but instead found themselves victims of brutal cross examination, napalm bombs,
crossfire, retaliation, and other various war crimes. Some instances lead to all

Vietnamese people being viewed as hostile; therefore Caputo articulates that the
Vietnamese begin to seem less human and more expendable.