A Rumor of War

By Philip Caputo,

Book cover of A Rumor of War: The Classic Vietnam Memoir

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked A Rumor of War as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is the first Vietnam War book I read. For almost ten years I remained silent about my military service—many coworkers did not know I had served, let alone two tours and wounded in action. Caputo’s voice and sense of loss and waste and rage touched so close to my feelings. His gift of words made me live again the countless hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror—for me, ambushes, mines, incoming artillery, and mortar rounds. Twenty years in the future, when I began writing my stories, I read Caputo’s book again because I hoped to emulate his sense…

Caputo’s 1977 Vietnam War memoir is important because it transcends the typical battlefield diary and fulfills the author’s literary intentions of portraying this soldier’s spiritual and psychological changes. In our 2005 interview, Caputo noted that he wanted to “recreate the war as concretely as possible,” which he certainly does through the eyes of a Marine infantry officer. But for me and many Vietnam veterans, Caputo, through his own story, also traces our soldier evolution through stages of innocence about war, disturbing war experiences, and choices between good and evil. Caputo’s narrative voice and detailed descriptions reflect his journalistic background, and…

Caputo served sixteen months in Vietnam as a Marine Corps lieutenant, first as platoon leader fighting Viet Cong, then at a desk job counting dead, then back with his platoon. His experience of fear and courage, comradeship and loneliness, can be compared with the experience of Henry Fleming, Robert Graves, and Farley Mowat. I love this book because it shows how little has changed in the changes wrung out of men in the experience of combat.

A best-selling memoir, A Rumor of War, is a recounting of a young United States Marine officer’s experiences during the earliest stages of the war in Vietnam. Philip Caputo writes with the authority of a man who saw it through the macro-lens of personal experience and pulls no punches for himself or those involved. His memoir begins with military training in 1960 and ends with his return as a journalist in 1975 to witness the fall of Saigon. Lauded as one of the classic books about the war in Vietnam, this is one any student, writer, historian, or otherwise…

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