In Philip Caputo’s memoir, A Rumor of War, he recounts his experiences in his tour of duty in Vietnam. In his memoir Caputo demonstrates the mind of a soldier on the field, and the thought process which they faced. Caputo’s writings however do not reveal the fantasized, idyllic picture of the soldier in which America is proud to demonstrate. Upon arriving to guard the ARVN militia already stationed Caputo mentions how the war felt very Romantic to the Americans, akin to Kipling’s colonial wars. “John Kennedy. If he was the King of Camelot, then we were his knights and Vietnam our crusade.” Before seeing any action Caputo paints the war as a picture of fantasy, where a fraternity of boys go on an adventure to become men.
Instead, Caputo’s memoir shows the strive for personal gain as well as the demonstrating the dehumanization of the Vietnamese people in the eyes of the American invaders. Philip Caputo shows the fantastical attitudes and racial superiority which the Americans brought into Vietnam,
Caputo’s motivations for joining the attack on Vietnam do not come as one who wants to defend his country from communism, in fact Caputo barely makes reference to communism as a threat to the United States at all. Rather Caputo says that his main reason for joining the Marines because of an idolized sense of adventure. Caputo wanted to join in on this campaign instead of “watching it on a movie or TV screen” or reading about it in a book, but he wanted to be “there, living out a fantasy akin to “John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima.” Caputo’s sense of adventure came from the need to escape from the mundane suburban life his parents had planned for him. “I needed to prove something-my courage, my toughness, my manhood, call it whatever you like.” Caputo’s entrance into the conflict in Vietnam comes not due to the conflict of Vietnam itself but rather the convenience of the war starting when it did. Caputo maintains that his signing up for the Marines came because of his boyish rebellion towards his parents: “My parents regarded me as an irresponsible boy who still needed their guidance. I wanted to prove them wrong.”
Caputo’s personal motivations do not end with his enrolment into the Marine Corps. He even writes that his own desire for personal accolades and acceptance had driven him to make brash choices: “I had two choices: to turn back or go on, at the risk of running into an ambush. I chose the latter, partly of out the “spirit of aggressiveness” … and partly out of pure personal ambition.” Again his being in the conflict had no nationalistic desires behind it, nor did he wish to end the global threat of communism. “I wanted to get into that fight, I wanted to prove myself the equal of the other officers in C Company.” Jealous that other lieutenants had seen most of the action, Caputo makes decisions based on what personal accolades he may be able to achieve “he would probably win a letter of commendation or maybe a medal. I wanted to win one...