A Rumor of War

Caputo, Phillip

Ballantine, 1977

pp. 4, 90, 98

“A man saw the height and depths of human behavior in Vietnam, all manner of violence and horrors so grotesque that they evoked more fascination than disgust. Once I had seen pigs eating napalm-charred corpses–a memorable sight, pigs eating roast people.” (P. 90) “We became leaner and tougher. . .and a callus began to grow around our hearts, a kind of emotional flak jacket that blunted the blows and stings of pity.” (P. 98) The tiredness would “reach down into a part of ourselves I cannot name.”

pp. 12, 217

Marines in training had to shout a lot of slogans: “’Hup, two, three, four, I love the Marine Corps.’” And “’Sir! The United States Marine Corps; since 1775 the most invincible fighting force in the history of war. Gung ho! Gung ho! Gung ho! Pray for war! . . . Like the slogans of revolutionaries, these look ludicrous in print, but when recited in unison by a hundred voices, they have a weird, hypnotic effect on a Marine. The psychology of the mob, of the Bund rally, takes command of his will, and he finds himself shouting that nonsense even though he knows it is nonsense.” On Vietnam: (p. 217) “Everything rotted and corroded quickly over there: bodies, boot leather, canvas, metal, morals.”

pp. 308-10

(p. 308) Division headquarters thought we had murdered some VC civilians. The accusing colonel had “his papers, case books, and machine, all the paraphernalia from the tidy world of Division H.Q., the world of laws, which are so easy to obey when you eat well, sleep well, and do not have to face the daily menace of death.” (p.309) Actually, “the thing we had done was a result of what the war had done to us.” (310) “In a guerrilla war. . .the line between legitimate and illegitimate killing is blurred. The politics of free-fire zones, in which a soldier is permitted to shoot at any human target, armed or unarmed, and body counts further confuse the fighting man’s moral senses. We didn’t kill those VC in Los Angeles after all!”