A Rumor of War

A Rumor of War

by

Philip Caputo

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A Rumor of War Characters

Philip Caputo

Philip Caputo is a middle-class suburbanite from Westchester, Illinois. After flunking out of Purdue University, he moves back in with his family, much to his own disappointment, and attends Loyola University. He joins the Marines… read analysis of Philip Caputo

Corporal Banks

The 1st squad leader in the 2nd platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion of the 3rd Marines in place of Sergeant Gordon, who is temporarily attached to D Company. Caputo describes as “a soft-spoken” black… read analysis of Corporal Banks

Corporal José Gonzalez

The 3rd squad leader in the 2nd platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion of the 3rd Marines. Caputo describes him as “short, stock, pugnacious but likeable.” Gonzalez is the first casualty of the war in their… read analysis of Corporal José Gonzalez

Lance Corporal Sampson

A twenty-five year old with a seven-year career in the Marines. He carries Corporal José Gonzalez to safety after he gets his left foot blown apart due to stepping on a mine. Sampson crawls on… read analysis of Lance Corporal Sampson

Lance Corporal James Bryce

A tall, quiet man from Kansas. Something seems to be “preying” on Bryce’s mind, but he keeps it to himself, and Caputo does not hear Bryce “speak more than a few dozen words” during the… read analysis of Lance Corporal James Bryce
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Morrisson

A marine with “beefy, hairy arms” who asks Caputo if he will have a drink with him and Lance Corporal Marshall in Simone’s during their liberty period in Da Nang. Morrisson talks tough and… read analysis of Morrisson

PFC Lockhart

A “quiet” and “sensitive” man who strikes Caputo as tenderhearted, despite having grown up “on the harsh streets of Chicago’s South Side.” He is a close friend of PFC Peter Devlin. Caputo recalls that… read analysis of PFC Lockhart

Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell

The platoon sergeant. He is thirty-six years old, and a veteran of the Korean War as well as “countless barroom brawls in most of the ports between Naples and Yokohma.” Caputo describes him as… read analysis of Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell

PFC Buchanan

A marine who is helping Caputo and Sergeant Gordon man the outpost that is “a thousand yards forward of C Company’s lines.” Caputo thinks that boredom has led to terror, causing the private to shoot… read analysis of PFC Buchanan

PFC Esposito

A grenadier in one of Caputo’s squads. Esposito is “stocky” and “dark-skinned.” Due to a serious illness, he is going to be evacuated back to the United States. He has been in the Marines for… read analysis of PFC Esposito

Corporal Parker

The best friend of PFC Esposito. Caputo watches Parker talk to Esposito, who is heavily drugged and lying on a cot. The men reminisce about their friendship, and Caputo feels slightly embarrassed, as though… read analysis of Corporal Parker

Hanson

A quiet boy who is about nineteen years old. He is tall and thin with dark blond hair. Caputo describes him as “so American-looking [that] he could have posed for a Norman Rockwell in the… read analysis of Hanson

First Sergeant Fred Wagoner

The company first sergeant. He is “a heavyset man whose thin, gray hair and steel-rimmed glasses” make him look like “a stern grandfather.” Wagoner likes the formalities of military bureaucracy; when Caputo tries to… read analysis of First Sergeant Fred Wagoner

Lieutenant Colonel Bain

The commanding officer at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan. Caputo describes Bain as “a brusque, hulking man with a face that [manages] to be ugly and attractive at the same time.” His nose has been… read analysis of Lieutenant Colonel Bain

General Karsch

The brigade’s commanding general, or brigadier, in Da Nang. He is tall and wears a green ascot with a starched battle jacket. His boots and the stars on his collar shine, and “a kite-tail of… read analysis of General Karsch

Lieutenant Murph McCloy

A platoon commander in Charley Company, or C Company in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines. Caputo describes him as a “slender, straw-blond Kentuckian” who is able to ignore the unpleasant aspects of war in favor… read analysis of Lieutenant Murph McCloy

Captain Anderson

Caputo’s new boss when he assumes administrative duties. Anderson is “pudgy” and has a belly that bulges against his sweaty undershirt and hangs over his belt. Caputo also notes that the man has a… read analysis of Captain Anderson

Sergeant Hugh John “Sully” Sullivan

Mentioned in the book’s epitaph, Sullivan is a member of C Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines and is killed in action in June 1965. Caputo describes him as a tall and skinny twenty-two-year-old from Pennsylvania… read analysis of Sergeant Hugh John “Sully” Sullivan

Ingram

A marine who is hit in the back during a skirmish and, as a result, may never walk again. Ingram is sent to a hospital in Tennessee to recuperate. Caputo recalls Ingram, a fellow marine… read analysis of Ingram

Colonel Wheeler

The commanding officer at regimental headquarters, where Caputo assumes his administrative position. In the mess hall, Wheeler sits at the head of a U-shaped table during meals. He later orders Caputo to arrange for the… read analysis of Colonel Wheeler

Lieutenant Frank Reasoner

A short, stocky twenty-nine-year-old who is ex-enlisted. He worked his way through the ranks to become a first lieutenant. He was a husband and a father whom Caputo liked a lot for “his air… read analysis of Lieutenant Frank Reasoner

Lieutenant Parsons

A lieutenant in E Company, 2nd Battalion who is killed two nights after Lieutenant Frank Reasoner by one of the marines’ own 4.2-inch mortar shells. The shell falls on his platoon while he is briefing… read analysis of Lieutenant Parsons

PFC Peter Devlin

PFC Lockhart’s friend. Caputo describes the nineteen-year-old as “an all-American boy,” with blond hair, blue eyes, and the body of “a middleweight wrestler.”Corporal Gunderson later finds him dead, and Caputo helps to identify his… read analysis of PFC Peter Devlin

Harris

A marine in the 2nd Battalion who, like Olson, survived “half a dozen operations and a number of combat patrols.” According to Caputo, both Harris and Olson suffered from “combat madness”—a sense of… read analysis of Harris

Olson

A marine in the 2nd Battalion who survived “half a dozen operations and a number of combat patrols.” Caputo believes that Olson and his fellow marine, Harris, suffered from “combat madness”—a sense of war… read analysis of Olson

Colonel Nickerson

The regiment’s new commanding officer, whom Caputo describes as being “broad-backed” and “thick-necked.” Nickerson takes command in late August after Colonel Wheeler is sent back to the United States due to illness. Nickerson is loud… read analysis of Colonel Nickerson

First Lieutenant Walter Neville Levy

Mentioned in the book’s epitaph and emblematized by Caputo as someone who performs an “act of shining self-sacrifice.” He is a member of C Company, First Battalion, First Marines and is killed in action in… read analysis of First Lieutenant Walter Neville Levy

Lance Corporal Crowe

A short, stocky man and “an expert with the sawed-off twelve-gauge” that he carries. The teenage platoon nicknames him “Pappy” since he’s twenty-three years old. His appearance fits his nickname, as the months of sleep… read analysis of Lance Corporal Crowe

Lonehill

A marine who is “a full-blooded Comanche from Oklahoma.” Caputo also mentions that Lonehill is “a crack shot,” meaning that he is very good at shooting his intended target. Lonehill stands at six-feet-two and has… read analysis of Lonehill

McKenna

The 3rd platoon leader. He joins C Company after Caputo goes to the One-One Battalion. He is “a dark-haired, jive-talking Bronx Irishman” and conceives of the war as “a street gang-fight on a grand scale.”… read analysis of McKenna

Corporal Rodella

A marine who was wounded twice before but is severely wounded when a piece of shrapnel tears a hole into one of his lungs. Caputo recounts how his injury leaves him in danger of drowning… read analysis of Corporal Rodella

Major General Lew Walt

An officer whom Caputo admires because he is “an authentic hero.” Walt won three Navy Crosses, “one for single-handedly pulling an artillery piece uphill under heavy Japanese fire during a battle in the South Pacific.”… read analysis of Major General Lew Walt

Le Dung

The younger of a group of three men whom Lieutenant Murph McCloy and an ARVN sergeant question for being VC suspects. According to Lance Corporal Crowe, he meets Le Dung again and the young… read analysis of Le Dung

Le Du

One of the Viet Cong whom Caputo and Lance Corporal Crowe are charged with murdering. Initially, Le Du presents forged papers to Lieutenant Murph McCloy and an ARVN sergeant, falsifying his age. According to… read analysis of Le Du

General Thi

Commander of I Corps who is placed under arrest by the head of the Saigon government, Nguyen Cao Ky, for being suspected of plotting a coup. ARVN divisions rallied to General Thi’s support at his… read analysis of General Thi

Ron Yates

Caputo’s colleague from the Chicago Tribune who is the newspaper’s regular correspondent in the Far East in 1975. Yates goes with Caputo to the UPI offices in Saigon, where they find as much confusion… read analysis of Ron Yates

Nick Proffitt

The correspondent for Newsweek. He is staying in the same hotel as Caputo, the Continental Palace Hotel in Saigon. Caputo moves into Proffitt’s room two floors below after “an enemy rocket had devastated… read analysis of Nick Proffitt
Minor Characters
Sergeant McClellan
The man who leads Caputo and other aspiring lieutenants in close-order drills at Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. Caputo describes McClellan as “a nervously energetic” black man “whose muscles looked as hard and wiry as underground telephone cables.”
Corporal Mixon
The 2nd squad leader in the 2nd platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion of the 3rd Marines. Caputo describes him as “thin and almost delicate-looking, with a shy, diffident manner.”
Lance Corporal Marshall
A car enthusiast who joined the Marine Corps to save enough money to buy a faster car than his “chopped Chevy.”
PFC Christwell
A seventeen-year-old radioman whom Caputo describes as “reedy” and “sandy-haired.” To Caputo, he looks more like a basketball player and has the “irritating and unbreakable habit of addressing officers in the archaic third-person.”
PFCs Bradley and Deane
A pair of friends from North Carolina who are “natural infantrymen.” Caputo recalls their ability to “walk forever and through anything.” They also tend to “feel nothing but a cheerful contempt for physical adversities.”
Lieutenant Calley
An officer whom Caputo mentions as one of the Marines who discovered in his “bottommost depths a capacity for malice they probably never suspected was there.” Caputo uses him as an example of how war in “a geographical wilderness” can bring out the worst in a person.
Sergeant Gordon
Caputo describes Gordon as “a short, pink-faced career marine.” They are sitting in the platoon command post on the afternoon of the third day of his platoon’s manning of an outpost some distance away from C Company’s lines. Gordon talks to Caputo about fear and bravery.
General Greene
The Marine Corps commandant who issues an inspection tour of Vietnam. When addressing a group of Marines, he tells them that their only mission is to kill the VC.
PFC “Pappy” White
Nicknamed based on his “advanced” age, White is twenty-nine and helps to kill nearly a dozen VC positioned along a ridge, including an enemy soldier of about eighteen or nineteen, who is hit twice in his stomach.
Powell
A machine-gunner who suffers from heatstroke one day while out in the field. His body temperature reaches one hundred and nine degrees, and the navy doctor determines that, if he survives, he will probably suffer permanent brain damage. Powell is evacuated back to the United States.
Lance Corporal Stone
C Company’s only casualty during the firefight that leads to the destruction of Giao-Tri, a hamlet near Hoi-Vuc. He is grazed on the hand by a bullet from an AK-47.
Sergeant Loker
Loker leads a patrol that runs into Caputo’s platoon after the latter burned down a base camp. He tells Caputo a story about catching a marine named Hanson cutting the ears off of dead VC.
Sergeant Johnson
A Korean War veteran whom Caputo describes as having “a face as seamed as a well-worked mine shaft.”
Corporal Banks
The first squad leader in place of Sergeant Gordon.
Lance Corporal Reed
The driver of Peterson’s jeep. He takes Caputo, McCloy, Peterson, and Sergeant Loker to Da Nang for a liberty period.
Simone
The owner of a bar and brothel bearing her name. She is an “adventuress” of Thai, Cambodian, and French descent. Simone was born in Bangkok. Her ambition is to marry an American and go to the United States.
Joe Feeley
The company executive officer. He lectures Caputo about demonstrating more competence after Caputo foolishly lights a cigarette during a training exercise in Okinawa. He also encourages Caputo to take command more assertively from Sergeant William Campbell.
Lieutenant Glen Lemmon
A platoon commander in Charley Company, or C Company.
Gunnery Sergeant Marquand
Charley Company’s gunnery sergeant. Caputo describes him as “a broad-chested cheerful man” who keeps the company alert by predicting possible attacks.
Peterson
The skipper, or captain, of the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Marines. Caputo describes Peterson as “tall” and “boyish-looking.”
Lieutenant Bruce Tester
A platoon commander in Charley Company, or C Company of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines.
Jim Cooney
Caputo’s roommate in Okinawa. In August 1965, he loses half of his platoon at the Battle of Chu Lai. He is later brought in from 3rd Battalion to replace Caputo as assistant adjutant at regimental headquarters.
Sergeant Colby
Murph McCloy’s platoon sergeant. He once tells Caputo that he is going to make every marine look at the first man who is KIA, so that they can understand the seriousness of war. He changes his mind about this after Sergeant Sullivan dies.
Guiliumet and Paulson
The two marines whose foxhole Caputo jumps into while he is doing nighttime patrols of the platoon lines. They are nervous when he enters because they have nearly been hit by sniper fire on the company’s first night in Vietnam.
Lieutenant Bradley
The battalion motor transport officer who nicknamed the Vietnam War the “splendid little war” during the Expeditionary Brigade’s first few weeks in the country, which are rather peaceful.
Widener
A marine from southern Indiana who is the platoon radio operator, replacing another marine named Christwell. Widener has a “shrill, twanging voice,” reminding Caputo of a disc jockey for a country music radio station.
PFC Marsden
A grenadier in Glen Lemmon’s platoon who kills a VC under dubious circumstances. He shoots the man in the face with a pistol but registers confusion at his own actions.
Rivera
Caputo identifies him as “the point man.”
Lance Corporal Kazmarack
The driver for adjutants, or officers who are assigned to administrative tasks. After Caputo returns from training in Japan on June 15, Kazmarack picks him up from the airfield in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Lieutenant Schwartz
The officer whom Caputo replaces when he assumes administrative duties. Schwartz is happy to leave headquarters in exchange for taking command of a rifle company in the 2nd Battalion.
Gallardo
A corporal in the 1st platoon who runs out onto the LZ during a fire-fight with the VC and guides medevac helicopters in so that they can land and collect casualties.
Lieutenant Colonel Meyers
One of the regiment’s battalion commanders. He steps on a booby-trapped 155-mm shell during combat and his body is blown apart.
Webb Harrisson
One of the assistant operations officers at regimental headquarters.
Lieutenant Colonel Brooks
The executive officer at regimental headquarters. He is a bald and stocky man whom the other troops have nicknamed “Elmer Fudd” due to his resemblance to the cartoon character.
General Thompson
A general from Military Assistance Command Vietnam, which is General William Westmoreland’s headquarters.
Corporal Stasek
A clerk who helps Lance Corporal Kazmarack take the corpses of dead VC to an enemy cemetery in Vietnam, and then brings them back for Colonel Wheeler to show off to General Thompson.
Chaplain Ryerson
A “thin and cheerless” man who confronts Caputo in the mess hall with questions about the morality of the war.
Milsovic
The medical officer. Caputo describes him as “heavyset and jolly.” He is present during Chaplain Ryerson’s lecture in the mess hall about the morality of being in Vietnam.
Sergeant Hamilton
The chief clerk at regimental headquarters.
Corporal Brian Gauthier
A twenty-one-year-old squad leader in A Company who is mortally wounded in an ambush on July 11. He receives a posthumous medal for continuing to lead his men under enemy fire until he finally died from his wounds. Later, the regimental HQ camp is named for him.
Nick Pappas
A college football star who trips a mine that puts him in a wheelchair for nearly two years, permanently ending his football career.
Corporal Gunderson
A squad leader in C Company who finds the bodies of Devlin, Lockhart, and Bryce, soldiers from Caputo’s old platoon.
Lieutenant Nargi
Major Burin’s assistant. He is put in charge of Colonel Nickerson’s “horseshoe pit.”
Lieutenant Jones
The 1st Battalion adjutant who reports to Caputo about the death of First Lieutenant Walter Neville Levy.
Adam Simpson
A black officer who was Caputo’s classmate at Quantico. He is killed during an ambush of his twenty-eight man patrol. His body is later found in the river.
Sergeant Hamilton
A sergeant whose sense of humor helps Caputo keeps his spirits up. Hamilton also suffers constantly from gastroenteritis.
Lieutenant Colonel Hatch
The commanding officer in the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.
Captain Neal
The skipper of C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. He is a wiry man with bleak, pale blue eyes and “taut, thin lips.” He reminds Caputo of a stern New England schoolmaster.
Sergeant Coffell
The second squad leader in C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Like Caputo, he has been recently transferred from another battalion.
Sergeant Horne
A “big, bull-chested,” mustachioed soldier who kicks and violently shakes a marine who begins sobbing and rolling in the mud out of exasperation with fighting the war.
Allen
One of the marines who is part of a patrol that Caputo organizes, along with Lonehill, Lance Corporal Crowe, and two riflemen, to capture two VC who have been making mines and booby traps.
Sergeant Wehr
The platoon guide. He has just arrived in Vietnam and, in response to an attack from the Viet Cong near the Song Tuy Loan, behaves as though he is “a little bewildered by the invisible [shots] crackling in the air.”
Jones
A small man, nicknamed “Little Jones,” who is the radio operator for C Company in the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.
Sergeant Pryor
A sergeant in 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, C Company who is with Caputo during a shrapnel attack that severely injures Sanchez, Rodella, and Greeley.
Doc Kaiser
The corpsman who tries to save Corporal Rodella after a piece of shrapnel tears a hole in one of his lungs.
Corporal Greeley
A machine-gunner whose left arm is blown apart, leaving only “a few strands of muscle” where the limb was. Caputo contrasts Corporal Rodella’s sorrowful reaction, similar to that of a child, with Greeley’s indignant fury. He recuperates in a hospital and then is evacuated out of Vietnam.
Sanchez
A marine whose face gets sprayed with shrapnel during an ambush-detonated mine attack. Caputo recalls that his face looks as though he has been clawed by a beast.
Captain Greer
An intelligence officer who goes with Caputo to the division hospital to interview the survivors of “friendly fire,” after the U.S. military bombed a dozen villages to attack enemy positions in the hills.
Lieutenant Jim Rader
Caputo’s defense attorney during the Marine Corps’ murder investigation. Rader wins Caputo’s admiration because of his precision with language and attention to the facts.
Sergeant Coffell
A twenty-four-year-old marine who is one of the witnesses to Caputo’s order to capture or kill the two members of the Viet Cong who initially eluded capture by pretending to be students.
Captain Greer
The intelligence officer in 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines.
Mora
The assistant intelligence officer.