A Rumor of War

A Rumor of War

by

Philip Caputo

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Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell Character Analysis

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 someone who fits Hollywood’s vision of what a Marine sergeant would look like. Campbell is red-haired, six-feet and three inches tall, and weighs two hundred and twenty pounds. He has a faith in the Marine Corps akin to a Jesuit’s faith in the Catholic Church. He disdains the Navy, the Army, the Congress, motherhood, and officers—in that order. Caputo recalls how he walked down a street, “straight-backed and swaggering in a uniform bleached white by tropic suns,” and how he glared “scornfully” at people from beneath the bill of his faded cap. Campbell walks with a slight limp due to the frostbite that he suffered in the Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell Quotes in A Rumor of War

The A Rumor of War quotes below are all either spoken by Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell or refer to Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heroism and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Owl Books edition of A Rumor of War published in 1977.
Chapter Five Quotes

We broke up into teams and started the search, which amounted to a disorganized rummaging through the villagers’ belongings […] Most of the huts were empty, but in one we found a young woman nursing an infant whose head was covered in running sores […] The absolute indifference in her eyes began to irritate me […] because her passivity seemed to be a denial of our existence, as if we were nothing more to her than a passing wind that had temporarily knocked a few things out of place.

Page Number: 88-89
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell Character Timeline in A Rumor of War

The timeline below shows where the character Sergeant William “Wild Bill” Campbell appears in A Rumor of War. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter Two
Heroism and Identity Theme Icon
...in the Okinawan jungles. While the platoon waits to move to the jump-off point, Sergeant Campbell lights the smoking lamp. Seeing him do this, Caputo figures it’s fine to have a... (full context)
Heroism and Identity Theme Icon
Later, Joe Feeley lectures Caputo about being more competent and assuming leadership from Sergeant Campbell. Looking back, Caputo determines that much of his behavior in Vietnam was determined by this... (full context)
Heroism and Identity Theme Icon
Danger and Uncertainty Theme Icon
...they will go to Da Nang on February 24th. Everyone is enthusiastic, except for Sergeant Campbell, who is ready to retire. (full context)
Chapter Four
Heroism and Identity Theme Icon
The Morality of War Theme Icon
War and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...spend the next few hours preparing, and everyone is cheerful, except for the platoon sergeants. Campbell in particular is in a somber mood. He is writing a letter to his wife... (full context)
Chapter Five
Heroism and Identity Theme Icon
Danger and Uncertainty Theme Icon
...of automatic fire.” The marines respond with fire, and Caputo leaps into a trench. Sergeant Campbell orders a cease fire, arguing for more “fire discipline” due to the futility of shooting... (full context)
Chapter Eight
Loyalty and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Danger and Uncertainty Theme Icon
...escape from the war front. Caputo packs his bag and says goodbye to the platoon. Campbell is the sorriest to see Caputo go, for he will now have to serve as... (full context)