A Rumor of War

A Rumor of War

by

Philip Caputo

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Viet Cong Term Analysis

Often abbreviated as “VC,” the Viet Cong (or Viet Nam Cong San) was a guerilla force that, with the assistance of the North Vietnamese Army, fought against South Vietnam from the late-1950s to 1975 and against the United States from the early-1960s to 1973. The Viet Cong began as a collection of various factions who opposed the government of President Ngo Dinh Diem. The Viet Cong was the military arm of the National Liberation Front—a Communist organization whose goals were to overthrow the South Vietnamese government and to reunify North and South Vietnam. Most Viet Cong fighters were recruited from the South and were trained in guerilla warfare, including ambushes, terrorism, and forms of sabotage, such as buried landmines.

Viet Cong Quotes in A Rumor of War

The A Rumor of War quotes below are all either spoken by Viet Cong or refer to Viet Cong. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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:

On the way back, I saw an example of the paradoxical kindness-and-cruelty that made Vietnam such a peculiar war. One of our corpsman was treating the infant with skin ulcers […] At the same time, and only a few yards away, our interpreter, a Vietnamese marine lieutenant, roughly interrogated the woman who had been tending the fire. The lieutenant was yelling at her and waving a pistol in front of her ravaged face […] This went on for several minutes. Then his voice rose to a hysterical pitch, and holding the forty-five by the barrel, he raised his arms as if to pistol-whip her. I think he would have, but Peterson stepped in and stopped him.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker), Peterson
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Six Quotes

Crowds of children and teenage boys run alongside the convoy. Many of the children have distended bellies and ulcerous skin, decades of wisdom in their eyes and four-letter words on their lips […] The older people of the village remain aloof […] The whores are the only adults who pay attention to us […] The girls are pathetic to look at, dressed in Western-style pants and so heavily made up that they look like caricatures of what they are. They make obscene gestures and signal prices with their hands, like traders on the floor of a commodities market.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker)
Page Number: 107-108
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Seven Quotes

Stumbling forward, I almost tripped over the VC […] An enormous amount of blood had poured out of him and he was lying in it, a crimson puddle in which floated bits of skin and white cartilage. There was nothing on him, no photographs, no letters or identification. That would disappoint the boys at intelligence, but it was fine with me. I wanted this boy to remain anonymous; I wanted to think of him, not as a dead human being, with a name, age, and family, but as a dead enemy.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker), PFC “Pappy” White , PFC Marsden
Page Number: 119-120
Explanation and Analysis:

One photo showed the VC wearing their motley uniforms and striking heroic poses; another showed one of the guerrillas among his family. There were also several wallet-sized pictures of girl friends or wives. The notes written in the corners of these were probably expressions of love and fidelity, and I wondered if the other side had a system, as we did, for notifying the families of casualties […] What we had found gave to the enemy the humanity I wished to deny him.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker), PFC Lockhart , Rivera
Page Number: 123-124
Explanation and Analysis:

Before the fire-fight, those marines fit both definition of the word infantry, which means either a “body of soldiers equipped for service on foot” or “infants, boys, youths collectively.” The difference was that the second definition could no longer be applied to them. Having received that primary sacrament of war, baptism of fire, their boyhoods were behind them […] We’ve been under fire, we’ve shed blood, now we’re men […] some were trying to master their emotions by talking them out; others masked their feelings under a surface toughness.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker), Peterson , PFC Marsden
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

The horror lay in the recognition that the body, which is supposed to be the earthly home of an immortal soul, which people spend so much time feeding, conditioning, and beautifying, is in fact only a fragile case stuffed full of disgusting matter […] The sight of mutilation did more than cause me physical revulsion; it burst the religious myths of my Catholic childhood.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker)
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Eight Quotes

Their flat, steady gazes had the same indifference I had seen in the eyes of the woman whose house I had searched in Hoi-Vuc. It was as if they regarded the obliteration of their village as a natural disaster and, accepting it as part of their lot, felt no more toward us than they might feel toward a flood […] Americans would have done something: glared angrily, shaken their fists, wept, run away, demanded compensation. These villagers did nothing, and I despised them for it […] Confronted by disease, bad harvests, and above all by the random violence of endless war, they had acquired a capacity to accept what we would have found unacceptable […] Their survival demanded this of them. Like the great Annamese Mountains, they endured.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker)
Page Number: 133-134
Explanation and Analysis:

At the same time, I knew I had become less naïve in the way I looked at the men in the battalion. I now knew my early impressions had been based not on reality but on a boyhood diet of war movies and blood-and-guts novels […] I now realized that some of them were not so decent or good. Many had petty jealousies, hatreds, and prejudices. And an arrogance tempered their ingrained American idealism (“one marine’s worth ten of these VC”) […] Rather, I had come to recognize them as fairly ordinary men who sometimes performed extraordinary acts in the stress of combat, acts of bravery as well as cruelty.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker), Sergeant Colby
Page Number: 136-137
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Seventeen Quotes

Yet, he is also attracted by the danger, for he knows he can overcome his fear only by facing it. His blind rage then begins to focus on the men who are the source of the danger—and of his fear. It concentrates inside him, and through some chemistry is transformed into a fierce resolve to fight until the danger ceases to exist. But this resolve, which is sometimes called courage, cannot be separated from the fear that has aroused it […] This inner, emotional war produces a tension almost sexual in its intensity. It is too painful to endure for long. All a soldier can think about is the moment when he can escape his impotent confinement and release his tension […] Nothing matters except the final, critical instant when he leaps out into the violent catharsis he both seeks and dreads.

Related Characters: Philip Caputo (speaker)
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Eighteen Quotes

I wondered why the investigating officer had not submitted any explanatory or extenuating circumstances. Later, after I had time to think things over, I drew my own conclusion: the explanatory or extenuating circumstance was the war. The killings had occurred in war. They had occurred, moreover, in a war whose sole aim was to kill Viet Cong […] The deaths of Le Dung and Le Du could not be divorced from the nature and conduct of the war. As I had come to see it, America could not intervene in a people’s war without killing some of the people. But to raise those points in explanation or extenuation would be to raise a host of ambiguous moral questions. It could even raise the question of the morality of American intervention in Vietnam […] If we were found guilty, the Marine Corps’ institutional conscience would be clear.

Page Number: 322-323
Explanation and Analysis:
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Viet Cong Term Timeline in A Rumor of War

The timeline below shows where the term Viet Cong appears in A Rumor of War. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Heroism and Identity Theme Icon
The Morality of War Theme Icon
...how much he and his fellow soldiers had underestimated the skill and determination of the Viet Cong fighters. (full context)
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...or the “frontier-heritage” of the American soldier. These theories ignore the barbarous treatment that the Viet Cong and the ARVN inflicted on their own people, as well as crimes committed by the... (full context)
Chapter Two
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When the company completes training and returns to Camp Schwab, they learn the Viet Cong have attacked the American air base at Pleiku, killing or wounding seventy airmen. In retaliation,... (full context)
Chapter Three
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...likely to be the point from which the Viet Cong would attack. So, if the VC hit, C Company would be hit first. To protect themselves, the soldiers dig foxholes and... (full context)
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...short distance away. These sounds confirm that there is, indeed, a war on and the Viet Cong are waiting for them. (full context)
Chapter Four
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...two says that their patrol took a “souvenir” off of the body of a dead VC—it is “two brown and bloodstained human ears” strung on a piece of wire. He holds... (full context)
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...latter half of the month, someone decides that the battalion will begin to approach the Viet Cong . The new strategy is named “aggressive defense,” which means that the Americans will share... (full context)
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...Charley Company [makes] a helicopter assault a few miles farther west.” The marines expect the VC to flee from C Company, only to be crushed against D Company. Peterson finishes by... (full context)
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...is that the authorities of the battalion don’t care: “if he’s dead and Vietnamese, he’s VC.” The marines spend the next few hours preparing, and everyone is cheerful, except for the... (full context)
Chapter Five
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...conical straw hats.” The platoons break up into teams and start the search for the VC battalion. They enter huts and rummage through villagers’ belongings. The marines have been told that... (full context)
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...face. He raises his arms as though to pistol whip her, suspecting her of being VC, but Peterson stops him. The skipper will not allow the torture of an old woman.... (full context)
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...“two with carbines and one with an automatic rifle, probably an AK-47.” Caputo spots a VC. He runs over and gets one of the machine guns into action. Caputo is shot... (full context)
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...shot. Caputo registers that he understands and realizes that this is the reason why a VC shot at him in the first place. When the fire fight ends, a squad searches... (full context)
Chapter Six
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...draws his pistol and fires, but the man flees. Marshall reports that he saw a VC running toward the command post. Caputo is still unsure if the figure in the bushes... (full context)
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Later, Caputo is lying in a ditch with his platoon while a VC fires an AK-47 at them. After two hours, they see the convoy that will take... (full context)
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Alpha Company plans to make a helicopter assault near Hoi-Vuc, a VC-controlled village. As the convoy enters, Caputo witnesses filth and poverty that seems “medieval.” Most huts... (full context)
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...he is unsympathetic. He figures that the villagers get what they deserve for aiding the VC. The marines have taught them a lesson, he thinks. (full context)
Chapter Seven
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...Da Nang and lasts for four days. The marines attempt, yet again, to trap the VC between two rifle companies. They are hit with automatic-weapons fire that nearly kills Peterson. The... (full context)
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...out into the middle of the LZ and sets up a tube to hit the VC with mortars. Peterson orders Caputo’s and Tester’s platoons to move up and sweep around the... (full context)
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They learn how the VC whose brains were blown out died: the mood of the company had turned savage, and... (full context)
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...the marsh. The blood trail grows thicker. Caputo stumbles forward and nearly trips over the VC. He is lying on his back with an arm thrown over his chest. His eyes... (full context)
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...rush toward a column of smoke, which come from a burning case of papers—the remaining VC destroyed documents before fleeing. The marines stamp out the fire but fail to salvage anything.... (full context)
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...girlfriends. While the marines look at them, Caputo feels conflicting emotions. These keepsakes give the VC a humanity that Caputo doesn’t wish to acknowledge. PFC Lockhart says what many of them... (full context)
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...how he found a marine named Hanson trying to cut the ears off of dead VC. He figures that Hanson got the idea to take ears as souvenirs from the Australian... (full context)
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By counting arms and legs and dividing by four, the marines estimate that eight VC were killed. Caputo gives Peterson a report of their excursion to the VC base camp... (full context)
Chapter Eight
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A thick fog rolls in around 2:00 A.M., the time at which the VC usually attacks. Blinded by the fog, the marines rely on their hearing. They hear drumming... (full context)
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...before curfew. The “rules of engagement” say that Vietnamese caught outside after dark are considered VC and must either be shot or captured. The convoy arrives shortly afterward and the marines... (full context)
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...over half a mile. A few days later, Lemmon is wounded in an operation. A VC tosses a grenade at him, which bounces off of Lemmon’s chest, lands at his feet,... (full context)
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...of a two-year-old boy, is left shaken. Lemmon, too, is traumatized, because he saw the VC throw the grenade at him. He confides that he initially thought he was going to... (full context)
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...is appropriately named Mortar Valley. Six men are seriously wounded. In revenge, they kill five VC, including a North Vietnamese political officer. Caputo’s platoon is sent off on an all-night ambush,... (full context)
Chapter Ten
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...to verify body counts due to the field commanders’ tendency to exaggerate the number of VC their units have killed. When possible, the bodies are brought to headquarters, and Caputo counts... (full context)
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...Early that same morning, a patrol from 2nd Battalion fights a small skirmish with the VC near Iron Bridge Ridge. Caputo’s field phone buzzes with a notification from the battalion’s adjutant... (full context)
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Sometime later, a jeep drives into HQ carrying two dead VC and two civilian women who were injured in the fire-fight. The corpses are on a... (full context)
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...sun. Then, the HQ troops are marched past the trailer to look at the dead VC. The bodies reek, releasing an odor like “cooking gas” or the hydrogen sulfide from a... (full context)
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...they had the bodies buried, then exhumed them. He says that the guts of one VC spilled out of him during the process, while another’s leg began to come off while... (full context)
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...what Chaplain Ryerson said makes sense. He thinks that the general’s observation of the dead VC was disrespectful. He also thinks that many of the Marine Corps’ tactical operations seem futile... (full context)
Chapter Eleven
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...Caputo steps out of his tent, guessing it is another probe. The night before, the VC tried to infiltrate through HQ company lines. They now seem to be looking for weak... (full context)
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Later, two dead VC are carried into the command post, where they are tied to bamboo poles “like bagged... (full context)
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That week, Harrison tells Caputo that the two VC they found were part of a five- or six-man enemy patrol. They were doing reconnaissance... (full context)
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A few days later, two VC are captured while scouting a portion of the regiment’s positions in broad daylight. The following... (full context)
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On July 1, the VC attack the airfield. The first shells hit around 2:00 A.M., when Caputo is just coming... (full context)
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...is happening. Caputo thinks that Walt is one of few high-ranking officers who takes the VC seriously. Caputo also thinks that, by moving his HQ so far forward, Walt was trying... (full context)
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...the event that the camp is attacked and overrun. Sergeant Hamilton asks him if the VC are approaching and says that he has the grenades prepared to burn the tent down.... (full context)
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...is “just a pile of ashes and twisted metal.” They see, too, the holes the VC blew or cut into the chain link fence along the perimeter road, while coming through... (full context)
Chapter Twelve
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...happens; the war occurs at night. The five-millimeter guns start their regular shelling and the VC begin their sniping and mortaring. The enemy arrives in twos and threes and dies in... (full context)
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...marines and ARVN soldiers, supported by a range of high-tech equipment, manage to kill twenty-four VC in three days. Some enemy soldiers and VC suspects are brought to HQ for questioning.... (full context)
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The line stops, and the VC suspects are told to lie on their stomachs in a field. The guards tie them... (full context)
Chapter Thirteen
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...times as many casualties. There are two hills in front of the new position. The VC are expected to launch a monsoon offensive, which they do every year. The new MLR... (full context)
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...“ruddy-faced.” The eleven hundred men in the One-One are confident that they can defeat the VC. They stay from September to March, when the monsoon campaign ends. They are then moved... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
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...the company guarding it, and destroys or damages over forty aircraft. Two nights later, another VC battalion overruns a post manned by eighty marines from A Company, killing twenty-two and wounding... (full context)
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On the other hand, few captured VC ever make it to prison camps. Some line companies kill every VC they see, as... (full context)
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...spend their days avoiding snakes and insect bites. At the end of the month, the VC stage a small attack on the village. Caputo and Sergeant Coffell are talking to each... (full context)
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...lost both her arm and her husband in a bombardment, during a battle with the VC in 1962. She asks for 20 piasters; Caputo gives her 100. (full context)
Chapter Fifteen
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...woman hands them an ID and, when questioned, says that she has not seen any VC. Caputo thinks she’s stubborn and fantasizes about slapping her with the back of his hand.... (full context)
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...up with D Company to conduct a three-day operation, called Harvest Moon, to clear the VC out of Hoi-Vuc. The platoon is in a cheerful mood, marching toward Charley Hill. At... (full context)
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...his right hand to signal that everyone halt. Allen whispers hurriedly that there are three VC standing by a pagoda. Ten or fifteen more are around the bend in the river.... (full context)
Chapter Sixteen
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...for praying that God will help him kill. A rifle shot rings out, and a VC throws his arms up in the air before falling on his back. Another guerrilla pulls... (full context)
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...runs up to Caputo. His blue eyes look crazed. He has seen some of the VC fleeing. Another fell as a result of being hit by machine-gun fire. Some enemy fire... (full context)
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...fine job. Their purpose is to be a diversionary force, and they have provided the VC with plenty of diversion. They are to remain in the position for the night. This... (full context)
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...covered with red pustules and blisters. They eat lunch, which is the same as the Viet Cong ’s: cooked rice rolled into a ball and stuffed with raisins. Caputo senses that they... (full context)
Chapter Seventeen
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...southwest of Da Nang. This would be the second nighttime helicopter assault in history. The VC regiment has a battery of 37-mm anti-aircraft cannon and, in daylight, the helicopters would be... (full context)
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...against the slope of the crescent-shaped ridge, firing into the tree line from which the VC are shooting at the helicopters that are landing the rest of the battalion. Mortar shells... (full context)
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...the ridge until told to do otherwise. The Skyhawk planes come in several minutes later. VC machine-gunners fire at one of them. They drop bombs. A third one comes in and... (full context)
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...take him to the skipper. Several minutes later, a fighter-bomber comes in to strafe the VC positions on the far side of the Vu Gia River, firing rockets and a cannon.... (full context)
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...ever happens again. They destroyed the homes of about 200 people. Just before dawn, the VC make a weak attack against the battalion’s lines and are driven off with mortar fire.... (full context)
Chapter Eighteen
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...says that the patrol has picked up some intelligence. He reminds Caputo of the three VC suspects they found in Giao-Tri two weeks ago. The men were carrying papers that were... (full context)
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...Viet Cong. Neal even adopts a policy saying that any marine who kills a confirmed VC will be given an extra beer ration and time to drink it. However, McCloy answers... (full context)
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...His only clear thought is retaliation. He decides that he’s going to get the two VC whom Crowe did not bring in. If they resist, the patrol will kill them. That... (full context)
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...shoe polish. He tells Allen, the patrol leader, to go into town and get the VC then bring them back. If he has any problems, he is to kill them. Caputo... (full context)
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...blown out. There are no documents on him, and nothing to prove that he was VC. Caputo turns to Crowe and asks if he is sure that this is one of... (full context)