Essay on Shattered Youth: How the Vietnam War Changed a Generation

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The Vietnam War is a conflict that was extremely polarizing to people in the United States and words such as ‘wasted’ or ‘quagmire’ are negative words associated with the war. In his book A Rumor of War, Philip Caputo provides a personal account of events that he experienced leading up to and during the war as a soldier in the United States Marine Corps. Caputo’s experiences transform his idealistic views of war when he is faced with the realities of combat, and ultimately the events cause him to change his opinion about the necessity of the war. Like many other young men, Caputo states that he joined the marines because he was “swept up in the tide of the Kennedy era,” and also because he was seeking adventure instead of the uneventful…show more content…
Until he was in Vietnam, Caputo held youthful notions of war. These notions would not change until the he engaged in combat with the enemy, and the kind of enemy that he was fighting against was one unlike the United States had ever seen before. War is not the same in theory as it is in practice. Much of the training that Caputo and his fellow Marines went through at Quantico would be useless in Vietnam for this reason. During the beginning of his time in Vietnam, Caputo’s unit fought a war that was very stagnant. The enemy was made up of guerilla forces, often aided by local villagers. The Vietnamese would often covertly attack during nighttime. This unconventional mode of fighting was something that changed the entire course of the war. It also changed the psyche of soldiers fighting the war including Caputo. During this first stage, boredom was a problem that many of the infantrymen faced. They desperately wanted to engage in offensives against the enemy. They wanted to fight an enemy that at times was a shadow due to their guerilla tactics. The terrain was a factor that hindered the soldiers’ ability to fight with optimal strength. They faced extreme heat, hordes of mosquitoes, and swamps that were filled with other parasitic creatures. The land became an enemy of US forces. Caputo’s belief in the necessity of the Vietnam war were not shattered instantly, but with passing time as he experienced the deaths and exhaustion that many other soldiers

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