A Rumor of War--"then and now"
Caputo enters the war as a gung ho lieutenant, ready to "win the war" with one USMC company. He quickly finds out that there are no battlefields and little strategy except "kill the enemy" and "help South Vietnam defend itself against communism." He learns that this is a war of terror, of daily mine explosions, roadside bombs, and snipers. He can't figure out what he's there for, or what he's supposed to do. His company is reduced, one at a time, until rage and frustration allow the elements of humanity we keep secret to surface and there is tragedy and violence beyond the "guidelines for war."
Even in 1966, Caputo recognized that lives were being thrown away for a cause that could have no successful resolution. Caputo suggested, while still in Vietnam, that the war was unwinnable and troops should be withdrawn before more men died. Others looked at him in disbelief--"if we pulled out now, all our efforts will have been in vein." Caputo replies: "In other words, because we've already wasted a thousand lives, we should waste a few thousand more. If you really believe that crap, you should go volunteer for a rifle company and get yourself killed, because you deserve it."
Caputo departs Vietnam and the Marines and becomes a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. In 1975, he asks to return to Vietnam to cover the final days of Saigon, and is one of the last Americans to leave in the evacuation.
He has a new novel out about the efforts (or lack of efforts) in Somalia called "Acts of Faith." I look forward to reading it.