The paper critically analyzes Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo’s memoir on the encounters during the Vietnamese war. At first, the Vietnamese forces were largely underestimated, but the realities on the ground indicated a different scenario. The memoir notes the leadership problems that the Americans had to endure in the early days of the war. The situation intensified and increased severity of the threat and questioning the preparedness to tackle the problem swiftly.
Who (or What) Did Caputo See as His Enemy During the Vietnam War?
The main enemy that undermined Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo and the 9th Expeditionary Brigade of the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War comprised of the mis-prioritization by the commanding officers. In his memoir, Lt. Caputo notes that he became “skeptical of many of the commanding officers, who seem to be focused on trivial matters and not thinking of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong as serious threats”. The measures of the threat of what would have been the primary enemy – the Vietnamese forces remained to be largely underestimated. From the arrival, Lt. Caputo, in his memoir, asserts that “the first skirmishes against the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong made it clear to him and his comrades that the earlier impression about Vietnam war as small and unimportant was all wrong”.
The realization of the severity and swiftness of the enemy required aggressive and precise action from the commanders. Instead, they were the concern of the trivial matters rather than strategizing for the enemy outside. The severity of the threat and the chance for Lt. Caputo to work as “the Officer in Charge of the Dead” made him gain a new perspective about the war. At this point, Lt. Caputo considered his superiors and commanders as the main enemies that the USMC battalion faced in Vietnam. The lack of proper assessment of the strength and capabilities of the Vietnamese forces, as well as the lack of strategizing for the enemy, committed the USMC battalion to an almost ascertained defeat or death. Thus, as long as the commanders remained unperturbed by the reality of the Vietnam war, they remained to be the biggest enemy.
Who (or What) was the United States Fighting in Vietnam?
The United States was fighting the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, whose tactics were superior and severe to cause profound damage to the USMC. The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army laid booby-traps for the Americans, which proved to be a strategic tactic. Also, the Viet Cong used the jungle for hiding places turning the war into a sort of guerilla warfare. This induced a new reality of the war that led the American Marines to respect the skills utilized by the Vietnamese forces. This clearly was a new reality; unlike the epic battles, the Americans grew up watching in the movies creating a notion where they would likely win.
The severity of the threat from the Vietnamese forces proved to be a profound threat to the Americans, demanding for enhanced measures that earned the USMC respect. Also, the Americans had to fight the arrogance and ignorance of their commanders to better prepare for the war. A change of approach and evaluation of the Vietnamese forces’ threat level was fundamental to set any probability of the Americans winning the war. Thus, in the memoir – the Americans had to fight the war on perception and the military forces in Vietnam.