Caputo arrived in Danang with the Marines in 1965 during the early ""confident, complacent"" days when hardly anyone took the Vietcong seriously. When he left a year later the romance had gone out of the splendid little war, the erosion of idealism was well under way, and a sense of futility had crept over the soldiers like the Vietnam mud. He writes with the sang-froid appropriate to a Marine officer and the acuity of a professional journalist--which, after his return stateside, he became. Caputo neither screams of horrors and outrages nor recoils from them. ""Anyone who fought in Vietnam, if he is honest about himself, will have to admit he enjoyed the compelling attractiveness of combat""; he experienced exhilaration as well as revulsion. And anyone who still harbors the illusion that Lt. Calley was a monstrous aberration will find out from Caputo that it's not so. Caputo can testify that the ""collective emotional detonation of men who had been pushed to the extremities of endurance"" is as inevitable as the wordless tenderness that binds the soldiers in a platoon. Caputo's supreme accomplishment is to make the war--this particular no-win war which never conformed to expectations--psychologically comprehensible to those who can only blame or mourn. ""I had to go back"" ten years later to watch the final exodus of US forces. That emotional imperative emerges from the book, driven home by Caputo's dear-sighted, unsentimental record of a legacy that will not relinquish its hold.