On March 8, 1965, Philip Caputo was sent to Danang with a battalion of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and was the first U.S. combat unit sent to Indochina. At that time Americans had enormous pride and confidence in going to war. Young men who had never fought in a war possessed an idealism full of illusions by following John F. Kennedy's statement, "ask what you can do for your country" (qtd. in Caputo xiv). The proud young military men believed that the Viet Cong could be swiftly conquered only to come to awareness these guerrillas were a deadly, persistent enemy who were willing to sustain continual casualties, while the U.S. government became just as responsible for inflicting tremendous casualties physically and morally during the war.
Young American men went to Vietnam to experience the challenge of danger and the chance to come home heroes. These men had known nothing but security, comfort, peace, and enlisting for some was an act of rebellion (Caputo 8). Junior officers became intrigued by the fantasy of fighting guerrillas in distant places. These officers felt that they had not accomplished what other officers had in other wars by having heroic badges displayed all over their uniforms (16-17). "Napoleon once said that he could make men die for little pieces of ribbon. By the time the battalion left for Vietnam, I was ready to die for considerable less, for a few favorable remarks in a fitness report. Words." Caputo suffering from youth took his commander's comments too seriously. His commanders infused in him a lasting fear of criticism with a continual appetite for praise. Caputo did not want to be thought of as not good enough to be in a military battalion (35).
The 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade was to give security for the air base in Vietnam. The brigade was to have a combined air-sea assault the morning of March 8, 1965 and then gain defensive positions around Danang (46).