Marble Mountain, A Vietnam Memoir, by Bud Willis, Author House, 2011
As a student at Tennessee Tech in 1961, Bud Willis had dreams of being a writer someday. That was before a trio of his friends suggested he join them to visit Marine recruiters on campus. Two years later, Willis was graduating as a military officer in dress whites and carrying a ceremonial sword, about to begin a journey that would take him to Vietnam to drive Hueys out of Marble Mountain—and we can tag along thanks to Willis’ touching and insightful memoir. The book is a combination of journal entries, exposition and reflections on Willis’ 13-month combat tour beginning in early 1966. In his introduction, Willis confides: “My greatest writing challenge, apart from conflicting emotions, was the obvious disconnect between the 24-year-old pilot in the stories and the 68-year-old writer trying to craft them into perspective….In the choice between honesty and manipulation, I chose to trust the words as I wrote them in 1966 and to be true to the experience.”
What Marble Mountain may lack in its production values is more than overcome by Willis’ vivid storytelling and incisive commentary on the Vietnam War, wars in general and the warriors who wage them. Readers will not be disappointed.