Being Frank About Vietnam
A Marine Platoon Commander's Experience




Letter to Diana, 1969






Frank Hill’s startling memoir is an unvarnished look at his 1968-69 tour of duty in Vietnam. “War is like living in a cesspool,” he writes. “At first the stench of napalm and death is incomprehensible.” But soon, he adds, “Killing and death is just another day at work.”

At 22, a recent college graduate and newlywed, Hill underwent Marine Corps officer training and shipped out to Vietnam. In vivid prose, Hill takes readers along as he leads his platoon in a fierce battle zone 20 miles south of Da Nang, home to a major air base used by the South Vietnamese and U.S. military.

Hill doesn’t avoid sharing the ambivalence he felt at times about the war (although not his role in it). One of his first "kills" as a platoon leader, for example, was of a mother water buffalo that became agitated and advanced on him when he entered a village. Soldiers are indoctrinated to "win hearts" of Vietnamese civilians, but "How many hearts did I win today?" he muses, noting that water buffalo, used as "tractors" by Vietnamese farmers, were important to their survival. Hill also describes a practice known as “fragging,” when soldiers desperate to leave the war purposefully injured themselves during battle.

Such stories lend an immediacy and legitimacy to the memoir, as do the annotated photos and letters sprinkled throughout that Hill wrote to his wife, and the pages devoted to his wife’s reflections on events at home during his tour. Except for the preface, Hill forgoes political commentary. His final chapter aptly explores his post-war emotional wounds and struggle to let go of a crushing sense of guilt. (The ending is marred only by his misspelling of “veil” when he writes how his buried pain created a “vail” of self-protection around him.)

Overall, this is a remarkably authentic and moving personal account of America’s least popular war.

Also available as an ebook.


There is one word that will come to mind as you are touched by Frank Hill’s account of the Vietnam War: REAL. This is not a blockbuster movie, this is not a miniseries or a novel. Being Frank About Vietnam is as real as it gets.

This is one man representing many men, who experienced war up close and personal. A man who was scared, a man who missed his wife, a man forced to be brave, among other things. A man who, like so many, wrote letters. He wrote and wrote and wrote, filling the void as paper and pen became his only companion, his best friend.

Just as one shares his most intimate details, his most treasured secrets with his best friend, Hill graciously shares with his readers. Open up these pages and be transported to another time, a time most of us know nothing about. This firsthand account takes us there, allows us to be in the mind of a soldier. See what he sees, hear what he hears and feel what he feels… Being Frank about Vietnam.


Independent Publisher (IP) Notable Available for purchase and published by Author House Available on Amazon