Fortunate son : the autobiography of Lewis B. Puller, Jr

by Lewis B. Puller

Hardcover, 1991




New York : Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.


A Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and a hand in the Vietnam War recounts his homecoming and his attempts to come to terms with his life.

Media reviews

Grove Weidenfeld Press Release
The son of "Chesty" Puller, the most decorated Marine the Corps' history, Lewis B. Puller, Jr. volunteered for the Marine Corps after graduating from college and went to Vietnam in the spring of 1968. A few months later, he returned home to his wife and soon-to-be-born child missing his left leg above the knee, his right leg at the torso, his left hand, and two fingers of his right hand. Lewis Puller would never walk again, though he would complete law school, serve on President Ford's clemency board, and run for Congress from Virginia. He would also live with nightmares about his wounding in Vietnam, with the daytime abyss of feeling "used up and discarded," and with a growing dependence on alcohol. But Lewis Puller's greatest challenge was to wrestle with the legacy thrust upon him and to attempt to come to terms with both its honor and its snares. "If I could summon the courage to forgive my government, to forgive those whose views and actions concerning the war differed from mine, and to forgive myself, I could perhaps move into the present, attain a degree of serenity, and find the reason for which I had been spared, first in Vietnam and then a second time, from an alcoholic death." Lewis Puller's is a story of the contradictory forces of tradition and reality, and the strains of deep feeling--personal, political, and professional--that have riven our country for so many years and that still play themselves out among thousands of veterans. Few have told their story more openly, more honestly, or more devastatingly.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jamespurcell
An excellent autobiography which quite appropriately received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. . In it, Lewis B Puller Jr. relates his very strenuous recovery and rehabilitation from horrific wounds suffered from a booby trap explosion in Vietnam. It is a well written, poignant documentary of one young man' s difficult but fulfilling life though wheelchair bound.… (more)
LibraryThing member TimBazzett
I was thinking of this book yesterday, Memorial Day 2016. FORTUNATE SON: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LEWIS B. PULLER, JR. won the Pulitzer for biography back in 1992. In it, Lewis Puller (son of the famous Marine Corps General 'Chesty' Puller), tells the story of how he was severely maimed as a young Marine lieutenant in Vietnam in 1968, and his long struggle back to a tenuous health and a kind of acceptance. In an encounter with an enemy mine, Puller, who was highly decorated for his service and injuries, lost both legs, his left hand, and part of his right hand. At one point during his long recovery, he weighed only 55 pounds. But he persevered in his determined struggle to survive and went on to marry, have children and become a respected attorney.

Warning: If you have a soul, this book will make you weep. It is perhaps one of the most moving memoirs of war and its consequences that you will ever read. I read the book nearly twenty years ago, and when I picked it up and looked through it again yesterday, I remembered my near-visceral reaction to Puller's painful and heart-rending story.

There is a sad epilogue to this book. In 1994, after a long battle with alcoholism and addictions to painkillers for his still painful war wounds, Lewis Puller died of a self-inflicted gunshot. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington. His story, FORTUNATE SON, remains as a testament to his courage. I salute you, Lt Puller. R.I.P. This book should be required reading for all members of Congress. Sadly, it is not. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA
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