Veterans

A Vietnam veteran returned a library book after 52 years

When retired U.S. Marine Willis "Bill" Hansen was shipped off to the Vietnam War, he took his sea-bag and a library book...which traveled with him for 52 years.


Hansen joined the Marine Corps in 1964 as an unassigned infantryman and was later attached to a battalion in Okinawa, Japan. Although Hansen deployed to Vietnam as a machine gunner, he was provided the opportunity to work in recon through the length of the war.

He held on to the book The Kimono Mind by Bernard Rudofsky, during his entire 13-month deployment in Vietnam and never got around to returning it to the base library.

Retired Marine Willis "Bill" Hansen returns his library book 52 years later at the Camp Hansen library, Okinawa, Japan, Oct. 26, 2017. Hansen checked out the book before deploying with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion to Vietnam in 1965. (U.S. Marine Corps image by Cpl. Carl King)

In an interview, he states, "When I first got to the island, I wanted to learn a little bit about the culture and where I was staying. So I checked out a book from the library that I figured would give me a little insight into the culture. I intended to return the book, but it slipped my mind."

Going full circle, Hansen's son, Lt. Col. Richard Hansen, who used to dress up in his father's recon uniforms as a child, is now the commander of the same unit in Okinawa that Hansen served under in the Vietnam War.

Retired Marine Willis "Bill" Hansen's library book returned 52 years later at the Camp Hansen library. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger)

The coincidence of it all renders a fateful moment. Hansen finally got the chance to return the book when he was invited to the 3rd Reconnaissance Marine Corps birthday ball in Okinawa. He was welcomed by the current staff of the library and relinquished his possession of his literary companion to their shelves (fee-free), where it will stay, until someone else checks it out and flips through its pages, oblivious to its journey through time.