The song “I was only nineteen” was written by the lead singer of Redgum, John Schumann. He talks about all the negative aspect of war like the killing and nightmares. The song was written about the Vietnam War and the main point for this song to be produced was to help the public to understand what was happening in Vietnam. The song was sung first at a concert which was performed after the Australian Vietnam Veterans’ “Welcome Home Parade” which was held in Sydney on 3 October 1987. The song was sung at The Domain with veteran Frank Hunt on stage.
The lyrics include summarized stories the war itself and also talks about the struggle of war after the fighting is over. Some of the main messages hidden in the song use the lyrics “Frankie kicked a mine that day, the man kicked the moon”. these messages where for the people sitting at home, that the government was trying to cover up the war by diverting their attention on the moon landing to cover up the disgrace and horror of the war, they didn’t want the public of America sitting at home to know about what is really going on in the world.
Also, for the soldiers in Vietnam the moon landing is just another memory for horror. It also mentions about life for the soldiers after the war. Physical and psychological. The physical refers to the lyrics “and what’s this rash that comes and goes”. This refers to the chemicals that were used in the war. This can refer to Agent Orange, a chemical that was used on dense jungle and bush areas to burn the foliage off the trees to find the Vietnamese soldiers tunnels and networks.
A side effect of this chemical was that when used in close range could cause serious physical defects to soldiers exposed, such as cancers and genetic damage, also, a recurring rash. The psychological refers to the lyrics ‘why I still can’t get to sleep? And night time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M16? ’ and “why I still can’t get to sleep? And why the Channel 7 chopper chills down to my feet? ’ This talks about the fact that soldiers can’t just walk away from their experiences.
They still have all the terrible memories, which can be remembered by simple normal life occurrences, such as a plane going overhead or loud noises that sound like gunfire. Also within the name, ‘I was only nineteen’ shows as well, that he still has his whole life to suffer from these memories. The song clearly goes on about the negative aspects of war, nothing about this song relates to the apparent “glory of war”. The lyrics that express this are “The Anzac legends didn’t mention the mud, blood and tears”.
These soldiers weren’t prepared for the pain of war, a war they didn’t even start, that was one of the main reasons for the making of this text. This song has been that affective in the time that it was rereleased by the band “The Herd”, in a bid to help remind people about the war, this time aimed at the Iraq war. The fact that this song has been remade because of the dramatic effect it caused, speaks for itself, that this song is successful in the move towards anti war. It is for this reason and the others I have mentioned before that I believe this to be one of the most persuasive texts about war I have read and heard. Thank you.