I Was Only Nineteen (A Walk In the Light Green)

Album: Caught In The Act (1980)
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  • Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal
    It was a long march from cadets
    The sixth battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card
    We did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left

    And Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched down to the quay
    This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean
    And there's me in me slouch hat with me SLR and greens
    God help me - I was only nineteen

    From Vung Tau riding Chinooks to the dust at Nui Dat
    I'd been in and out of choppers now for months
    And we made our tents a home, V.B. and pinups on the lockers
    And an Asian orange sunset through the scrub

    And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
    And night time's just a jungle dark and a barking M.16?
    And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
    God help me - I was only nineteen

    A four week operation, when each step can mean your last one on two legs
    It was a war within yourself
    But you wouldn't let your mates down 'til they had you dusted off
    So you closed your eyes and thought about somethin' else

    And then someone yelled out "Contact", and the bloke behind me swore
    We hooked in there for hours, then a God almighty roar
    And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon
    God help me - he was goin' home in June

    I can still see Frankie, drinkin' tinnies in the Grand Hotel
    On a thirty-six hour rec. leave in Vung Tau
    And I can still see Frankie, lying screaming in the jungle
    'Til the morphine came and killed the bloody row

    And the Anzac legends didn't mention mud and blood and tears
    And the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real-
    I caught some pieces in my back, that I didn't even feel
    God help me - I was only 19
    And can you tell me doctor why I still can't get to sleep
    And the Channel 7 chopper chills me to my feet
    And what's this rash that comes and goes can you tell me what it means
    God help me - I was only nineteen

Comments: 22

  • A Vietnam Vets Army Brat from AdelaideTo all who are commenting, it is easy for all service men and women to out their own interpretation on these lyrics and its meaning, but if you all have the time to listen to a very informative podcast of how this song even came about from the song writer himself all you have to do is search for the awesome Aussie songs podcast episode 50 I was only 19 ( a walk in the light green ) it will clarify who Frankie is and the story behind kicking the mine and why moon and June were used along with the who's your the story is about, I hope you find this podcast as interesting and informative as I did, for all of those that have fallen "Lest We Forget"
  • Dan from BrisbaneTo everyone commenting about the "error" regarding the line "and Frankie kicked a mine the day mankind kicked the moon, God help him, he was going home in June" - John Schumann mentioned in an interview sometime after the song was released that Frankie had been due to go home in June 1969, but his tour of duty had been extended for reasons that weren't revealed.
  • Hayden from Beverley Park, AustraliaKit, "Hooked in there for hours" actually could refer to the military maneuvers. Australians were well known for their effective ambush and contact drills in Vietnam, which involved moving towards the assaulting force, suppressing them, and moving half of the platoon/section/etc. around to flank the enemy, similar to a hook. Also, when forming a platoon harbour, the platoon would first perform a "fish hook", doubling back on themselves, to ensure they weren't being followed.
  • Simmone from Brisbane, AustraliaI like this song mainly cause my granddad faught in veitnam and i never actaly got the chance to meet him. imdoing the song fo a music assighnment and would love any coments if you can think of anything
  • Alex from Townsville, Australiaits asian orange, not agent orange.
  • Louise from Bunbury, Australiait is Agent Orange for the person up there
  • Jason from Brisban, Australiai like lisoning to this song all the time my great uncle was in ww2 a rat and another great uncle was at png so it hits me prity hard and "hooked in for hours" could mean being pined down for hours
  • Tommy from Perth, AustraliaPete from Sydney: The line "And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon God help me - he was goin' home in June" is a metaphor told with a great deal of Irony, the soldier could only relate the world's greatest achievment of the time to his personal tragedy as the worlds worst attrocities were being commited. Dont be so quick to judge it as pathetic.
    Also - VB does mean victorian beer, The victoria Barracks were only for generals and ordinary soldiers wouldn't refer to it casually in this sence. Since VB was the most popular and favoured amongst the sodiers, it is defiantly reffering to the Beer.
  • Emma from Grafton, Australiapete from nowra, Australia
    that is horrible
    it is offensive to all that Australia is about
    that man, and you if you found it amusing, should be sent to the war and see how youd like to come back with one leg or PTSD
    get a life mate, become an Aussie
  • Jess from Foster, Australiait is a great and sad song
  • Ray from Melbourne, AustraliaHearing this song as a teenager prompted me to question whether I should embark upon a military career or not. As it was, I decided not to and I am grateful for the boys who had more guts than me, who did. I once dated a couple of girls whose dads and uncles served in vietnam, they hated this song as it reminded them of the trauma. But I think it still stands as Australia's greatest ever folk song.
  • Frank from Melbourne, AustraliaPeter, Frankie was ment to have gone home the month before, his operation was extended only slightly though. Enough for death however. God this song haunts my soul.
  • Steve from Melbourne, Australia"and we made our tents a home VB" - nothing to do with beer. VB is Victoria Barracks, ie a home away from home.
  • Jim from Los Angeles, CaDear Australia, Thank You for supporting me as a U.S. Marine Forward Observer in Vietnam.
    Australians did visit Khe Sanh doing the war and I used Oz artillery at times but when and where in Vietnam I do not remember. Around 500 Ozzie's were KIA and about 2500 were wounded in Vietnam. I like this song as it is indictative of my life for a long time after returning home in a Hospital plane from battle Hill 861,over looking the Khe Sanh Combat.We call this PTSD uo here. I was wounded 6 times, twice at Khe Sanh.
  • John from Melbourne, AustraliaAs Keith pointed out, the whole June thing is accurate, not pathetic (this song was written not as fiction, but as an account of the experience of two mates of the songwriter's in Vietnam). Also, referencing Cold Chisel's Khe Sanh is rather curious, given the fact that no Australian ground troops ever fought at Khe Sanh... strictly a US engagement.
  • Kit from Melbourne, Australia"Hooked in there for hours" is actually more general Australian slang for 'working like hell for hours', and in the case referred to in the song, also in a hellish environment
  • Keith from Brisbane, AustraliaThe line "And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon God help me he was goin' home in June" is even sadder than it seems. He didn't have 11 months left, Frankie was due to go home in June 1969 but had his tour extended by a couple of months so he was actually supposed to have already gone home when he was wounded.
  • Peter from Sydney, AustraliaThis song made me grit my teeth. I cannot believe a songwriter would, in the late 20 Century, link "moon" and June" in a lyric. However, what really made me laugh was that, "And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon

    God help me - he was goin' home in June" line.

    Neil Armstrong landed on the moon July 1969. So "Frankie" only had 11 months to go. Pathetic. Khe Sanh as a song so much more evocative.
  • Mark from Wee Waa, AustraliaThis song still gives me goose bumps when I hear it.
  • Liam from Hobart, AustraliaSong was remade in 2005 by the Australian hip-hop group The Herd with support from John Schuman from Redgum, who wrote the original.
  • Sean from Murray, KyThis song was given to me by Australian solders when the Iraq war started on ANZAC Day 2003. The Aussie soldiers knew this song better than their national anthem. I copied it to a CD and played it on ALL missions I went on in Iraq. I can not Thank Australia enough for their help to my men and America during the Iraq War. They lost many men too! Thank You Australia and Red Gum! Awesome song and great support! Some of those who heard this song for the first time never made it home alive. I only regret I could not get more songs such as this one! God Bless you all!
    Sean ' Proud American
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiaa brekky radio announcer from Australia called Rick Melbourne, did a parody on this song when it first came out.....only 16....one of the lines went " God help me ,she told me she was 16" quite amusing at the time
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