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

Redgum
Language: English

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I was only 19


This is about the Vietnam War. The "Light Green" refers to the area on a map of Vietnam. Dark green was an area where there had been no defoliants ("Agent Orange," for instance) and where there was plenty of cover. Light green meant it had been cleared, but there were likely minefields and probably Vietnamese around (because it had been cleared).
The areas named in the first part of the song: Puckapunyal, Townsville, Shoal Water, Nui Dat and Vung Tau are all real places. Puckapunyal was a training center for army recruits. Townsville is a town in Queensland; Shoal Water was used for military training exercises, and Nui Dat and Vung Tau were Australian bases in Vietnam. The "SLR" is the Self Loading Rifle, the standard armament of Australian Infantry in Vietnam. "Greens" in the lyrics are simply camo uniforms. "Chinooks" are helicopters, or "Choppers," and VB is a type of Australian beer - it stands for Victoria Bitter.
There's some dispute over whether the lyrics say "Asian Orange" or "Agent Orange." Either could make sense.
The "Rash that comes and goes" was a common side effect of working with Agent Orange. It could persist until you died, basically.
Being "Dusted Off" means an evacuation of a soldier due to medical reasons. "Contact" means, in this case, either that the soldiers had sighted an enemy or spotted a mine. "Hooked in there for hours" refers to grenades.
"The Grand Hotel" was a hotel in Vung Tau that had been converted for Army use. ANZAC stands for "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps." "Pieces" are shrapnel.
All the proceeds from this song were donated to the Australian Vietnam Veterans Association. (thanks, Liam - Hobart, Australia, for all above)

This 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 �32 Proud American
- Sean, Murray, KY

A 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
- pete, nowra, Australia

(From "Songfacts")

Mum and Dad and Danny 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

And 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 hear 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-.

Contributed by Riccardo Venturi - 2005/8/14 - 15:15


VB IS an Australian beer, but it stands for 'Victoria Bitter'

Chris - 2007/2/6 - 15:28



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