I Was Only 19

10 October 2016

I was only 19, written by red gum, an Australian band is a song about the Vietnam War. It is an extremely moving song, as from what we gather from the title, the song is about a young lad who was only 19 when he first went off to fight in the war. In the song, there is a lot of alliteration used such as the phrase “passing-out parade at Puckapunyal” and “Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon”. A passing out parade is a sort of graduation ceremony for soldiers one they have completed their training and Puckapunyal is and Australian Army Base in Victoria.

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This signifies that a soldier is ready to be sent away and is qualified to fight in a war. “Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon”, man landed on the moon on the 21st July 1969 and on the very same day, Platoon 3, a military unit, was deployed on operation on Mundinburra, to the mine-infested Long Hai Hills of South Vietnam. When a radio signal had been passed on that the Americans had landed on the moon, the historic news was passed onto the men.

That day, two mines were tripped. Skipper Hines and Corporal John needs both lost their lives. 23 soldiers were wounded and of these, 11 were wounded badly enough to be repatriated to Australia, one of which was Frank “Frankie” Hunt. Although in the song it gives the impression that he had died, he actually didn’t, but he was 11 months from going home and to a soldier, going home because of injury can make you feel like you have let down your country, and they will never be able to forgive you. 1 months seems like a long time to us, but to a soldier, it was all they could ask for. Flash back is a rather large technique used as in the fourth and the last paragraph, the character telling the story seems to be talking to a doctor and the way the song is written is in past tense suggest that he is in fact, reminiscing about the war rather than the audience actually being there on the journey with the him.

The entire song seems to be a memory from one man’s perspective and it talks about the obvious picture that we all see as outsiders looking in, but also from the inside out, especially the lines in the fifth paragraph that say “it was a war within yourself but you wouldn’t let your mates down till they had you dusted off, so you closed your eyes and thought of something else”. This says that although these men were at ar, they were risking and fighting for their lives, that any minute could be their last, they continued on and would not give up until the very end, until they had achieved what they had set out to do, no matter what it cost them and not only is he mourning for the loss of the men he knew and the friends he made, but also for the loss of his youth, after all, he was only 19. Subtly, the entire song is an Allusion, a reference to an historical event. The Vietnam was one of the darkest times of Australian history, something that will never be forgotten.

In the song, the protagonist is talking to a doctor, a professional about things from the war that still haunt him to that very day. Things such as the Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant used during the war to destroy the foliage of the jungle but a side effect is that would cause a rash that would come and go and would just persist until you died. And at night, all he can hear is the sound of the M16, a rifle, because he is so mentally scarred.

Fighting in the war did many things to one’s mind, they see things that they will live with for the rest of their lives and they did things that they may not ever forgive themselves for. But they did it out of love and loyalty for their country. I was only 19 is a very, very powerful song. Not only does it show the worst traits of war but it also describes it in a rather confronting manner. The idea of war seems to only result in the senseless killing of young and old men, and those who survive are only left with questions that not even experts can answer.

People are left and born with deformities and heart, skin, liver conditions due to a poisonous substances that never intended to do such things, and innocent men are left with the guilt and murder of war resting on their shoulders, and only once other begin to accept the for who they are and forgive them for all their sins, can they finally move on and begin to forgive themselves. We stand together, we fight forever. We share a dream and sing with one voice, I am, you are, we are Australian!

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