Mudcat Café message #172170 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #9359   Message #172170
Posted By: GUEST,Chris/Darwin
02-Feb-00 - 06:54 AM
Thread Name: Songs about Vietnam War
Subject: RE: Songs about Vietnam War
Like a lot of other latecomers to this thread, I have been blown away. In Australia we went into a draft ballot from 1965. My birthday did not come out of the hat, so I went on to a "normal" life. Because my father and father-in-law were both WW2 vets, I thought it was my duty at the time to serve in Vietnam if I was called up. That later changed, but at 20 you are not very politically aware.

By the time Australia pulled out in 1973, the tide of public opinion was firmly against our involvement in Vietnam. Australia has had a long history of opposition to conscription; so many lies were told by our leaders at the time, that most Australians came to believe that it was all wrong.

The result of that was almost total rejection of returning serviceman, just as Mick so eloquently describes. I know many vets from my age group, and universally they did not talk about Vietnam or their part in it - they wouldn't even acknowledge involvement unless prompted. I can only imagine what they must have gone through on their return to Australia. Some didn't make it, like a bloke in Tamworth I knew whose body was destroyed by a mine, and who lived a blind and painful (but cheerful and uncomplaining)existence for 15 years before dying of complications.

For Australian vets, it was the song "I was only 19" that turned the tide of public opinion. The writer, John Schuman of the band "Redgum", was clearly against the war. However, the story of Frankie stepping on a mine on the day mankind stood on the moon touched him deeply.

Australians finally came to terms with the fact that the servicemen were not monsters at all, but ordinary men who answered their country's call, even if it is now clear that the call was based on lies.

Australian vets still do not talk about the war, but are now less defensive and much prouder than before the song came out. Monuments, marches, reunions are now possible. Although these can never wipe away the scars, for many the change has meant being part of the community again.

The power of song never ceases to amaze me. Certainly in this case one song changed a nation's attitude.

Thanks for the inspiration Mick and others, I have never been moved more reading anything in my whole life.

Regards Chris