Mudcat Café message #2352735 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #9359   Message #2352735
Posted By: Muttley
30-May-08 - 03:59 AM
Thread Name: Songs about Vietnam War
Subject: RE: Songs about Vietnam War
3 Great Songs from the Australian perspective:

"I Was Only 19: A Walk in the Light Green"

"Khe Sahn"

"God Bless the Vets"

One very good song from America from a VERY surprising source:

"Some Gave All" by Billy Ray Cyrus

Lyrics to I Was Only 19:

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; It was me who drew the card
We did Conungra, Shoalwater before we left.
And Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean
An' there's me in me 'Slouch Hat' with me SLR and 'Greens'
God help me: I was only 19!

From Vung Tau,riding Chinooks, to the dust at Nui Dat
(I've been in and out of choppers now for months)
We made our tents a home; VB and pin-ups on the lockers
An' an Asian Orange* sunset through the scrub

   And can you tell me doctor, why I still can't get to sleep
   The night-times just a jungle, dark and a barking M-16
   An' what's this rash that comes and goes,
   Can you tell me what it means;
   God help me: I was only 19!

A Four-week operation; Any step could 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
An' then someone yelled out "Contact!" and the bloke behind me swore
We hooked in there for hours: Then a God-almighty roar
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 drinking 'tinnies' in the Grand Hotel
On a thirty-six-hour 'Rec Leave' in Vung Tau
An' I can still see frankie lying screamin' in the jungle;
'Til the morphine 'kicked' and killed the bloody row.
And the ANZAC legends never mentioned mud and blood and tears
An' the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
I caught some pieces in me 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 why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet
   An' what's this rash that comes and goes,
   Can you tell me what it means;
   God help me: I was only 19!

   And can you tell me doctor, why I still can't get to sleep
   The night-times just a jungle, dark and a barking M-16
   An' what's this rash that comes and goes,
   Can you tell me what it means;
   God help me . . . . . (fade out) (let the chord die naturally)

I was only 19 was written and recorded by 'Redgum' to tell the story of one Vet who was hit in the spine and rendered paraplegic by shrapnel from a land-mine which killed his best mate Frank while they were out 'Jungle Bashing' (on patrol).
A Walk in the light green refers to the maps they used. If the patrol area was coloured in dark green, it meant impenetrable jungle which gave a sense of security as those areas were harder to set up ambushes in. However, light green meant open jungle, plantation rice paddies etc - perfect places to get "hit" by the enemy.

I Was Only 19 was pretty much the catalyst for the government turning around and FINALLY acknowledging the service of the Vets and recognising the filthy treatment and neglect of them by governments and ordinary Australians both since 1972. It led to the Welcome Home March held in Sydney in October 1987 - 15 to 25 years too late; but at least it was an acknowledgement.

The "Asian Orange Suset" lyrics are frequently altered to "AGENT Orange Sunset" - the defoliant has led to innumerable skin diseases and cancers in Vets as well as birth defects in their children and grandchildren.

Terms Used:
Passing-out Parade - end of basic training
Puckapunyal - main trainee base for recruits (National Service
             conscripts and 'Regulars') the other was Kapooka
Conungra - Jungle warfare training base
Shoalwater - Amphibious landing training base
Townsville - northern Queensland city where soldiers headed for
             Vietnam to begin a tour shipped out from.
Vung Tau - Main Australian Coastal Base / Airforce Base
Chinooks - twin rotor transport choppers
Nui Dat - Main Australian Tactical Base in Phuoc Tuy Province
VB - Victoria Bitter - beer
'dusted off' - evacuation - medical or otherwise
"Contact!" - enemy encountered
'tinnies' - cans of beer
ANZAC - Australian & New Zealand Army Corps - formed in 1915 and
       forged a legend of bravery under fire and holding out
       against superior odds and superior terrain in 1915 at


I left my heart with the sappers 'round Khe Sahn
And I sold my soul with my cigarettes to the Black Market Man
I've had the Vietnam cold turkey from the ocean to the Silver City
And it's only other Vets can understand

Bout the long-forgotten dockside guarantees
There were no V-Day heroes in 1973
And how we sailed into Sydney Harbour
I saw an old friend but I couldn't kiss her
She was loud and I was home to the Lucky Land

She was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were Oh-so empty until they founf their 'Chosen One'
And their legs were often open; but their mind was always closed
And their hearts were held in fast, suburban chains

And the legal pads were yellow; hours long, pay-packets lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gun-ships once had been
But car-parks made me jumpy and I never stopped to think
'Bout my growing need for Speed and Novocaine

So I worked across the country from end-to-end
Tryin' to find a place to settle down where my mixed-up life could
Held a job on an oil rig; flyin' choppers when I could
But the night life nearly drove me 'round the bend

And I travelled 'round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless: One more year the worse for wear
And I've been back to south-east Asia; but the answers sure ain't there
So I'm drifting north to check things out again

Well the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
In only seven flyin' hours, I'll be landin' in Hong Kong
An' there ain't nothin' likr the kisses from a teen-aged Chinese
I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long

Well the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
You know the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
An' it's really got me worried - I'm goin' nowhere an' I'm in a
Y'know the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone

      (Repeat & Fade)

Khe Sahn was written and recorded by Sydney Rock Band 'Cold Chisel' and rapidly became an anthem for the Vets (as did I was Only 19 - but they coulkd sing Khe Sahn without getting 'misty'). Despite being a rock ballad and usually sung fairly hard and raucously - it does do well on acoustic and with a slightly softer treatment.

Terms Used:

Silver City - Sydney

Sorry - can't find my copy of "God Bless the Vets" - an obscure CD recorded by a brother from our Bike Club - God's Squad. "Kool" wrote and recorded it and was close to many blokes from the Vietnam Veteran's Motorcycle Club - he got involved through me because we were close and due to my being in God's Squad, I was the Padre for the VVMC Australia wide.


God Bless the Vets