"I Was Only 19" as written by John Lewis Schumann, Kaho Cheung, Simon Luke Fellows, Dale Anthony Harrison, Shannon Lee Kennedy, Timothy James Levinson, Kenneth Spencer Sabir and Richard Tamplenizza....
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-


Lyrics submitted by psychochicken, edited by tvsinesperanto, CrankyBuff, GeeCee8624

"I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green)" as written by John Lewis Schumann, Kaho Cheung, Simon Luke Fellows, Dale Anthony Harrison, Shannon Lee Kennedy, Timothy James Levinson, Kenneth Spencer Sabir, Richard Tamplenizza

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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I Was Only 19 song meanings
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29 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commentthis is the song that has to most meaning to me, it represents all that returned vietnam vets have been through, and just the general futility of war
    psychochickenon April 14, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJohn Schumann of Redgum:
    "We've just put out a single called "I Was Only 19" or "A Walk in the Light Green" and, ah, it's a song about two mates of mine who went to Vietnam and came back Agent Orange victims. It's, ah, the title "A Walk in the Light Green" stems from the fact that, when the Australian soldiers in Vietnam were given their missions they looked at the areas that they'd be working in on the map, and if ah, it was sort of dark green on the map, there was cause for some consolation, 'cause dark green meant thick jungle, lots of cover and there were no mines. If they were working in areas that were light green on the map, that meant light jungle, not much cover and heaps of mines."

    Puckapunyal is an army training base in Victoria, Canungra and Shoalwater are bases that provide specialist training in jungle warfare.
    Vung Tau and Nui Dat are cities in Vietnam.
    Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the original name given to the forces that landed on Gallipoli Beach in World War One.
    Agent Orange was a herbicide used to kill the jungle to reduce the cover.

    This song reduced me to tears the first time I heard it. My Dad played it for me, and we both sobbed. Though he didn't go to Vietnam, he's old enough to have friends who did, and who have had their lives destroyed by that war.
    Arianrhodon June 17, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe first time I heard this song I was in year 12, and I was part of a drama ensemble. We were exploring the breakdown of communication over the generations and the different views people had, we had decided to use WW2 and Vietnam returning soldiers to illustrate our point. On principle I don't agree with war, but people who have gone to fight do deserve our respect for doing their jobs and surviving, what would have to be horrible situations and experiences. This song reminds me not only of the reality of war but also the suffering people who go to war are put through and every-time I listen to it I cry and think about all the people like "Frankie" or the narrator of the song, who either died, were injured physically and emotionally.

    They all deserve our understanding and respect and for me that is what this song is, a reminder to show understanding and respect for courageous men and women who serve in the armed forces.
    TamaraFranceson July 26, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat I like about this song is that it says to USA that your not the only ones that fought in vietnam
    Tommo69ron August 28, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningHey I'm not sure what he means by "the 6th battalion was the next to tour it was me who drew the card"
    but just in case anyone was wondering "We did Canungra, Shoalwater before we left." refer to millitary training bases in Queensland, Australia.

    Also from the second verse, an SLR is a "self loading rifle"...

    And just to clear it up is the "God almighty roar" an airstrike or poor Frankie's landmine?
    samadamason November 16, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeh, i like this song in what it is about, it needed to be said. it still gts radio play and i think that is important.
    J0K3Ron April 03, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song means alotv to me because military runs in my families blood.
    i have a rele that was killed in the american civil wars another was captured by the Japanese in WW2 and another was at Pearl Habour when it was bombed. they are the bad stories of my families military service. so my family has a very long military service record and i intend to keep the record going when i try for a 2nd time to get into the Australian army. btw im only 17 i could be in a war my self in 2 yrs if that is what the future holds
    COF4evaon December 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm curious about the 'we hooked in there for hours' part. It mentions 6th btn and Nui Dat. Does this mean that this part of the song is about Long Tan, were D company was up against an entire regiment of NVA?
    m_rkeyson April 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a brilliant song, made me cry the first time I heard it. I think it should be played more often, particularly on ANZAC day and stuff... I think it really creates an image of the reality of war, and the lasting impact on the soldiers. An absolute classic.
    caligemon August 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentits fantastic.
    really sad but it needs to be heard.
    i love it.
    i love the heard's cover of it too
    Billahon March 06, 2007   Link

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