Vietnam only an American nightmare? Here's the view from down under
Like most kids growing up in the '80s, I never knew about Australia's involvement in the Vietnam until much later in life, but our friends Down Under definitely carried their share of the load and have the scars to prove it as heard in songs like I Was Only 19 by Redgum.
Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War didn't hit home for me until I read Rick Springfield's harrowing account of his Vietnam experience in his 2010 autobiography Late, Late At Night that he discussed with Steve Spears in SIT80's Podcast #216. In the podcast, even after over 40 years, Springfield had difficulty talking about his encounter in which he is positive he had to take his opposition's life.
In 1983, two years before Paul Hardcastle had a worldwide hit 19, the Australian folk group Redgum had a number one hit in their home country with I Was Only 19. Redgum's lead singer John Schumann was inspired to write the song after the stories told to him by his brother-in-law Mick Storen and a man named Frankie Hunt. The most poignant line of the song is when it is revealed that "Frankie kicked a mine the day that man kicked the moon. God help me, he was going home in June."
I Was Only 19's legacy is notable in that it was an inspiration to help build a monument in Australia honoring Vietnam veterans and in 1992 the memorial was built with many quotations on it including the aforementioned "Frankie" quote from I Was Only 19. The song also served as a plot point in 2006 book World War Z by Max Brooks that was turned into the 2013 big budget zombie movie starring Brad Pitt.
Redgum had a few other minor hits in Australia before ending their run at the end of the '80s.