Casper had an awesome chat with REDGUM founder and ex-frontman,  John Schumann, regarding the song that is embedded in Australian War history, “I Was Only 19” and his decision to loan the very guitar he wrote it with, to the Australian War Memorial commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.

“Song of a generation” guitar comes to Canberra

The guitar John Schumann used to create his Vietnam War–era song “I was Only 19” is now on loan to the Australian War Memorial, and will be displayed on Vietnam Veterans Day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan.

Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson today accepted the loan of the guitar used to write Schumann’s iconic anthem for veterans of the Vietnam War.

“On July 21 1969 mankind first stepped onto the moon,” Dr Nelson said. “On the same day, 3 Platoon, A Company, 6RAR/NZ, was deployed in Operation Mundingburra on the approaches to the mine-infested Long Hai Hills of Phuoc Tuy province in South Vietnam. Shortly before the word came over the radio that the ‘Yanks had landed on the moon’, these men found themselves in the middle of one of the bloodiest mine incidents of the Vietnam war.”

“John’s song, based on this incident, has become the anthem for all Australia’s Vietnam veterans. However, it did so much more than tell the story of 3 Platoon. His beautifully crafted song helped bring thousands of veterans finally home. But equally importantly, it sparked understanding and empathy across the rest of the nation. It is an anthem burrowed deep into our hearts.”

“As part of our commemorations to mark the 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan, I am honoured to accept this symbol of Australia’s contemporary history. I know that it will help those men and women who served in Vietnam connect with the Memorial and their own story during this important anniversary,” Dr Nelson said.

Mr Schumann said of the handover, “For me, the Australian War Memorial is one of our most important national institutions, and I’m delighted and honoured to consign this guitar to the care of Dr Nelson and his staff.” 

“While I have great affection for this instrument, for reasons which everyone will understand, it really belongs here at the Memorial. This is its true home.”

Long Tan was Australia’s most costly single battle of the Vietnam War: 18 men died as a result of the battle, and 24 others were wounded.

Mr Schumann will also be recording a personal oral history with the Memorial.

For a program of Memorial events, visit https://www.awm.gov.au/events/honouring-vietnam-veterans.

For the media release on the Long Tan anniversary, visit: https://www.awm.gov.au/media/releases/long-tan-50th-anniversary-commemorations-australian-war-memorial/

Redgum - I Was Only 19 (1983)