Keep  Ya  Hands  Down

Photograph from unknown source

Keep  Ya  Hands  Down

Oh yeah … today … I’m a-goin’,
To a strange land well knowin’,
That there’s a dirty job to be done.
’Tis the middle of the night,
On a lonely Qantas flight,
With my one way ticket and a gun …
Just my one way ticket and a gun. 

A few final words from my dad:
“Come and listen up to me lad!
When you first hear that battle-cry sound:
Try to never show your fear,
And yet never ever volunteer,
Never question and keep ya hands down …
Stay quiet and keep ya hands down!” 

“Don’t interject nor correct them,
Or you they might select then,
Just obey and do it with a smile.
Whatever are the orders,
From those clowns and wallah warders,
You’ll survive and be home in just awhile …
Survive and be home in just awhile!” 

Despite those things I did and saw,
In that dirty crazy war,
I held my tongue and rarely made a sound.
Pretending I hadn’t seen,
Things horrific, quite obscene,
I never questioned and I kept my hands down …
Stayed quiet and kept my hands down. 

As Aussie soldiers ... merely ‘boys’,
We faced the best of Hanoi’s,
In a war that could never be won.
Though we didn’t know all that when,
‘Choppered’ to our ‘Tigers' den’,
About 100 Ks east of Saigon …
Just 100 Ks east of Saigon.

Months of rusty dust or mud,
Scenes of green cans, wire and blood,
Time passed slowly on this merry-go-round.
Whilst the bullets kept on flyin’,
Mates and locals kept on dyin’,
I stayed quiet and kept my hands down …
Just stayed quiet and kept my hands down. 

And wherever we patrolled,
I recalled all that I was told,
In that death-stalking human hunt.
And from those very early days,
Not one hand did I raise,
Yet, they appointed me to go way out in front! …
Oh God! They appointed me to go way out in front! 

They later called for volunteers,
From each Nasho to make careers,
Remain dressed in his jungle green gown.
So, pretending I didn’t hear,
Like ‘tail-end-Charlie’ in the rear,
I stayed quiet and kept my hands down …
Real quiet and kept my hands down. 

And then one day ... I was a-goin’,
Back to my home town then a-knowin’,
That we did a dirty job well done.
Disembarked ‘The Sydney’ from a ‘cruise’,
A march in Sydney made the news,
With the few shiny medals that I’d won …
Just the few shiny medals that I’d won. 

Yet, I arrived back here to find,
With my stained and troubled mind,
Things had changed, for the worst, I soon found.
So I vowed one day I’d write,
About all this and not keep quiet,
’Cause you can’t always keep ya hands down! …
No! … You can’t always keep ya hands down!


   I guess the subtext of the last verse to this poem encapsulates one motive for writing this book!

                                           ♪♪ Talk-in' is cheap ... people foll-ow ... like sheep!
                                                Even though there ... is nowhere ... to go-0!
                                                Silence is golden ... but my eyes still see! …
                                                Silence is golden ... golden ... golden …
                                                But my eyes ... still see! ♪♪

                                                                       -  from the song Silence is Golden by The Tremeloes, 1968.

                    U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004, with 35 years in the
                             military behind him stated: “One of the unwritten rules in the
                                                          Army was:  Never volunteer!”

                                                                                 -  in State of Denial by Bob Woodward, 2006.     

   “The hypocrisies in the whole Vietnam situation were very nearly asphyxiating!” 
                                                                      -   William Buckley in  Baptism  by Larry Givin.    

                        “The mechanical stupidity of … [some] ... infantry [commanders]
                                              is the antithesis  of intelligent thinking!”

                                                                                              -  Siegfried Sassoon  (during WW 1).