I was visiting England in 1985 when the song "NIneteen" became popular. The writer, Paul Hardcastle was comparing his own life at 19 to those of the soldiers featured: "...what struck me was how young the soldiers were: the documentary said their average age was 19. I was out having fun in pubs and clubs when I was 19, not being shoved into jungles and shot at." The title "19" comes from a documentary's claim that the average age of an American combat soldier in the war was 19, as compared to World War II's 26. The source for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, shows a large number of deaths (38%) were ages 19 or 20. The song is known for its "stuttering" refrain: "N-n-n-n-nineteen".

Prof. Emeritus Tom Priestly
Modern Languages & Cultural Studies
University of Alberta
Edmonton AB
Canada T6G 2E6