Veteran describes saving ‘Frankie’ Hunt from Vietnam jungle
Posted On April 25, 2022
It was 2.20pm on July 21, 1969, when Vietnam War veteran Bill Wilcox’s watch stopped forever.
He still treasures the broken timepiece to this day, a powerful reminder of the terrifying day the sapper was sent into the jungle to rescue stranded Australian soldiers from an active mine zone.
That mission, on the same day man landed on the moon, would go on to play a major role in Australia’s war folklore, through one of the country’s most well-known anti-war anthems.
“We had to be dropped in by winch,” Mr Wilcox said.
“(We) got these guys out and that’s when we got wounded.
“There was another guy who stood on a mine that knocked us about.”
The first soldier he rescued was Frank Hunt, known to most Australians as “Frankie” in the famed anti-war song I was only 19, by Redgum.
The lyrics describe how Frankie “kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon.”
But Mr Wilcox said Frankie survived the ordeal that day, while a fellow soldier did not.
“Frankie didn’t stand on the mine, they used Frankie’s name because the bloke who stood on it was killed,” Mr Wilcox said.
The veteran said he still carries a jar of metal shrapnel pulled from his body that day.
“I copped at least 60-80 pieces up the left side,” Mr Wilcox said.
“Close to 200 stitches in me body. I was read the last rites twice.”
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Today, the veteran marched down the main street of the New South Wales town of Oberon, where he has lived all his life, as tens of thousands across the country gathered to commemorate Anzac Day.