Join Us in Raising Awareness about Agent Orange Vietnam Vets and Other War Vets
The United States troops have participated in many wars, from the American Revolution to the Indian Wars, Mexican War, Civil War, World War I, and many more. However, nothing could prepare our battle-hardened troops for what awaited them in Vietnam.
The dense mangrove forests where the North Vietnamese troops took refuge and the guerilla warfare tactics made it challenging for the US troops to gain much ground. To combat the Viet Cong’s enemy troops, the United States manufactured a Dioxin contaminated Agent Orange, a deadly herbicide that destroyed the dense forestations and crops. However, little did the US forces realize that the herbicide would also affect their lives after the Vietnam War.
Operation Ranch Hand: An Aggressive Chemical Warfare Program
In March 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided to send US troops to support the South Vietnam forces that rebelled against the communist-backed Northern Vietnamese army. By June 1965, 80,000 US forces were actively stationed in Vietnam, with 175,000 more troops expected by year-end.
During a period of 10 years, from 1961 to 1971, the US military sprayed the toxic herbicide over 4.5 million acres of upland and mangrove forests and more than 500,000 acres of food crops. Helicopters, airplanes, trucks, and hand troops would douse villages, roads, and forests with the deadly herbicides to eliminate plantations.
However, many failed to realize the destruction the powerful herbicide would leave behind. In total, the US military used more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides, not only affecting the Viet Cong troops but also the non-combatant population of Vietnam.
Dioxin in Agent Orange
The United States produced Agent Orange in the 1940s for their agricultural chemical industry. However, soon the government realized that by adding Dioxin, a by-product of industrial processes, Agent Orange could deliver lingering effects long after being sprayed. The Dioxin made it possible for the herbicide to last much longer in the environment.
Realizing the potential of chemical warfare, the United States government requested nine chemical companies to start producing the deadly agents. These included Dow Chemical Company, Hercules Inc., United States Rubber Company, and Agriselect.
In 1961, the President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, sought US assistance in helping fight against the Viet Cong troops taking refuge in the lush jungles of Vietnam. By mid-1961, the US started transporting the deadly chemical and started aerial operations with the Vietnamese allied forces to spray over the dense forests.
By 1971, 12% of South Vietnam had been sprayed with deadly chemical herbicides, which were 20 to 50 times more than the recommended dosage by the US Department of Agriculture.
What followed next was destruction. The aerial spraying program destroyed 20,000 sq. kilometers of mangrove forests and vast cultivated lands, a food source for the Vietnamese population, poisoning the country’s food chain and causing illnesses and serious diseases.
In 1972, the US conducted military operations to collect the herbicide from military bases in Vietnam. In 1977, the US government decided to incinerate the remaining Agent Orange stored in Johnston Atoll.
Effects of Agent Orange on Human Health
Dioxin contamination was the primary factor for Agent Orange’s lethal characteristics. It is a carcinogen, meaning Agent Orange exposure could lead to multiple types of cancer. In a study conducted on laboratory animals, exposure to Agent Orange proved highly toxic, even in small doses.
In the short term, humans exposed to Agent Orange could start experiencing darkening of the skin, skin diseases, and liver issues. In the long run, Dioxin could cause type II diabetes, nerve disorders, heart disease, soft tissue sarcomas, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and serious birth defects, among many other health problems.
A Toxic Legacy Left Behind as Veterans Become Ill
As soon as the Vietnam veterans returned home when the Vietnam war ended, they started to experience illnesses. Vets and families began suffering from skin rashes, psychological problems, and cancer. The children born to Vietnam veterans suffered from severe congenital disabilities.
In 1979, the US veterans filed their first class action lawsuit for the injuries military personnel suffered while exposed to the toxic herbicide. After five years, the seven large chemical manufacturers agreed to pay $180 million in damages arising from the use of Agent Orange. According to many veterans, they were unaware of the potential health concerns arising from exposure to Agent Orange.
By 1988, multiple lawsuits followed. However, under the current law, it was difficult for the victims to prove their illness resulted from exposure to the deadly Dioxin contaminated herbicide during the Vietnam war.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed the Agent Orange Act, legislation that would include a list of presumptive diseases, making it easy for the vets suffering from those illnesses to seek compensation for their wartime services.
Although Agent Orange exposure affected the US troops, the Vietnamese suffered the most. According to the Vietnamese government, more than 2 million people have cancer and other Agent Orange-related illnesses, while 400,000 died directly due to exposure to the herbicide.
In March 2004, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin decided to file a lawsuit in the US Courts. However, a Federal judge in Brooklyn dismissed the suit, stating that the Vietnam-era herbicides were not considered poisonous at that time under international law.
In 2008, another court rejected the final appeal, infuriating Vietnamese citizens and US veterans. Political experts believe the United States refused to compensate the Vietnamese citizens as it would mean that they agreed to the war crimes they carried out in Vietnam, opening doors to many lawsuits causing the government billions of dollars.
However, in 2010, the US government joined with the Vietnam government, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and other partners to clean up dioxin “hotspots” and expand humanitarian efforts across Vietnam.
Join Hands with Agent Orange Foundation to Raise Awareness About Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
The damage to the US military forces on active duty during the Vietnam war is irreversible. However, we can honor our nation’s armed forces, who pass away each day from their illnesses resulting from exposure to the toxic herbicide. Even today, many veterans and their family members still suffer from the deadly legacy of the deadly herbicide.
Agent Orange Foundation is in the process of applying to become a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness for veterans still suffering from the lasting effects of Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals from burn pits, etc. A huge part of what we do is to help raise funds and fight for our veterans exposed to Agent Orange by handling claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs and recovering VA disability compensation to help them get the health care they deserve. Join hands with us, and let’s take this movement nationwide. Our vets need to be properly honored, and it’s the least they justly deserve.