Agent Orange and Vietnam Veterans
Agent Orange and Operation Ranch Hand
Agent Orange was used by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971 in Vietnam. The herbicide was used to defoliate inland and coastal forests, cultivated land, and areas around military bases during the Vietnam conflict.
The long term health effects of our military veterans has been widely debated. Earlier studies had found no variation in the cancer rates of a soldier who had fought in Vietnam as compared to a man of the same age who had not spent any time in Vietnam. New studies do refute those prior arguments.
Perhaps the experts should talk to each veteran who currently suffers from those "non-existant" long term effects.
Our veterans deserve honor and respect. They have fought valiantly during the war, and now must continue the fight in order to receive the health care they deserve.
What is Agent Orange?
Why were herbicides used?
Agent Orange was used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam.
Originally designated as "Operation Hades," the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) developed a plan to defoliate areas of Vietnam that were infiltrated with enemy soldiers using guerilla-type warfare.
Objectives of Operation Hades/Ranch Hand:
- Defoliate and destroy the triple canopy jungle to uncover the guerilla fighters.
- Clear certain areas to reduce the chance of ambush.
- Establish "fields of fire" around military bases so the enemy could not infiltrate under cover.
- Deny food to the enemy.
They became known as the "Rainbow Herbicides."
Agent Orange, coded with an orange band, was a 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. The important thing to note is that the mixture was contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorobenzo-para-dioxin (known simply as TCDD), a known human carcinogen.
Where Was Agent Orange Sprayed?
How much of the herbicides were sprayed in Vietnam?
Figures vary, but an estimated 12 million gallons (45 million liters) of Agent Orange were sprayed over Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. The Mekong Delta area, located in the southern tip of South Vietnam, was heavily sprayed. If the undebrush had not been removed along the water's edge, then the U.S. Navy patrol boats would have been much more vulnerable.
Between 1961 and 1967, it is estimated that 20 million gallons (75.7 million liters) of the different herbicides were sprayed over 6 million acres of crops after the Kennedy administration decided to target the rice crops in the hopes of starving the enemy.
Unfortunately, Agent Orange was not as harmless as government officials had stated.
Operation Hades became Operation Ranch Hand
but the insignia patch kept the satanic symbol of a devil with a pitch fork.
US Airforce and Operation Ranch Hand Run - Spraying Defoliant
The U.S. Airforce on one of the "Ranch Hand" runs. As part of this Operation, the military is spraying defoliant throughout the countryside of Vietnam. Originally termed "Operation Hades," the new title "Operation Ranch Hand" was used to improve public relations.
Agent Orange Sprayed on Rice Fields
U.S. Army spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War. You can clearly see the soldiers are not wearing any protective gear.
U.S. Army Spraying Herbicides
Agent Orange sprayed by U.S. Army Operations.
Vietnamese Personnel in Training - Deep in the jungle
I included this image because you can get an idea of how dense and thick the vegetation is in Vietnam. Standing are two Vietnamese soldiers who are being trained by the American military.
Veterans and Agent Orange
As noted in Veterans and Agent Orange (link to the online version),
There is sufficient evidence of an association between exposure to the chemicals of interest and the following health outcomes:
- Soft-tissue sarcoma (including heart)
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (including hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias) (category clarification since Update 2006)
- Hodgkin's disease
Limited or Suggestive Evidence of an Association
There is limited or suggestive evidence of an association between exposure to the chemicals of interest and the following health outcomes:
- Laryngeal cancer
- Cancer of the lung, bronchus, or trachea
- Prostate cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- AL amyloidosis
- Early-onset transient peripheral neuropathy
- Parkinson's disease (category change from Update 2006)
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Ischemic heart disease (category change from Update 2006)
- Type 2 diabetes (mellitus)
- Spina bifida in offspring of exposed people
Veterans and Agent Orange, page 652
You can also purchase from Amazon. Or, you can use the link provided above to read the Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008online version.
What do you think about Agent Orange? - Herbicide Defoliation and the Ultimate Toll on our Veterans
What do you think of the decision to use the various herbicides to defoliate the country side during the Vietnam War? Many people believe that DOW and the other chemical companies knew and fully understood the possible health risks of spraying Agent Orange.
Do you think using Agent Orange was a justified decision at the time?
Yes. We were fighting in a jungle. Using the herbicides was a way to help our soldiers.
Soldiers spraying Agent Orange Defoliant
The herbicides used in Vietnam were not just applied via planes spraying the countryside. As you can see in the first video below, the soldiers were spraying the defoliant along the banks of this waterway. They had absolutely no protective clothing or masks. The fine mist was being inhaled, and was absorbed through dermal contact.
Agent Orange: The Last Battle - Two American Veterans tell their story
Two American Veterans tell their story of being exposed to Agent Orange, one of the defoliants used in Vietnam. They tell their stories of how they were sprayed with this toxic chemical mixture and how it has impacted their lives. They tell their stories of how they continue to fight another battle after leaving Vietnam.
"This moving documentary is a dramatic reminder of the effects war can have, even when that war is long over."
Agent Orange Class Settlement
In 1979, a class action lawsuit was brought against the manufacturers of Agent Orange. The case was settled in 1984 for the sum of $180 million. The money was to be distributed among the Vietnam veterans as needed. Only approximatelty 50,000 veterans ever received compensation from the settlement fund before it ran out of money in 1994.
At the time of the class action settlement, most veterans had not yet been diagnosed with any of the cancers that the National Academy of Sciences had tied to the exposure of the Agent Orange. The cancers would often take 20 years to develop.
The case of Dow Chemical Co. v Stephenson questioned whether the veterans who had not been diagnosed with cancer at the time of the settlement were still legally bound to that court decision if the settlement money was already gone.
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the doors for those veterans, allowing them to pursure their legal claims against the Agent Orange manufacturers.
Nearly 3 million Americans served in Vietnam
Agent Orange was not restricted to Vietnam
During my research, I came across numerous articles that discuss the use of Agent Orange having been used in other countries. I included some of the links here.
- Opinion Forum Agent Orange's Toxic Legacy Hits Home
Foster and a group of fellow veterans who were stationed on Guam have persistently lifted the lid on a long-hidden story beyond the widely reported use of Agent Orange herbicides in Vietnam.
- Agent Orange: Korean Demilitarized Zone - Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards
Information on possible herbicide exposure along the Korea demilitarized zone in 1968 to 1969 and related VA benefits
- Agent Orange: Thailand Military Bases - Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards
Information on possible exposure to Agent Orange in Thailand during the Vietnam War and related VA benefits
Studies on the Effects of Agent Orange
- Genetic Damage in the New Zealand Vietnam War Veterans
The study shows a highly significant difference between the mean of the experimental group and the mean of the control group (p < 0.001). This result suggests, within the strictures of interpreting the SCE assay, that this particular group of New
- Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008
From 1962 to 1971, US military sprayed herbicides over Vietnam. Because of continuing uncertainty about the long-term health effects of the sprayed herbicides on Vietnam veterans, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The legislation directed
For More Information on Agent Orange - Help and Information for Veterans
- Agent Orange - Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards
This is the home page of VA's Agent Orange Web site with links to information on Agent Orange exposure, VA benefits, health care and more.
- Agent Orange Fast Track Claims Processing System
This website is dedicated to processing claims for Vietnam Veterans who are claiming service connection for any of the following conditions: * Ischemic Heart Disease * Hairy Cell and other B-Cell Leukemias * Parkinson's Disease
- Agent Orange: Exposure during Military Service
Information on when and where Agent Orange was sprayed in Vietnam and how Veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during military service.
How many names are not included on this wall that should be here? How many Veterans died after the war as a result of exposure to Agent Orange?
Photo Credit: Jim Bowen under Creative Commons License.
Do you know any Veterans who were affected by Agent Orange? What is your opinion on how this herbicide was used during the Vietnam Conflict?