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In 1962, the United States Military began to use a potentially toxic chemical known as Agent Orange. The toxic chemical was used a defoliant to destroy crops and eliminate ground cover during the Vietnam War. Vietnamese troops would hide underneath the thick forest and make it impossible for United States troops to spot them. So in 1962 the Army began using Agent Orange as a way of eliminating that problem. The government had very little knowledge about the deadly chemical but went ahead and used it anyway. They had no idea of the disastrous long-term effects that it would have on men, women and children. But the hardest group hit by the chemical was not Vietnamese civilians but United States troops.
In 1962, Project Ranch Hand was being deployed all over Vietnam. The idea was to destroy the forest on the battle field and make it easier for the United States troops to see the Vietnamese soldiers. The term “agent orange” was given to the chemical because of the bright orange canisters that it was stored in. (Online, Mar 27. 1999) The orange canisters were used to distinguish the chemicals in the warehouses so that they would not be confused with anything else. During the Vietnam War, 11.2 million gallons of Agent Orange were used as defoliants throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia. (Online, lewispublishing, Mar 27. 1999) Approximately 2.6 million United States soldiers served in South Vietnam and nearby areas during the war. (Online, lewispublishing, Mar 27. 1999)
As the planes would drop the massive amounts of Agent Orange onto Vietnam, United States soldiers would unknowingly walk to certain disaster. The deadly chemical affected everyone from ground troops to pilots to seamen. The hardest hit of course were the ground troops. In some cases the defoliant was dropped almost right on top of them while in the field. At that time they may have had some idea that it might be potentially hazardous but they were not certain. As the soldiers were carrying out their orders they would inevitably breathe in the toxic fumes. The chemical would be sprayed over huge areas sometimes in a 10-mile radius destroying everything in its path.
Through out the Vietnam War soldiers were beginning to complain of severe medical problems. The army was not certain of the causes but believed them to be from the people of Vietnam or the surrounding areas. By 1968, the United States army had received an estimated 4,000 reports of unexplainable illnesses. Many scientists became suspicious and began to conduct experiments to find out the causes of these illnesses. They came up with many different explanations for the sicknesses but the most important one was
Agent Orange. The United States Military heard the conclusions of the tests and in 1971 decided to discontinue the use of Agent Orange forever. Between the spring of 1962 and 1971, 19 million gallons of defoliant chemicals had been dropped all over Vietnam destroying millions upon millions of acres of forest and contaminating thousands of soldiers and civilians. (Isserman, America at War 89)
The period between 1971 and 1974 was a disaster. Some 15,000 veterans filed reports of Agent Orange related illnesses. Some of the illnesses are as followed: chloracne, soft-tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s disease, acute peripheral neuropathy, subacute peripheral neuropathy, porohyria cutanea tarda (PCT), respiratory cancers (lung, larynx, trachea, broncus) and prostate cancer. (Bender + Dudley, The Vietnam War 157) The most common illnesses were the different types of cancer. More soldiers were diagnosed with the many types of cancers then any other illnesses.
Vietnam Veterans are not required to prove exposure to Agent Orange. The VA just presumes that all military personnel who served within
Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. (Online, Mar 29. 1999) Even though military personal were exposed to Agent Orange that does not mean they all contracted a disease at all. My father was in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. He said that he saw Agent Orange being dropped almost everyday. He witnessed first hand the destruction that it caused on the forests and land. He did not come in direct contact with the chemical but he did see fellow soldiers come down with different diseases during his time. He’s not certain if any of the diseases were directly related
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Aftermath of the Vietnam War, Defoliants, Agent Orange, Carcinogens, Environmental issues with war, Monsanto, Vietnam War, Vietnam veteran, Vietnam, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese people, Herbicidal warfare
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