THE AGENT ORANGE STORY
Veteran Dispatch Staff Report
November 1990 Issue
is the war that will not end. It is the war that continues to
stalk and claim its victims decades after the last shots were
fired. It is the war of rainbow herbicides, Agents Orange, Blue,
White, Purple, Green and Pink.
never-ending legacy of the war in Vietnam has created among many
veterans and their families deep feelings of mistrust of the
U.S. government for its lack of honesty in studying the effects
of the rainbow herbicides, particularly Agent Orange, and its
conscious effort to cover up information and rig test results
with which it does not agree.
August 2, 1990, two veteran's groups filed suit in U.S. District
Court in Washington, D.C., charging that federal scientists
canceled an Agent Orange study mandated by Congress in 1979
because of pressure from the White House.
four year, $43 million study was canceled, according to the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, because it could
not accurately determine which veterans were exposed to the
herbicide used to destroy vegetation in Vietnam.
American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America and other veteran's
groups are charging a massive government cover-up on the issue
of herbicide exposure because of the hundreds of millions of
dollars in health care and disability claims that would have to
results of the scientific studies are rigged, claim many
veterans, to exonerate the government which conducted the
spraying and the chemical companies which produced the
herbicides. Until there is a true study of the effects of Agent
Orange, say the veterans - a study devoid of government
interference and political considerations, the war of the
rainbow herbicides will go on.
of a White House cover-up have been substantiated by a report
from the House Government Operations Committee. That report,
released August 9, 1990, charges that officials in the Reagan
administration purposely "controlled and obstructed" a
federal Agent Orange study in 1987 because it did not want to
admit government liability in cases involving the toxic
and industry cover-ups on Agent Orange are nothing new, though.
They have been going on since before the herbicide was
introduced in the jungles of Vietnam in the early 1960s.
Orange had its genesis as a defoliant in an obscure laboratory
at the University of Chicago during World War II. Working on
experimental plant growth at the time, Professor E.J. Kraus,
chairman of the school's botany department, discovered that he
could regulate the growth of plants through the infusion of
various hormones. Among the discoveries he made was that certain
broadleaf vegetation could be killed by causing the plants to
experience sudden, uncontrolled growth. It was similar to giving
the plants cancer by introducing specific chemicals. In some
instances, deterioration of the vegetation was noticed within
24-48 hours of the introduction of the chemicals.
found that heavy doses of the chemical 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic
acid (2,4-D) could induce these growth spurts. Thinking this
discovery might be of some use in the war effort, Kraus
contacted the War Department. Army scientists tested the plant
hormones but found no use for them before the end of the war.
scientists, however, found Kraus' plant hormones to be of use in
everyday life after the war. Chemical sprays that included 2,4-D
were put on the market for use in controlling weeds in yards,
along roads and railroad rights of way.
EXPERIMENTS WITH DEADLY DEFOLIANTS
Army continued to experiment with 2,4-D during the 1950s and
late in the decade found a potent combination of chemicals which
quickly found its way into the Army's chemical arsenal.
scientists found that by mixing 2,4-D and
2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and spraying it on
plants, there would be an almost immediate negative effect on
the foliage. What they didn't realize, or chose to ignore, was
that 2,4,5-T contained dioxin, a useless by-product of herbicide
production. It would be twenty more years until concern was
raised about dioxin, a chemical the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) would later call "one of the most perplexing
and potentially dangerous" known to man.
to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The toxicity of dioxin
renders it capable of killing some species of newborn mammals
and fish at levels of five parts per trillion (or one ounce in
six million tons). Less than two millionths of an ounce will
kill a mouse. Its toxic properties are enhanced by the fact that
it can pass into the body through all major routes of entry,
including the skin (by direct contact), the lungs (by inhaling
dust, fumes or vapors), or through the mouth. Entry through
any of these routes contributes to the total body burden. Dioxin
is so toxic, according to the encyclopedia, because of this:
"Contained in cell membranes are protein molecules, called
receptors, that normally function to move substances into the
cell. Dioxin avidly binds to these receptors and, as a result,
is rapidly transported into the cytoplasm and nucleus of the
cell, where it causes changes in cellular procession."
minimal experimentation in 1961, a variety of chemical agents
was shipped to Vietnam to aid in anti-guerilla efforts. The
chemicals were to be used to destroy food sources and eliminate
foliage that concealed enemy troop movements.
various chemicals were labeled by color-coded stripes on the
barrels, an arsenal of herbicides known by the colors of the
rainbow, including Agent Blue (which contained arsenic), Agent
White, Agent Purple, and the lethal combination of 2,4-D and
2,4,5-T, Agent Orange.
January 13, 1962, three U.S. Air Force C-123s left Tan Son Nhut
airfield to begin Operation Hades (later called Operation Ranch
Hand), the defoliation of portions of South Vietnam's heavily
forested countryside in which Viet Cong guerrillas could easily
hide. By September, 1962, the spraying program had intensified,
despite an early lack of success, as U.S. officials targeted the
Ca Mau Peninsula, a scene of heavy communist activity. Ranch
Hand aircraft sprayed more than 9,000 acres of mangrove forests
there, defoliating approximately 95 percent of the targeted
area. That mission was deemed a success and full approval was
given for continuation of Operation Ranch Hand as the U.S.
stepped up its involvement in Vietnam.
TO TWENTY-FIVE TIMES
STRONGER THAN RECOMMENDED
the next nine years, an estimated 12 million gallons of Agent
Orange were sprayed throughout Vietnam. The U.S. military
command in Vietnam insisted publicly the defoliation program was
militarily successful and had little adverse impact on the
economy of the villagers who came into contact with it.
the herbicides were widely used in the United States, they
usually were heavily diluted with water or oil. In Vietnam,
military applications were sprayed at the rate of three gallons
per acre and contained approximately 12 pounds of 2,4-D and 13.8
pounds of 2,3,5-T.
military sprayed herbicides in Vietnam six to 25 times the rate
suggested by the manufacturer.
1962, 15,000 gallons of herbicide were sprayed throughout
Vietnam. The following year that amount nearly quadrupled, as
59,000 gallons of chemicals were poured into the forests and
streams. The amounts increased significantly after that: 175,000
gallons in 1964, 621,000 gallons in 1965 and 2.28 million
gallons in 1966.
pilots who flew these missions became so proficient at their
jobs that it would take only a few minutes after reaching their
target areas to dump their 1,000-gallon loads before turning for
home. Flying over portions of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
that had been sprayed, the pilots could see the effects of their
work. Many of them adopted a grim fatalism about the job. Over
the door of the ready room for Ranch Hand pilots at Tan Son Nhut
Airport near Saigon hung this sign: "Only You Can Prevent
KNEW OF DANGER TO HUMANS
to the tens of thousands of American soldiers and Vietnamese
civilians who were living, eating and bathing in a virtual
omnipresent mist of the rainbow herbicides, the makers of these
chemicals were well aware of their long-term toxic effects, but
sought to suppress the information from the government and the
public, fearing negative backlash.
particular concern to the chemical companies was Agent Orange,
which contained dioxin. Publicly, the chemical companies said
dioxin occurred naturally in the environment and was not harmful
they knew otherwise.
February 22, 1965 Dow Chemical Corporation internal memorandum
provided a summary of a meeting in which 13 executives discussed
the potential hazards of dioxin in 2,4,5-T. Following that
meeting, Dow officials decided to meet with other makers of the
chemical and formulate a stance on Agent Orange and dioxin.
March 1965, Dow official V.K. Rowe convened a meeting of
executives of Monsanto, Hooker Chemical, which operated the Love
Canal dump, Diamond Alkali, the forerunner of Diamond-Shamrock,
and the Hercules Powder Co., which later became Hercules, Inc.
to documents uncovered only years later, the purpose of this
meeting was "to discuss the toxicological problems caused
by the presence of certain highly toxic impurities" in
samples of 2,4,5-T. The primary "highly toxic
impurity" was 2,3,7,8 TCDD, one of 75 dioxin compounds.
OVER DIOXINS KEPT QUIET
months later, Rowe sent a memo to Ross Mulholland, a manager
with Dow in Canada, informing him that dioxin "is
exceptionally toxic, it has a tremendous potential for producing
chloracne (a skin disorder similar to acne) and systemic
injury." Rowe ordered Mulholland in a postscript to the
letter that "Under no circumstances may this letter be
reproduced, shown or sent to anyone outside of Dow." Among
those in attendance at one of the meetings of chemical company
officials was John Frawley, a toxicologist for Hercules, Inc. In
an internal memorandum for Hercules officials, Frawley wrote in
1965 that Dow was concerned the government might learn of a Dow
study showing that dioxin caused severe liver damage in rabbits.
Dow was concerned, according to Frawley, that "the whole
industry will suffer." Frawley said he came away from the
meeting with the feeling that "Dow was extremely frightened
that this situation might explode" and lead to government
concern over dioxins was kept quiet and largely out of the
public view. The U.S. government and the chemical companies
presented a united front on the issue of defoliation, claiming
it was militarily necessary to deprive the Viet Cong of hiding
places and food sources and that it caused no adverse economic
or health effects to those who came into contact with the
rainbow herbicides, particularly Agent Orange.
FORCE KNEW OF HEALTH DANGER
scientists involved in Operation Ranch Hand and documents
uncovered recently in the National Archives present a somewhat
different picture. There are strong indications that not only
were military officials aware as early as 1967 of the limited
effectiveness of chemical defoliation, they knew of potential
long-term health risks of frequent spraying and sought to keep
that information from the public by managing news reports.
James Clary was an Air Force scientist in Vietnam who helped
write the history of Operation Ranch Hand. Clary says the Air
Force knew Agent Orange was far more hazardous to the health of
humans than anyone would admit at the time.
we (military scientists) initiated the herbicide program in the
1960s," Clary wrote in a 1988 letter to a member of
Congress investigating Agent Orange, "we were aware of the
potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the
herbicide. We were even aware that the `military' formulation
had a higher dioxin concentration than the `civilian' version,
due to the lower cost and speed of manufacture. However, because
the material was to be used on the `enemy,' none of us were
overly concerned. We never considered a scenario in which our
own personnel would become contaminated with the herbicide. And,
if we had, we would have expected our own government to give
assistance to veterans so contaminated."
DOWNPLAYS USE OF HERBICIDES
of the concern over the use of herbicides in Vietnam,
particularly the use of Agent Orange, the U.S. Military
Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), attempted to put the proper
public relations spin on information concerning Operation Ranch
Hand by announcing a "revision" in its policy on the
use of herbicides.
was not so much a revision of the policy as it was an appearance
of a revision of the policy as it was an appearance of revision,
as is evident in a memorandum signed by Gen. R.W. Komer, deputy
to Gen. William Westmoreland for civil operations and RD support
purpose of this exercise would be to meet criticisms of
excessive use of defoliants by clarifying that they will no
longer be used in large areas, while in reality not restricting
our use of defoliants (since they are not now normally used in
this area anyway). In addition, there would be an escape clause
. . . which would permit the use of defoliants even in the
prohibited area provided that a strong case could be made to
to restrict the use of defoliants in this manner would (a) help
meet US and Vietnamese criticism of these operations; (b)
increase peasant confidence so that they would grow more rice;
(c) be of psywar (psychological warfare) value by suggesting
that large areas were sufficiently pacified by now that large
scale defoliants use was no longer necessary."
the idea that the spraying of herbicides could be confined to a
limited area as suggested in this memo was known to be futile as
early as 1962.
of the first defoliation efforts of Operation Ranch Hand was
near a rubber plantation in January, 1962.
to an unsigned U.S. Army memorandum dated January 24, 1966,
titled "Use of Herbicides in Vietnam," studies showed
that within a week of spraying, the trees in the plantation
"showed considerable leaf fall."
injury to the young rubber trees occurred even though the
plantation was located some 500 yards away and upwind of the
target at the time of the spray delivery."
memo went on to say that "vapors of the chemical were
strong enough in concentration to cause this injury to the
rubber." These vapors, "appear to come from `mist
drift' or from vaporization either in the atmosphere or after
the spray has settled on the vegetation."
issue of "mist drift" continued to plague the
defoliation program. How far would it drift? How fast? Wind
speed and direction were of major concerns in answering these
questions. Yet, there were other questions, many of which could
not be answered.
happened in humid weather?
quickly did the chemicals diffuse in the atmosphere or were they
carried into the clouds and dropped dozens of miles away? How
long would the rainbow herbicides linger in the air or on the
ground once they were sprayed?
November 8, 1967 memorandum from Eugene M. Locke, deputy U.S.
ambassador in Saigon, once again addressed the problem of
"mist drift" and "significant damage" to
rubber plantations from spraying earlier in the year.
to Locke, "the herbicide damage resulted from a
navigational error; some trees in another plantation had been
defoliated deliberately in order to enhance the security of a
U.S. military camp. The bulk of the herbicide damage must be
attributed, however, to the drift of herbicide through the
atmosphere. This drift occurs (a) after the spray is released
from the aircraft and before it reaches the ground, and/or (b)
when herbicide that has already reached the ground vaporizes
during the heat of the day, is carried aloft, then moved by
surface winds and eventually deposited elsewhere.
is a lack of agreement within the Mission regarding the
distances over which the two kinds of drift can occur. When
properly released (as required at 150 feet above the target,
with winds of no more than 10 mph blowing away from nearby
plantations) herbicide spray should fall with reasonable
accuracy upon its intended target. The range of drift of
vaporized herbicide, however, has not been scientifically
established at the present time. In recognition of this
phenomenon and to minimize it, current procedures require that
missions may be flown only during inversion conditions, i.e.,
when the temperature on the land and in the atmosphere produces
downward currents of air. Estimates within the Mission of
vaporized herbicide drift range from only negligible drift to
distances of up to 10 kilometers and more."
kilometers and more. More than six miles. In essence, troops
operating more than six miles from defoliation operations could
find themselves, their water and their food doused with chemical
agents, including dioxin-laced Agent Orange. And they wouldn't
even know it.
than four months later, on March 23, 1968, Gen. A.R. Brownfield,
then Army Chief of Staff, sent a message to all senior U.S.
advisors in the four Corps Tactical Zones (CTZ) of Vietnam.
ordered that "helicopter spray operations will not be
conducted when ground temperatures are greater that 85 (degrees)
Fahrenheit and wind speed in excess of 10 mph."
the concern was not for any troops operating in the areas of
spraying, as was evident in the memo, but for the rubber
plantations. The message ordered that "a buffer distance of
at least two (2) kilometers from active rubber plantation must
be maintained." No such considerations were given for the
troops operating in the area.
of the U.S. government's worst planned and executed efforts to
use herbicides was a secret operation known as "Project
to a recently declassified report on "Project Pink
Rose," the operation had its genesis in September 1965 when
the Joint Chiefs of Staff received a recommendation from the
Commander in Chief Pacific "to develop a capability to
destroy by fire large areas of forest and jungle growth in
March 11, 1966, a test operation known as "Hot Tip"
was documented at Chu Pong mountain near Pleiku when 15 B-52s
dropped incendiaries on a defoliated area. According to the
declassified memo, "results were inconclusive but
sufficient fire did develop to indicate that this technique
might be operationally functional."
neither the government nor the chemical companies told anyone
was that burning dioxins significantly increases the toxicity of
the dioxins. So, not only was the government introducing cancer
causing chemicals into the war, it was increasing their toxicity
by burning them.
"Project Pink Rose" continued.
November, 1966, three free strike target areas were selected:
one in War Zone D and two in War Zone C. Each target was a box
seven kilometers square. The target areas were double and triple
canopy jungle. The areas were heavily prepped with defoliants,
the government dumping 255,000 gallons on the test sites.
three sites were bombed individually, one on January 18, 1967,
another January 28, 1967 and the last on April 4, 1967.
According to the memo, "the order and dates of strikes were
changed to properly phase Pink Rose operations with concurrent
means that U.S. and Vietnamese troops were living and fighting
in these test sites on which 255,000 gallons of cancer causing
defoliants had been dumped.
results of "Project Pink Rose" were less than
to the memo, "The Pink Rose technique is ineffective as a
means of removing the forest crown canopy."
conclusion: "Further testing of the Pink Rose technique in
South Vietnam under the existing concept be terminated."
DUMPED ON PEOPLE
AND INTO WATER SUPPLIES
addition to the planned dumps of herbicides, accidental and
intentional dumps of defoliants over populated areas and into
the water supplies was not unusual, according to government
memorandum for the record dated October 31, 1967, and signed by
Col. W.T. Moseley, chief of MACV's Chemical Operations Division,
reported an emergency dump of herbicide far from the intended
approximately 1120 hours, October 29, 1967, aircraft #576 made
an emergency dump of herbicide in Long Khanh Province due to
failure of one engine and loss of power in the other.
Approximately 1,000 gallons of herbicide WHITE were dumped from
an altitude of 2,500 feet.
mention was made of wind speed or direction, but chemicals
dropped from that height had the potential to drift a long way.
memorandum for the record, this one dated January 8, 1968 and
signed by Col. John Moran, chief Chemical Operations Division of
MACV, also reported an emergency dump of herbicide, this time
into a major river near Saigon.
approximately 1015 hours, January 6, 1968, aircraft #633 made an
emergency dump over the Dong Nai River approximately 15
kilometers east of Saigon when the aircraft experienced severe
engine vibration and loss of power. Approximately 1,000 gallons
of herbicide ORANGE were dumped from an altitude of 3,500
DEVELOP SKIN PROBLEMS
chemical companies continued to insist that the herbicides in
general, and Agent Orange in particular, had no adverse effects
on humans. This despite Dow's concerns about human exposure to
Agent Orange expressed internally in 1965 but hidden from the
government. And this despite evidence at the plants producing
Agent Orange that workers exposed to it suffered unusual health
Diamond Alkali Co. in Newark, New Jersey, was one of the major
producers of Agent Orange for the government. Spurred by
Pentagon officials to make their production schedules to
"help the war effort," patriotic employees at Diamond
Alkali eagerly sought to fill their quotas.
some of Diamond Alkali's employees began suffering what were
described as "painful and disfiguring" skin diseases,
according to the doctor who treated more than 50 of the
employees in the early and mid 1960s.
(the employees) were aware of what was going on," said Dr.
Roger Brodkin, head of dermatology at the University of Medicine
and Dentistry of New Jersey.
one worried much about the skin disease because everyone was
determined to make production schedules."
said he alerted state health officials of the problem, but got
came out, all of them, said Brodkin. "They looked around
and they said, `Ah hah,' and left. Nothing was done."
later discovered that many of Diamond Alkali's employees
involved in the manufacture of Agent Orange were suffering a
variety of ailments.
discovered that not only were these people getting skin disease,
but they were also showing some indication of liver
damage," he said.
was not until 1983 that the state of New Jersey got around to
testing the soil around the plant. It found hazardous levels of
Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean urged residents living within 300 yards
of the plant to move.
was not until 1968 that scientists began raising some concerns
about the use of the rainbow herbicides in Vietnam.
of their concern came following a November 1967 study by Yale
University botany Professor Arthur Galston. Galston did some
experiments with Agent Orange and other herbicides to determine
whether they were dangerous to humans and animals. Galston was
unable to come to any definite conclusions on Agent Orange, but
advised that continued use of it might "be harmful"
and have unforeseen consequences.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in
the summer of 1968 sent a letter to the Secretaries of State and
Defense urging a study to determine the ecological effects of
herbicide spraying in Vietnam.
letter prompted a cable from Secretary of State Dean Rusk to the
U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The cable, dated August 26, 1968, sought
additional information but informed embassy officials of the
tactic State was going to take in its reply to the AAAS.
Department of State's proposed reply notes that the limited
investigations of the ecological problem which have been
conducted by agencies of the USG thus far have failed to reveal
serious ecological disturbances, but acknowledges that the
long-term effect of herbicides can be determined definitively
only by long-term studies."
suggested releasing "certain non-sensitive" portions
of a study on the ecological effects of herbicide spraying in
Vietnam done earlier that year by Dr. Fred H. Tschirley, then
assistant chief of the Corps Protection Research Branch, Corps
Research Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in
Beltsville, Maryland. Tschirley went to Vietnam under the
auspices of the State Department early in 1968 and returned with
exactly the report the U.S. government and the chemical
foresaw no long-term ecological impact on Vietnam as a result of
the herbicide spraying. In addition, in his report of April
1968, later reprinted in part in the February 21, 1969 issue of
Science magazine, Tschirley exonerated the chemical companies.
herbicides used in Vietnam are only moderately toxic to
warm-blooded animals," Tschirley wrote. "None deserves
a lengthy discussion except for Agent Blue (cacodylic acid),
which contains arsenic."
despite evidence within the chemical companies that dioxin, the
most toxic ingredient in Agent Orange, was responsible for
health problems in laboratory animals and workers at the plants
that produced the chemical.
is no evidence," Tschirley wrote, "to suggest that the
herbicides used in Vietnam will cause toxicity problems for man
urged Tschirley's report be made public. In his cable to Saigon,
he wrote: "Its publication would not only help avoid some
awkwardness for Tschirley, but would provide us with valuable
documentation to demonstrate that the USG is taking a
responsible approach to the herbicide program and that
independent investigation has substantiated the Midwest
Institute's findings that there have been no serious adverse
Rusk did not mention was that Tschirley's report had been
heavily edited, in essence changing its findings.
OF CHEMICALS CONTINUES IN VIETNAM
the debate over the danger of Agent Orange and dioxin heated up
in scientific circles, the U.S. Air Force continued flying
defoliation sorties. And the troops on the ground continued to
live in the chemical mist of the rainbow herbicides. They slept
with it, drank it in their water, ate it in their food and
breathed it when it dropped out of the air in a fine, white
of the troops in Vietnam used the empty Agent Orange drums for
barbecue pits. Others stored watermelons and potatoes in them.
Still others rigged the residue laden drums for showers.
Marine Danny Gene Jordan remembers sitting on Hill 549 near Khe
Sanh in the spring of 1968, waiting for night and cooking his
C-rations. Jordan had been in country just a few weeks and was
still learning his way around, so he wasn't sure why the five
C-123s approaching his unit would be flying so low and in
defoliating," one of his buddies told him.
came the mist, like clouds floating out of the back of the
C-123s, soaking the men, their clothes and their food. For the
next two weeks, the men of Jordan's unit suffered nausea and
diarrhea. Jordan returned from Vietnam with an unusual amount of
dioxin in his system. More than 15 years later, he still had 50
parts per trillion, considered abnormally high. He also had two
sons born with deformed arms and hands.
spraying continued unabated in 1968, even though, according to
military records, it apparently was having minimal effects on
the enemy. A series of memorandums uncovered in the National
Archives and now declassified indicate that defoliation killed a
lot of plants, but had little real effect on military
VERSES DISADVANTAGES DISCUSSED
early as 1967 it had become clear that herbicide spraying was
having few of the desired effects. According to an undated and
unsigned USMACV memorandum, Rand Corporation studies in October
1967, concluded "that the crops destruction effort may well
to the memo, "The peasant, who is the target of our long
range pacification objectives, bears the brunt of the crop
destruction effort and does not like it."
John Moran, chief of the Chemical Operations Division of MACV,
wrote a memorandum dated October 3, 1968, and titled
"Advantages and Disadvantages of the Use of Herbicides in
Vietnam" that provides some key insights into the
effect of defoliation on the enemy, in itself, is of little
military value," Moran wrote. "Its military potential
is realized only when it is channeled into selected targets and
combined with combat power to restrain the enemy from using an
area or pay the cost in men and material from accurately
of defoliation were more numerous, according to the memorandum.
herbicide program carries with it the potential for causing
serious adverse impacts in the economic, social and
psychological fields," Moran wrote.
according to the memorandum, "Semideciduous forests,
especially in War Zone C and D, have been severely affected. The
regeneration of these forests could be seriously retarded by
repeated applications of herbicide."
unsigned, undated memorandum written sometime late in 1968
provided even more details about the negative impact of
the effect of VC/NVA combat and infiltration capability, the
memo reported that "Very few PWs who have infiltrated even
mention the effects of US herbicide operations. Some state that
they have seen areas where the vegetation has been killed, but
do not mention any infiltration problems caused by the
defoliation. There are indications that US herbicide operations
have had a negligible effect on NVA infiltration and combat
psychological effects of defoliation, according to the
memorandum, were twofold; they either hardened the resolve of
the VC/NVA or angered the Vietnamese farmers whose crops were
enemy soldiers may become more dedicated to the elimination of
those who `ravage the countryside.' In addition, Allied
herbicide operations may provide good material for enemy
propaganda efforts aimed at fermenting an anti-US/GVN
(Government of Vietnam) attitude among the population."
reaction of the civilians affected by herbicide spraying is even
more noticeable according to the memo.
obvious reaction of the peasant whose labors have been destroyed
is one of bitterness and hatred. He will frequently direct this
hatred toward both the US/GVN, for accomplishing the
destruction, and the VC/NVA, for bringing it about. If he has
previously leaned toward the VC, he is likely to side with them
completely after the crop destruction. He is aided in making
this decision by the incessant propaganda of the VC cadre who
decry the `barbarous crimes perpetrated by the Americans and
while Operation Ranch Hand provided no long or short term
military benefits, it also provided neither long nor short term
psychological benefits. If anything, it embittered the civilian
population of Vietnam and drove it closer to the Viet Cong and
NVA. And no one yet was sure what eventually would be the effect
on the health of those exposed to the chemicals. Operation Ranch
Hand was shown by late 1968 to be a bankrupt strategy, one
devoid of good sense, good planning or good intentions.
the military continued to learn just how toxic Agent Orange
could be. On October 23, 1969, an urgent message was sent from
Fort Detrick, Maryland, to MACV concerning cleaning of drums
containing herbicides. The message provided detailed
instructions on how to clean the drums and warned that it was
particularly important to clean Agent Orange drums.
the (Agent) Orange drums for storing petroleum products without
thoroughly cleaning of them can result in creation of an orange
aerosol when the contaminated petroleum products are consumed in
internal combustion engines. The Orange aerosol thus generated
can be most devastating to vegetation in the vicinity of
engines. Some critics claim that some of the damage to
vegetation along Saigon streets can be attributed to this
source. White and Blue residues are less of a problem in this
regard since they are not volatile."
only was Agent Orange being sprayed from aircraft, but it was
unwittingly being sprayed out of the exhausts of trucks, jeeps
and gasoline generators.
March 1969, Lt. Col. Jim Corey, deputy chief of CORDS in I Corps
reported to his boss, R.M. Urquhart, unusual defoliation in Da
large number of beautiful shade trees along the streets in the
city of Da Nang are dead or dying," Corey wrote. "This
damage appears to be entirely a result of defoliation
was no evidence of insect or fungus damage to the vegetation,
according to the memo.
every instance of tree and garden plot damage," Corey
wrote, "empty defoliant barrels are either present in the
area or have been transported along the route of the
use of herbicides was not confined to the jungles. It was widely
used to suppress vegetation around the perimeters of military
bases and, in many instances, the interiors of those bases.
TESTS ON ANIMALS CURTAIL
SOME USE OF AGENT ORANGE
the use of Agent Orange throughout Vietnam was widespread
through much of 1969. Then, late in the year a study done by
Bionetics Research Laboratories showed that dioxin caused deaths
and stillbirths in laboratory animals. The tests revealed that
as little as two parts of dioxin per trillion in the bloodstream
was sufficient to cause deaths and abnormal births. And some GIs
were returning home from Vietnam with 50 parts per trillion, and
more, in their bloodstream.
the report was released by the Food and Drug Administration, the
White House, on October 29, 1969, ordered a partial curtailment
of the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
November 4, 1969, a message went out from Joint Chiefs of Staff
to Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPAC) and MACV.
report prepared for the National Institute of Health presents
evidence that 2,4,5-T can cause malformation of offspring and
stillbirths in mice, when given in relatively high doses. This
material is present in the defoliant (Agent) Orange.
decision by the appropriate department on whether this herbicide
can remain on the domestic market, defoliation missions in South
Vietnam using Orange should be targeted only for areas remote
from population. Normal use of White or Blue herbicides can
continue, but large scale substitution of Blue for Orange will
not be permitted."
OF AGENT ORANGE FINALLY ENDED
the order, some troops continued to use Agent Orange when they
ran out of the other rainbow herbicides. Finally, in early 1971,
the U.S. Surgeon General prohibited the use of Agent Orange for
home use because of possible harmful effects on humans and on
June 30, 1971, all United States defoliation operations in
Vietnam were brought to an end.
BEGIN DEVELOPING HEALTH PROBLEMS
soldiers who had served in Vietnam attempted to settle back into
civilian life following their tours, some of them began to
develop unusual health problems. There were skin and liver
diseases and what seemed to be an abnormal number of cancers to
soft tissue organs such as the lungs and stomach. There also
seemed to be an unusually high number of birth defects among
children born to Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to Agent
Orange. Some veterans experienced wild mood swings, while others
developed a painful skin rash known as chloracne. Many of these
veterans were found to have high levels of dioxin in their
blood, but scientists and the U.S. government insisted there was
no link between their illnesses and Agent Orange.
the mid 1970s, there was renewed interest in dioxin and its
effects on human health following an industrial accident in
Seveso, Italy, in which dioxin was released into the air,
causing animal deaths and human sickness.
BANS USE OF AGENT ORANGE IN U.S.
in 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of
Agent Orange in the United States when a large number of
stillbirths were reported among mothers in Oregon, where the
chemical had been heavily used.
veterans clamored for help from the Veterans Administration, the
government responded either slowly, or not at all. In 1979, a
National Veterans Task Force on Agent Orange was formed and
legislation finally was passed by Congress at the urging of Rep.
Tom Daschle (D-SD), a Vietnam veteran who became a U.S. Senator,
to commission a large scale epidemiological study of veterans
who had been exposed to the herbicide.
proved to be only the beginning of the battle over Agent Orange.
the next four years, the VA examined an estimated 200,000
veterans for medical problems they claimed stemmed from Agent
Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam. But many of those
examined were dissatisfied with their examinations. They claimed
the exams were done poorly and often in haste by unqualified
medical personnel. Many veterans also claimed that the VA seemed
to have a mind set to ignore or debunk Agent Orange connected
ACTION SUIT FILED
up with what they perceived as government inaction on the Agent
Orange issue, veterans filed a class action lawsuit in 1982
against the chemical companies that had made Agent Orange. Among
the companies named were Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Michigan;
Monsanto Co. of St. Louis, Missouri; Diamond Shamrock Corp. of
Dallas, Texas; Hercules Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware; Uniroyal
Inc. of Middlebury, Connecticut; Thompson Chemical Corp. of
Newark, New Jersey and the T.H. Agriculture and Nutrition Co. of
Kansas City, Missouri.
the early 1980s, some of the chemical companies' dirty little
secrets about dioxin were beginning to leak out.
Beach was an idyllic little community of about 2,200 residents
in the rolling farmlands of eastern Missouri 20 miles southwest
of St. Louis. It was an ideal place to live and raise children,
with plenty of open spaces, two story wood frame houses, quiet
streets and none of the pollution, poverty or crime of the inner
so it seemed.
to the residents of Times Beach, for several years in the mid
1970s, dioxin laced oil had been sprayed on the town's roads to
keep down the dust. Times Beach was one of 28 eastern Missouri
communities where the spraying had been done. But none of the
others had the levels of dioxin contamination of Times Beach,
parts of which had dioxin levels of 33,000 parts per billion, or
33,000 times more toxic than the EPA's level of acceptance.
contamination was so bad that the government decided the only
way to save the town's residents from further damage from dioxin
was to buy them out and move them out.
early 1983, the U.S. government spent $33 million buying the 801
homes and businesses in Times Beach and relocating its 2,200
residents. The entire town was fenced in and guards were brought
in to keep out the curious. "Caution, Hazardous Waste Site,
Dioxin Contamination," read the signs leading into Times
had been a comfortable little community became a ghost town. It
remains a ghost town today because of dioxin contamination.
while the government was paying off the residents of Times Beach
because of dioxin contamination, it continued to deny that
Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange and its
dioxin were at risk.
DOWNPLAYS DIOXIN DANGER
the government was busily buying up Times Beach and evacuating
its residents, the American Medical Association was coming under
attack from environmental health specialists for its stance on
dioxin. In its June 1983 convention, the AMA adopted a
resolution calling for a public information campaign on dioxin
to "prevent irrational reaction and unjustified public
news media have made dioxin the focus of a witch hunt by
disseminating rumors, hearsay and unconfirmed, unscientific
reports," the resolution read, in part.
position was overwhelmingly supported by President Ronald Reagan
in a speech at the AMA convention, calling the resolution
"a positive step toward a more reasonable public
debate" on the issue.
Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of occupational and environmental
medicine at the University of Illinois Medical Center in
Chicago, called the AMA "incompetent and ignorant" for
its stance on dioxin.
AMA's contribution in this area is a profound disservice and
consistent with their established record of extreme conservatism
and lack of information and demonstrated lack of concern for
preventive medicine," said Epstein.
Dr. Paul Wiesner, an assistant director of the CDC said that
"Evidence is increasing that there is an association with a
rare form of tumor called soft tissue sarcoma after occupational
exposure (to dioxin)."
CONTRADICTORY AND CONFUSING
1983, the results of studies of Agent Orange and dioxin exposure
began to trickle in. They were, for the most part, contradictory
and confusing. A series of studies conducted between 1974 and
1983 by Dr. Lennart Hardell, the so called Swedish studies,
showed a link between exposure to Agent Orange and soft tissue
sarcomas and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And in July 1983, the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report
citing "an association" between dioxin exposure and
incidence of soft tissue sarcoma.
early warning sign has gone up," said Dr. Edward Brandt,
Jr., assistant secretary of the HHS.
was also the year of the Times Beach buy out and growing
nationwide concern over dioxin. Few people knew what it was and
only Vietnam veterans and researchers knew what it could do to
the human body.
December 1983, the EPA announced a nationwide plan to clean up
more than 200 dioxin contaminated sites, including 50 plants
where 2,4,5-T had been manufactured. The cost of the cleanup was
put at $250 million and was expected to take four years.
barely two months later, in February, 1984, the U.S. Air Force
released the first part of a three part study on Operation Ranch
Hand pilots and crewmen. It concluded that the 1,269 pilots and
crewmen involved in the herbicide spraying program in Vietnam
suffered no higher death or serious illness rates than the
to Vietnam veterans, studying aircrews who had handled drums of
Agent Orange, and not the soldiers exposed to it, was like
testing the crew of the Enola Gay for the effects of radiation,
not the survivors of Hiroshima.
Maj. Gen. Murphy Chesney, deputy Air Force Surgeon General:
"Do I worry as a physician because we used it? The answer
is no. I say war is hell, you've got to win it. Agent Orange was
a war agent. It was used to protect our ground troops. It saved
millions of lives possibly, thousands, anyway, in Vietnam."
memorandums written during the war did not support Chesney's
claims that Agent Orange saved lives, but no one questioned him
on his conclusions because those documents were still
VA, meanwhile, continued to dismiss veterans health complaints
if they dealt with exposure to Agent Orange.
lot of veterans are scared because of early news reports of
physical damage, while some among any large number of people are
going to have health problems such as a matter of routine
natural incidence," said Dr. Barclay Shepard, director of
Agent Orange Studies for the VA. "Put that together with
disillusionment over the Vietnam War and anger with the
government and there is little wonder that many veterans truly
believe that they have in some way been hurt. But the evidence
has not supported a cause and effect relationship."
SETTLED - VETS WIN, BUT LOSE
on May 7, 1984, came the news that the Agent Orange lawsuit,
filed two years earlier, had been settled. Prodded by U.S.
District Judge Jack B. Weinstein, attorneys for the veterans and
the chemical companies reached an agreement at 4 a.m. the
morning the case was to go to trial. At that time, 15,000
veterans and their relatives were involved in the suit, but
about 250,000 subsequently filed claims.
the terms of the settlement, the Vietnam veterans who claimed
exposure to Agent Orange would receive $180 million from the
chemical companies. But those companies did not have to accept
blame for any injuries that occurred as a result of Agent
Orange. The U.S. government was not a party to the litigation.
resolution is a compassionate, expedient and productive means of
meeting the needs of the people involved," said David
Buzzelli, vice president of government and public affairs for
at first were ecstatic.
is a defeat for the chemical companies. We brought them down to
their knees and we got an open admission of guilt," said
Rod Rinker of Atlanta, one of the veterans who claimed Agent
so, said the chemical companies.
you look at the overwhelming scientific evidence, Agent Orange
is not a reasonable or likely cause of the ill health effects
experienced by the veterans," said R.W. Charlton, another
the release earlier of the results of the Operation Ranch Hand
study, 1984 seemed to be a year in which the Vietnam veteran's
complaints about Agent Orange and the health problems it caused
were being taken seriously. The federal court decision boosted
the morale of the Agent Orange claimants. Then Congress chimed
late 1984, Congress passed Public Law 98-542, designed to
provide compensation for soft tissue sarcoma and required the VA
to establish standards for general Agent Orange and atomic
seemed as if the veterans were winning. But every time a veteran
went to the VA seeking compensation for Agent Orange related
problems, he was turned away.
1984, Public Law 98-542 has been virtually ignored," said
South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle. "In spite of the intent of
Congress, in spite of the efforts of everyone involved in the
writing of that law, in spite of our promises to veterans at
that time that at long last, after all these years, they would
be given the benefit of the doubt, not one veteran in this
country has been compensated for any disease other than
Orange sufferers tried on several occasions to sue the
government for its role in use of the herbicide, but their suits
were routinely dismissed because of what has come to be known as
the Feres Doctrine. In 1950, the Supreme Court ruled in a case
involving the death of a military man that the government is not
responsible for deaths, injuries or other losses related to
the reality of the settlement reached in the lawsuit with the
seven chemical companies began to settle in. The lawyers
involved wanted $40 million off the top for their fees. They had
decided in a secret agreement prior to the May 1984 settlement
that they would receive a 300 percent return on any investment
in time and effort they had made. Many veterans charged that
this secret fee agreement by the plaintiff's management
committee precluded any incentive for the committee to represent
the veterans in the suit. Judge Weinstein decided to give the
lawyers $9.2 million.
became readily apparent that $180 million just wasn't enough to
take care of the Agent Orange claimants and their families,
which had reached more than 200,000 by then. A master plan to
divide the settlement noted that the settlement "is simply
not large enough." The plan suggested taking $130 million
for a settlement to provide cash payments to eligible veterans
or the families of deceased members. Maximum cash payments of
$12,800 to the most qualified claimants, or about 17,000
veterans and their survivors, was suggested. The master plan
also suggested using $52 million to fund a "class
assistance foundation" earmarked for benefit programs.
RESULTS CONTINUE TO BE MIXED
of Agent Orange tests continued to be mixed. The results varied
greatly, depending on who was doing the testing.
December, 1985, the Air Force released the third of its
Operation Ranch Hand studies. It confirmed the other two: that
there was no evidence that Agent Orange had any adverse affects
on those who handled it during the war.
this time, there is no evidence of increased mortality as a
result of herbicide exposure among individuals who performed the
Ranch Hand spray operation in Southeast Asia," the Air
in April, 1986, the CDC released a report that showed that the
residents of a mobile home park near St. Louis were suffering
from liver and immune system damage as a result of their
exposure to dioxin laced chemicals.
to the study, the 154 residents of Quail Run Mobile Home Park in
Gray Summit, Missouri, near Times Beach southwest of St. Louis,
showed depressed liver function and deficiencies in their immune
systems. The dirt roads in the mobile home park had been sprayed
in 1971 with dioxin laced oil to keep down the dust.
the CDC seemed concerned about Missouri residents exposed to
dioxin laced chemicals, it did not demonstrate the same concern
for Vietnam veterans exposed to dioxin contaminated herbicides.
In fact, information began to surface in 1986 that the CDC not
only was dragging its feet on Agent Orange studies, it was
deliberately ignoring information to which it had access in
order to come up with results that would be favorable to the
the summer of 1986, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on
Hospitals and Health Care held hearings to assess the progress
of the CDC study of Agent Orange, mandated seven years earlier.
Testimony from witnesses from the Office of Technology
Assessment (OTA) shocked and angered members of the committee,
according to Sen. Tom Daschle.
reported that the Centers for Disease Control had changed the
protocol for the study without authorization," said Daschle.
"OTA also reported at that particular hearing that petty
arguments at CDC were interfering with the study's progress and
that progress had virtually come to a standstill."
seven years of study, the CDC had made no progress on one of the
most important and highly publicized issues of the war in
charge of the CDC study was Dr. Vernon Houk, director of the
agency's Center for Environmental Health and Injury Control. The
White House's Agent Orange Working Group was supposed to
supervise the CDC study while the Pentagon's Environmental
Support Group was charged with providing the CDC with records of
Agent Orange spraying and troop deployment.
CDC team complained throughout the study that those records were
too spotty to make a scientific study of the effects of Agent
Orange on soldiers.
so, said the Pentagon. Richard Christian, head of the Pentagon's
Environmental Support Group, testified before Congress in mid
1986 that the records of troop movements and spraying were more
than adequate for a scientific study.
testimony was bolstered by two other sources. Retired Army Maj.
Gen. John Murray had been asked by Defense Secretary Casper
Weinberger in early 1986 to undertake a study to determine if
Pentagon records were adequate for purposes of the study. After
four months, Murray also determined that the records for a
comprehensive study of Agent Orange were more than adequate.
addition, the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National
Academy of Sciences, had used outside consultants to study
reports of troop deployment and Agent Orange spraying to
determine if they were sufficient for CDC purposes. Its
conclusion: the Pentagon had the necessary records. The
Institute of Medicine also was highly critical of the CDC
research methods, charging that it excluded from its study the
veterans most likely to have been exposed to Agent Orange.
information from three sources that there were adequate records
available for a comprehen sive CDC study on Agent Orange, the
White House and CDC sought to cover it up.
the Institute of Medicine's study was never turned over to the
White House. Then, Murray decided that as a non-scientist, he
was in no position to challenge the objections of CDC's Houk and
deferred to his judgement on the matter of records. Then,
according to Daschle, the Pentagon came down hard on Christian
for criticizing the CDC.
officials altered his follow-up testimony before it was sent to
the Hill, deleting his information challenging CDC's
claims," said Daschle.
mid 1986, the White House had set the wheels in motion to cancel
the CDC's Agent Orange study.
were other indications that the Reagan administration had no
real interest in studies of Agent Orange or dioxin. In late
1986, the House Energy and Commerce Committee learned that the
White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was trying
to stop all dioxin research, claiming that enough research had
efforts to shut down research and cover up results of studies
not favorable to the government or chemical companies, evidence
continued to flow in showing a definite statistical link between
cancers and exposure to Agent Orange and dioxin:
A 1986 study by the National Cancer Institute of Kansas revealed
that farmers exposed to 2,4-D, an ingredient of Agent Orange,
had six times more non-Hodgkin's lymphomas than farmers not
A VA study released in 1987 showed that Marines who served in
areas of Vietnam that had been heavily sprayed with Agent Orange
had a 110 percent higher rate of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. The
study also showed these Marines had a 58 percent higher rate of
A 1987 study in the state of Washington showed veterans who had
been exposed to Agent Orange had significant increases in soft
tissue sarcomas and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.
A 1987 VA study showed veterans who were most likely exposed to
Agent Orange had eight times more soft tissue sarcoma than other
the CDC had been taking blood samples of 646 Vietnam veterans,
selected on the basis of probable exposure to Agent Orange, to
test the level of dioxin in their blood. Other scientists were
highly critical of this method of testing, but the CDC moved on.
in September 1987, the CDC exonerated Agent Orange, claiming
once again there were not sufficient records available to make
the necessary tests.
cannot find a sufficiently large number of people who have been
exposed to do a scientifically valid study of exposure to Agent
Orange," said Houk.
looked at three different kinds of exposure: short-term,
long-term and exposure from being in an area of Vietnam where
the herbicide was used. In none of these groups was there any
difference in the level of Agent Orange in the blood."
recommended that the Agent Orange study be canceled. The White
House agreed, and shortly after that the CDC's $43 million Agent
Orange study came to an end with a not guilty verdict for Agent
CALLED A FRAUD
again, there was more information available that was never
presented. The Institute of Medicine in the weeks before the CDC
released its results of blood tests wrote a stinging rebuke of
the CDC's tests methods. It said that none of the CDC's
conclusions was supported by scientific data. The CDC refused to
turn this report over to the White House.
it was a politically rigged operation or it was a monumentally
bungled operation," said Rep. Ted Weiss (D-NY), chairman of
the Government Operations Human Resources and Intergovernmental
information began turning up that there were concerted efforts
by various agencies of the government to conceal records and
information about the effects of Agent Orange.
learned that there were major discrepancies between a January
1984 draft of the Air Force's Operation Ranch Hand study and the
February 1984 report. According to Daschle, the draft showed
there were twice as many birth defects among the children of
Ranch Hand participants. "The draft also reported that the
Ranch Handers were less well than the controls by a ratio of 5
to 1," said Daschle.
these results were deleted from the final Ranch Hand report,
which said there had been no adverse effects from exposure to
Air Force deleted these findings from the final report at the
suggestion of a Ranch Hand Advisory Committee set up by the
White House Agent Orange Working Group," said Daschle.
Force scientists involved in the study said they were pressured
by non-scientists within the Air Force and the White House to
change the results and delete critical information for the final
report. Daschle says he has even obtained two versions of the
minutes of the meeting in which that pressure was applied. One
confirms what the scientists told him. Another set deletes that
happened there was a fraud perpetrated by people whose names we
still do not know," said Daschle.
of the fraud appears to have been perpetrated by the Monsanto
Corp., which produces a number of chemicals containing dioxin.
Monsanto knowingly rigged test results of employees who had been
exposed to dioxin to make the effects of it appear far less than
it actually was, according to a February 23, 1990 Environmental
Protection Agency memorandum.
memorandum was written by Dr. Cate Jenkins, a chemist in the
Waste Characterization Branch, Characterization and Assessment
Division of the EPA to Dr. Raymond C. Loehr, chairman of EPA's
Science Advisory Board Executive Committee.
writes that a key epidemiological study leading to the
conclusion that there was no definitive data on human health
effects of dioxins was based on examination of medical records
of Monsanto employees from a 1949 explosion. That study
"found no statistically significant excess cancer
deaths," according to Jenkins.
study by Monsanto apparently has now been shown to be a
fraud," Jenkins wrote.
study on behalf of Monsanto is described, where it is alleged
that the record demonstrated a deliberate course of conduct by
Monsanto through `altered' research to prove to the world that
the only health consequences of dioxins was the relatively
harmless, reversible condition of chloracne."
this study was altered, Jenkins surmises, "It could be that
other studies on exposed populations are similarly flawed and
subject to fraud." The study in question was done of
employees at a Nitro, West Virginia Monsanto plant following an
explosion in 1949 in which a number of them were exposed to
dioxins. The study, performed by two Monsanto employees,
concluded that the death rate of exposed workers was the same as
the death rate of unexposed workers.
later investigation revealed that the authors of the study
omitted five deaths from the exposed group and took four workers
who had been exposed and put them in the unexposed group. This
decreased the death rate in the exposed group and increased the
death rate in the unexposed group. The exposed group actually
had 18 cancer deaths as a result of the exposure, not the nine
deaths reported in the study. And there were a total of 28
cancers in the exposed group, compared to only two cancers in
the unexposed group.
type fraud appears to have been perpetrated regularly in
connection with Agent Orange research, yet Congress continues to
rely on this flawed research when it considers legislation that
would benefit the victims of Agent Orange and the other rainbow
HOLDS UP AGENT
to get comprehensive Agent Orange legislation through Congress
to right the wrongs of the cover-ups have been unsuccessful
largely through the efforts of one man: Rep. Sonny Montgomery of
Mississippi, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee,
who claimed to be the friend and champion of veterans in
Congress - in fact had virtually single-handedly bottled up
Agent Orange legislation.
CDC, meanwhile, continues to perpetrate the scientifically
flawed myth that Agent Orange and dioxin posed no health threats
to Vietnam veterans.
a study released March 29, 1990, the CDC admitted that Vietnam
veterans face a higher risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but
denied that it was a result of exposure to Agent Orange. It said
the studies showed that Vietnam veterans do not have higher rats
of soft tissue sarcomas, Hodgkin's disease, nasal cancer,
nasopharyngeal cancer and liver cancer.
of the more bizarre aspects of this report from the CDC was the
claim that those veterans who suffered most from non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma had served on Navy ships off the coast of Vietnam. It
said that those who had served in III Corps, which had some of
the heaviest Agent Orange spraying of the war, seemed to be at
is no risk in this study associated with (dioxin)
exposure," said Dr. Daniel Hoffman of the CDC. Veterans
groups were appalled by the findings.
conclusion seems to fly in the face of other scientific studies,
which indicates there is a connection between Agent Orange and
cancer, birth defects and other disorders. It makes it sound
like Agent Orange is like orange juice, healthy for you instead
of harmful," said John Hanson, a spokesman for the American
COMMITTEE SAYS STUDY FLAWED
House Committee in its August 1990 report also found that the
1987 Agent Orange study canceled by CDC was done so at the
behest of the White House. Its report was a stinging rebuke to
the White House and the CDC. The report offered these
The CDC Agent Orange exposure study should not have been
canceled because it did not document that exposure of veterans
to the herbicide could not be assessed, nor did CDC explore
alternative methods of determining the exposure.
The original protocol for the CDC Agent Orange study was changed
to the point that it was unlikely for the heaviest exposed
soldiers to be identified.
The blood serum analysis, which was used as proof by CDC that an
Agent Orange exposure study could not be conducted, was based on
erroneous assumptions and a flawed analysis.
The White House compromised the independence of the CDC and
undermined the study by controlling crucial decisions and
guiding the course of research at the same time it had secretly
taken a legal position to resist demands to compensate victims
of Agent Orange exposure and industrial accidents.
The Federal Government has suppressed or minimized findings of
ill health effects among Vietnam veterans that could be linked
to Agent Orange exposure."
in depth reading of the report reveals even more sordid details
of how the CDC and the White House stacked the deck on Agent
to the report, "The CDC study was changed from its original
format so that it would have been unlikely for the soldiers who
received the heaviest exposure to the herbicide to be
identified. CDC accomplished this by unjustifiably discrediting
the military records provided to it by the Department of
Defense's Environmental Study Group (ESG)."
AND MONEY MORE
IMPORTANT THAN HUMAN LIVES
rebuke of the White House and its Agent Orange Working Group (AOWG)
was even more revealing of the manner in which Agent Orange
studies have been manipulated by political and economic
concerns, not concerns about human lives.
original mandate to focus the White House panel on the effects
of all herbicides was abruptly altered by the Reagan White
House," according to the report. "By focusing the work
of AOWG on Agent Orange only, the administration laid the
groundwork for manipulating the study to the point of
possible reason that the White House chose this path is revealed
in confidential documents prepared by attorneys in OMB. The
White House was deeply concerned that the Federal Government
would be placed in the position of paying compensation to
veterans suffering diseases related to Agent Orange and,
moreover, feared that providing help to Vietnam veterans would
set the precedent of having the U.S. compensate civilian victims
of toxic contaminant exposure, too."
DEFY CDC STUDY
the CDC's continuing recalcitrance on the issue of Agent Orange
exposure, there have been other, more enlightened voices heard.
of Veterans Affairs Edward Derwinski is one of them. After
hearing of the CDC's latest study, he ordered the VA to pay
compensation to all veterans suffering from non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma, a ruling which could mean as much as $23 million to
the 1,600 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma sufferers or their widows and
also decided not to challenge a California court's finding that
the VA was applying too strict a standard to determine whether
Agent Orange harmed Vietnam veterans. Derwinski ordered the VA
to abide by legislation passed in 1984 to give veterans the
benefit of the doubt on health claims.
we're doing things a lot different here now," said
Derwinski. "We're making decisions without sweeping things
under the rug. We're not procrastinating. We're also shaking up
a few people and sweeping away a few cobwebs."
of the more enlightened voices is that of retired Adm. Elmo
Zumwalt Jr., who ordered certain areas of Vietnam to be sprayed
with Agent Orange.
son, Elmo Zumwalt III, served in the Navy in Vietnam and was
exposed to the herbicide. Elmo Zumwalt III died in 1988 at the
age of 42 from Hodgkin's diseases and lymphoma. Father and son
believed that exposure to Agent Orange caused the cancers.
definitely believe my son would have had an additional 20 years
of life had we not used it," said the elder Zumwalt.
Zumwalt has become a crusader on the issue of Agent Orange,
charging that the government "intentionally manipulated or
withheld compelling information on the adverse health
effects" associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
flawed scientific studies and manipulated conclusions are not
only unduly denying justice to Vietnam veterans suffering from
exposure to Agent Orange," said Zumwalt, "they are now
standing in the way of a full disclosure to the American people
of the likely health effects of exposure to toxic dioxins."
is another of the enlightened voices, calling not only for true,
scientific studies of Agent Orange free from political
interference, but investigations of the cover-ups by the White
House and the CDC that enabled them to perpetrate the myth that
Agent Orange is not harmful to human health.
you blame veterans for wondering what is going on?" asked
Daschle. "Can you blame their families who continue to
watch all of this unfold, and not share their sense of
frustration, their sense of indignation at the conflicting
comments, the duplicity, the obfuscation that occurs time and
time again when government officials at the highest level are
being called upon to inform the public, but they cover up
Brief History of Agent Orange
the early years of WWII, a grant was provided by the National
Research Council to develop a chemical to destroy rice crops in
Japan (the major food source of the Japanese). 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T
(Agent Orange) was the result. A discussion between President
Roosevelt and White House Chief of Staff, Admiral William D.
Leahy determined that this heinous chemical should not be used.
Agent Orange was not used during WWII. In 1961, President
Kennedy signed two orders allowing Agent Orange to be used in
Vietnam. One order to destroy crops, and another order to
defoliate the jungle. [Note: These orders were signed prior to
major U.S. intervention.]
Agent Orange and other herbicides were used extensively through
1970 (and thereafter until the end of the Vietnam War).
Vietnam Veterans and their families filed a class action suit
against seven chemical companies (Dow Chemical, Monsanto,
Uniroyal, Hercules, Diamond Shamrock, Thompson Chemical, and T.H.
Agriculture). It was settled out of court in May 1984 for
victims and families of those exposed to herbicides for
$180,000,000 (the lawyers got a staggering 100 million dollars).
The amount given to qualifying families was a pittance. Example:
A woman whose husband suffered, and eventually died... leaving
her and three children was given just over $3,000.00 (you should
have been there the day she told me that). Another friend
suffered with a brain tumor along with other herbicide related
diseases for over three years. He was awarded $1,860.00.
Victims and families of those exposed to herbicides in Vietnam
had until January 17, 1995 to apply for compensation at: Agent
Orange Veteran Payment Program, PO Box 110, Hartford, CT 06104
PLAYS WAITING GAME
as the government continues to drag its feet, more veterans and
their children continue to suffer the effects of Agent Orange.
is on the side of the government. The longer it waits, the
longer it procrastinates, the more the problems of Agent Orange
exposure is diminished by the deaths of those who suffered from
exposure to it. Their names could be added to the black granite
wall of the Vietnam memorial, casualties of the rainbow
herbicides that followed them home from the war.
HERBICIDES AND THEIR COMPONENTS:
Agent Orange: 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T; used between January
1965 and April 1970.
- Agent Orange II (Super Orange): 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T; used in
1968 and 1969.
- Agent Purple: 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T; used between January 1962 and
- Agent Pink: 2,4,5-T; used between 1962 and 1964.
- Agent Green: 2,4,5-T; used between 1962 and 1964.
- Agent White: Picloram and 2,4-D.
- Agent Blue: contained cacodylic acid (arsenic).
- Dinoxol: 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T; used between 1962 and 1964.
- Trinoxol: 2,4,5-T; used between 1962 and 1964.
- Diquat: Used between 1962 and 1964.
- Bromacil: Used between 1962 and 1964.
- Tandex: Used between 1962 and 1964.
- Monuron: Used between 1962 and 1964.
- Diuron: Used between 1962 and 1964.
- Dalapon: Used between 1962 and 1964.
Orange Act of 1991
DIOXIN: THE ORANGE
and Agent Orange Update 1998
victims of Agent Orange
Links Agent Orange to Birth Defects in Children of War Veterans
Study Finds Agent Orange-Diabetes Link
Era in America