THE AGENT ORANGE STORY
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 be paid.
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 herbicides.
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.
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.
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
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
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 Forests."
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 to humans.
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
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.
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 restrictions.
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
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
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
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 (CORDS).
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 MACV/JGS.
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
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
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 Pink Rose."
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
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 ground operations."
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 favorable.
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."
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 documents.
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 target.
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
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 problems.
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
said he alerted state health officials of the problem, but got little response.
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 dioxin.
Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean urged residents living within 300 yards of the plant to
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
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
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
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 companies wanted.
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
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 or animals."
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 ecological consequences."
Rusk did not mention was that Tschirley's report had been heavily edited, in
essence changing its findings.
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 pungent mist.
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
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 be counterproductive."
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
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 defoliation program.
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 defoliation.
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 operations."
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 destroyed.
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 their lackeys.'"
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
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 Nang.
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 chemicals."
was no evidence of insect or fungus damage to the vegetation, according to the
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 damage."
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.
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
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)
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."
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.
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.
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 disability complaints.
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
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
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
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.
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 fright."
news media have made dioxin the focus of a witch hunt by disseminating rumors,
hearsay and unconfirmed, unscientific reports," the resolution read, in
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)."
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
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 classified.
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."
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
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 Dow Chemical.
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 Orange exposure.
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 Dow spokesman.
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 radiation compensation.
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 chloracne."
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 military service.
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.
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 Force concluded.
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 government.
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 Vietnam.
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
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 been
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
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 exposed.
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 lung cancers.
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
A 1987 VA study showed veterans who were most likely exposed to Agent Orange had
eight times more soft tissue sarcoma than other veterans.
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 Orange.
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 Relations Subcommittee.
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
these results were deleted from the final Ranch Hand report, which said there
had been no adverse effects from exposure to Agent Orange.
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
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
study by Monsanto apparently has now been shown to be a fraud," Jenkins
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
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 herbicides.
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
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 lower
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
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
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
indepth reading of the report reveals even more sordid details of how the CDC
and the White House stacked the deck on Agent Orange.
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)."
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 uselessness.
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,
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 children.
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
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
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 information instead?"
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
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.
Agent Orange: 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T; used between January 1965 and April
- 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 1964.
- 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