Agent Orange: A Chapter from History That Just Won’t End

Photo: Ben Quick
Photo: Ben Quick

THE FIRST THINGS I SEE are the tails of the planes. They jut like hundreds of dorsal fins rising from prehistoric fish that have been lined up by a butcher on a massive table of thin brown grass. It is a surreal sight, and I allow my eyes to settle into the rhythm of motion — not quite focused, not quite gone — watching the rows of sharp metal ridges whir past at fifty miles per hour.

As I crest a small rise, the bodies of the craft come into full view: rows and rows of warplanes, all shapes and sizes, stretching on forever, it seems. I force myself back to the task at hand, navigating the approach to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) on the southeast side of Tucson, Arizona. I turn right at the traffic light on Kolb Road into a small parking lot and find a space.

Ten minutes later, I’m riding shotgun in a black van with government plates. My driver, head of public relations at AMARC, is Terry. Middle-aged, handsome, and soft in her talk and manners, Terry asks me what I want to see. I hesitate — not because I don’t know, but because I’m not sure how to tell her that I’ve come to bear witness to American folly, to rest my eyes on the flying machines that flattened the forests of Southeast Asia, poisoned its people, and changed my life.

“The C-123s,” I say.

She looks at me quizzically, pushes her index finger to her lower lip. I’m nervous to begin with, having never been on an air base, having very little in the way of credentials, and having tried, however awkwardly, to obscure the true reason for my visit. I’d told her I was doing a piece on Vietnam-era warplanes for graduate school when we talked on the phone.

I mutter these words — My father is a veteran — and I’m suddenly taken by the irrational fear that I may have given the impression of an apologist looking to take some photos for a nostalgic slide show. My fear is compounded by the fact that today is September 11, the anniversary of the day some folks, especially those in the military, have come to view as off-limits for dissent. That I find myself moderately attracted to Terry only complicates matters. I’d expected a formal woman in military garb, spit-shined boots, and the works, but AMARC employees are civilian contractors. And the loose-fitting sundress, designer shades, and casual tone of the woman beside me have caught me off guard. I’m entirely unsure of myself and my purpose.

“The C-123s? I’m not sure if we have any of them. They might have one in the museum.”

“Well I saw one in this book.” I reach down between my legs, flip open my bag, and produce the picture book I’d found at the public library. Glossy and oversized, The Desert Boneyard by Philip Chinnery is filled with aerial photos of AMARC, snatches of aviation history, and nostalgic recollections of past commanders and famous aircraft. An honest appraisal of the Air Force arsenal and its capacity for destruction it is not, but like many seemingly frivolous research tools, it has served a vital purpose. It has shown me that AMARC — known affectionately as The Boneyard — had, at one point in time, housed the airplanes I came here to find.

“Oh, you got you a book. Let’s see…” Resting the book on the cup holders in the space between the seats, I turn to page seventy-five. I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead.

“Oh. Those. Oh sure, we have two of them on the west side, but the rest are fenced off. You can’t get to ’em. Nobody goes in there.”


“Well, the toxin.”

JANUARY 20, 1961: Eight inches of snow fall on Washington DC, initiating one of the worst traffic jams ever in the nation’s capital as John F. Kennedy takes his inaugural vows. Up to this point, American involvement in the turmoil of Southeast Asia has been secondary, mainly involving the grudging flow of money and arms to the fragile Diem regime in South Vietnam. But conservatives in the capital are calling for more than a half-hearted attempt to fill the vacuum left by France’s withdrawal from the region. And the new American president is young and Irish-Catholic, a suspect combination in midcentury American politics. He is worried that Republicans will paint him pink if he doesn’t hold the South from Communist guerrillas. So he sets out to do so, and to do it with gusto, expanding U.S. military operations in a manner later described by Noam Chomsky as a move “from terror to aggression.”

The word counterinsurgency begins to appear more and more frequently in the speeches of American politicians. A long and awkward utterance, it is a word that depends on the existence of the root word insurgency, defined by Webster’s as “a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as belligerency.” In the case of Vietnam, the people charged with perpetuating the state of revolt — the insurgents — are a loose but growing number of Communist soldiers recently given the tacit approval of the Hanoi government in North Vietnam. They have begun conducting night raids on military posts and villages in the South under the name National Liberation Front and have become known condescendingly to Diem supporters as the Viet Cong.

In Vietnam, countering these insurgents means denying the Viet Cong and their allies in the countryside and hills the apparatus of survival: food and forest. Before long, the primary method of denial becomes the aerial application of a variety of defoliants. In 1961, accepting a joint recommendation from the State and Defense departments, President Kennedy signs a resolution accelerating the program. Spraying will intensify in three distinct plant communities: the dense broadleaf vegetation that blankets the Vietnam outback and turns roads and supply routes into ambush zones, the mangroves that line swamps and provide habitat for the catfish and shrimp that are staples of the Vietnamese diet, and the fields of foodstuffs — rice, manioc, and sweet potatoes.

Before 1961 is up, Kennedy sends scientist James Brown to the newly established United States/Vietnamese Combat Development and Test Center (CDTC) in Saigon to explore the effectiveness of a variety of herbicides for use as counterinsurgency tools. The results of Brown’s work are a cluster of compounds that come to be known as the “rainbow agents” for the colors of the identification bands that encircle barrels of the herbicides. Agents White, Purple, and Blue will all see use in the jungles of Southeast Asia, but the most intensively employed by far will be Agent Orange, a fifty-fifty mix of the n-butyl esters 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T).

The origins of Agent Orange lie in an obscure laboratory at the University of Chicago where, during World War II, the chairman of the school’s biology department, E. J. Kraus, discovered that direct doses of 2,4-D can kill certain broadleaf vegetation by causing the plants to experience sudden, uncontrolled growth not unlike that of cancer cells in the human body. Kraus, thinking his findings might be of use to the Army, informed the War Department, which initiated testing of its own but found no use for the stew of hormones prior to the end of the war. But experiments with 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T continued through the 1950s.

Late in 1961, Brown and the technicians at the CDTC decide the time is right, the testing complete, the dispersal methods sound. On January 13, 1962, three Air Force C-123s — twin-propellered short-range assault transport planes — lift off from Tan Son Nhut airfield in South Vietnam, each loaded down with more than a thousand gallons of Agent Orange. The planes fly low over the canals and deltas of the Ca Mau Peninsula — the claw-shaped tip of the nation — occasionally taking fire from the swaths of jungle below. When they finally reach the prescribed site, the chemical cargo is sprayed continuously from three groups of high-pressure nozzles jutting from internal dispensers, the entire load dropped in minutes. A mist can be seen settling over mangroves as the planes turn back toward Saigon. Operation Ranch Hand is underway.

Fifteen thousand gallons of herbicide will be sprayed over the forests and fields of Vietnam that first year. By 1966, the annual application will have increased to 2.28 million gallons. In retrospect, the ecological and human consequences of the spraying program will seem catastrophic. But in 1962, in the thick of an increasingly desperate conflict with a silent enemy hiding in the bush, the extermination of mangroves and rice crops, the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of forest canopy, and the desertification of land adjacent to supply routes are embraced as steps toward creating the conditions for winning the war, conditions that nevertheless seem to be slipping farther and farther away from American military strategists in Washington and Saigon.

The kerosene stench of chemical rain that falls on American troops as they slink through the hinterlands in search of Viet Cong is seen as a bearable nuisance. The lethality of the fog that settles on the farms of South Vietnamese peasants and the convoys of American soldiers, like so many war costs, will remain hidden.

MY FATHER RETURNED to the Midwest after his tour in the jungles of Vietnam accompanied by a dehumanizing terror. But along with the images and the guilt was something more tangible, a rash that covered his back, raised hivelike splotches that didn’t go away for five years — until I was nearly three. The name for this rash is chloracne; its cause, prolonged exposure to herbicides.

I entered this world on a muggy July evening in 1974, the sun beginning to sink down into the hardwoods that separate the town of Morrison, Illinois, from miles upon miles of cornfields — fields that would have been at least six feet tall by then, ripening with line upon line of fat yellow ears sheathed in green. The delivery went without complication. There was my mother’s low moaning, the usual frenzy of female nurses, and the old doctor reaching his latexed hands to cradle my small wet head as it emerged from the birth canal. There was much crying and celebration, the ceremonial cutting of the cord by the father, the grandparents waiting anxiously in the hallway, aunts and uncles, friends. But there was something else as well, something curious: although in every other way I fit the normal profile of a baby boy, my left hand was almost round, and at first glance, fingerless. Looking closer, one could see that there were indeed fingers in the flat bell of flesh and bone, but no space between them, and the bones were either misshapen or missing altogether. Instead of clutching at nipples and beards, it flew from side to side like the club on the tail of a prehistoric beast. My grandmother was horrified.

Despite my evident uniqueness, I ran through the first half of my childhood like any other midwestern boy, playing soccer and baseball, fishing, running around the neighborhood with other children in packs. I played war games in the local woods, snuck off to the candy store with my younger brother, dug up earthworms in the big garden between rows of tomatoes and hot peppers, watching with delight as aphids and sow bugs crawled over my hands. Although I endured a number of surgeries in a prolonged attempt to separate fingers, and although I was forced to wear a series of uncomfortable bracelike contraptions to bed — sterile plaster meant to force the bones to bend into a more functional formation — these were happy times for me. Too young to feel self-conscious, stubborn and creative enough to circumnavigate any limitations, I didn’t really stop to think that I was different from other children. I climbed trees, played catcher in Little League, kept goal for my soccer team, won sprints in swim meets.

Still, I have to believe an awareness was growing. There must have been innocuous comments from neighborhood boys, partially hidden conversations, questions. And parents, even kind and well-meaning parents, can fumble with answers.

I must have been close to ten years old the day my mother and I ambled through the automatic door of Eagle’s Supermarket and across the chipped green and white checkers of tile. We came for just a few items, the only memorable one being the ice cream. We were gliding across that tile, headed straight for the open freezers of the dairy section, me in my shorts and t-shirt, my mother in her gardening clothes. We were moving fast, were so close to the freezers that I could almost feel the chill, could almost see the dense coating of hoarfrost on the inner chambers, when she ran her eyes from my face to my shorts and asked with impatience: “Why do you keep your hand in your pocket? Don’t you think people know?” Hiding my flaw was beginning to become second nature, an act of instinct rather than will.

TERRY’S BEEN AT THE BONEYARD for eighteen years. She shoots down the gravel road like a person who’s done it a thousand times before, pointing out an array of aircraft, telling me stories as we bounce through the past. Here sit the Grumman Tomcats. There, in the tall grass, the Rockwell B-1Bs. And over there, on the near side of the wash, the Lockheed Hercules, the Huey transporters, the Cobra gunships. This F-14 bombed one of Saddam’s bunkers in the second Gulf War. That 119 was Westmoreland’s ride. Airplanes, helicopters, and missile casings, all in different shapes, sizes, ages, and states of dismemberment, are lined up like trinkets in a jewelry booth at a country fair — the earrings in this quadrant, the bracelets in that, the bolos over here, the brass buckles over there. Three thousand acres’ worth.

Some are stripped for parts. As evidence I see the glint of naked metal on exposed engines and radiators and, in big black drums beside hoodless frames, the jumbled masses of fuel pumps and belts. Some will be called back to service with the Air Force or Navy, maintenanced and flown away to bases in Utah and Nevada. Others, especially the historic planes, are destined for museums. And still others will end up in the hands of foreign armies, sold to the highest — and often most unsavory — bidder or shipped off, at discount rates, to allies in Tel Aviv or Seoul.

Through this broad yard of history we roll, the faded marks of the military all around us. Terry gradually slows down and comes to a stop. On one side is a row of unarmed nuclear warheads; on the other, the noses of two green and tan cargo planes.

“Here we are.”

Stepping down from the van, I tear my disposable camera from its foil package, unpack my tape recorder, and walk toward the aircraft.

“So these were not part of Ranch Hand?”

“No. I think these guys were just transporters.”

“Just transporters.”

They look like smiling whales, these two transporters. Smiling whales with propellered wings. Like all the planes in The Boneyard, the windows, air ducts, and doors of the 123s are covered in thick white latex. Spraylat, it is called, and it keeps the interiors of the planes cool. Without the Spraylat, temperatures in the cargo holds and cockpits can rise to two hundred degrees Fahrenheit, baking everything inside. The white coating makes the planes look like ghost ships, mummies in an aviation graveyard. But I came to see the other planes, the ones that devastated a vast and peopled landscape, the ones that maimed me before I was born.

OPERATION RANCH HAND dissolved in 1970 under intense pressure fueled by increasing awareness of the dangers of Agent Orange. By then, one-seventh of Vietnam’s total land area had been sprayed with herbicides, one-fifth of its forest flattened. Studies would eventually show that the spray missions flown by the men of Ranch Hand had little or no effect on the path of the war, that the millions of gallons of herbicide dropped on nipa palm and mangrove, on tropical rainforest, on trails and swamps and roads, on military barracks and rice paddies, saved few American lives. Studies would also show that the substance held in the striped barrels was more dangerous than its handlers had realized, and that American military leaders had known this for a long time.

Peter Schuck, author of Agent Orange on Trial, notes that, “as early as 1952, Army officials had been informed by Monsanto Chemical Company, later a major manufacturer of Agent Orange, that 2,4,5-T was contaminated by a toxic substance.” The substance he refers to is dioxin, a chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency has described as “one of the most perplexing and potentially dangerous chemicals ever to pollute the environment.” Lab tests in the 1940s had shown that even the tiniest amounts of dioxin, concentrations as small as 4 parts per trillion — an amount equivalent to one drop in 4 million gallons of water — induced cancer in rats. In slightly larger doses, the substance brought on virulent symptoms leading to quick death. When barrels of Agent Orange were shown to contain dioxin concentrations as high as 140 parts per million, questions about the effects of human exposure began to swell.

By the 1970s, for Vietnamese living and working in spray zones, the answers to these questions had already started to become clear and painful: babies born with massive birth defects, some with skeletons that bended and twisted as they grew, some with organs on the wrong side of skulls and ribs, some with conditions so bad they survived only days. Even though American servicemen came into contact with the toxin over the course of months rather than years, soldiers — particularly those serving at the apex of Ranch Hand, men dropping on knees to fill canteens with odd-looking water pooled in bomb craters, men walking with handheld weed sprayers around the flanks of base camps, men sleeping on naked ground — still ran the risk of lethal exposure. The risk was so real, in fact, that as Yale biologist Arthur Galston put it, all soldiers “who worked with Agent Orange or saw duty in the heavily defoliated zones of Vietnam have a legitimate basis for asking the government to look into the state of their health.”

Concern about long-term effects on the people and ecology of Vietnam and the health of American G.I.s prompted groups of critical American scientists to publicly denounce the use of Agent Orange and other herbicides as early as the mid-1960s. In 1966 and 1967, a coalition led by the well-respected American Association for the Advancement of Science sent petitions to the Johnson White House calling for an end to all chemical and biological warfare. At the same time, international anxiety was growing. In 1969, after three years of failed attempts, the United Nations succeeded in passing — despite sustained and often menacing opposition from the U.S. — a resolution declaring Operation Ranch Hand a violation of the 1925 Geneva Convention Protocol limiting the use of chemical weapons. Still, the spraying continued.

Finally, evidence showed up that was too damning to be stonewalled or intimidated away. In late 1969, Matthew Meselson, a broad-shouldered Harvard scientist fond of bow ties and no friend of war boosters, obtained a copy of a National Cancer Institute report confirming the teratogenicity — the ability of a compound to cause embryonic or fetal malformation — of 2,4,5-T in rats and mice. Meselson convinced Lee DuBridge, his former colleague at the California Institute of Technology and science advisor to the then newly elected Richard Nixon, to convene meetings to discuss the implications of the findings. In spite of the continued reluctance of many in the Pentagon to acknowledge the seriousness of the data, administration officials could read the changing tea leaves of public tolerance, and on April 15, 1970, application of Agent Orange and most other defoliants was suspended indefinitely.

Years later, a sad and fitting epitaph for the Agent Orange saga would come from James Clary, an Air Force scientist and author of the official history of Operation Ranch Hand, in a statement to Senator Tom Daschle: “When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s we were well 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 the speed of manufacture. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned.”

BY THE TIME I reached adolescence, there was no longer any doubt as to whether I was like other young men. I was different, less than, not quite whole. Instead of attempting to come to terms with what I have now come to realize is a minor glitch in DNA, instead of facing up to my own uniqueness, the shape of my particular handprint, I tried hard to deny it, to prove to myself that I was in no way distinct from the two hundred boys and girls I entered Dixon High School with in 1988. On the surface, I succeeded. I joined sports teams and — I’m sure this was a conscious act of rebellion — put myself in positions that required the use of both hands in order to succeed. I wrestled and won matches as a freshman, earned four varsity letters as a soccer goalkeeper, brought home trophies and plaques. What’s more, I had awkward sex with teenage girls, drank beer and smoked pot, grew my hair long, hung out with the right crowd, took a cheerleader to the prom.

Inside, I was a wreck. I recall the summer between my junior and senior year and a girl named Krista, younger than I, brown hair, green eyes, slender, carrying always the smell of Elizabeth Taylor Passion. Krista was the first girl I spent more than one or two nights with, and I fell for her hard. Along with my friend Josh and his girlfriend Billy, we spent the better part of the summer together. It was a hot summer, hot in the manner that all midwestern summers are, so thick with vapor that even the loosest clothing sticks to skin, and sunglasses slide down noses. That whole summer, when I was in the company of Krista — which was most of the time — I wore long sleeves. I would rush into my bedroom to change clothes each time she came to my house. There was a particular red cotton shirt a friend had loaned to me that I must have worn three times a week. I wore it in the water when we swam in the moonlight at the abandoned rock quarry; I wore it during sex on the gravelly shore; I wore it when to do so must have been agonizing. I thought the sleeves would hide my hand.

And the long-sleeved t-shirt was not the only mechanism employed for hiding the truth of who I was. I took to wearing thick goalkeeper’s gloves that kept the shape of their fingers against gravity when I shook hands with players from opposing teams after soccer games (in retrospect, I wonder if the gloves weren’t part of the appeal of the position). I would bury both hands deep in the pockets of my letterman’s jacket as I flirted with girls from other schools at track meets or wrestling matches. I became skilled at striking a variety of postures to keep my dreaded deformity out of sight, turning this way or that, sitting down just so. I learned to live in a state of contortion.

It would be comforting to look back and to sense some kind of turning point, some theatrical beginning of a healing process, a link between the discord of those years and the relative stillness of the present. The truth is this: like most authentic change, most real letting go, mine has happened gradually, and beneath the surface of things. A decade and a half of life — of marriage and divorce, of fatherhood and graduate school, of love affairs and rafting swift rivers, of university teaching and Buddhist meditation — have swept away much of the hidden shyness and dread. But still, at the age of thirty-three, I’m finding that old habits die hard. If I’ve lost myself momentarily while driving, reading a book, or engaging in some other task that requires a chunk of my brain, I sometimes find that, without intending to, I have tucked my left hand gently behind my right elbow. Lying in bed at night before sleep takes hold, I’ll notice my left hand resting underneath the ruffles of the blanket while my right hand sits bare and comfortable on top. Or I’ll think about a class I’ve taught on a particular morning, coming to a sudden realization that all the gesturing and hand-waving was done with one arm. I will pause for a moment and make a mental note. Sometimes, I will curse.

TERRY PUMPS THE BREAKS to keep from skidding, drags the gearshift into park, and points out the driver’s-side window. From behind a chain-link fence, I stare at a fleet of seventeen C-123s beached on the desert playa. A two-foot square of aluminum, white with red block letters, clasped to the fence at shoulder height, reads AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY, meaning Air Force specialists wearing hazmat suits. I must make do with the view from the fence line, which is fine with me, since the nearest contaminated aircraft are less than fifty feet away.

I climb out of the van and gawk. Forty years before, these olive planes, arranged before me now like neglected toys on the top shelf in a child’s bedroom, unloaded over 10 million gallons of dioxin-laden herbicide on a countryside halfway across the world, the same countryside my father tromped through with a gun at his side for one full year at the peak of the spraying. And now, on the edge of the desert metropolis, beneath wisps of cloud shifting and breaking in the morning sky, in the checkered shadow of the chain-link fence, as much as I would like to deny it, I find myself looking for catharsis — a burst of emotion that will finally and emphatically wash it all away.

I know how lucky I am — that things could be much worse. I’ve seen the pictures of the Vietnamese tending the earth after the fire. The parents who cut and burned the trunks of leafless trees to keep their children warm in winter. The beautiful young girls with jet black hair and loose blouses trimming grass for baskets. The peasants planting saplings in barren ground.

And I’ve seen the photos of jars filled with the stillborn at the Tu Du hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Babies born with two faces and three ears. Dead babies with limbs like ropes, long, slender, twisted like pale pretzels in formaldehyde. Siamese twins with melting heads, gathered in a lovers’ tangle, the lips of one pressed to the neck of the other in the softest kiss. Shelves full of pickle jars holding the rawest fruit.

And the living, the children of the damned. Children with eyes like marbles, huge and rolling and blank. Children with skin like birch bark, skin that peels and flakes in small squares, covering their bodies in checkerboards of dying flesh, pushing up from scalps like duff on a forest floor. Children with alien heads, their skulls ten times the size of their jaws. I’ve seen the feet turned in on themselves, the blackened arms, the hands like clamps.

I look down at my hand in its present state, nearly three decades after the last surgery, after I finally said no more — no more casts, no more stitches, no more IV needles, no more Darth Vader masks spewing anesthesia into my lungs. I look down at the rumpled flesh, the grafts sewn between the spaces opened up to give me fingers, grafts of crotch skin, grafts that grow hair, and the lines of scars from the stitching, and the two tiny inner digits, and the middle knuckle that bears no crop, and the pinky that juts straight out, and the short, thick thumb, and I am glad that at six years of age I finally said no. They wanted to do more surgeries, wanted to cut a little more here, tweak the bone structure a little more there. And I said no.

A gust of wind rakes an old Pepsi can along the base of the fence. It rattles to a stop on the crown of an anthill, teeters for a moment, and rolls to my feet like an empty shell. Out here on the scabland of memory where scorpions scurry under B-52s, jackrabbits bound over chopper blades in tufts of never-green grass, and the sun burns through everything, there are no epiphanies. There are only dirt and space, dreams and loneliness, and — I realize with a start — confrontations with the past that will never quite fill the gaps. Taken with an incredible urge to urinate, I snap one last photo and hop in the van, trying hard not to look back.

Ben Quick finishes his MFA in creative writing at the University of Arizona this spring. He lives in Tucson.


  1. Excellent article! This story really resonated with me as I lost my dad twice. Once because of having been to Vietnam and coming home a different man, and the second time because of Agent Orange.

    When they speak of the cost of war, they have no clue what the hidden costs really amount to.

  2. Thank you for this oh so personal look at what our national policies do when we do not believe in the humanity of our so-called enemies. We must realize at some point that we all must share the planet and all must care for it.

  3. Heartbreaking. Also heartbreaking is the fact that we’ve been in this continuum of wars in other peoples’ lands every day since Vietnam, be it in Latin America, Middle East, the Balkans. And we’ve gone from Agent Orange to Depleted Uranium. The Post Traumatic Stress of our military is surely nothing compared to that of the citizens of those invaded lands. It’s all madness.

  4. The cloud of poison spread far. Some Canadian veterans who were at Camp Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada in the early sixties (those still alive)are still seeking compensation for various medical problems.This is one of the places where agent orange was tested.

  5. I thought the article incredible – not the right word because it was believable. I had an acquaintance in business who went off the deep end about 20 years ago. The explanation was that he had handled Agent Orange.
    If you don’t believe war sucks, you should attend one. I did, but I was extremely lucky and came away pretty much unscathed. I feel if more people were forced into the service as I was by the draft, the public might be more passionate when our leaders try to lead us astray and they might not succeed as often as they do!

  6. I lived in Tucson and have seen the ghosts of those planes. I have grieved so deeply for what we have lost collectively, individually; my friends to shrapnel so many years later and of course, Agent Orange. I am a singer-songwriter and it is my healing and release to address these difficult issues. Please check out the song “Some Other Mother’s Son” at the following –
    Thank you for this amazing personal story.

  7. Such incredible courage you have shared with us through your life’s story-telling! Thank you, Ben, for providing through language your expressions of horror, your understanding of pain, your understanding of the need for all wars to cease, and more. The lessons you taught me are repeated daily as refugees tell their stories; for example, though the “end of the war” in Vietnam was 1975, there really will be no “end” until the humans on the planet decide to stop killing each other. I’ve come to think that Dr. Suess’s Butter Battle Book and Howard Zenn’s A People’s History of the US should be required reading. May we learn sooner than later that non-violence is life-giving, respect for all life is essential, and that ignoring the costs of war on our children and grandchildren’s children will kill the planet as surely as Agent Orange has killed and changed life as we have known it. Thank you, again.

  8. This information needs to get out. Thanks for sharing your experiences and some about the victims in Vietnam. Now, we have DU, nuclear radiation, and how many other toxics? This is what is happening on this beautiful planet.

    I protested the Dow Chemical Company’s production of napalm and Agent Orange, in 1969, went to prison for it. Need more protests and actions. Yes, I still do.


  9. This was a great article, and another reminder of the agent- orange-disaster that still haunts us. I’m glad I’m a member of Pesticide Action Network and Northwest Coalition for Alternative to Pesticides, among other groups. Agent Orange may be banned here, but so many toxic pesticides and herbicides (like Paraquat and Atrazine) continue to be used, which is truly criminal.

    Ben’s story reminds me some of myself. Although I lucky not to have suffered from a physical deformity due to pesticides, my two upper primary front teeth were badly chipped from around the age of 7 until they were repaired at the age of 18, and like Ben, I was always shy about my problem — extremely so. I couldn’t open my mouth around strangers without always feeling pain or an odd sort of self-incrimination.

  10. Thank you, Thea, for the amazing music. And thank the rest of you for your comments and work in the face of the madness and terrible beauty of the 21st century. Bernie, your story is one that should be told, and your courage is something I can only dream of. Our stories are all we truly own. Let us share them with each other, and through the sharing, let us heal. I want to recommend a book, “Crossing the Yard,” by Richard Shelton, a mentor and friend. If you’re interested in witnessing words and hope overcoming brutality, here it is. Also, the documentary, “Operation Homecoming,” in which veteran authors like Tim O’Brien lead workshops that give voice to the soldiers in Iraq, is stunning. It will make you cry.

  11. Hi Ben, I graduated from LP (just down the road from you) a couple of years before you did, made my way out west to Denver and then spent the last four years in Vietnam. What a lovely people the Vietnamese are, I always thought of what my country did there. I’ve followed the Agent Orange saga faithfully, and hope that someday there will justice for all, including yourself. I’m not sure what the justice will look like, but it is certainly past due. Thanks for the great article and best of luck to you.

  12. Hey you all, hoe about the depleted uranium, and other equally destructive weapons produced and sold (with your consent)by your government. How about the millions dead, maimed, sent to mental institutions poverty and misery all over the world. How about the destruction of Okinawa and its environs due to Depleted uranium.
    How silent can you all get… Oh you are writing a book… oh you are creating for profit green business, Chalmers Johnson – Nemesis: The last days of the American Republic and his other two books Blowback: The costs and consequences of the american empire and The sorrows of empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the end of the republic, hopefully will jolt you all of your obliviousness.
    The world is not waiting for you to wake up.
    Intellectual exchange does not suffice. Ideological smugness is a sign of arrogance.
    The time to wake up and smell thge coffee is over.
    See for corroboration of your delusion of intellectual grandeur and prove of capitalism disaster.

  13. Hi , Ben,

    I was so moved by your story.
    I am a Japanese filmmaker, became one at the age of 55 because the death of my husband, Greg Davis at the age of 54 of liver cancer compelled me to become one.
    Greg served in Vietnam form 1968 to 1970. Stationed at Long Thanh base near Bien Hoa. We met in Kyoto, Japan in 1970. We never had children because he told me he could not have one since he was sprayed with defoliants while in Vietnam.
    I made a film called “Agent Orange – a personal requiem” because I had to find out why he had to die so young, so suddenly.
    I visited Vietnam and found the victims everywhere, so immediate and present. Children who were not even born then are suffering from all kinds of deformities and illnesses. In spite of such difficulties and poverty, everywhere I found love, caring, warmth. Meeting the victims and their families helped me heal .
    I just returned from Vietnam two days ago after revisiting people that I filmed 3 years ago. I was again so moved by the courage of some of the children—now becoming adults—coping so bravely and naturally with life.

    Ben, I need to talk with you and meet you.
    I am now attending Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley as a visiting scholar, a position granted me because of the film on “Agent Orange”.

    Please contact me at
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    All best,
    Masako Sakata

  14. its really good…im thankful to have read it.

    portland, or

  15. Inexpressibly fine story. I also lost a friend to Agent Orange.

    There are two other sources of “pollution” to which I would like to draw attention. They are affecting life in Vietnam and the USA as well as in every other country on Earth.

    Has the political ideology of economic globalization poisoned the minds of the family of humanity in the way CO2 emissions have polluted Earth’s atmosphere?

    If so, could these ideological and physical pollutants also become dangers to human and environmental health?

  16. I encourage you to look up the blogs of veteran Bernie Duff and Bao Anh:

    Next month they are walking from Saigon to Hanoi to raise money for kids affected by Agent Orange.

    I had the pleasure of traveling with them and my veteran father in Vietnam last year.Ben,please feel free to contact me.Have you been to Vietnam yet?

  17. Ben, you have turned into a great writer…I am very impressed. And your hand never kept you from kicking my butt badly in basketball! You should come back up to Logan soon to visit.

  18. Ben, growing up with you I never ever thought in a million years your hand bothered you! getting to know you has a person and playing sports you were just another guy. congrats on a great piece.

  19. Ben, I am proud of you for showing a side of you that we did not know. And the writing! I was surprised at the depth of your skills. The weaving of the present, the past and the personal revelations were great. Who would have thought my little nephew who disrupted the vows at my wedding because “I gotta pee”, would turn into such a skilled writer. Great job! —Uncle Chuck

  20. Harris, you are absolutely right. The insanity and chaos caused by egomaniacal leaders and almost always felt most directly by those without voices needs to be exposed. I am reminded of a Chuang Tzu quote: “Small fear is fever and worry. Vast fear is deep and calm.” There are those of us who choose to give voice to the powerless through political means, and those of us who work through art. Both are important, and neither is mutually exclusive. My brother works for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. The work he does for them is vital. I write. I teach young people. This is my path, and I find it to be a path where subtlety and encouragement work well. I suspect I am not alone.

    Elsa, I have not been to Vietnam, but visiting the blog you shared with us has only deepened my conviction that I need to go. I would love to cantact you, but I’m not sure how.

    Thank you all for your comments. The company we keep in this realm is better than good.

  21. Ben – wow – powerful and passionate story. Keep writing. Love, Aunt Sheri.

  22. A respiratory therapist I work with returned to the job..I asked her where had she been..She said her husband had died..Just came down with lung cancer and died…Then she said he had been completely disabled from Agent Orange from Vietnam..She knows of my anti war activities..Why is she so pro military and pro war??I guess I should study Buddism some more…Thanks for the article..

  23. That is actually fairly common. I am pro peace, have been to marches during Vietnam and since Iraq got started. One would think family members and would be more like me, but that is not so. However, that being said, there is a marvelous group called “Veterans for Peace.” But try looking at some sociology books to find your answer.

  24. Pesticides harm more than their intended targets. This article clearly brings home that message. I work for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, a group founded 30 years ago by reforestation workers and residents of forested watersheds who banded together to fight the widespread spraying in the Northwest of the same chemicals that made Agent Orange. Ben’s brother, Keith, brought this article to my attention. The writing inspires me to continue to work hard to right the wrongs of pesticide sprays. These toxic chemicals touch all of us intimately, profoundly, and in many cases over generations.

  25. Ben, you have clearly inspired many others by your writing. Your story gave me a clear visual of what life must have been like for you. As a social worker, I can tell you this is an important part of the healing process. I am glad to see you making such an impact.

  26. I am a writer, and I recently responded to a contest held by the Pulitzer Center and hosted at which offers a number of topics to write on, with the goal being more widespread publication and a bit of recognition by the Pulitzer group, and perhaps some small drop of notoriety; that in my case may help with the sales and promotion of my novel. I wrote in response to the question of whether the US government should be held accountable for the damages caused by our use of the toxin agent orange during the Vietnam war. It is a topic I find compelling for a number of personal reasons, but after reading Ben Quick’s article here on Orion, I find myself thinking that my own words pale in comparison. I urge Mr. Quick to enter his essay in the contest.

    Go to The Pulitzer Center link is in the upper left corner, in ‘Highlights.’ My article has been rated highly and could result in achieving my goal; but I think Ben Quick’s is the more compelling. An excellent piece of prose, and worthy of much more widespread accolades. Kudos and appreciation from one wordsmith to another. I am humbled. Thank you for sharing this.

  27. I knew of the potential damage caused to the offspring of those sprayed. Spoke with a vietnamese lady whose child was born with deformities. Until our conversation she had always blamed herself. Our conversation was as though someone lifted a hundred tons from her shoulders. She was grateful. I’m certain this story will enlighten many as the effects of Agent Orange still remain one of this country’s best kept secrets. I am a cancer patient who was sprayed with this potent mix of death. Very good article indeed.

  28. Thanks for your insightful article. Hmmm…Monsanto made Agent Orange. Still makes Roundup, which contains 2,4-D. Now makes Roundup resistant soybeans, etc.
    About 4-6 percent of our population suffers from severely debilitating symptoms when exposed to low levels of different chemicals. Almost half of these folks trace their hypersensitivity to pesticide exposure. We’re still suffering from this stuff.
    Maybe we should see if Monsanto can bioengineer Roundup resistant humans?

  29. Christine, Yep you’re right about Monsanto. Soybeans not fermented are also not good for you and I wonder if it because they have genetically engineered them.

  30. I love this article, Ben, and I hope you do turn this into a longer story. You should take Mr. Wright up on his suggestion. Your prose is more than an attempt to express something to your audience- it is clearly your own emotional process and awakening. That’s what makes it so darn powerful. I hope you can teach this amazing ability to your students. Your buddy – JV.

  31. There’s no question that Monsanto has sold a lot of Roundup herbicide over the years. The comment posted March 26 incorrectly states that Roundup products contain 2,4-D. Roundup products contain the active ingredient glyphosate and many so-called “inerts,” some of which have been disclosed in the scientific literature and are known to be more toxic than glyphosate. It’s high time to end the secrecy of “inerts” and require disclosure of all ingredients on pesticide product labels.

  32. Now I know why your mother Kathy, who is a good friend of mine, is so proud of you. Thanks for speaking power to truth. Great writing with emotion and facts.We have been trying to educate an apathetic public about the human costs of war (PTSD, agent orange and depleted uranium) for years. Take care. Aaron Davis Veterans for Peace/Vietnam Veterans Against the War Salt Lake City, Utah

  33. Thank you Ben for your courage and humanity.

    IN addition to all the places the US government has bombed – with increasingly toxic weapons such as Depleted Uranium used against the people of Iraq and Yugoslavia — let us also remember the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, in whose homes and lands the testing of all weapons since WWII took place.

    The US government needs to stop its production of these weapons, stop the sale of these weapons, and begin the real compensation and cleaning process.

    The government won’t do it, though, unless the US people demand it.

  34. My uncle returned from Vietnam and became a peace-loving hippie and an artist. I adored him as a kid: he paid special attention to me and encouraged my creativity. He died in 1979, from first testicular cancer and finally lung cancer. He was a victim of the Vietnam war just as certainly as anyone who was killed directly by the VietCong. I grieve that I didn’t have him around as I grew up the lone iconoclast in a Southern Baptist family. I can’t imagine how different it might have been. I wonder, too, about the cousins I might have had. I feel like something special was taken from me.

  35. I liked the part in Ben’s writing about the contractor driver at the wheel of the vehicle taking you to the DavisMontham mothball base. It is a mystery how our human attractions endure even in such eerie settings, and on such ironic adventures into our origins and conditions.

    I drew a parallel, however, between the constellation of politicians who configured the US combat effort in that decade, and the bunch now under criticism for the strange strategies in US foreign war policy in 2001-2008. The responsibility for development of planning gets divided among various experts, or pretenders at expertise; and a president approves; or, maybe, a president boosts the process along the way; or perhaps the president is a public politician figure who is a bit chary of making any waves to disturb processes long in existence before he got elected to lead the US government; and, likely, a blend of all those incentives.

    Ben should send a copy of this Orion article on the old C123 craft tour to the current three prominent presidential campaign candidates, to see what they think of how this story should develop their thinking in the foreign policy and domestic governance technique areas. The article speaks eloquently for itself; so the accompanying note from its author needs to say only very little. Let them provide a glimpse into their character in their reaction.

  36. I totally agree with John Lopresti with regards to sending this article to the presidential campaign candidates. So much still need to be addressed. — In Gratitude
    Listen to: “Some Other Mother’s Son.

  37. Hi Ben. I loved your story. Believe it or not, I am a lot like you. I have a similar story and my own defect, a nevus sebaceous. It happens kind of like the hand but is a skin/nerve. Also, I am ADD and have a child with asthma/allergy. I am now 37 and seeing the connections to the Orange. I never thought of my defect as that, but just an odd mole….and I never realized how the orange was everywhere. My Dad just did not realize he was in it but must have been.

  38. Forty-three years ago (1965) I was at Bien Hoa AB VN. As everybody else, thanks to Agent Orange (AO), the VN followed me home. Despite my many side-effects of Dioxin, 43 years later, VA keeps rating me at ZERO % for AO illnesses. I am still knocking my head againsty the bureaucratic VA wall of lies and deception. IOM, In its 2000 (2001) bi-annual report to VA Secretary admitted that due to so many variables in the data and the fact that the VN chemicals had never actually been properly studied, the information was just not there to make a quantitative deciion as to whether or not the personnel who served in Vietnam were or were not affected. We need to make a concentrated en-masse effort by writing our respective congressmen, for VA to acknowledge that the millions of dollars wasted on rigged “studies”, such as Operation Ranch Hand – have failed to exonerate the government or the manufacturers from causing deadly harm to those of us who served in VN, or in other places where AO was sprayed, stored or transported. It’s time to stop this cruel hoax against America’s patriots. Placido Salazar, USAF Retired, Vietnam Veteran

  39. Placido Salazar,
    I would like you to email me at It took my mother and me 9 years to get the VA to accept that AO killed my dad. We won.

  40. Placido, if you email me at, I perhaps can connect you to a man with information. I do not see why they keep doing vets this way. :(

    Also…for kids of veterans if anyone is interested, there is a grassroots group coming together to help organize & get together on the issue.

  41. What VA is now trying to do with those of us with PTSD is to put
    us through a “14-week intensive treatment” that “will take your mind back to the event that caused PTSD, insensitize your mind and you will be ‘cured’.

    I told the psychologist that is the most stupid thing I have heard.
    How can anyone duplicate the same
    frame of a mind of a scared GI going through the jungle, or at a desolate post in total darkness, scared at not knowing when a bullet or a grenade will cut him down? Suddenly all hell breaks loose and you see human blood and pieces of human flesh all over the place.

    But, to me, it seems like if that psychologist declares you “cured”
    they remove you from eligibility to continue treatment or drawing a
    pension. All of a sudden, the psychologically sick veteran will be broke, unable to cope with his still-very-much-present PTSD and I believe that many of us might end up comitting suicide. I guess that is what VA is looking for, since that would save the government money…. and to our government, it is ALWAYS about MONEY over human life.

  42. Ben,
    Denny and I always knew you could deliver from the night around the campfire at Willow as you pontificated and entertained us all for hours….remember that?
    We want to congratulate you on a fantastic article, the incredible depth and creativity born out of your life experience as a result of your dad’s tour in Viet Nam and your ability to express it so amazingly well ……way to go Ben! Keep on healing and helping others!
    Denny and Teresa Coomes

  43. There are some interesting results with the new treatments for PTSD. I hope that many veterans take advantage of it.

  44. Placido,

    I’m in Vietnam right now and meeting many of the former ARVNs, VC, and NVA. Getting to know the people of this country–the women, the children, and the men–in a way my father never had the chance to do.When I talk with war veterans over here, I can tell that they have struggled with ptsd in the same way American GIs have. I think the VA should spend the money to get all veterans back over here. I know it will never happen, but I think revisiting the former war zones and seeing how the people here have managed to move on with their lives, managed to forgive, themselves and others, in the face of often devastating poverty, is something ever man in the American uniform should get to see. When I show the people photos of my father in Tay Ninh, they light up, pull out their own snapshots from that time and buy me beer. I hope you get the cahnce to come back.


  45. Ben, I think you are right. My Dad talks about wanting to go back to see Can Tho now. He wants to see what it is like in peace time & finds it interesting that you can go on “vacation” there. Of the Vietnamese I have met, they are wonderfully grateful & in high spirits. Totally amazing to me. Thanks for your story & everyone else’s comments. Very interesting.

  46. Ben thanks. It’s brilliant that is why it touched the hearts of so great amount of people. Keep on!

  47. So sad. Also heartbreaking is the fact that we’ve been in this continuum of wars in other peoples’ lands every day since Vietnam, be it in Latin America, Middle East, the Balkans. And we’ve gone from Agent Orange to Depleted Uranium.

  48. Such incredible courage you have shared with us through your life’s story-telling! Thank you, Ben, for providing through language your expressions of horror, your understanding of pain, your understanding of the need for all wars to cease, and more. The lessons you taught me are repeated daily as refugees tell their stories; for example, though the “end of the war” in Vietnam was 1975, there really will be no “end” until the humans on the planet decide to stop killing each other. I’ve come to think that Dr. Suess’s Butter Battle Book and Howard Zenn’s A People’s History of the US should be required reading. May we learn sooner than later that non-violence is life-giving, respect for all life is essential, and that ignoring the costs of war on our children and grandchildren’s children will kill the planet as surely as Agent Orange has killed and changed life as we have known it. Thank you, again.

  49. Wow, Ben. What an eloquent piece of work. It is wonderful to read it now after having talked to you about your recent travels to Vietnam. Clearly you have moved many people with your story. Well done. Do it some more.

  50. I wish to comment that the problems from 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin(TCDD) go far beyond Agent Orange and are likely causing problems here in the USA still not recognized. In 1983, I was cited in several major newspapers and had a TV interview on my warning made to the city of Newark about TCDD problems at an old pesticide plant there. The Mayor waved around my letter saying how come his first knowledge came from someone in Puerto Rico.
    I also warned Missouri officials in late 1981 about the TCDD contaminated wastes unaccounted for by EPA from a contaminated chemical plant, and they showed up later at Times Beach in 1982 and elsewhere in Missouri as the wastes had been spread for road dust control. The warnings to Missouri officials got some news coverage in early 83 by a reporter from the Univ. of Missouri’s School of Journalism in the school newspaper.
    I want to now warn of perhaps several dozen TCDD hot spots that EPA appears not to have taken into account of right here. These recently got my attention as the home town of my youth, Bainbridge, NY, on the Susquehanna River has several dairy farms quarantined for chemical contamination. This action occurred soon after the major flooding event on the river in late spring 2006. Just up river from the farms, the Delaware and Hudson RR had a major rail tie treatment plant close to the river that had run for perhaps over 100 years. Tie treatments used to involve creosotes but in the early 30s chlorinated phenols became a fairly common preservative until chloracne problems were noted to be associated with one phenol, the 2,4,5 trichloro one, that is the basis of making Agent Orange. The NY Times report on the Newark plant in early June 1983 indicated finding one report on workers at one or more wood treatment plants in the mid 30s apparently becoming quite ill.
    The toxic TCDD is formed in the making of 2,4,5-trichlorophenol and was not recognized as being a contaminant that got carried through several more chemical reactions to get incorporated into Agent Orange until the mid-60s. In the late 50s some companies noted some chloracne problems with workers making and handling 2,4,5-trichlorophenol and stopped its use as a major disinfectant for hospitals, schools and food services. Those uses had gone on for over 20 years as that phenol was considered the best disinfectant on the market.
    What concerns me most here is that perhaps several dozen other rail tie treatment plants, around the country and now closed up, may be seeping TCDD into local ground water or may also get flooded out as occurred in the Bainbridge area to require perhaps even bigger quarantings. I am not sure just what chemical(s) caused in Bainbridge the quaranting to prevent toxics of some sort from getting into milk as some coverups may be involved to keep infomation on them from being known.
    I urge readers concerned about dioxins to start asking EPA and elected officials just what the story on old tie treatment plants may be in their areas. EPA’s Dioxin book in 1981 never had a mention about such plants and whether it was investigating them. In fact, several plants making the phenol or converting it into other products were not listed in that book.
    Dr. James Singmaster,III, Environmental Toxicologist, Ret., Ph.D. UC Davis, 75

  51. I wanted to add to this discussion about a legal paper I read from Eastern Arkansas about their EPA a while back….I have shared it with a few folks that did not reply to me so I’m passing it on….The Eastern Arkansas EPA sued the Hercules Corporation at some point in time, I found the document and that raised a big red flag for me.

    Hercules was doing some type of Toluene extraction on the 245T & 24D and dumping the dioxins in off site landfills. Basically they set out the concentrated dioxins and it rusted in the barrels, had to redo. And it actually stated they were saving it to be recycled…(Into just what I truly wonder….)

    Either way one goes at this, the dioxins were extracted for all this Agent Orange and then it is dumped in landfills or hanging out someplace going into everyone’s water just wherever it happens to be and I saw that most the companies have sealed records, just that Hercules did not and went out of business…

    The other thought in my mind is how the gov only gives Vietnam Vets benefits for Incountry service…I’ve about decided the toluene extraction process was skipped to bump up production after 1968 TET since everything got so hot…I am aware of something I read said it was a “quality control manufacturing issue” on the dioxins…well this doesn’t set too well with me for sure as so many have suffered way more than me or my family….but they have had some issues I wonder about when it comes to the endocrine system…..looks like it could for sure be linked to the DDT and Agent Orange (DDT in cotton farming…)

    It is sure a nightmare thought and I apologize for the hysteria here but I honestly believe it is a realistic thought…

    At any rate, dioxins from the Agent Orange, DDT, etc. all the chlorinated stuff, it is EVERYBODY’s issue, not isolated just the Vietnam Veterans and their families….and for that reason and being a child of Vet, I am a little bit environmentally aware…

    I am unsure what good it does, but I’m going to write the EPA like Dr. Singmaster suggests….I do not know about the EPA myself. I tried to get them to answer what was the defoliation chemicals used in Cotton for 1968/1969 for Tennessee and was transferred around 3-4 times and told to go to an archive, they could not answer me.

  52. Ms. Williams: I had thought that EPA had seen to cleaning-up the Hercules site in AK properly. The dioxins and other chemicals extracted into toluene were supposed to go to special incinerators. But if you know that drums were left around, then another big mess may be waiting for Arkansas. The Public Interest Research Groups that developed from Nader’s program may have an office in your state that might want to get some action if you get its attention.
    When I was in Puerto Rico, I got involved in Agent Orange as Dept of Defense started the first testing of defoliants there. After checking listings of various products sent and what was sprayed in the tests, I could not find proper accounting for several gallons of several different products. Several 2,4,5-T combination products were sent, but with little identification of the company making the products.
    Perhaps if this can be gotten to the attention of Environmental Defense, NRDC, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, etc. on of them might take up the cudgels to go into battle.
    Concerning desiccating cotton, the major products for some years back to late 60s was usually paraquat and later diquat. Some 2,4,5-T may have been used, but that use would lead to very rapid photodegrading of TCDD as it just needs traces of organic materials, which green plants have lots of, to be induced by sunlight to kick off chlorine making compounds over a million times less toxic.
    I hope that your comment along with mine may get some readers asking officials and any environmental group readers belong to about the dioxin messes still around.
    Dr. J. Singmaster

  53. To add some points to my comments 55 &57;that I had forgotten.
    The plant causing the Love Canal mess was making only 2,4,5-trichlorophenol(2,4,5-TCP) for use in disinfectants applied in hospitals, schools, food services, etc.. The plant may have briefly tried to make 2,4,5-T herbicide but was never involved in Agent Orange. The plant in Missouri causing the mess at Times beach and elsewhere in the state was trying to use the 2,4,5-TCP that it made to make hexachlorophene, but had such a mess that it never got much of the product out for sale.
    However, another plant in New Jersey was working full time for some years on making hexachlorophene mainly for cosmetic use. After a letter of mine was published asking about whether any checks had been done for dioxin contamination, the company’s PR official loudly denounced my allegations. A few weeks later a news report came out indicating that the plant’s grounds(NO MENTION OF THE PLANT ITSELF OR ITS WORKERS) had detecable levels of TCDD.
    TCDD is very photodegradeable if organic material is present as I mentioned in previous comment. Such organic material besides plants would include asphalt and house shingles so once out in the open it is not very persistent. The main problem is in buried wastes where it sits and may be moving into water supplies. One scientist pointed out that TCDD is very insoluble in water and would not move. However, TCDD would be buried as a minor part of wastes mixed with several other chemicals and some of the other chemicals in the wastes would be emulsifying TCDD to carry it along in water. At Love Canal ground water at least a quarter mile away from the dump was reported to have TCDD.
    So a great deal more investigating of old sites especially railroad tie treatment plants needs to be done to be sure some areas are not getting TCDD contaminating water. All major water treatments systems have water checked for TCDD and other dioxins so they would not go through to be drunk. But a major mess might develop with the closing down of a water supply system, if some TCDD gets detected. Some weeks might be needed to locate and clean-up the source. Wouldn’t it be better to find out where tie treatment sites are before hand?
    Dr. J. Singmaster

  54. Since I posted my comments, several further commnets have been made of 2-3 words such as Good Post, which are not even getting on the discussion. What is surprising to me from the lack of follow-up comments about my comments is the indifference apparently to possible dioxin contamination here in the good old USA. Are Orion readers unconcerned that dioxins may be getting into their water or milk from the sites I tried to get attention to? At times, it has appeared as if chemical companies have let Agent Orange in Viet Nam serve as a distractor for concern about dioxin contamination here in the USA.
    Dr. J. Singmaster

  55. Well, I am very concerned about the dioxins and totally pissed off. I did this page at work and then I have had about a grand total of 3 people comment or act interested.
    so everyone go have a look and register the click for me.

    I have had the worst time psychologically dealing with the issue of agent orange since March when I realized how heavy it was. It has taken a few months to settle down to just a normal outrage instead of furious.

    I wouldn’t know where to begin to fix things and I am totally outraged about the yard crap, 24D. Does anybody else agree? I am with Dr. Sing!!!!!!

  56. This is certainly creative writing! Unfortunately it is just emotional drivel laking in both historical accuracy and worth. Too bad the author didn’t know how to check his facts. I suggest he check both Bill Buckingham’s and my books for reliable data. Also check the numerous articles in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

  57. Paul … as another Vietnam Vet let me assure you that you need to wake up Agent Orange has more evidence against it than most pollutants … go to Vietnam and see the numbers of affected. Drivel is what you have written!

  58. Ben;
    I just lost my father June 16th, 2009 due to Agent Orange. He had been fighting lung cancer for 5 yrs. It ended up going to his brain and taking his life. He did 2 tours in Vietinam. He said he wore long sleves and tuvked his pants in his boots. Told me of other soilders that would get really bad rashes and skin sores that bleed out. Your story was very touching to me. You stay strong.

  59. I arrived at Bien Hoa Air Base in January, 1967, and spent the following year as a pilot in Ranch Hand spraying Agent Orange, Agent White, and Agent Blue. During that time my plane received hits from ground fire on over 50 occasions. It was not unusual for the spray tank or the hoses to be hit by this ground fire.

    Each UC-123 carried a spray tank that held 10,000 pounds of liquid chemical and was mounted in the center of the cargo area. Each tank had large spray hoses attached that fed the spray nozzles under the wings and tail, and these tanks and hoses, when in use, were under high pressure. It was normal to have high pressure leaks in the system that released the chemical inside the plane. We flew in formation of 3 to 6 planes with each offset and slightly to the rear of the plane ahead. We tried to stay out of the spray released by the plane ahead, but it was not uncommon to get into his spray. We flew with the side windows open and the side cargo door open and those let the spray from the plane ahead into our plane. The only protective gear we wore to protect against the chemicals was our flight fatigues.

    Every time we flew a mission, five to seven a week, we came back smelling like the chemical that permeated the aircraft. We never sprayed in areas where there were known U.S. ground troops. It was not possible for ground troops to have anything near the exposure as did the flight crews. I am now 75 years old and have absolutely no symptoms of anything that could have been caused by Agent Orange. I also participated in the Air Force Health Study physical exams that were conducted every 3 years for five cycles. At those studies I never met a fellow pilot or crew member who displayed any symptoms. I have also kept up with all the studies and have read the books by Paul Cecil, Bill Buckingham, and others, and all I can find on the internet.

    Having said all that, my reaction to the comments posted here and to the original article is that it is a lot of innuendo, conjecture, and speculation. I agree with Paul Cecil that it is emotional drivel and ‘creative writing’ that is creating so called facts from guesswork. The author of the original article was more interested in the driver who gave him a tour than he was in the facts regarding Agent Orange. Simply seeing the planes is a poor excuse for research. I hope that others who post here will do so with more reliable information.

  60. Mssrs. Cecil and Martin,

    I take no issue with your assessment of my prose style. To each his own, as they say. But as far as the veracity of the piece goes, if you have any SPECIFIC facts you’d like to dispute, I’d be happy to hear you out. I’ve read the Cecil and Buckingham books and would like to point out that these are Air Force approved histories–needless to say, in-and-of-itself a pretty big issue. Don’t get me wrong–both of these books are valuable as historical documents, but critical searches for truth they are not. For the most part, each book reads like a defense of the defoliation program, and that’s fine. I understand the impulse.

    I don’t have the time or space to get into the list of official military accounts that have proved themselves false or misleading. Let’s just say the list is long, and if anything, recent studies have shown the teratogenicity and carcinogenic potential of Agent Orange to be even greater than originally suspected and/or admitted to by the U.S. govt. and chemical companies.

    Mr. Martin, I’m glad you’re healthy. Then again, many people smoke until their 90s without getting cancer. Does that mean cigarettes are harmless? I don’t know. You tell me.

    Anyway, if you care to contact me directly and dispute my claims, my email address is I look forward to hearing from you.


  61. Mr. Quick’s comment Feb. 7, 2010, came 2 days after my local paper, The Argus in Fremont, CA, had story on a local person having what he called Agent Orange caused illness(es) of prostate cancer(overcome) and Parkinson’s. He was not in Viet Nam, but was involved in testing the several herbicide formulations being sprayed in test plots in Thailand. Such tests were also done in Puerto Rico, where I was working in pesticide research. I tried to find if the people doing the work had any checking by doctors on their health after spraying and over the years after. Unfortunately, nothing was available.
    As I have commented before here(See 52,54,55 & 56), I have gotten recognition for trying to get attention to Agent Orange and TCDD messes. I emphasized then and still do that several plants were making Agent Orange and several related compounds possibly contaminated with TCDD. The plants and their disposal sites here in the USA have been ignored by EPA for having possible TCDD contamination. I have to wonder whether some of companies involved let the issue of Agent Orange in Nam keep festering so that no attention will be gotten to possible TCDD contamination here in the USA.
    Dow Chemical, one of the major Agent Orange producers, is now being required to do a major further clean-up around its plant site in Michigan. But several companies in NJ, AR, TX, MO are no longer functioning, and no one knows where the very TCDD contaminated wastes went from the plants that were in those states. The Times Beach incident in MO. involved only a very small part of the wastes that that one plant had in the state, By the way that plant was trying to make the facial cleanser chemical, Hexaclorophene, not Agent Orange.
    Besides Agent Orange having TCDD contamination, a wood preservative, called 2,4,5-TCP was found in the mid 30 to be causing chlorance outbreaks in workers at railroad tie treatment plants. The making of 2,4,5-TCP is where 2,3,7,8-TCDD gets formed, and that 2,4,5-TCP is then reacted to make the herbicide 2,4,5-T that is the base for Agent Orange. The TCDD would be carried along into the AO products as no need to get a purified herbicide was seen.
    Unfortunately the several hundred people, who got the key chloracne symptoms at several plants making the herbicide or wood preservative or who got them at wood preserving operations never got follow-up checking of their health afterwards.
    We need to get some shift from the AO in Nam hassle to find if we may have HERE IN THE USA sites where TCDD may still be present causing health problems. About a year or so ago, several reports about a health problem called Morgellons, a sort of rash involving darkened hair follicles were getting attention. That sounds somewhat like chloracne. Enough people seem to think they had unusual symptomatology that some sort of study-research group got put together as some persons having it would find doctors not buying the idea of something more than developing blemishes or normal acne.
    Again we may still be having exposures
    to low levels of TCDD from EPA’s lack of checking fully all the plants making 2,4,5-T and -TCP, AO and hexachlorophene and all their disposal sites. Dr. J. Singmaster

  62. I sent e-mail to Mr. Quick right after getting my comment posted Feb. 7 asking him about what I had stated in comments 63 and before. So far, he has not answered here or directly back to me.
    I also would add that old plant sites in IL and AB may not have been checked for where TCDD containing wastes might have been dumped. Again I stress that a number of sites may have TCDD residues still polluting ground water in the USA. Dr. J. Singmaster

  63. Dear Jim Singmaster,

    Thanks for speaking out so loudly and clearly about what must really matter to children everwhere if they are to enjoy a good enough future.

    All my best,


  64. Dr. Singmaster,

    First of all I want to thank you for all your work. Secondly, i have no doubt that there are SERIOUS issues regarding domestic use and production of dioxin containing herbicides and the like. And the fact that Monsanto has a near monopoly on the American seed corn market certainly can’t make anyone feel very comfortable about the myriad of food products rooted–both figuratively and physically–in Monsanto gmos.

    That said, this is such a big issue–spatially and historically–and all I can do is raise one small voice in the din of many. I traveled through Viet Nam two summers ago, and what I can say is I have much more in common with the nurses and aides tending to the Vietnamese victims than the victims themselves. The reason for this is quite simple really–not to mention ironic considering the current national health care debate: As a child, I had access to affordable quality medical care. The rural Vietnamese did and still do not.

    I’d love to hear more about these domestic sites you write of. I agree completely with your assessment that more needs to be done.


  65. you article is a very good read. my dad was on the ranchhand crews and i would like to make sure people never forget about a.o. i do you have any suggestions to do just that?

  66. Ryan: Unfortunately, activity to check out problems like AO and TCDD contamination here won’t usually get moving until some people sense that they may be directly suffering. Orion readers are a fairly sizable group, and if some got concerned enough to write letters to Congresspersons and to several environmental groups such as EDF, NRDC, Greenpeace etc. and to Orion directly something might develop.
    The place to get Congress’ attention would be to ask members about what has been done to find what happened to wastes from the plants cited in EPA’s report “Dioxins” published in 1980. The data in that report are not too reliable, I fear, as the Givaudian plant mentioned in one of my above remarks was given in the book a clean bill of health with TCDD being below 0.1 ppb in a couple of samples. Later after TCDD messes were reported in MO and Newark, another report in 1983 found 11.0 and 5.0 ppb OUTSIDE on the plant grounds. Givaudian quickly disappeared after that, and no follow up on contamination IN the plant, ON health evaluations of workers for effects at the plant, and WHERE wastes went ever came out as far as I know.
    Redstone Arsenal at Anniston, AL was where much AO was got prepared for spray use in Viet Nam and possibly some was made there. That site does not even get mentioned in the EPA’s Dioxins book.
    Where action to get these USA sites checked out might best be achieved by getting the attention of Members of Congress and of those environmental groups to that Dioxins book asking if EPA can indicated if sites described in the book for making or handling 2,4,5-t herbicide and hexachlorophene and wastes from them have been checked to see that TCDD has not been left “unknowingly” to be contaminating ground water.
    AGAIN TCDD exposures may be occurring here due to lack of EPA action on sites that it had listed in that book. Dr. J. Singmaster

  67. I am with you all on the orange. My Dad now suffers from diabetes and I realize he is very lucky. I have seen a movie about Anniston Alabama, Dr. Sing. It was about PCB wastes dumped illegally so it is true that the idea of dioxins are lying about, like you say. I have been thinking of writing some kind of book…but I have to get with it. :)

  68. First, I want to thank you all for your feedback. Secondly, I wish to pose a question that some of you may have some thoughts on or answers to, because quite frankly, I don’t:

    I’m sitting in on a political ecology class at the U of A and the question came up today: What does industry gain from using compounds that have dioxin byproducts? Because certainly there are other ways to say, preserve wood, right? Why then does industry chose to employ products that are not only potentially damaging to humans and the environment, but are also potentially damaging as public relations nightmares? Re: DDT. Is it cost? Is there some other vital characteristic of these dioxin producing compounds that can’t be replicated in dioxin-free compounds? I don’t know. thoughts?

    ps–Ryan, check out the Agent Orange Legacy website. Michelle and others are there, and Sharon Perry is doing some great work that may be of interest to you. Here’s the url:

  69. Ben,

    As I understand it (after reading 2 or 3 articles and as an epic failure at chemistry), the dioxin is a by-product of the herbicide-production process – it is not actively added – it is also not actively removed…

  70. Jay: Concerning your comment, the TCDD gets formed in making 2,4,5-trichlorophenol(2,4,5-TCP) that was then used without refining to get rid of TCDD to make 2,4,5-T and then Agent Orange. What is never mentioned is that that 2,4,5-TCP was from late 30s to late 60s the most widely used chemical disinfectant after chlorox-type solutions. It was the principal active agent in dozens of cleaning mixes used in hospitals and in food handling and service operations. It appears that some refining of the 2,4,5-TCP was done for such use. But it is very likely almost everyone had some exposure during those years to traces of TCDD.
    But raw product and process wastes with considerable amounts of TCDD in it got mishandled or used for wood treatments with people showing up with chloracne symptoms. As I have noted in previous comments here, the federal govt. and others concerned about getting rid of TCDD problems have missed many plant sites in the USA, where TCDD got formed as a byproduct in making the 2,4,5-TCP. At times it seems like the AO use in Viet Nam has served to distract attention from the manufacturing messes of USA companies making the 2,4, 5-TCP disinfectant and the 2,4,5-T herbicide both widely used in the USA. Dr. J. Singmaster

  71. The average US body dioxin level was about 75 parts per trillion in 1965. Levels were this high in the 60s because industries were dumping tons of dioxin into the atmosphere, lakes and landfills.

    Most vets had high dioxin concentration in their bodies before they went to Vietnam.

    Today the safe level is 20 ppt and we are still exposed to it.

    Studies mention dioxin “hot spots” at DaNang and Bien Hoa. THey cannot compare with the Vulcan Chemicals (Geismar, LA) which had 200,750 parts per billion of dioxin in a sample of heavy end waste or Formosa Plastics, (Point Comfort, TX) where 761 ppb dioxins were found in heavy end industral waste. (1997). Downstream of the Geon CO VCM facility in LaPorte, TX the dioxin levels were measured 2,911 ppt.

    Dioxin is in our bodies all the time. At high levels it can cause health problems. How high is your level and where/when were you exposed ?

    Blaming all our medical problems on Vietnam dioxin exposure seems too convenient.

  72. Tom: You have brought several more locations of dioxin contamination to light that I was unaware of for having high dioxin levels in the USA. More important EPA seems to be totally unaware of them or has been covering them up. EPA apparently thinks its “Dioxins” book put out in 1981 is the gospel on the subject and has done little since then except to get after Dow for its mess in Michigan. I have cited problems in previous comments here about other sites in USA, but the concerned “people” in various environmental groups making noise seem wrapped up with blaming the Federal govt. for the mess in Viet Nam with very little concern for the messes here.
    The step to make 2,4,5-trichlorophenol is the one in which 2,3,7,8-TCDD gets formed to be carried into the making of Agent Orange. From the late 30s to the late 60s that phenol was the principle disinfecting chemical used in hospitals and food services, so it is no wonder that people in the early 60s had high levels of dioxin.
    Tom: Do you know if the sites that you mention have gotten cleaned up? I am sending Ben an e-mail to see if he is still concerned to call for action. If you know that not much has been done at the Vulcan site, perhaps a letter to the mayor of Geismer will stir up action. That’s what got me involved in the Newark, NJ mess, where EPA never found where badly contaminated wastes had gone.
    Dr. J. Singmaster

  73. I was stationed with the Army at Redstone Arsenal from 15 Nov 1968 to 14 Feb 1969. My assignment and training was to dispose of Agent Orange. I suffer with Diabetes and filed a claim with VA. This was denied because I did not serve in VietNam. I know AO was there. I disposed of the 55-gal drums by burning them. If anyone can help me with some form of proof that AO was at Red Stone besides my word, please email me. I read Dr. Singmaster III comments and was wondering where his info on Redstone and AO was obtained. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you.

  74. Mr. Willis; The making of the final spray mix of AO was supposedly done at Redstone Arsenal so hundreds of US Army people besides yourself seem likely to have been involved and exposed. If some of you can get together to make noise to your Congresspersons, I would think that the DD would be forced to recognize that exposures took place there. Certainly some tests for dioxin in the bodies of those, who handled AO there, ought to made. Several chemical cos. sent their 2,4,5-T products there, and the Army added some non-herbicide chemicals to get better spray coverage to make the finished AO spray mix. I suspect that tests of soil may have been run there, but I can not find data as probably DD has them well covered up. Quite a lot of cleanup of soil is indicated in various recent reports about the Arsenal. I would not be surprised if soil samples taken now at sites that you may remember as being where AO was mixed and stored will still show above normal levels of dioxin.
    Nothing will get Army to admit your single case outside of Viet Nam, but several hundred people, who worked there with you, ought to be willing for their own sakes to join you to vouch that the Army was handling AO there. And I think some health problems showed up with DD personnel at the Johnson Island storage site, and some people have gotten DD compensation. Dr. J. Singmaster

  75. Tom : Can you cite where the data on those three sites are available?
    Dr. J. Singmaster

  76. Congratulations to Ben for a very moving article, he has a gift of writing that I hope he will continue with.
    As a person who has travelled to Vietnam each year since 1989 and on each visit has met with many of the tragic victims of all ages suffering from Agent Orange, I was drawn back by Ben’s article, to some very painful memories seen in Vietnam.
    With near to four million Vietnamese suffering from various illnesses and severe disabilities, reading Ben’s piece I can say there are four million Ben’s in Vietnam. And like Ben and many US Veterans also affected, the Vietnamese need our help and support.

    I would ask all who have written on Ben’s piece to raise the issue of injustice to the victims and also to remember the 36 US Chemical companies who manufactured Agent Orange, headed by Monsanto.

    If ever justice is to be served, Monsanto must be on trial for the crimes it and the other companies have committed by makiing Agent Orange.

    And yet they continue their crimes by introducing GM into our food. Can I appeal to all, we must boycott All Monsanto products, let us hit them where it hurts, in their pocket.

    Good luck Ben in your future writings

  77. Mr. Aldis: Agent Orange and its use in Viet Nam were essentially DOD’s baby so it is kind of useless to blame the companies making the herbicide for what happened in Nam. DOD had reports of health problems in the making and handling of some of the 2,4,5-T herbicide, but did not do anything to check about purity and went ahead using it to make AO.
    Tom on Dec 03, 2010 mentions more problems adding to ones that I have cited previously here for high levels of dioxins in the USA, but no one gets concerned about them. Several chemical Cos. may be quite happy with all the attention for Nam as it covers up the possible messes here from getting attention here by environmental groups. Dow’s problems with dioxin wastes in Michigan are under EPA’s scope for cleanup. But several other companies including Monsanto mentioned by you seem not to have had any waste containing dioxins. At least, EPA, unfortunately, appears unaware of such waste sites. Dr. J. Singmaster

  78. Lets not limit ourselves to the dumping in the US:
    Dumping of toxic waste in the UK
    Between 1965 and 1972, Monsanto paid contractors to illegally dump thousands of tons of highly toxic waste in UK landfill sites, knowing that their chemicals were liable to contaminate wildlife and people. The Environment Agency said the chemicals were found to be polluting groundwater and the atmosphere 30 years after they were dumped.[69]

    The Brofiscin quarry, near Cardiff, erupted in 2003, spilling fumes over the surrounding area, but the local community was unaware that the quarry housed toxic waste.

    A UK government report shows that 67 chemicals, including Agent Orange derivatives, dioxins and PCBs exclusively made by Monsanto, are leaking from one unlined porous quarry that was not authorized to take chemical wastes. It emerged that the groundwater has been polluted since the 1970s. The government was criticized for failing to publish information about the scale and exact nature of this contamination. According to the Environment Agency it could cost £100m to clean up the site in south Wales, called “one of the most contaminated” in the UK.
    …and lets not forget Nitro, WV in the US:
    In 1949, an explosion occurred at a Monsanto chemical factory in Nitro, West Virginia; as a result, many workers in the plant were exposed to the herbicide 2,4,5-T, which was contaminated with dioxin. (This herbicide was later the principal component of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. in Viet Nam.) In subsequent years, two Monsanto scientists, J.A. Zack and R. W. Gaffey, studied the exposed workers, comparing their health against the health of a similar group of workers who were not exposed to dioxin or 2,4,5-T.
    Regarding AO and Vietnam, Monsanto knew very well of the dangers, and continued to profit from it for years – as THE largest producer of AO during the war.
    Great article, Ben…keep up your great work.

  79. Dr Singmaster: To allow Monsanto, Dow Chemicals and the other companies avoid being blamed for the horrendous crimes done by Agent Orange, would be to excuse the companies that made the Gas used by the Nazis in the extermination camps of WWII.

    Nor does the argument used by Monsanto, Dow etc that they were ordered by the government to make Agent Orange. This was the same argument used by the Nazis and rejected at the Nuremburg trials.

    Yes, the US.DOD knew of the danger of Agent Orange as did the Kennedy Government at the time – if the latter did not know, their crime is even bigger.
    Monsanto, Dow etc knew well the dangers but kept quiet, their aim was to speed up production of Agent Orange and so increase their profits, and to hell with the consequences.

    Well today there are near to four million Vietnamese suffering from the consequences of Agent Orange and I and many others in a number of countries, including I am pleased to state, the US are not prepared to allow Monsanto, Dow etc to get away with the crimes they committed on the people and land of Vietnam.

    I would hope that you and many others will give your support to the tragic victims affected and demand of the US Government, AND Monsanto etc to accept their responsibilities and make payment to the victims and their families.

    For many thousands it is too late. We must not betray those still living.

  80. @ Len
    Just wondering: would that include Boeing for building B-52 bombers? And Colt for supplying the M-16? And the ordnance suppliers as well?

    I read that scientists in government also knew the Agents were ‘hazardous’ – who is going after those people? And the military? And oh, Congress and ultimately the Presidents (although dead, just like McNamara)?

    You can’t compare it with the German companies: though they profited from gas production, they most likely didn’t have any other choice: the Nazis were not really ‘suited’ to negotiate… Even if Nuremberg blamed them (which rather sounds like finding a scapegoat).

    Ultimately the ‘users’ are to blame.

  81. Trois,

    I would not blame Boeing and Colt etc. I understand that in war many weapons are used. A bomb is dropped a shot is fired and a person is killed or injured. However, with chemicals such as Agent Orange and Cluster munitions, these continue to kill, and maim long after the war has ended. As is happening in Vietnam where people, in particular children are being killed etc by Clusters and Agent Orange and they were born long after the war ended. That, in my view is where the crime has been committed. And the makers – Monsanto – and the government have to accept responsibility.

  82. Pursuant to my many comments here, I again say that we need to get attention to possibly worse problems with dioxins here in the USA. The principal site, where 2,3,7,8-TCDD gets formed, is in the making of precursor chemical needed for the 2,4,5-T herbicide that went to make AO. Plants that made that precursor chemical, 2,4,5-TCP, had wastes loaded with dioxins. Love Canal mess was caused by wastes from making the precursor chemical, which the company and several others sold as a disinfecting chemical. That Love Canal co. never listed any 2,4,5-T products for sale just the disinfecting chemical. It was claimed to be the most widely used such product for hospitals and food operations from 1938-78. But Love Canal company and Dow in Michigan seem to be the only companies that have got much attention from EPA for dioxin wastes.
    That precursor chemical and several others closely related to it were used for wood treatment especially for rots, and perhaps 40 or more rail tie treatment plants may have buried wastes contaminated with dioxins that can get into drinking water supplies. That goes along with perhaps 20 companies below EPA’s purview that made the herbicide, the disinfecting 2,4,5-TCP or wood treatment products. Some companies making various 2,4,5 T products never sold them to DOD to make AO. Several cos. including the one with wastes causing the Times Beach mess in MO were trying to or were making the skin cleansing, hexachlorophene via the 2,4,5TCP that easily got dioxins in the mix of product.
    I hope that people reading this will call for action to get possible dioxin hot spots from old wastes here in the USA identified and cleaned-up before some drinking water supply gets contaminated.
    Dr. J. Singmaster, Fremont, CA

  83. This is a link to a case in Arkansas. When i read this, I wondered how many superfund & potential superfund sites there could be. I think also Dr. Sing has a big point about the creosote on railroad ties, etc. as well.

    It speaks of a dioxin extraction process which could only mean the toxins are out there…(I am not sure if I am repeating myself or not in an earlier comment if so, I apologize.) Surely you all see what I mean.!OpenDocument

  84. To all,

    Update: The C-123s mentioned in the article have been sliced up and melted down by the Air Force as a direct result of fear of publicity from the essay. I’ll be writing a new piece about this shortly. for now, to take a look at the details of the Air Force decision making process, check out the internal memos, photos, and even videos acquired by Wes Carter, C-123 pilot from 1972-1982–yep, that’s right, the planes were kept in use as transporters and even hired out for Disney movies after the end of Ranch Hand–through his diligent use of the FOIA. Go Wes!


  85. my dad was in danang from 66-67 on the ranchhand crews and today 7-11-2011 he passed away a.o. gave him als and after 2 years of declining health it finally caught up with him

  86. / Cant wait to see where apple stands in the molbie tablet mix. Better retina display? A5X chip? Bigger screen size? Who knows can’t wait to see maybe even a hands on.

  87. I was stationed at Redstone Arsenal, April 1982 – June 1982 after this I was transferred to the 545th ORD in Munster Germany. I trained to be an Ammo specialist. I handled both chemical and nuclear weapons as well as conventional while at these bases. Prior to this I was health and had a good memory, since then I have had mental health issues, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, and severe sleep issues, Is it possible I have been exposed through exposed to the ground at these base?

  88. Every military base in the US is an EPA superfund clean-up site. I was poisoned at Camp Lejeune, NC as a marine and as an army officer at Ft. McClellan, AL next to the monsanto plant.

  89. 20 April 2014

    To: Commander, National Headquarters, Veterans of Foreign Wars

    Thru: Commander, Department of Illinois, Veterans of Foreign Wars
    Commander, District 12, Department of Illinois, Veterans of Foreign Wars

    Subject: Dioxin (Agent Orange) Long Term Residual Effects Korean DMZ

    Two months ago, I found out that I have Adult Diabetes Type 2, which is one of the many side effects of Dioxin exposure. I already knew many veterans who have served in Vietnam and Korea suffer from not just this side effect but many others. I have discussed with other veterans who have also served in Korea, in particular those who have also served up on the DMZ north of Freedom Bridge/Imjin-gak (River). Many of these veterans also suffer not only from Diabetes, but many of the other side effects of Dioxin exposure.

    Agent Orange was used in Korea from approximately 1968 to 1971. Those that served in Korea at that time are the only ones who are acknowledged to have had exposure to Dioxin. It does not cover those that were exposed afterward, where it resides in the dirt for many years to come. From 1971 to 1991 we still had Troops running patrols, manning Guard Posts, and Observation Posts in the American Sector (11 Mile Stretch) after the use of AO.

    Our final troops exited Vietnam by 1975 and they are covered in the Zone for Agent Orange. But, in Vietnam we did not naturally get a chance to see the effects of Dioxin exposure in the ground to those Veterans. In Korea, many of us believe we were exposed to it through the 70s and 80s due to aliments we now suffer from.

    The US Government/VA needs to look at supporting and caring for these Veterans who are suffering from the side effects caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The Government needs to determine and accept that Dioxins remained in the area/ground well after its use and not just during. We exposed these Troops to an unsafe environment and now they suffer from it in sickness/illnesses, and in some cases death. I believe you will find in most cases, it has taken several years for the illnesses to appear, quite similar to those who were exposed to Agent Orange when it was used in Vietnam.

    The Veterans of Foreign Wars membership rules changed several years ago, to allow those who have served in Korea since 1953 to become members of the VFW. Now as the VFW it is our mission to support these Troops that are affected, make it known that they are just as important as Veterans, as our other Veterans are that have served in combat zones! They too served a mission that was difficult on the DMZ, that was real, and sometimes was deadly. Serving on the Korean DMZ and running missions, were not training but a real world situation. These Troops lives were on the line constantly, under the threat of the north. Whether it was being shot at randomly, ambushed by roaming NK soldiers, avoiding minefields that were and are still in place! These Troops were and still are our fellow brothers who deserve to be given equal treatment for their service. A service that many never knew that really existed and/or accepted. Now we as members of the VFW need to see them given the recognition for a duty that was unforgiving, and make the rest of our members and all US Citizens aware of it. They are our brothers and should not be forgotten!

    From 1972 to 1991, approximately 50,000 troops have served in the American Sector of the DMZ, and that is a conservative number! For the VA to see an issue/trend here is very limited due to relatively small number of veterans who have served there. With DMZ veterans spread in 50 states, territories, working, living, and retired overseas, and in some cases have passed on, it is hard to see that there is a trend/issue. That is why I ask the Veterans of Foreign Wars to stand up and help these veterans who need it now and never have been recognized for their efforts and their sickness from exposure to Agent Orange.

    Last, just for the record. Not only am I currently active with my VFW Post here, but I am a Past Commander of Freedom Bridge Memorial Post 9985, Tongduchon, Republic of Korea.

    My info is: 831 W Jefferson, Vandalia, IL 62471; phone: 618-204-8391; email:

    Thomas J. Lucken
    Senior Vice Commander
    VFW Post 9770
    Brownstown, IL

  90. Ive got the papers to demostrate Agent Orange in Redstone Arsenal Ala and also papers on Leaking radiation on doors and penalties for not using radiation leaking test devices on the buildings doors where using, building and working with radioactive materials.

    I am working on it, if you want to prepare your case let me know ill try help.
    Va people are not working to help fellow vets, they are just there to cash paychecks…they dont look your case and they just say no evidence, and disapprove you without heartbreak.

Commenting on this item is closed.