Agent Orange Song (Paul Reutershan)
During the Vietnam War, Country Joe McDonald wrote a song called “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” that was both an anti-war anthem and a source of gallows humor for many Vietnam Veterans.
Country Joe performed the song at the Woodstock festival along with more than 300,000 attendees, and over the years it has become one of the most identifiable Vietnam War songs ever written.
What a lot of people don’t know is that Joe is a US Navy veteran who has been very supportive of Vietnam Vets and their causes over the years. He maintains a website (http://countryjoe.com/) that includes a section, “Next Stop Vietnam,” with various links to veterans and military organizations, and to medical information about PTSD, Agent Orange, and other war-related health information.
In the 1970’s, Muriel Hogan, a woman who worked with Vietnam Veterans’ organizations on the Agent Orange (AO) issue learned the story of Paul Reutershan, “a helicopter chief who flew almost daily through clouds of herbicides and ‘watched the mangrove forests turn brown and die.’ ” The Army told Reutershan that Agent Orange was, “…relatively non-toxic to humans and animals.”
On his return from Vietnam, Reutershan was diagnosed with cancer that he attributed to Agent Orange. He founded and became chairman of Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Victims, Inc. In early 1978, he went on the “The Today Show” and stated, “I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it.” On July 20, 1978, his organization filed a $10 million lawsuit against Dow, Monsanto, Diamond Shamrock, and Hercules-- manufacturers of Agent Orange. On December 14, 1978, Reutershan died of cancer. In 1984, the Agent Orange Class Action lawsuit was settled for $180 million.
Hogan heard the line from the “Today” show and wrote what she called her Agent Orange song. She called it “Paul Reutershan,” but it has come to be known as the “Agent Orange Song.”
“The Agent Orange Song” has been recorded by numerous artists, including Country Joe. He has graciously given Agent Orange Zone permission to include the song on our blog. To hear the “Agent Orange Song,” click this link http://countryjoe.com/jukebox.htm and then click on the song title, the first one on the list.