Saturday, January 30, 2010

George Claxton: Made dioxin his life's work

blogger's note: George Claxton served as Chair of Vietnam Veterans of America National Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee for over a decade. George has one of the most extensive collections of research available on the effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin exposure. He has presented at numerous scientific conferences and is regarded as an expert in the field. You can view an interview with George at

I have read the book titled "Stolen Valor;" it was published in 1998. I noted that the authors never cited any science articles on Agent Orange.

The authors stated that "the only disorder that could be positively linked to Agent Orange was chloracne." However, in 1997 the World Health Organization (IARC), stated that dioxin was a "human carcinogen." One year before "Stolen Valor" was published.

The evidence on cancers was highly suggestive due to studies from Sweden showing strong associations between dioxin bearing herbicides and soft tissue sarcomas. These were published by Dr. Lennart Hardell and Mikael Erickson.

The evidence on paternally mediated birth defects and dioxin compounds is highly suggestive. A study on paternal exposure to chlorophenate wood preservatives in the saw mill industry is quite instructive. Dr. Helen Dimich Ward, et al, stated that "The maximal index of exposure to chlorophenols during the preconception period was positively related to the prevalence of anecephaly or spina bifida in the exposed fathers' progeny." This was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, vol. 22, p. 267-273, 1996. Two years before "Stolen Valor" was published.

There are thousands of more studies on the human health affects of Agent Orange/Dioxin and most of them show a bad association. Some of the studies are concerning chemical company workers. A major study was in 1991 published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

I will have a lot more information in the future.

George Claxton

Sperm DNA damage

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can interfere with hormone activities and are suspected as endocrine disrupters involved in disorders, e.g. reproductive disorders.We investigated the possible relation between the actual integrated serum xenoestrogenic, xenoandrogenic and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) activities, and the sperm DNA damage and sperm apoptotic markers of 262 adult males (54 Inuits from Greenland, 69 from Warsaw (Poland), 81 from Sweden, and 58 from Kharkiv (Ukraine)) exposed to different levels of POPs. Xenobiotic-induced receptor activities were determined by receptor-mediated luciferase reporter gene expression. Sperm DNA damage was measured using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-driven dUTP nick labeling assay (TUNEL) and pro- (Fas) and anti-apoptotic (Bcl-xL) markers were determined by immune methods. Different features of xenobiotic-induced receptor activity in serum and sperm DNA fragmentation and apoptoticmarkers existed between the Inuits and the European Caucasians. Negative correlations between xenobiotic-induced receptor activities and DNA damage were found for Inuits having relatively lower xenoestrogenic, lower dioxin-like activity, and lower sperm DNA damage, but higher xenoandrogenic activity. In contrast, in the European groups, xenobiotic-induced receptor activities were found to be positively correlated with the DNA damage. Further research must elucidate whether altered receptor activities in concerted action with genetic and/or nutrient factors may have protecting effect on
sperm DNA damage of the Inuit population.

Correspondence should be addressed to E C Bonefeld-Jorgensen;
DOI: 10.1530/REP-06-0195
Copyright © 2007 Society for Reproduction and Fertility Relation between serum xenobiotic-induced receptor activities and sperm DNA damage and sperm apoptotic
markers in European and Inuit populations Manhai Long, Alessandra Stronati1, Davide Bizzaro1, Tanja Krüger, Gian-CarloManicardi2, Philip S Hjelmborg, Marcello Spanò3, Alexander Giwercman4, Gunnar Toft5, Jens Peter Bonde5 and Eva C Bonefeld-Jorgensen
Unit of Cellular and Molecular Toxicology (CMT), Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, Vennelyst Boulevard 6, Build 1260, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark, 1 Laboratory of Applied and Molecular Genetics, Institute of Biology and Genetics,Marche Polytechnic University, Ancona, Italy, 2 Laboratory of Genetics, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia, Italy, 3 Section of Toxicology and Biomedical Sciences, BIOTEC-MED, ENEA Casaccia, 00060 Rome, Italy, 4 Fertility Centre, Malmö
University Hospital, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden and 5 Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

VVA Birth Defects Position Paper

Children are our future. We have all heard that common saying. What is the future of the children of Vietnam veterans and other veterans with toxic, service-related exposures? There is a growing realization that both maternal and paternal toxic exposures play a role in the birth defects of the children and future generations of the exposed individuals. Research in the field of epigenetics also points toward toxic exposures turning on or off genes that, when passed on to the child, could lead to the onset of diseases later in life.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Federal veterans ombudsman listening to concerns about Agent Orange

FREDERICTON The issue of a wider compensation package for those affected by the spraying of Agent Orange at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in the 1960s may not be dead.
National veterans ombudsman Patrick Stogran, a retired colonel, said his office is listening to people who have concerns.
“We’re also accumulating evidence with the assistance of veterans who have been doing the research,” Stogran said.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So, What Do You Think?


Dear Agent Orange Veterans:

"A lie is sort of a myth, and a myth is sort of the truth." Cyrano de Bergerac. Rachael Carsen created a myth with her book "Silent Spring," and today millions suffer from disease that could have been prevented with the use of DDT. Today Al Gore has also created a myth about global warming, hopefully it will be exposed before any real damage. And in between these two are the Vietnam Welfare Veterans, the poor victims of environmentalist scare tactics and a drug using selfish anti-war movement, perpetuating the myths of Agent Orange and PTSD. There are two books I recommend reading: "Stolen Valor" by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley that was thoroughly researched, and "Achilles In Vietnam" by Jonathan Shay, M.D., PH.D. who believed anything and everything his Vietnam veteran patients told him. Both will help you in getting a good firm grip on reality unlike the song "I Feel Like I'm Fixen' To Die Rag" sung by Country Joe at the pharmaceutical convention held at Woodstock in 1969.

This was sent to the AOZ MAIL BOX, not submitted as a COMMENT---if you would like to respond please do so by clicking the COMMENT tag at the end of this posting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More veterans eligible for benefits related to Agent Orange exposure

Muskogee Phoenix (OK); January 24, 2010
Liz McMahan

More former military personnel may be entitled to benefits after the list of medical conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam was expanded.

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to the present, a news release from the Department of Veterans Affairs states. Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.

The government recently added three more conditions: B cell leukemia, ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's disease to its list of conditions recognized as being related to Agent Orange.

Diseases associated with Agent Orange

Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation and health care benefits for several conditions now associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. The list of conditions recently has been expanded to include:

--B cell leukemia.

--Ischemic heart disease.

--Parkinson's disease.


--Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

--Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2).

--Hodgkin's disease.

--Multiple Myeloma.

--Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

--Porphyria Cutanea Tarda.

--Prostate cancer.

--Respiratory cancers.

--Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy

--AL Amyloidosis

--Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or Mesothelioma).

INTERVIEW: Reporter Explores Link Between Warzone Burn Pits and Veteran Illnesses

KPBS (CA); January 25, 2010
BYLINE: Megan Burke and Maureen Cavanaugh

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. There are a number of U.S. veterans who report developing strange symptoms since they've returned home from combat. Now, if that sounds like a story you've heard before, you're right, but it seems to be happening again. Very much like Gulf War syndrome or Vietnam vets who claimed to have been injured by the use of Agent Orange, some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have developed disturbing, even deadly diseases that they blame on their exposure to materials in the war zone. This time, some are tracing the source of the illness to huge open pit fires. Here to tell us more about the disturbing health conditions being reported and what the VA is doing about it is my guest, reporter Matthew LaPlante. His three-part series “Sickened by Service” ran this month in the Salt Lake Tribune. And good morning, Matthew. Thank you for joining us.

MATTHEW LAPLANTE (Reporter, Salt Lake Tribune): Good morning. Thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: We’d like to invite our audience also to join the conversation. Were you, or do you know, an Iraq or Afghanistan war veteran exposed to fumes from burn pits? Do you know about any diseases you think resulted from those pits? Call us with your questions and comments. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Matthew, how did you find out about these burn pits?

LAPLANTE: Well, I was in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and while I was there both times, I made a visit to Balad Airbase, which is the largest airbase in the region. And if you were in Balad at any time between – well, really at any time at all since the war began, you knew about the burn pits because you could see the thick, black plume of smoke rising into the air, you could smell the scent. It was like a burning plastic or maybe a burning rubber smell kind of maybe mixed with diesel and kerosene and you could taste it. I mean, you would go to sleep at night and you would have this thick film on the roof of your mouth that tasted very much like that smell smelled. So – But I must say that it’s to my great embarrassment that given all the other more immediate hazards that anyone who was in the war zones at that time was facing, I did not see that as an immediate threat.


LAPLANTE: I did not see that as a problem. I looked at it and I kind of shrugged my shoulders, and it wasn’t until several years later that I kind of came to realize just how very bad that was for service members’ health and the health of anyone who was exposed to those smoke and – to that smoke and fumes.

CAVANAUGH: Now, when we say a huge open pit – fire pit or burn pit, what are we talking about in terms of size and capacity?

LAPLANTE: Well, the total pit size is about 10 acres. You can see, and, in fact, if you zero in on Balad Airbase on Google Earth, you can see the pit. I mean, it’s big enough that it’s very obvious from satellite imagery where it is. It’s in the northern tip of that base. This is the biggest one in the region, but it’s certainly by no means the only one. There are dozens, if not scores, of these enormous pits scattered throughout the theater in Iraq and Afghanistan . The one in Balad took in hundreds of tons of trash every week. This was – They would get rid of vehicle parts and used uniforms and Balad has the largest theater hospital, so they would discard of medical waste, including amputated limbs. There was chemicals discarded there. There were batteries discarded there. And little of this is really contested and the military acknowledges that that’s how they got rid of quite a bit of their trash since the war began in 2003 in Iraq and also in smaller quantities, in smaller operations, in Afghanistan .

CAVANAUGH: Why burn pits and not incinerators? Did they tell you?

LAPLANTE: Well, you know what, today, as a matter of fact, there are quite a few incinerators in Iraq and Afghanistan . Most of the pit operation in Balad has been replaced with incinerators, largely in response to the health concerns of people. But even though this would seem to be a very obvious thing, one of the things that military officials were contending with is the idea that these wars were not supposed to last as long as they lasted. And so for the first few years of the war, certainly for the first year of the war, there was a sense that, as Donald Rumsfeld has promised at the time, we would go in, it would take months to finish up the business, and then we would leave. And then in the early years of the war, you know, there was a very large reluctance on the part of the administration and the military to acknowledge that this was not going to be a short war, that victory wasn’t just around the corner, that it was, in fact, getting worse. And doing things like creating very expensive pieces of infrastructure like incinerators would have sent the wrong message about how long the United States was planning to be in Iraq and Afghanistan . And so it wasn’t until finally we all kind of collectively shrugged our shoulders and acknowledged that, yes, indeed, these were going to be long wars, part of the long wars, it’s called by some people in the Pentagon now, that they started making efforts to put incinerators in the war zone. But even today, you know, seven years after the beginning of the war in Iraq , eight years after the beginning of the war in Afghanistan , even today, there are still many open area burn pit operations still going on. They have not been replaced by incinerators.

Government waits for proof - sometimes for decades - before caring for sick veterans

Jim Ogden likes to spend time in his basement among the memorabilia of his career working with helicopters in hot spots around the world. Shortly after his last stint of service as a civilian helicopter mechanic in Iraq, Ogden became blind. Without a way to prove that his blindness is related to his military service, he isn't eligible for veteran's benefits. (Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune)

Sickened by Service: What doesn't kill you

The VA requires former service members to prove an illness was caused by military service.

By Matthew D. LaPlante

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 01/16/2010 05:34:24 PM MST

Editor's note: First in a three-part series.

In Vietnam, Jim Ogden flew through clouds of Agent Orange. In Desert Storm, he hovered past burning oil fields. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he worked near a thick black plume of burning plastic, metals, chemicals and medical waste.

Along the way he took injection after injection and swallowed pill after pill. He breathed in herbicides and pesticides. And he never questioned whether all of those drugs, toxins and poisons might someday do him harm.

Not until he lost his eyesight.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it.”

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 ( 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 and then click on the song title, the first one on the list.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Use of Potentially Harmful Chemicals Kept Secret Under Law

Published on Monday, January 4, 2010 by The Washington Post

by Lyndsey Layton

Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States -- from flame retardants in furniture to household cleaners -- nearly 20 percent are secret, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, their names and physical properties guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials under a little-known federal provision.

The policy was designed 33 years ago to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive industry. But critics -- including the Obama administration -- say the secrecy has grown out of control, making it impossible for regulators to control potential dangers or for consumers to know which toxic substances they might be exposed to.

At a time of increasing public demand for more information about chemical exposure, pressure is building on lawmakers to make it more difficult for manufacturers to cloak their products in secrecy. Congress is set to rewrite chemical regulations this year for the first time in a generation.

Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, manufacturers must report to the federal government new chemicals they intend to market. But the law exempts from public disclosure any information that could harm their bottom line.

Government officials, scientists and environmental groups say that manufacturers have exploited weaknesses in the law to claim secrecy for an ever-increasing number of chemicals. In the past several years, 95 percent of the notices for new chemicals sent to the government requested some secrecy, according to the Government Accountability Office. About 700 chemicals are introduced annually.

1997 report from the Australian government

Australian Agent Orange Study

Out of 30,263 respondents, 18.4% (5579) reported a congenital anomaly. This is six times the rate that is normally found at birth (3%) and more than twice the rate (6%) in studies that follow children for a number of years after birth. This doesn’t even count all the other conditions they monitored.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Info on where Agent Orange was Used

With gratitude to Michael Gaffney for his research.

The Air Force Historical Research Agency is the repository for United States Air Force historical documents.

Air Force Historical Research Agency [AFHRA]">"">

The AFHRA public web site is undergoing a migration from a web server at Maxwell AFB to one administered by the Air Force News Agency.

The location of the new site is

The most current information will be posted at the new site. Regular updates to this site have ceased. Updates to the new site will be accomplished expeditiously.

Results 1 - 20 of 20 for Thailand + "vietnam War" + "Agent Orange" + sprayed + "used in Thailand". (0.22 seconds)

Results 1 - 21 of 21 for "used in Thailand" + "vietnam War" + "Agent Orange" + sprayed. (0.29 seconds

Results 1 - 6 of 6 for "sprayed in Thailand" + "vietnam War" + "Agent Orange". (0.16 seconds)


Aug 29, 2008 ... Further, herbicides were only sprayed in Thailand for test purposes in the early and mid 1960's. VA DOD List · VA Agent Orange Newsletter ... - 79k - Cached - Similar pages


(and many other places in Asia during the Vietnam War) ...... The document also showed that Agent Orange was sprayed in Thailand in 1964 and 1965. ..."> "> - 149k - Cached - Similar pages


The bill restores equity to all Vietnam veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange. It would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War ... - 98k - Cached - Similar pages


Thailand/Vietnam War government cover-up against exposure to Agent Orange. ... that herbicide was sprayed in Thailand, and that he had leukemia and ... The article indicates that Agent Orange and other chemicals were tested by the ... - 84k - Cached - Similar pages


Tributes to our fallen comrades in the Vietnam War Note: Thailand ..... The document also showed that Agent Orange was sprayed in Thailand in 1964 and 1965. ... - 94k - Cached - Similar pages


File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
served this nation during the Vietnam War in Thailand, but for a geographical line on ... The Government's contention that Agent Orange was not sprayed in Thailand has .... The IOM report is supported by Agent Orange historian Maj. ... - Similar pages


[Wiki stuff]

US Air Force in Thailand During Vietnam War

Bases in Thailand Used by US Air Force

Don Muang RTAFB

[During the early years of the Vietnam War (1961-1966), Don Muang was used as a major command and logistics hub of the United States Air Force. The USAF forces at Don Muang were under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Thirteenth Air Force.

After the expansion of U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield in 1966, most American units and person ell were transferred from Don Muang, however a small USAF liaison office remained at the base until 1975.]


[During the Vietnam War, Korat RTAFB was the largest front-line facility of the United States Air Force (USAF) in Thailand from 1962 through 1975.]

Nakhon Phanom RTAFB

[During the Vietnam War, the facility was known as Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base and it was a front-line facility of the Royal Thai Air Force used by the United States in its wars against North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao organization in Laos from 1961 to 1975.]

Takhli RTAFB

[Takhli was a front-line facility of the United States Air Force (USAF) during the Vietnam War from 1961 through 1975. The USAF forces at Takhli were under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). Takhli was the location for TACAN station Channel 43 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions.]


[Prior to 1965, U-Tapao was a small Royal Thai Navy airfield. At Don Muang Air Base near Bangkok the USAF had stationed KC-135 air refueling tankers from Strategic Air Command (SAC) for refueling tactical combat aircraft over the skies of Indochina. Although Thailand was an active participant in the war, with a token ground force deployed to the Republic of Vietnam and a more substantial involvement in Laos, the visibiliy of the large USAF Boeing tankers in its capital was causing political embarrassment to the Thai government.
* * *
The USAF 7th Air Force wanted to have additional B-52s missions flown into the war zone, however, the B-52 missions from Andersen, as well as from Kadena AB, Okinawa, required long mission times and air refueling. Concerns about base security with having the aircraft based in South Vietnam led to the change of mission at Tuy Hoa Air Base from that of basing B-52s there to one of a tactical air base. It was decided as the base at U-Tapao was being established as a KC-135 tanker base to move them out of Dong Muang to base the B-52s there where they could fly unrefuelled though tout both Vietnams.

The construction of U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield began in October, 1965 and was completed slightly more than two years later. The 11,000 foot runway was opened on 6 July 1966 and the first aircraft to land was a Royal Thai Air Force HH-16 Helicopter, then a USAF C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

With the completion of U-Tapao, most American forces were transferred from Dong Muang, and U-Tapao RTNAF became a front-line facility of the United States Air Force (USAF) during the Vietnam War from 1966 through 1975.]


[From 1965 to 1974, the base was a front-line facility of the United States Air Force (USAF) during the Vietnam War. Ubon was the location for TACAN station Channel 51 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions.]


[During the Vietnam War the base was a front-line facility of the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1964 through 1976. The USAF forces at Udorn were under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Thirteenth Air Force (13th AF). Udorn was the location for TACAN station Channel 31 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions.

Udorn RTAFB was also the Asian Headquarters for Air America, an American passenger and cargo airline covertly owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It supplied and supported covert operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.]
US Military Thailand Bases & Camps During Vietnam War Era
[The purpose of this web site is share photos of that were contributed by many GI's stationed in Thailand during Vietnam War.]

US Army Camps in Thailand

United States Army Camps - 1 (Thailand)
Camp Bang Pla
Camp Buri Ram
Camp Essayons
Camp Fort Narai
Camp Friendship - APO 96233 (Korat)
Camp Kanchanaburi - APO 96229
Camp Ku Su Mon
Camp Lop Buri - Pawaii
Camp Pak Chong
Camp Charn Sinthope (Phanom Sarakam)
Camp Surin
United States Army Camps (Thailand)-2
Camp Ratchaburi
Camp Raum Chit Chai (Sakhon Nakon)
Camp Roi Et
Camp Samae San APO 96232
Camp Srimahapoe
Camp Vayama
Chaing Mai
Pattaya R & R Facility

Friday, January 15, 2010

AO victims need more support from US

US academics, scientists and war veterans examined the adverse effects of Agent Orange/dioxin on people’s health and the environment at a workshop in Washington DC on January 7.

Scientists presented the latest research on the effects of the toxic chemicals on Vietnam and a number of other places around the world, and shared the view that AO-related issues have not yet received enough attention from chemical firms.

Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs, said there is growing concern in the US that the chemicals not only affect the lives of war veterans who fought in the Vietnam War four decades ago but also the lives of future generations.

Alan B. Oates*, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said that the US government has not taken AO issues seriously, especially the effects on victims. He said he felt sorry for that and hoped the victims would receive adequate care very soon.

Charles Bailey, manager of the Ford Foundation, pointed to the fact that both the Vietnamese and US governments have been working closely in recent times to support those exposed to the chemicals and prevent the chemicals spreading from the previously sprayed areas.

Such cooperation is still in the initial stages and both countries need to work harder on this process, he said.

He suggested that the two countries study and look at easy-to-solve issues first and then the tougher ones.

Dr Michael Martin, who has travelled to Vietnam many times to study the effects of AO, said that several members of the US congress would like to speed up the settlement of AO-related issues in Vietnam in the coming months.

*NOTE: Alan Oates is Chair of the VVA National Agent Orange/Dioxin and Other Toxic Exposures Committee. John Rowan is President of Vietnam Veterans of America.

The Agent Orange Horror And The U.S.

by Bill Fletcher, Jr
NNPA Columnist
Originally posted 1/6/2010

(NNPA) - You may not notice a victim of Agent Orange. They may look healthy on the outside, full of life and vigor. Yet inside them there is a time-bomb, a time-bomb set during the US war against Vietnam more than thirty five years ago. In over three million people, including US troops who were involved in that war, this bomb has been going off over the years creating an on-going catastrophe.

On a recent visit to Vietnam I had the opportunity to meet with leaders and activists in the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA). Formed in 2003 by physicians, Vietnamese war veterans, and other activists, this mass organization spread throughout the country amounting to more than 60,000 members in chapters in most provinces. VAVA came together to remind both Vietnam, but also the world, of the continuing impact of the human-made plague that served as an instrument of war by the US against Vietnam.

Agent Orange is a form of chemical warfare. It was promoted as a defoliant by the US government, allegedly for the purposes of destroying jungles and forests where soldiers of the National Liberation Front and North Vietnam were encamped during the Indochina War. As one leader of VAVA informed me, Agent Orange was described by the USA as being so safe that soldiers were informed that they could use it on their skin against various insects.

Agent Orange was not safe at all. In fact, it was precisely the opposite. Getting into the blood stream it had a long-term impact on those exposed. The impact, however, was not immediate, at least on human beings.

In a discussion with leaders of VAVA, I asked at what point the impact of Agent Orange became obvious. There were two principal stages, I was informed. The immediate ecological destruction was obvious. The impact on humans, however, took longer to uncover. It was after the war had ended (1975) that the Vietnamese began to notice oddities. Strange cancers were on the rise. The most bizarre of birth defects appeared, hideous by any stretch of the imagination, including children born absent eyes and limbs.

Agent Orange might have been ignored altogether in the USA had not something else happened at the same time. Agent Orange’s impact became evident on US veterans and their families. The same symptoms were occurring in the USA and neither the US veterans nor the Vietnamese were being provided with useful answers as to what was actually going on.

A lawsuit against companies that were alleged to have been involved in the production of Agent Orange failed in US courts, largely for technical reasons. At the same time, the US government has not wanted to come to terms with the impact of this criminal instrument of war. In fact, according to various Vietnamese with who I spoke, US diplomats repeatedly made it clear that true normalized relations between the USA and Vietnam would not take place as long as the Vietnamese continued to raise the issue of Agent Orange. Given that the USA has yet to pay the reparations to Vietnam promised at the time of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1973, it is understandable that the Vietnamese government has been reluctant to press this matter.

The resolution of the Agent Orange horror will only take place when the US government assumes responsibility for its use of chemical warfare in Indochina. Not only was Agent Orange used in Vietnam, but also in Laos and Cambodia against insurgent groups and their base areas. Assuming responsibility means an acknowledgement to the peoples of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and, yes, the people of the USA, that the US committed horrendous damage against soldiers and civilians. In addition to the health impact on Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, and U.S. veterans, extensive ecological damage was done to Indochina, including but not limited to the wholesale destruction of forested areas.

For those who have suffered the effects of Agent Orange, whether a US veteran and his/her family here at home, or Vietnamese civilians and former combatants, the price has been literally and figuratively very high. The damage to families, the resources into medical care, and the proliferation of orphans, has put immense strain on entire populations. For Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, economically underdeveloped countries, the resource strain has been immeasurable. Yet in all of this, the USA continues to keep its fingers stuck in its ears and its eyes closed refusing to accept responsibility for this atrocity.

The time has come to repair the damage. Congress and the President must act to move legislation that will address the extent of this horror, both in Indochina, but also here at home. It is time to bring the Indochina War to an end.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Postage stamp commemorating the life of Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr.

To All:
Please disseminate the attached letter widely and seek support for this proposed postage stamp honoring Admiral Zumwalt. As one who was privileged to know and work with the Admiral in our joint quest to improve the lot of those of us who served in Vietnam through our work with the Agent Orange Coordinating Council many years ago; it is the least we can do for a man who did so much for us.

Paul Sutton "Dominus Fortissima Turris"
Patriotism: Supporting your Country ALL THE TIME; and, your government when it deserves it - MARK TWAIN

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr.

1226 Admiral Zumwalt Lane
Herndon, Virginia 20170
Tel: 703-798-6400

June 17, 2009

Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
1735 North Lynn St., Suite 5013
Arlington, Virginia 22209-6432

Dear Committee Members:

The purpose of this letter is to request the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) consider the issuance of a postage stamp commemorating the life of Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. I am Admiral Zumwalt’s sole surviving son. While I have a personal interest in seeing him so honored, I would respectfully submit that his lifetime achievements clearly justify such an honor. Allow me to briefly share some of those achievements.

While US postage stamps have been issued over the years commemorating men and women achieving great accomplishments, few exist recognizing those who have dedicated so much of their lives to leveling life’s playing field for others unable to do so for themselves. A military man by profession, Admiral Zumwalt would prove himself not only to be of such an ilk, but a tremendous innovator and great humanitarian as well.

Admiral Zumwalt enjoyed an immensely successful naval career which involved a meteoric rise to the US Navy’s top position. At the age of 44, he was the US Navy’s youngest Rear Admiral; at 47, its youngest Vice Admiral; and at age 49 its youngest Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). During a 37-year career, during which he fought three wars, Admiral Zumwalt committed his life to achieving equality for all serving in his beloved Navy. While his life as a junior officer was spent practicing this belief on a local command level, it was not until he became CNO that he was able to implement such beliefs on a service-wide basis through a series of very creative leadership initiatives. As reported in the December 21, 1970 issue of TIME Magazine featuring him on its cover, Admiral Zumwalt’s initiatives brought the US Navy, “kicking and screaming into the 20th Century.” The article went on to hail him as “the Navy’s most popular leader since World War II.”

While the beneficiaries of many of the changes Admiral Zumwalt implemented in the Navy were members of minority groups whose professional growth within the service had been stymied by overly restrictive regulations, he worked diligently to improve service life for all wearing the Navy uniform. What had prompted his selection in 1970 by civilian superiors over 33 more senior admirals was his advocacy for rapid and drastic changes in the way the Navy treated its uniformed men and women. And, once selected, he made such advocacy a reality, undertaking numerous initiatives that included: improving living conditions in the Navy; promoting the first female and first African-American officers to flag rank; allowing females to become naval aviators; opening up ratings for Filipino sailors whose service had long been limited to a steward’s rating; eliminating demeaning and abrasive US Navy regulations that negatively impacted on a sailor’s attitude without providing a corresponding positive enhancement of professional performance; etc. The positive impact of his changes was tremendous, as evidenced by the effect on re-enlistment rates. These rates were at an all-time low when he took command of the Navy in 1970; when he retired four years later, re-enlistment rates had tripled. Admiral Zumwalt’s personal papers, on file at The Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University, include numerous letters from sailors written over the years expressing their personal gratitude for changes he made that impacted so positively on their decision to stay and make the Navy a career.

When Admiral Zumwalt retired from the Navy in 1974, it did not end his service to country. He continued in numerous capacities to fight for the oppressed. As Commander of US Naval Forces in Vietnam during the war, he was of the belief a commander’s responsibility to his men survived the battlefield, prompting him to fight for US Government benefits for Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure.

By way of background, Admiral Zumwalt had ordered the use of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange during the war to reduce the high casualty rate his sailors were suffering. Heavy jungle concealment provided the enemy with the element of surprise in ambushes against US Navy boats operating in Vietnam’s narrow waterways. The sailors onboard these boats stood a 72% chance of being killed or wounded during a twelve month tour. The use of Agent Orange improved survivability, reducing the casualty rate twelve-fold—to 6%. It was not known at that time, however, what the long-term health impact of Agent Orange would be on those who were exposed. In a bitter irony of the Vietnam war, one of those so exposed, later succumbing to Agent Orange-related cancers, was Admiral Zumwalt’s namesake and my older brother—Elmo R. Zumwalt III. A book, entitled “My Father, My Son,” tells the story of the love and devotion existing between the two men as, together; they fought the unsuccessful battle for young Elmo’s survival. In 1988, the book became the basis for a made-for-TV movie of the same title which, interestingly, starred a CSAC member in the role of my father—Mr. Karl Malden.

Until Admiral Zumwalt led the charge for benefits for Vietnam veterans afflicted by Agent Orange exposure, not a single cancer had been recognized by the Veterans Administration for having a causal relationship. Appointed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a pro bono study on the linkage of Agent Orange to cancers, Admiral Zumwalt analyzed hundreds of medical studies—studies that had found no correlation—until he showed how such studies were flawed—a phenomenal undertaking for someone with no medical background. He also found the US Government’s medical review board, responsible for determining if such correlations were supported by existing medical evidence, lacked credibility as its members included physicians with personal ties to the very chemical companies that had manufactured Agent Orange.

Today, medical evidence has established that more than a dozen cancers are linked to Agent Orange exposure. And, as a direct result of Admiral Zumwalt’s tireless efforts, Vietnam veterans are now receiving medical benefits.

Admiral Zumwalt’s sense of duty and responsibility to his fellow human beings spurned him on to other great achievements. He was founder of The Marrow Foundation, which raised funding to undertake the matching of bone marrow donors and recipients. He served briefly as a US ambassador to the American Red Cross in Geneva. In the years after the Vietnam war, he worked diligently to successfully win the early release of his good friend and South Vietnamese counterpart in Vietnam during the war, Commodore Tran van Chon, from a communist re-education camp.

During his lifetime, Admiral Zumwalt gave extensively of his own time and energy to pro bono efforts. These included serving on the Board of Directors of charitable organizations such as the Phelps-Stokes Fund, Presidential Classroom for Young Americans Organization, National Marrow Donor Program, and Vietnam Assistance to the Handicapped Foundation; serving as the Chairman of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the National Council of the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University, and the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation; serving as a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the International Consortium for Research on the Health Effects of Radiation. One of Admiral Zumwalt’s last contributions was to establish the National Program for Countermeasures to Biological and Chemical Threats at Texas Tech University, which later was named after him. This is a multidisciplinary academic research program that today conducts cutting-edge work to investigate and develop new strategies and technologies to protect military operating forces from such threats. Based on the terrorist threat facing 21st century America, his foresight in identifying such a threat and doing something about it was once again evidenced by his actions.

Tragically, years later, after having led this fight, Admiral Zumwalt would succumb to a service-related “environmental cancer” of another sort—asbestos—to which he had been exposed as a result of his naval service. In the early morning hours of the new millennium, at the age of 79, he passed away on January 2, 2000.

It was no wonder then, at his funeral on January 10, 2000, in addressing a standing room only Chapel service at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, President Bill Clinton described him as truly being a “Sailors’ Admiral.”

Among the numerous tributes made after the death of Admiral Zumwalt was one entered into the January 24, 2000 Congressional Record by Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin who said: “Admiral Zumwalt crusaded for a fair and equal Navy. He fought to promote equality for minorities and women at a time of considerable racial strife in our country and at a time of deeply entrenched institutional racism and sexism in the Navy…Admiral Elmo Zumwalt was a great naval leader, a visionary and a courageous challenger of the conventional wisdom. We will not see the likes of him again. We mourn his passing and salute his accomplishments.”

Because of Admiral Zumwalt’s commitment in life to improving the lives of others, a number of awards bearing his name—recognizing his accomplishments as a humanitarian and a visionary—exist today, not only in the US Navy, but in the private sector as well. The positive impact Admiral Zumwalt had as one of this Nation’s great military leaders and humanitarians was recognized by two major events—one occurring during his lifetime and one following his death.

First, in 1998, Admiral Zumwalt was presented the Nation’s highest civilian honor by President Clinton—the Presidential Medal of Freedom—for service both to his Navy and country. In part, the citation read, for “exemplifying the ideal of service to our country, both in wartime and in peacetime. He not only created a higher quality of life for sailors during his service in the Navy, but also fought tirelessly for veterans afflicted with medical conditions resulting from service to their country.” President Clinton called Admiral Zumwalt “one of the greatest models of integrity and leadership and humanity our Nation has ever produced.”
Second, in July 2000, six months after his death, the Navy announced a new class of warship—a vessel unlike any other ever built which represents the greatest technological advancement in the history of ship-building—would be named after my father, with the first ship of the class to be named USS ZUMWALT. (An artist’s rendition of this unique looking surface ship, which, due to its stealth technology looks more like a submarine, appears to the right.) Construction of that ship is now underway. While I believe honoring my father with a stamp is warranted on his own merits alone, I would submit the Committee may want to consider issuing a stamp commemorating both the man and the ship. For when USS ZUMWALT is christened in 2013, it will usher in a whole new era in US Navy history. Future ships of the 21st century will be capturing many of the design features and unique capabilities for which the USS ZUMWALT has broken new ground.
One of my father’s favorite quotes was Edmond Burke’s admonition, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” My father lived his life by this creed. Not a minute of it was wasted doing “nothing.” His life was dedicated to helping his fellow man. In my request that consideration now be given to issuing a US postage stamp in his name, it is my humble opinion a man who lived such a life should now have that life commemorated by such a great honor.

Very respectfully submitted,

James G. Zumwalt
LCOL, US Marine Corps Reserves (Retired)

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Lethal Legacy

Part 1 of 5: U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange face delays and a maddening bureaucracy as they seek compensation for related illnesses. In Vietnam, where untold numbers of people suffer from the same maladies and the chemicals continue to poison the environment, government officials wonder how the U.S. can ignore the ongoing effects of the defoliants.

Part 2: 'Insult to injury'

For many U.S. veterans, the bureaucratic fight to be compensated for health problems linked to Agent Orange amounts to a new and unexpected war, long after the shooting ended overseas.

Part 3: Born into controversy

The most contentious question surrounding the use of defoliants in the war is their impact on citizens, particularly the suspected link between the herbicides and birth defects.

Part 4: A poison still potent

New research finds former U.S. airbases in Vietnam remain polluted from defoliants, underscoring the urgency of a solvable problem. The U.S. has done little to clean up the hot spots.

Part 5: Danger not averted

The Tribune unearths documents showing that decisions by the U.S. military and chemical companies that manufactured the defoliants used in Vietnam made the spraying more dangerous than it had to be.

Agent Orange's lethal legacy: Defoliants more dangerous than they had to be

Papers show firms didn't act on data to reduce toxicity
Before-and-after air views show the effects herbicides had when sprayed in Vietnam during the war. Above is an unsprayed mangrove forest, date unknown, and the bottom image is of the same area in 1970. It was sprayed in 1965. (AP photos),0,674174.story?page=2

As the U.S. military aggressively ratcheted up its spraying of Agent Orange over South Vietnam in 1965, the government and the chemical companies that produced the defoliant knew it posed health risks to soldiers and others who were exposed.

That year, a Dow Chemical Company memo called a contaminant in Agent Orange "one of the most toxic materials known causing not only skin lesions, but also liver damage."

Yet despite the mounting evidence of the chemical's health threat, the risks of exposure were downplayed, a Tribune review of court documents and records from the National Archives has found. The spraying campaign would continue for six more years.

Records also show that much of the controversy surrounding the herbicides might have been avoided if manufacturers had used available techniques to lessen dioxin contamination and if the military had kept better tabs on levels of the toxin in the compounds. Dow Chemical knew as early as 1957 about a technique that could eliminate dioxin from the defoliants by slowing the manufacturing process, according to documents unearthed by veterans' attorneys.

Since the Vietnam War, dioxin has been found to be a carcinogen associated with Parkinson's disease, birth defects and dozens of other health issues. Thousands of veterans as well as Vietnamese civilians were directly exposed to the herbicides used by the military.

Debilitating illnesses linked to defoliants used in South Vietnam now cost the federal government billions of dollars annually and have contributed to a dramatic increase in disability payments to veterans since 2003.

Documents show that before the herbicide program was launched in 1961, the Department of Defense had cut funding and personnel to develop defoliants for nonlethal purposes. Instead it relied heavily on the technical guidance of chemical companies, which were under pressure to increase production to meet the military's needs.

The use of defoliants led to massive class-action lawsuits brought by veterans and Vietnamese citizens against the chemical firms. The companies settled with U.S. veterans in the first of those suits in 1984 for $180 million.

Since then, the chemical companies have successfully argued they are immune from legal action under laws protecting government contractors. The courts also found that the military was aware of the dioxin contamination but used the defoliants anyway because the chemicals helped protect U.S. soldiers.

A 1990 report for the secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that the military knew that Agent Orange was harmful to personnel but took few precautions to limit exposure. The report quotes a 1988 letter from James Clary, a former scientist with the Chemical Weapons Branch of the Air Force Armament Development Laboratory, to then- Sen. Tom Daschle, who was pushing legislation to aid veterans with herbicide-related illnesses.

"When we initiated the herbicide program in 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicides," Clary wrote. "We were even aware that the 'military' formulation had a higher dioxin concentration than the 'civilian' version due to the lower cost and speed of manufacture. However, because the material was to be used on the 'enemy,' none of us were overly concerned."

Military scientists had been experimenting with herbicides since the 1940s, but funding cuts in 1958 left few resources in place to fully evaluate the chemicals for use in Vietnam.

"I was given approximately 10 days notice to come to Vietnam to undertake 'research' in connection with the above tasks," wrote Col. James Brown of the U.S. Chemical Corps Research and Development Command in an October 1961 report to top brass just as the defoliation program was ramping up. "Thus, a large order was placed on a very poorly supported research effort."

The military launched a limited herbicide program in 1962 that involved 47 missions. At the time, relatively little was known about the health effects of dioxin, in part because cancer and other illnesses can take decades to develop and the herbicides had only been in wide use since 1947.

But documents uncovered by veterans' attorneys show the chemical companies knew that ingredients in Agent Orange and other defoliants could be harmful.

As early as 1955, records show, the German chemical company Boehringer had begun contacting Dow about chloracne and liver problems at a Boehringer plant that made 2,4,5-T, the ingredient in Agent Orange and other defoliants that was contaminated with dioxin.

Unlike U.S. chemical companies, Boehringer halted production and dismantled parts of its factory after it discovered workers were getting sick. The company studied the problem for nearly three years before resuming production of 2,4,5-T.

In doing so, the company found that dioxin was the culprit and that they could limit contamination by cooking the chemicals at lower temperatures, which would slow production.

In response to questions from the Tribune, Dow said it didn't purchase the proprietary information on the technique until 1964 and didn't start using it until 1965. Records show it did not inform other manufacturers or the government about the technique until the military began planning construction of its own chemical plant to make herbicides in 1967.

By that time, Dow also had developed a procedure to test dioxin levels in batches of 2,4,5-T. The company provided that technique to other companies in 1965 but not to the military until 1967, the company said.

Earlier in the decade, nearly two dozen military officials and chemical industry scientists met in April 1963 to issue a "general statement" about the health hazards from 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. No one raised concerns about using the chemicals in Vietnam, according to minutes from the meeting.

Evidence focused largely on the fact that more than 300 million gallons of the compounds had been used domestically since 1947, even though the formulations for Vietnam would be far more concentrated and contain more dioxin.

"The committee concluded that no health hazard is or was involved to man or domestic animals from the amounts or manner these materials were used in aforementioned exercise," the minutes show.

Nonetheless, Dow told the Tribune it had been sharing information about health issues with the military. "In fact, the chemical manufacturers, including Dow, were in dialogue with the U.S. government regarding the potential hazards of chloracne in production workers beginning as early as 1949 and continuing through the 1960s," Dow spokesman Peter Paul van de Wijs said in a written response.

In 1965, the chemical companies involved in producing the defoliants met at Dow's headquarters in Midland, Mich., to discuss the contaminant's threat to consumers.

"This material (dioxin) is exceptionally toxic; it has a tremendous potential for producing chloracne and systemic injury," Dow's chief toxicologist, V.K. Rowe, wrote to the other companies on June 24, 1965.

But none of the companies informed the military personnel charged with overseeing the defoliation contracts of the safety concerns until late 1967, according to depositions from the lawsuits.

Internal documents from multiple companies indicate they were worried about the specter of tighter regulation.

Only after a study for the National Institutes of Health showed that 2,4,5-T caused birth defects in laboratory animals did the military stop using Agent Orange, in 1970.

Alan Oates, a Vietnam veteran who chairs the Agent Orange committee for Vietnam Veterans of America, said veterans have had little luck in their legal fight for compensation since the 1984 settlement.

Veterans have argued unsuccessfully in court that the settlement was insufficient because it came too early for thousands of people whose illnesses did not develop until after all the settlement money had run out.

One unresolved issue, Oates said, is whether chemical companies can be held liable for health costs associated with birth defects seen in the children of Vietnam veterans. "Now that it's starting to show it has an impact on future generations, what is the recourse for those folks?" Oates said.