Thursday, May 26, 2011

I was exposed to Agent Orange

By Nam Sang-so

With a group of surveyors and soil engineers I participated with the initial topographic survey, soil investigation and establishment of the metes and bounds for a future U.S. Army logistics base in Oegwan, north of Daegu, in 1959.

A tract of gentle hill land of apple and pear orchards was ideally located off Route No. 1 and the Oegwan Railroad Station overlooking sleepy farming villages. There were hundreds of earth mound graves. Deep blue water was flowing silently in the west on the Nakdong River.

A year later, I supervised, under a contract with the U.S. Army Engineers District Far East, the construction of roads, utilities systems, and warehouses at the same site now mysteriously named after Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s fairyland of Alice in Wonderland, Camp Carroll. I’d never heard of a spy-like name like Agent Orange then.

In October 1965 I, as a civilian, arrived in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) for the performance of architectural/engineering services for the Office in Charge of Construction (OICC) of the United States Navy. Supervising some 40 Koreans, Filipinos, and Vietnamese surveyors I visited the Mekong Delta, Qui Nhon and Nah Trang Bases, Bien Hoa and Ankhe Air Bases, Long Binh, Bin Thy, Tuy Hoa and Chulai for hydrographic, topographic and triangulation surveys and field airbase designs. I met heavily-armored Korean army soldiers in their camouflage fatigues, lots of green shrubs stuck on their helmets on the routes in remote Vietnamese farming villages. My throat choked. I was reunited with my cousin, too, who was a major of a Korean army detachment in Vietnam.


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