From 1962 to 1972, Australia, with the United States, was involved in a war in Vietnam.
There is a wound from that war still unhealed. It is the account of the Agent Orange controversy in Australia’s Official War History. It insults worthy Vietnam veterans and gets the story oh so wrong. But we should start from the beginning.
The US Air Force wanted to unleash its massive firepower but the enemy was hidden under the dense canopy of the Vietnamese jungles. To the US Air Force the solution was simple; defoliate the jungles by the aerial spraying millions of litres of herbicides, especially Agent Orange. Australian and US troops as well as the local population suffered exposure to this deluge of Agent Orange through its pollution of the waterways, foliage and the ground as well as directly from the air.
After the war, evidence emerged from the US that exposure to Agent Orange might cause certain cancers and other problems. The evidence, however, was contested; some experts arguing one way, some the other. But the law applying to war veterans gave them the benefit of any doubt raised by this clash of expert opinion.
This concession for war veterans was not new. Since the First World War, Federal Parliaments had passed legislation making special provision for dealing with war caused injury and illness.
So Vietnam veterans were confident their claims for medical treatment and compensation for cancer linked with exposure to Agent Orange would succeed.
READ MORE & WATCH VIDEO: Australian War Memorial