Friday, March 7, 2014

The Really Forgotten of the Vietnam War
What is Agent Orange? Agent Orange along with the Rainbow Defoliants  were use by the U.S. to deprive the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army of the use of the jungle to hide troop movements, food, and cover. Defoliants were part of the U.S. military’s herbicidal warfare program to clear and prevent vegetation growth in the jungles and countryside of South Vietnam.  Operation Ranch Hand, which technically ran from 1961 to 1971 sprayed 20 million of gallons of defoliants over the countryside and brought with it long-term consequences for the civilian populations of Vietnam as well as for military personnel who were exposed to the chemicals.

Agent Orange is sometimes used broadly when talking about all of the defoliant chemicals that were used during the Vietnam War. Little known to outsiders, the chief ingredient in the defoliant chemicals, Dioxin, underwent military tests during the early Forties and revealed it to be one of the most deadly compounds recorded to date and led Congress to list Dioxin as a potential WDM (weapon of mass destruction). In the jungle battles which ensued in the South Pacific during WWII, the government opted not to use it to deprive the enemy of cover. The thought about its exposure and subsequent health problems which could occur with contact were overlooked when it came to Korea and again in Vietnam.
The problems of using such chemicals were that true-to-form, and understanding military training procedures, the safe handling, exposure, and use of Dioxin was left to happenstance, with training passed down from military personnel to military personnel, with little regard to whether or not the training was sufficient to prevent mis-handling during the mixture process; transportation; personal exposure during application; and follow-up decontamination. Also nothing was done to address the exposure our military would face when they went into the jungles and countryside following aerial spraying by planes and helicopters. And finally, with wind currents able to carry the chemical for miles outside the targeted area, it was impossible to curtail the sprayings to specific boundaries.

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