courtesy Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk, The Hatfield Group, Retired
Over the years of this writer’s service at the Library of Congress, veterans and their families have sent me questions about maps that show the locations of U.S. forces in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Chief among the reasons that they have sought this information is because some American personnel were exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Thailand. Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used to defoliate the thick jungle in Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, such as the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The intended result was to expose enemy forces who relied on the trees for cover. In Thailand, Agent Orange was used to clear the jungle around bases, as a means to enhance security. However, there was a terrible consequence: Exposure to Agent Orange resulted in cancer, birth defects, and other significant ailments. Public outcry and official investigations followed. In response to veterans and their families suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, the U.S. government makes a presumption of exposure for those who served on land in Vietnam for the purpose of filing a claim with the Veterans Administration. But in the case of veterans who served solely in Thailand, the Veterans Administration states: “To receive benefits for diseases associated with herbicide exposure, these Veterans must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides during their service as shown by evidence of daily work duties, performance evaluation reports, or other credible evidence.” This writer notes that the policy is source of debate, anger, and frustration for some American military veterans and their families. It should also be mentioned that the Veteran’s Administration outlines other situations where veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange on their website.