The Vietnam War, or also referred to as The Second Indochina War, started on September 26, 1959 and lasted until April 30, 1975. The war was between the communist North Vietnam and the government of South Vietnam, taking place in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
In 1959, two US military advisors were killed by Viet Minh guerillas in South Vietnam, and were the first American deaths in the Second Indochina War, starting what we know today as the Vietnam War. The US entered this war along with other anti-communist nations supporting the South Vietnam government to help prevent the takeover of South Vietnam. The 16 year cold war killed over 58,000 Americans with over 153,000 wounded, leaving an estimated 1800 still unaccounted for today.
Various war weapons were used in the Vietnam including herbicides. These herbicides were developed for the military to help reduce plant and vegetation in dense terrains, bringing the enemy out of hiding and protecting the American troops and their allies from ambush. They were also used to destroy any food crops that the Viet Cong relied on to feed their army of soldiers. Statistics show that over 20 million gallons were sprayed with 15 different herbicides, some being color coded arriving in barrels, and all supposedly with no harmful effects to humans. The spray was released from airplanes, helicopters, trucks, and soldiers carrying backpack sprayers. Little did anyone know at this time, that more tragic history surrounding the Vietnam war was about to unfold, and the name of the devil was Agent Orange.
Agent Orange was a code name for the barrel with the orange colored steel band. Chemically, it is a 50/50 mixture of two different herbicides, 2, 4-D, and 2, 4, 5-T, and 11 million gallons of this toxic defoliant was used between 1965 through 1970. Over 6,000 missions, with 10% being over Vietnam, were sprayed with Agent Orange, and some in Cambodia and Laos to utilize the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was a key supply route for the Viet Cong. Agent Orange killed vegetation of all types including the root systems, leaving barren trees and undergrowth blackened and foul smelling.
One of the components of Agent Orange was a chemical called Dioxin, which today is considered to be one of the most dangerous substances in the world. Dioxin is also known as TCDD, which caused a variety of adverse health effects in lab animals, and has been linked to numerous potentially dangerous and deadly health problems. The World Health Organization has since classified the chemical Dioxin as a known human carcinogen which can damage sensitive parts of the body like the endoctrine, immune, and nervous systems.
Many Americans still continue to suffer from different health problems due to Agent Orange and Dioxin with some being passed on down to their children with various complications. In 1978 the Veterans Administration set up a program to help veterans with their needs from being exposed to Agent Orange. Some of the effects from this devastating chemical are as follows:
- Skin irritation and some skin diseases like Chloracne
- Nerve disorders including peripheral neuropathy
- Type 2 diabetes
- Miscarriages in women
- Birth defects, some physical deformaties and Spina Befida
- Neurological disorders
Lawsuits have been filed accusing the chemical companies of war crimes because they sold Agent Orange to the military and companies such as Monsanto, Hercules, Dow, and Diamond Shamrock knew about the dangers of the herbicide but did not reveal them. In 1984 a huge class-action lawsuit was settled in the U.S. courts, with seven U.S. companies agreeing to pay a total of 180 million dollars to 291,000 people, with most of them being Vietnam war veterans. The final settlement which included interest was around 240 million dollars. The tragedy surrounding Agent Orange with Dioxin still goes on today.