Guilty Verdict in Case of Agent Orange

by Ed Mattson


Going back to the long history of Agent Orange and its chief component, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), Wednesday I wrote about the original studies of AO by Professor E.J. Kraus, chairman of the school’s botany department, at the University of Chicago during World War II. Among the discoveries he made was that certain broadleaf vegetation could be killed by causing the plants to experience sudden, uncontrolled growth (much in the way cancer tumor growth works in the body).

Though Agent Orange was not adopted by the Department of the Army for use in WWII, it was eventually added to the arsenal in the late 1950’s and used in Vietnam beginning on January 13, 1962, as part of Operation Hades to eliminate foliage that concealed enemy movement and food supplies. Agent Orange was not the only defoliant used however, and the combination of chemicals became known as “The Rainbow Herbicides” including Agent Blue, White, and Purple. Agent Blue added arsenic to the cocktail while White and Purple included other, just as deadly combinations of chemicals. Remarkably, in spite of knowing how deadly these agents were, little training went into the storage, mixing, and handling of these products, and that is where the criminality of anyone making the case against Agent Orange and these toxins should begin.

According to theSampley Report, “Operation Hades (later called Operation Ranch Hand), the defoliation of portions of South Vietnam’s heavily forested countryside in which Viet Cong guerrillas could easily hide, began in earnest out of Tan Sun Nhut airfield. By September, 1962, the spraying program had intensified, despite an early lack of success, as U.S. officials targeted the Ca Mau Peninsula, a scene of heavy communist activity. Ranch Hand aircraft sprayed more than 9,000 acres of mangrove forests there, defoliating approximately 95 percent of the targeted area. That mission was deemed a success and full approval was given for continuation of Operation Ranch Hand as the U.S. stepped up its involvement in Vietnam”.

An estimated 12 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed over all areas of vegetation in Vietnam. The military claimed that the physical impact of humans would have little adverse effects. After all, these same herbicides were being used in the United States. In the US however, the commercial use was heavily diluted with water or oil, and mixed in proper concentrations. It is also obvious that more training in the handling of these agents occurred in the US, because in Vietnam, with the constant turnover of personnel, the military allowed applications of six to 25 times the dilution formula suggested by the manufacturer.

Again, according to the Sampley Report, “The pilots who flew these missions became so proficient at their jobs that it would take only a few minutes after reaching their target areas to dump their 1,000-gallon loads before turning for home. Flying over portions of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that had been sprayed, the pilots could see the effects of their work. Many of them adopted a grim fatalism about the job. Over the door of the ready room for Ranch Hand pilots at Tan Son Nhut Airport near Saigon hung this sign: ‘Only You Can Prevent Forests’.”

It is apparent the conduct of the US government along manufacturers of these chemicals shows willful disregard for the soldier in the field and the citizens of the countries where defoliation occurred (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). It was no secret to the government or the manufacturers that the toxicity to humans was well known, yet little if any cautions regarding herbicides were ever disclosed to those assigned to transport, mix, store, or deploy them over the countryside, thus appearing to be criminal neglect. The chemical companies even went to the extent to cover-up the potential harmful effects of dioxin by publically stating that dioxin occurred naturally in the environment and was not harmful to humans.

A review of the documents related to the use of Agent Orange from decades-old declassified papers from the companies that manufactured it and the government and military that used it, provides compelling evidence that those in charge also concealed evidence of the devastating effects it could have on people. Further review of documents from declassified files, both the government and the chemical companies knew the human health toll it could take.

If Dioxin wasn't so dangerous, why the haz-mat suits and why did the government evacuate the town of Times Beach, MO?

Additionally, from a declassified letter by V.K. Rowe (Dow’s Biochemical Research Library) to Bioproducts Manager Ross Milholland dated June 24, 1965, he states that Dow knew the dioxin could hurt people when he referenced that, “2,4,5,-trichlorophenol and 2,3,7,8, -tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (components of Agent Orange) is exceptionally toxic and it has a tremendous potential for producing chloracne and systemic injury.” This damning letter by Mr. Rowe showed that the company would suffer if word got out and went on the state, “The whole 2,4,5-T industry would be hard hit and I would expect restrictive legislation, either barring the material or putting very rigid controls upon it would occur.”

The letter closed by saying, “There is no reason why we cannot get this problem under strict control and thereby hopefully avoid restrictive legislation … I trust you will be very judicious in your use of this information. It could be quite embarrassing if it were misinterpreted or misused. Under no circumstances may this letter be reproduced, shown, or sent to anyone outside of Dow.”

There have been many cases brought to court to gain accountability for our veterans and others who have toxin related illness from Agent Orange and the other Rainbow herbicides. Each court case reveals a little more of the puzzle, but I guess we just haven’t found attorneys smart enough to tie it all together. For those of us veterans and civilians (in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Canada, Korea, and elsewhere) the evidence is more than circumstantial or prima facia and to most of us at least, has become conclusive beyond reasonable doubt.

Yet, the chemical companies, with the full support of the VA and our government, continue to contend that “there is no . . . evidence that Agent Orange was hazardous to human health” despite NAS/IOM (National Academy of Science and Institute of Medicine) which found that numerous cancers have been related to exposure to dioxin-contaminated 2,4,5-T (ingredient in Agent Orange) exposure to dioxin-contaminated 2,4,5-T (ingredient in Agent Orange) and stated that the companies had misrepresented the health effects with “patently false” assertions that none of their workers had gotten sick from dioxin poisoning.

Carrying the argument one last step is the government’s reaction to the dioxin incident in Times Beach, Missouri, a once quite little community of about 2,800 residents in eastern Missouri about 20 miles southwest of St. Louis. It was a great place to live and raise children, with plenty of open spaces, two story wood frame houses, quiet streets and none of the pollution, poverty or crime of the inner city.

For several years in the mid 1970s, dioxin laced oil had been sprayed on the town’s roads to keep down the dust. Times Beach was one of 28 eastern Missouri communities where the spraying had been done. But none of the others had the levels of dioxin contamination of Times Beach, parts of which had dioxin levels of 33,000 parts per billion, or 33,000 times more toxic than the EPA’s level of acceptance. The contamination was so bad that the government decided the only way to save the town’s residents from further damage from dioxin was to buy up all the property and move everyone out.

In early 1983, the U.S. government spent $33 million buying the 801 homes and businesses in Times Beach and relocated all the residents. The entire town was fenced in and guards were brought in to keep out the curious. “Caution, Hazardous Waste Site, Dioxin Contamination,” read the signs leading into Times Beach. Today Times Beach is but a ghost town.

So, while the government was paying off the residents of Times Beach because of dioxin contamination that didn’t even reach the levels of exposure that was used in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, it continues to deny veterans who’ve been exposed to Agent Orange and continues to stand-by the notion that as a veteran, YOU must prove beyond reasonable doubt, that Agent Orange is the cause of your health problems.

This is unacceptable behavior for any government and why we citizens must demand that carrying for all those exposed to the herbicide toxins (veterans, USO personnel, and civilian contractors) be cared for as a contractual obligation for service to their country.

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Posted by on August 31, 2011, With Reads Filed under Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

13 Responses to "Guilty Verdict in Case of Agent Orange"

  1. sgt. james c contarino sr  October 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    this agent orange battle will go on and on. the veterans affairs and the elected officials always seem to look the other way. what we need is to start a class action legal suit against the veterans affairs and federal government for denying the rights of vietnam veterans to disibility compensation they are rightfully entitled to. but it seems no lawyers have the guts to stand up to the feds or the veterans affairs. do you attorneys out there here me clear.we could be one of your relatives. but what hurts most is we went off to battle knowing no matter what we would battle. is there ant attorneys willing to do the same for us when it comes to agent orange?

  2. Randy  September 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    What gets me is vets claiming other vets do not deserve to make any claims. I’ve seen it and heard it. There are some who take advantage of the system who irk americans vet or not. I went to the VA and an administrator committed; can you believe how these people are taking advantage of the system. Still there are so many getting lawyers to fight to get them disability social security. It’s advertized every day on television. I do not hear politicians complaining about them. I mean why should they? No recoginiton there.

  3. kcnamvet6869  September 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Go to any D.A.V. V.F.W. Amvets. They will help you with your Clam. Good Luck & keep up the fight.

  4. Ed Mattson  September 2, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Guam, South Korea, and many military bases where toxins were stored.

  5. T S Umbra  September 2, 2011 at 8:13 am

    How many places like this?
    “Silent Island” et al.

  6. 60sstreetpunk  September 1, 2011 at 6:44 am

    They now have depleted uranium which in Gulf War 1991 said was harmless, and now is all over Iraq. I would ask the people who send troops off: spray some dioxin in your yard and then have your kids drink out of the well water or bring bottled dioxin contaminated water and ask them to drink it. What decent person would allow his kids to drink contaminated water,eat contaminated crops?

  7. Ed Mattson  September 1, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Like all Marines I still have my P38…’bout the best thing ever to come out of those days. Went to a mini hod rod gathering yesterday afternoon to “bench race” with old vets. This is kind of therapy for them as it’s about the only time they talk about the Sixties when they can mix in stories about their love of cars…hot rods, antique cards, and how blessed they feel to be here. Most never got PTSD counseling, but one gentleman in particular, last night re-lived his struggle with Hamburger Hill, teared up, but later told me he was glad he could finally talk about it. One never knows what path will lead to help and it all started by talking about my articles on Agent Orange.

    Great guy who’s going to help us with our Regional Car Show and Auto Auction next spring up in Hickory, NC. By then maybe a lot of his demons will have been defeated if he continues to open-up on our weekly local car get-togethers. We must never let this era slip from history without the truth being told.

  8. Charlie Cauthen  September 1, 2011 at 4:18 am

    All Vietnam vets need to google Admiral E.R. Zumwalt and read REPORT TO TO SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS. The sad truth is that the VA KNOWS the effects of A.O. better than anyone, they’ve documented and researched 100’s of thousands of Vets( lab rats) who have died from exposure. My recommendation is to seek out and find civilian doctor’s and lawyers that have won cases in the past, stay alive and sue the S— out of them.

  9. NightFlyer  August 31, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    The Dept. of Veteran Affairs had not yet compensated me nor approx. a million of us who are still alive and slowly dying off from cancer caused by Agent Orange. We were exposed in Vietnam to Agent Orange while serving there. I have put five claims in since 1991, and all have been denied because the VA will not approve the claims although I have gotten this cancer, been radiated 25 times by the VA at East Orange VAMC.

    They are clearly contributing to the neglect of all exposed Vietnam veterans. What the VA and the DoD is criminal yet our president, our Congress, and our Senators allow this non compensating of exposed and cancer ridden Vietnam veteran to continue.

    I accuse them of taking campaign donations to look the other way while we who served our country in Vietnam, were exposed to Agent Orange and got cancer, have had our lives basically destroyed because of iot, recewived in my case 25 radiation treatments at the East Orange VAMC in 2003, and can barely walk now, and my claim for compensation goes ignored.

    Who do I contact? I registered with the Agent Orange registry as well. I have been told my claim will die when I die. Fact is I am still alive for some reason and I want my compensation just like the the investors want their stock dividends for investing money in these companies such as Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

    How do I proceed in this matter when I have already filed ever form provided to me? VA has ignored many of nus and I have not heard one answer from any of the congress persons or senators I’ve written too. Does anyone know how to proceed on this issue? If yes, please tell me. Lovenguth

  10. 2429019  August 31, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Well we were give C-rats made in 1944 and 1945 that came with 4 cigerets per c- rats made in 1945 thats what we marines at the DMZ in nam so you can say the us government promoted tabaco and when we could not get C-ration we would eat water buffalo or any thing we could get from the gooks on top of yhat same went for water we drank the whole time thet were spraying suoer agent orange or agent orange 2 during 1968 and 1969 only years they sprayed agent orange II or super agent orange as it was called because they doubled the agent orange and agent white and blue and perviously before going to nam they gave all from the east coast contaminated water to drink and bath in at camp Lejune NC. So it no wander if they stall long enough that w e wont be around by 2015 according to a navy statistical study on vietnam combat vets done in 2010.
    semper fi

  11. Dave  August 31, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    The Theory of Self-Evident Truths, Will eventually consume them. Hopefuly we will see this.

  12. Ed Mattson  August 31, 2011 at 11:59 am

    The evidence is all there. The track record is indisputable. Unfortunately most attorneys are not veterans and really don’t understand the total issue and extent of what has happened and is continuing to happen right in front of their eyes. They only seem to peel away one layer at a time and that has to be the most frustrating part of trapping these bozos in their cover-ups and lies. It all needs to be laid out in open court starting back with the early research, the implementation and lack of adequate training given the continuing parade of military personnel that worked with the program and those who were continuously exposed. The biggest “dodge” is the phraseology…”Everybody didn’t get sick”, ergo, those that did, “it probably wasn’t caused by agent orange”. That’s like saying a school class with 30 kids is exposed to the flu. Only ten actually came down with it. Therefore the sick kids really don’t have the flu. Everyone’s immune system is different and everyone reacts differently to exposure to disease. The courts fall pray to the argument that every one is equally vulnerable. Were that true, then everyone who smokes or did smoke in their life would have cancer, emphysema, and other lung related diseases.

  13. 60sstreetpunk  August 31, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Nice article- I like the chemistry and what it does to living organisms.

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