Agent Orange: Its Effects Still Haunt Veterans & Their Children Today (fascinating images)

Agent Orange has long been known as the toxic substance used with too much abandon and not enough care by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) has recently urged Veterans Affairs in the U.S. to take a closer look at the consequences of the deadly toxin not just on American soldiers, but on the children of those soldiers.

NASEM now suspects that the toxin has caused substantial harm to many young people whose fathers fought in the conflict or were otherwise exposed.

The dense inland forests of South Vietnam contained a vast diversity of species. The tree species varied in height, usually forming two and occasionally three rather indistinct strata (storeys). The upper canopy usually attained a height of 20 to 40 m (Photograph courtesy of J. Ray Frank, Frederick, Maryland).
The dense inland forests of South Vietnam contained a vast diversity of species. The tree species varied in height, usually forming two and occasionally three rather indistinct strata (storeys). The upper canopy usually attained a height of 20 to 40 m (Photograph courtesy of J. Ray Frank, Frederick, Maryland).

The herbicide was spread widely, over rice paddies and other foliage, to kill the lush greenery of the Vietnamese countryside, in order to reveal where enemy fighters were located.

U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War

NASEM released a statement last week saying “there are relatively few studies on the health effects of paternal chemical exposures on their descendants, and none address Vietnam veterans specifically.”

Military officials acknowledge that 20 million gallons of Agent Orange were dumped on the country between 1962 and 1971. The number of military personnel affected is not precisely known, but it is estimated to be anywhere between 2.6 million and 4.3 million people.

NASEM says there is enough evidence of Agent Orange’s toxic effects to reach a conclusion about its link to hypertension. However, not all the illnesses the study investigated had such a strong connection.

Stacks of 200 L (55 gallon) drums containing Agent Orange.
Stacks of 200 L (55 gallon) drums containing Agent Orange.

Prior studies described the link to high blood pressure as merely “limited or suggestive,” but this statement now substantiates the link. NASEM go on to say that high blood pressure is the most “self-reported” illness among the conditions studied.

One illness considered common in the children of Vietnam vets is Spina Bifida, a defect in the spinal cord that causes great pain and problems with movement.

Another illness considered but not conclusively linked to the herbicide, is Type II Diabetes. The connection between the latter condition and Agent Orange remains at “limited or suggestive,” with no solid link established yet.

A person with birth deformities associated with prenatal exposure to Agent Orange.Photo: Emilio Labrador CC BY 2.0
A person with birth deformities associated with prenatal exposure to Agent Orange.Photo: Emilio Labrador CC BY 2.0

However, some people think it’s time to stop studying the link between these illnesses and Agent Orange, and instead start helping those afflicted.

Betty Mekdici, executive director of Birth Defect Research for Children, in Florida, says she has seen children of veterans afflicted with everything from endocrine system problems to difficulties with their ovaries.

Her non-profit agency has collected data from 10,000 veterans, 2,000 children of Vietnam vets, and 300 grandchildren of them. She would like to see these children helped, not simply researched.

“We don’t have ten years to look at these things,” she told a British newspaper. “These kids are having these problems right now, and we need to get on it right now.”

U.S. Army armored personnel carrier (APC) spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.
U.S. Army armored personnel carrier (APC) spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.

Anjelica Caye Kuhn has Spina Bifida while her father, a Vietnam vet, has diabetes and heart problems.

In a recent email to a US news network, Anjelica expressed how she felt “imprisoned” by her condition, “all because a known toxic chemical was dumped on my unsuspecting father, and millions of other unsuspecting members of our military.”

In Vietnam, as many as three million people were negatively affected by dioxin, which lingers at the bottoms of rivers and lakes and seeps into the ground. It can easily contaminate the food chain, from the smallest microbe to the biggest fish and then make its way into humans.

The “Ranch Hand” sign at Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam, with a Fairchild C-123B Provider in the background. Note the additional sign “Courtesy of 14th SOW and 62nd Wg VNAF”.
The “Ranch Hand” sign at Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam, with a Fairchild C-123B Provider in the background. Note the additional sign “Courtesy of 14th SOW and 62nd Wg VNAF”.

The two nations have worked hard together to clean up dump sites where dioxin lingered after the war.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is currently cleaning up a 75-acre piece of land – a so-called “hot spot” – at a cost of almost $400 million (U.S.). It will take several years to finish.

Leaking Agent Orange barrels at Johnston Atoll circa 1973.
Leaking Agent Orange barrels at Johnston Atoll circa 1973.

One person who sounded hopeful recently about the massive cleanup effort was U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, who announced that the project represents “our countries’ shared vision to be honest about the past, deal responsibly with remaining legacy issues, and turn a point of contention into one of collaboration.”

A U.S. Air Force Fairchild UC-123B Provider “Ranch Hand” aircraft spraying defoliant next to a road in South Vietnam in 1962. “Operation Ranch Hand”
A U.S. Air Force Fairchild UC-123B Provider “Ranch Hand” aircraft spraying defoliant next to a road in South Vietnam in 1962. “Operation Ranch Hand”

 

Four U.S. Air Force Fairchild UC-123B Provider spray aircraft used in “Operation Ranch Hand” over Vietnam.
Four U.S. Air Force Fairchild UC-123B Provider spray aircraft used in “Operation Ranch Hand” over Vietnam.

 

A Vietcong trench revealed by U.S. Air Force “Ranch Hand” spraying. It normally took about three days for the spray to start affecting the vegetation.
A Vietcong trench revealed by U.S. Air Force “Ranch Hand” spraying. It normally took about three days for the spray to start affecting the vegetation.

 

A photograph of the effects of RANCH HAND defoliation missions flown in the spring of 1967 near Highway 19 between An Khe and Pleiku.(Photograph was taken on 31 October 1967, courtesy of J. Ray Frank, Frederick, Maryland).
A photograph of the effects of RANCH HAND defoliation missions flown in the spring of 1967 near Highway 19 between An Khe and Pleiku.(Photograph was taken on 31 October 1967, courtesy of J. Ray Frank, Frederick, Maryland).

 

Provider‖ with its Modular Internal Spray System was the ―workhorse‖ for RANCH HAND. This high-wing, twin-engine assault transport had excellent low speed maneuverability, and the high-mounted wings allowed convenient positioning of wing spray booms. Note the spray boom mounted aft of the cargo door and near the tail of the aircraft (Photograph courtesy of J. Ray Frank, Frederick, Maryland)
Provider‖ with its Modular Internal Spray System was the ―workhorse‖ for RANCH HAND. This high-wing, twin-engine assault transport had excellent low speed maneuverability, and the high-mounted wings allowed convenient positioning of wing spray booms. Note the spray boom mounted aft of the cargo door and near the tail of the aircraft (Photograph courtesy of J. Ray Frank, Frederick, Maryland)

 

Herbicides removed from Vietnam stored at Gulfport, Mississippi (USA). The last “Ranch Hand” defoiliation mission had been flown in Vietnam on 7 January 1971.
Herbicides removed from Vietnam stored at Gulfport, Mississippi (USA). The last “Ranch Hand” defoiliation mission had been flown in Vietnam on 7 January 1971.

 

USAF Photograph of the A/A 45Y-1 Internal Defoliant Dispenser (Photo courtesy of the Air Force Armament Laboratory, Eglin AFB, Florida).
USAF Photograph of the A/A 45Y-1 Internal Defoliant Dispenser (Photo courtesy of the Air Force Armament Laboratory, Eglin AFB, Florida).

 

This photograph of a RANCH HAND UC-123B aircraft spraying vegetation along the east (in this N/S oriented view) side of Highway 1, south of Tuy Hoa in Phu Yen Providence in early 1965. Note the west side of the highway had been previously sprayed (Photograph courtesy of Plant Sciences Laboratory, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland).
This photograph of a RANCH HAND UC-123B aircraft spraying vegetation along the east (in this N/S oriented view) side of Highway 1, south of Tuy Hoa in Phu Yen Providence in early 1965. Note the west side of the highway had been previously sprayed (Photograph courtesy of Plant Sciences Laboratory, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland).

 

U.S. Fairchild UC-123B Provider aircraft cropdusting in Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand which lasted from 1962 to 1971.
U.S. Fairchild UC-123B Provider aircraft cropdusting in Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand which lasted from 1962 to 1971.

 

The Military UH-1 series of helicopters generally sprayed the herbicides. The most common spray systems were the HIDAL and AGRINAUTICS units. They could be removed from the aircraft in a matter of minutes. Each unit consisted of a 760- liter tank and a collapsible 9.8-meter spray boom (Photograph courtesy of the US Army Chemical Corps).
The Military UH-1 series of helicopters generally sprayed the herbicides. The most common spray systems were the HIDAL and AGRINAUTICS units. They could be removed from the aircraft in a matter of minutes. Each unit consisted of a 760- liter tank and a collapsible 9.8-meter spray boom (Photograph courtesy of the US Army Chemical Corps).

 

Vulcanus incinerates Agent Orange during Operation Pacer HO, 1977
Vulcanus incinerates Agent Orange during Operation Pacer HO, 1977

 

Agent Orange Barrels at Johnston Atoll around circa 1976
Agent Orange Barrels at Johnston Atoll around circa 1976

 

Out of every 10,000 drums of herbicide shipped to Vietnam, about 10 of them (0.1%) were received in a damaged or defective state. Leakage from these drums contaminated the docks and the semi-trailers used to haul them to the RANCH HAND bases (Photograph courtesy of Air Force Logistics Command, Kelly AFB, Texas).
Out of every 10,000 drums of herbicide shipped to Vietnam, about 10 of them (0.1%) were received in a damaged or defective state. Leakage from these drums contaminated the docks and the semi-trailers used to haul them to the RANCH HAND bases (Photograph courtesy of Air Force Logistics Command, Kelly AFB, Texas).
Agent Orange barrel on Okinawa and Marine Scott Parton on Okinawa 1971
Agent Orange barrel on Okinawa and Marine Scott Parton on Okinawa 1971

 

Group of U.S military C-123 aircraft spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese jungle.
Group of U.S military C-123 aircraft spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese jungle.

 

 

Rusting Agent Orange barrels at Johnston Atoll, circa 1976.
Rusting Agent Orange barrels at Johnston Atoll, circa 1976.

 

Mangrove forests, like the top one east of Saigon, were often destroyed by herbicides.
Mangrove forests, like the top one east of Saigon, were often destroyed by herbicides.

 

A UH-1D helicopter from the 336th Aviation Company sprays a defoliation agent over farmland in the Mekong Delta.
A UH-1D helicopter from the 336th Aviation Company sprays a defoliation agent over farmland in the Mekong Delta.

Read another story from us: Crazy: General Westmoreland initiated plan to use nukes in Vietnam

Defoliant spray run, part of Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War by UC-123B Provider aircraft.
Defoliant spray run, part of Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War by UC-123B Provider aircraft.