Do you want to know why the Vietnam War was one of the most horrific things this country’s every experienced?
Because of countless deaths – both by the hands of the enemy and by the hands of the United States. Because of the aftermath, a war fought for a losing cause, a generation of men tortured by memories, a nation full of women worried their husbands, fathers, sons would not come back.
Because of the lasting effects of the war.
Thousands of men walked through the rice paddies in Vietnam, fighting a war that our government thought was necessary. These thousands of men were exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical used as an herbicide in Vietnam – an herbicide that was used to help clear the vast foliage that served as a natural barrier to the American efforts.
According to Wikipedia:
During the Vietnam War, the US instituted a massive herbicidal program that ran from 1961 through 1971. The aim of the program was two-fold, one to destroy the “cover” provided by the jungle-like forest, and another to deny food to the enemy. First named Operation Trail Dust, then Operation Hades, it was finally renamed Operation Ranch Hand…
…Spraying reached its maximum during the most intense period of the war, between 1967 and 1968. After that the program “drew down”, and ended in 1971. By this point an estimated 19 million gallons of herbicide had been sprayed on Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, somewhat more than half (55%) of that Agent Orange, between 1962 and 1971. Early estimates from 1974 had placed the amounts lower, between 12 and 14 million gallons. In total about six million acres were sprayed in Vietnam alone.
The military effectiveness of the program appears debatable. Many of the areas sprayed were not directly involved in later military actions. Of course, this could be considered as evidence for the effectiveness of the program. Nor does it appear there is any measurable effect on the warfighting abilities of the groups involved, the People’s Army of Vietnam were able to mount full scale assaults in 1972 with little US intervention prior, which suggests that the program was, militarily, a failure.
Why is this important to me all of a sudden?
Because my grandfather was present on many of those rice paddy walks. My grandfather was exposed to Agent Orange. And, according to what the Army recently informed my grandmother, his sickness, his cancer, was caused in part by Agent Orange.
I think the scariest part is that Agent Orange has been found to affect the children and grandchildren of those who were exposed. I’m not sure of the validity of this. All I know is that the Vietnam War very well could have killed my grandfather.
Yet another unforgivable side effect of war.