This one sure didn’t need a panel to figure out. A pair of witching sticks would have led to the water purification device and a quick check of its machinations. Similarly, a cursory examination of the squadrons assigned to the A/C carrier would be equally dispositive of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Either way its going to come up VA-5, Procopio-0.
Alfred Procopio is reporting what some might politely call incredible here. He insists he worked on and maintained spraying equipment for Agent Orange on specific aircraft launched from the USS Intrepid’s decks. That would be one of the aircraft carriers on YankeeStation in the Gulf of Tonkin (north end of the bathtub), or Dixie Station to the southern end of the So. China sea adjacent to the Republic of South Vietnam where they were launching airstrikes on Hanoi Jane’s BFFs. Every aircraft right down to the name of the pilot, rank, airspeed and tail number is a matter of record. Call sign? You bet. Mission profile? Check. Ordnance and quantity? Roger that. Nobody is going to be able to fudge the make and model of the aircraft and there is no need to.
While the record does not specify what particular time period he was there, Alfred’s service folder reflects he was in the Navy from 1963 to 1967. Since history teaches us that we didn’t begin terraforming the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam (DRV) until March 2nd, 1965, I feel we can presume Almeister was there about then. What is problematic right off the bat is how much spraying was done
a) in North Vietnam
b) by the U.S Navy and;
c) specifically by large, tank-equipped US Navy aircraft launched from the decks of the USS Intrepid.
Herein lies a big problem with history yet again. Very little AO or other rainbow flavors were sprayed directly on the DRV. The majority was sprayed in the former Republic of Vietnam (RVN) and Laos. Cambodia got its fair share along its common border with the RVN around the Ho Chi Minh trail. We won’t go into Thailand, the Philippines, etc. because that isn’t germane to this discussion. Operation Trail Dust sprayed twenty million gallons on the trail. Operation Ranch Hand, a strictly USAF-operated spray program, sprayed the other 95% in theater. So the Alster is asking us to believe the USS Intrepid was involved in this and he was assigned to the outfit charged with AO air ops.
Back the boat back up to the dock, Gilligan. This should be a no-brainer. The records of large displacement hulls are extensive. If we want to know what was served for dinner on-board March 2nd, 1965, it would be annotated. Similarly, every squadron or air detachment assigned on board needed space for their birds. You don’t spray AO with F-4s and A-7s. Storing AO below decks would compete with valuable space for munitions and aviation gasoline. By rights, others would be exposed as well. Air America did some tactical spraying up country when I was there with a PC-6 Porter. That was a prop job with a max speed of about 120 knots. It was terribly inefficient but great for pesky little hilltop applications. The Navy had other fish to fry like SAM sites and interdiction-not to mention all those tempting bridge targets in downtown Haiphong. The allegation that this transpired on the Intrepid is, to say the least, incredible on its face but I wasn’t there. I’m opining. Given the Squadron name and number of this spraying outfit, assuming it wasn’t the 709th Flying Orkins, should be easy to ascertain, and to find others similarly employed who can corroborate Mr. Procopio’s claims. AO wasn’t exactly a classified operation.
The next problem isn’t Mr. Procopio’s. We all know the Haas decision fenced out the Blue water Navy from AO. We also now know that VA and the military have been less than forthcoming about where this stuff was sprayed for decades-even scores of years. It would not surprise me to learn that evaporator-style freshwater “stills” could, and did, allow picloram and dioxin (2,4,5-T) to pass through into potable supplies. VA would never admit as much. Pigs will fly sooner because if that became a finding, the Blue Water Boys would break the bank. There would go the bonuses and the VA’s legendary Human Resources Orlando Spring Breaks.
Mr. Procopio’s claim will run up on the rocks, not for the alleged water pollution claim, but rather for the allegation that spray planes were launched from the Intrepid. Simply testifying that this happened will not put the chicken in the pot. Several buddy statements won’t, either. No, Alfred, the ugly fact is that you, your attorney, or the US Navy will need to come forward with credible evidence this scenario came to pass. This is a fine time to figure this out. VA operates a two-way street apropos the duty to assist. They are not going to find anything to support your claim. It behooves you, if indeed you are legitimate, to start rounding up the usual witnesses and sober them up before testifying. DD 214s proving service aboard the carrier will need to be anally specific about MOS and duty description If your MOS says you were a cook, this dog won’t hunt.
Due diligence by VA might have put paid to these kinds of claims one way or another long before expensive, scarce judicial resources were brought in. I don’t question Mr. Procopio’s belief he is right. I question the propriety of continuing to insist on producing the evidence when it would appear there is none to bring forth. Were it there, it would be glaring and exculpatory to one party only. It may come to pass that this will end up in the Frivolous Filings folder. That would be a shame. Equally shameful would be a complete whitewash on VA’s part by failing to give credence to his contentions and not even calling in the bloodhounds.
I know only too well how many times I cried WOLF! between 1989 and 1992 to no avail. VA has a miserable track record in that regard so I will not denigrate Mr. Procopio’s claims. This is an excellent time for him to beat feet back to town and start looking for New and Material evidence to convince them.
We have reached the perfect storm at the vA. Everything is plausible-but not proven, Everything is too speculative so let’s defer it for a decade until he dies. The claim is credible-but he/she isn’t. Grant if you can-but you don’t have to because the M-21 Adjudications Manual gives you a perfect denial reason virtually every time. The Vet has a viable nexus letter from his doctor-so let’s run to the VHA and get our “expert” to rebut his. Naturally ours is more probative and had the Veteran’s records to base his reasoning on. Et cetera.
Justice was not done here today. Justice was deferred for a year. The necktie party is still on the books for 2014 when he comes back to 625 Wagonburner Ave. NW. That much is preordained. Fox Mulder said the truth is out there. Your mission, should you decide to accept it Mr. Procopio, is to find the records yourself to prove your contention. Simply sitting on your hands and claiming you won because they have not disproved your allegations, or conversely, haven’t helped prove you right will not win the day. We witnessed this phenomenon in Mr. Wayne Theofrastou’s CAVC decision when he demanded vA come up with the lot number and batch of the Gamma Globulin shots he was given in Basic-40 years ago, Helloooooooooooooooooooo?
We have not heard the last of Alfred.