Trust another Zoomie to come up with a better way to skin a cat. Meet Member Karen- formerly of the Zoomer profession herself- and married to a Thailand groundpounder with all kinds of Orange Fertilizer problems. Karen has cut the Gordian Knot many of us encountered when we arrived to fight the war in Krong Thai, which is how we said it there. In fact Thai means “free” and that is, in essence, what Karen has done.
Being on the other side of some magical fence, we were never accorded the presumption of exposure to the stuff. In fact, in order not to ruffle the feathers of the King, our ambassador advised the military not to spray the stuff anywhere in Thailand unless it was an absolute necessity to insure base security. In that event, the military was instructed to refer to it as a “tactical herbicide” akin to Tordon (Agent White) or some of the other “benign” flavors of what we call Roundup nowadays. Calling it a tactical herbicide preserved the fig leaf of respectability but all parties knew full well it was the magic fertilizer.
Most do not know but Agent Orange doesn’t “kill” vegetation. It’s a massive dose of amphetamine and the plant feels impelled to grow like Jack’s famous beanstalk-immediately. The cell structure quickly breaks down under the overload and the plant dies thinking it has just begun to be all it can be.
The Gordian Knot that Alexander the Great solved by cutting is the enigma of how we all arrived in Thailand. VA would have us believe we materialized like the doomooflotchie on Star Trek. ” Aye, Cap’n. Beaming down landing party of nine to Don Muang Airpatch. On their way.” We all remember something different if we were Army, Air Force and sometimes the odd Marine. Our memory began a day and a half earlier in San Francisco. Most of us reported to Military Air Transport Service (MATS) at Travis Air Force Base. There we boarded a spartan, stripped down 707 leased from World Airways. This would also be the last time a lot of us saw a roundeye for a year.
World Airways had intermediary stops as needed for fuel. As was customary, refueling requires deplaning. From Travis, my flight landed in Honolulu. Next stop was Guam. A short hop to Yakota AB in Japan, on to Clark AB in Manila and then the final leg down to Saigon. Again, deplaning was required for refueling. Up until about the time of the Parrot’s Beak intrusion into Cambodia (March 1970), World Airways usually flew on to Bangkok and landed at Don Muang Air Base to the north of the city.
Looking at the map. one can see the problem of flying over the battle. With the 707’s abysmal climb capability, it had a hard time making it up to 20,000 feet before crossing over the thick of the battle. The border was barely 130 klics away and Phnom Penh was only another 50. In order to avoid any problems with SAMs, a C-130 Klong Flight was introduced and made the trip twice daily.
Essentially, everyone had boots on the ground in the most real sense. Yep. Boots on the PSP or concrete at Tan Son Nhut Air Patch. This satisfies the codicil of who was or was not “boots on the ground”. It makes no difference you were there for an hour of two once when you arrived and again when you left. The point was that you “touched” the land mass of the Republic of South Vietnam and thus were presumptively exposed.
Karen did what I never had to. She excavated that link by several different avenues and then found the decisions at the Board of Veterans Appeals Website and downloaded them as well. I was sent TDY back to Saigon in July 1970 after sailing through in May and had kept my orders showing proof of boots on land then. Before I found the TDY orders, I had been contemplating what Karen did but that was back in 1994. Internet access to that kind of thing would have been a real stroke of luck if I even had had a clue how to.
What this means for John Q. Thailand Vet is glaringly obvious. We’ve been playing their simple-minded game for about a decade while mincing what the meaning of “tactical herbicide” is. All this time, VA has known full well what we knew. Everyone, with the exception of squids who sailed over on their boats, had to have landed at Tan Son Nhut and thus fulfilled the requirement that s/he touch red clay to join the Nehmer class. Of course, none of us could produce a boarding pass for this airplane flight so we were shit out of luck to prove that we did take a smoke break in a war zone. As an aside, legally speaking, I think we should all be accorded a bye on lay testimony to that effect based on Layno v. Brown ( anything that comes to you via your five senses is admissible). The sign (above) was right there in front of our eyes. The civilian terminal even had huge, red neon letters you could see from two miles out-at night.
Here’s the link to the BVA win based on the World Airways theory. This decision relied on the Pan Am flights but the technique is identical.
Here’s the .jpgs for all the pilots and attendants who flew us.
Here is the link to AO being sprayed around Sattahip and U-Tapao via the CHECO reports.
Karen is wisely doubling down on her husband’s claim. In addition to the World Airways path, she is also going for residual perimeter duty exposure. She has three buddy letters of confirmation of duties on perimeter. She also has the complete, unredacted CHECO report and if she doesn’t, it’s above underneath the VCM medal.
This finally solves the conundrum of how we all arrived in Thailand absent alien abduction. VA is not going to like the floodgates to open on this and let another million or so Vets through the door. They really shouldn’t worry as they are getting off lightly. Think how many already died without getting this presumption.
Thailand Veterans, start your keyboards. And a warm thank you to Karen for her hard work that others might win as well. I’m telling you guys. These women are carrying the water more and more nowadays and making you look lazy.