While I cannot say I’ve seen Agents Green, Purple or Pink, in a barrel or out, I have seen Agents Orange, Blue and White (Tordon 101)-both falling from the sky and in drums. Fifty gallon drums are hard to miss. Either they are full, empty, marked as contaminated or stored in a specific area according to use.
AvGas or 130 octane was specifically marked and had nomenclature printed to that effect. 130 was generally in oversize numbers to distinguish it from JP 4 kerosene for jet engines and Hueys. 90 weight gear lube was indistinguishable in its OD green paint from any other petroleum product. They didn’t have color bands like AO and A Blue. Agent White didn’t have a white band at all. It was labeled as Tordon 101 and had a list of goodies including : 21.2% (acid weight basis) triisopropanolamine salts of 2,4-D and 5.7% picloram .Other than the stable 2,4- D, Agent White had no dioxin and was not prone to break down into toxic subchemicals…. that we know of… yet… This is why I so vividly remember seeing the drums in their own protected revetments. Moreover, in the helter skelter world of 20 Alternate, those colored bands stood out in a sea of OD green drums.
At Udorn, all these were stored in the POL/bomb dump area at the far east side. At 20 Alternate, they were loosely shoved into a side area to the north of the C-123 that hit the Vertical speed brake (the Titty Karsts) at the end of runway 31 in 65. I’ve searched photos but found none during 1970 showing them.
Why they were stored there after the 123 ran out of laterite is beyond me. They weren’t over in the POL/bomb dump. The Meo (Hmong) kids younger than 12 had access to this and spread it via bleach bottle scoops in each hand. They used it undiluted, without addition of any petroleum distillates. By the time you were over 12, you got a reprieve from this job. You were inducted into Vang Pao’s army.
I often wondered in the intervening years after 1991, when I first became aware of the potential for disease and birth defects, just how much damage ensued. Not since the Thalidomide disfigurements in the late 50’s-early 60’s have we seen horrific damage due solely to a chemical so well documented. This morning I ran into a link sent me on FB that attests to the damage. While the article deals with South Vietnamese groundwater poisoning, the same identical circumstances were afoot at Ban Long Tieng and Ban Luang Prabang (L-54), not to mention our sister site five klics away over Skyline Ridge at Ban Sam Thong (LS-20).
Flying to the east of the Plain of Jars near the Ho Chi Minh trail, you began to see light tan vegetation that had died out and never came back. Jungle plants are incredibly resilient but even they have limits as to what they can withstand. So too, humans.
Having now had over thirty five years to connect the dots, the Institutes of Medicine, or IOM, has only managed to figure out spina bifida may have a connection to dioxin. This flies in the face of what’s going at ground zero- in Vietnam and Laos. We, as in-country Veterans, know this stuff is more toxic than discussed. That VA continues to lollygag about and stare at the proverbial ceiling when shown the evidence is proof of a concerted effort to ignore it in hopes it will just go away. The lag time from consideration of a disease to inclusion has always been interminable. Congress now has let VA off the hook entirely for investigating further and given them free rein to research as they see fit. We all know that is tantamount to no research at all.
Here’s the link. The pictures are pretty brutal but so is the dioxin.
Another link of graphic deformities is here
Seems VA could do a fly over at 25,000 feet and find this detritus of human life in the wake of AO. Hell, they don’t have to look any further than my Band of Brothers (and me). Seems some of these Vietnamese kids going into several generations now would be the irrefutable proof. My son was born with Ulcerative Colitis in 1988. I came down with it’s precursor, Crohn’s disease, twenty years after I left SEA in 1994. Most who are familiar with Crohns’-like diseases know this begins in childhood – and rarely, if ever, when you’re 45.
The truth is out there but why bother looking for it? The pesky truth is that the more you find out, the more you will be held accountable. At the VA, this means more work- pure anathema to them.
The smart money says VA will have their come to Jesus meeting on dioxin a few days before the last Vietnam Veteran passes in about twenty years-if any of us are lucky to survive that long. Much chest thumping and brow beating accompanied by mea culpas will fill the air. “If only we’d known.” will become the watchwords. VAOIG folks will be unable to substantiate that any of this was intentional but that new protocols have been instituted to prevent a recurrence in the future. In a tired hackneyed phase-Same Old Shit- Different Day- the IOM scientists will continue to research it-just in case.
Meanwhile, I am being inundated by my friends coming to me asking how to file for Parkinson’s disease. I hold my own hands up every morning waiting to see the beginnings of the tremors.