More than forty years after the end of the Vietnam War, civilians and veterans are still suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. The Vietnam War lasted for ten years, from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The USA decided to become involved in the conflict in Vietnam because it feared that Communism would spread from communist North Vietnam to South Vietnam, and then the rest of Asia.

Resources, such as money soldiers, and arms were sent from the USA to support the South Vietnamese Government.

Agent Orange: A Deadly Cocktail Of Tactical Herbicides

One of the weapons of choice for the U.S. Army was Agent Orange. It was a mixture of herbicides, including dioxin, which was one of the most toxic chemicals available at the time.

Agent Orange was the most notorious chemical defoliant sprayed by US forces over Vietnam to destroy jungles and vegetation, and farmlands during the Vietnam War.

Agent Orange contained dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to man, and the herbicide was nicknamed after the colored stripes on the 55-gallon drums it was delivered in.

This poisonous chemical was sprayed from the skies over the enemy territory ostensibly to clear the dense tropical vegetation that covers Vietnam.

They believed that the Viet Cong army was using the jungle as cover for their operations.

It was also designed to destroy crops and, therefore, force the enemy to their knees through hunger.

Agent Orange was amongst several herbicides that had been in use in the USA at the time, but at much lower application rates than that sprayed over Vietnam.

Agent Orange was mixed to thirteen times its usual strength and sprayed as a silent killer over the farms and hamlets of North Vietnam.

Nobody would have believed the deadly chain of results that was started by its use, nor that it would still be affecting people today!

U.S. Military Misjudged Effects Of Agent Orange

Unfortunately, the U.S. Army underestimated the impact that its toxic gas would have.

They achieved the results they wanted in the jungle, but at an enormous cost to the local inhabitants and the veterans of the war themselves.

Millions of acres of forests and farmland were destroyed between 1961 and 1971.

The farms that were destroyed belonged to civilian farmers and they starved to death along with the Viet Cong guerrilla army.

Agent Orange was considered harmless by the scientists who produced it, and also by the U.S. Army who sprayed it liberally over their enemy’s territory. It was, in fact, far from harmless.

Only after many years has the deadly impact of the use of Agent Orange become apparent.

Not only did the chemical destroy every type of plant that it touched, but it also caused deadly diseases to emerge in the population of four million who had come into contact with it. It certainly wasn’t harmless.

One of the most horrific side-effects of Agent Orange was first noticed in the multitude of Vietnamese babies who were born with birth defects during the 1960s.

Doctors in Vietnam also witnessed a steep rise in cancers and a range of other illnesses that arose in those who had been exposed to Agent Orange.

Babies Were Born With Two Heads And Some Had Severely Deformed Limbs

The real horror was the side-effects on pregnant women who had breathed in the chemical. Babies were born with horrific mutations, the like of which would not be out of place in a horror movie.

There were some with extra fingers and limbs, malformed heads, and some were even born without eyes. Many of the deformed babies were stillborn. Le Van O., a 14-year-old boy born without eyes caused by the effects of Agent Orange.

To this day there is a display, in one of the hospitals, where 150 gruesomely misshapen bodies of the dead babies have been preserved as a constant reminder of the horror.

Peace Villages For Vietnamese Victims

Some, who escaped the physical deformities of breathing in Agent Orange, have suffered from mental problems that prohibit them from living normal lives.

Special communities have been established where victims can be taken care of. They are called Peace Villages.

A whole generation of Vietnamese people has been affected by the use of Agent Orange in the skies above their land so many decades ago. Agent Orange victims who have a place to live in a Peace Village are the lucky ones.

American Veterans And Their Survivors May Be Eligible For Benefits

American soldiers who fought in Vietnam were told the biggest lie of all. They were assured that the chemicals, that they were spraying, would only kill plants.

However, veteran soldiers who had fought in the jungle started displaying a wide range of illnesses a long time after the war.

The incidence of the following diseases has been particularly noticeable in American vets: Chronic B-cell Leukaemia, Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, Hodgkin’s Disease, Ischemic Heart Disease, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease, Prostate Cancer, and Respiratory Cancers.

This seems a dreadful legacy for soldiers who faithfully fought for their country.

And in Vietnam, the suffering as a result of exposure to Agent Orange continues even though the war ended more than forty years ago. Many bear witness to their struggles after the toxic hangover of the use of Agent Orange.

The poison permeated the soil and the very fabric of their society, and it is still a threat today.

Now, after forty years, the United States has agreed to assist Vietnam in tackling the environmental impact of the use of Agent Orange during the war.

The American ambassador to Vietnam is quoted as saying, “We’re cleaning up this mess.”

The help is being welcomed by the Vietnamese authorities, but there is still bitterness and anger towards the USA as it has taken so long to acknowledge any responsibility for the test spraying of Agent Orange.

As is often the case, it’s deemed too little, too late, especially for those civilians who suffered from the effects of the toxic gas.

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