Agent Orange: The Pesticide
Agent orange was a mixture of herbicides that the U.S. forces sprayed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Through many studies, scientists found that any exposure to Agent Orange may cause cancer. Hamilton Jordan feels that he may have been exposed to Agent Orange while he was in Vietnam. He developed cancer, and felt that Agent Orange contributed to this cancer.
Agent orange was the chemical that was dropped over Vietnam in the late 1960s. It was not until the 1970s that the use of Agent Orange finally ceased. These chemicals were used for two general purposes; one of these was to kill the plants and trees in the jungle to uncover the North Vietnamese armies. The jungles of Vietnam were very thick, so the armies could not be seen from an aerial view. The Americans tried to eliminate this element of surprise attack by destroying the jungles. Another reason Agent Orange was used, was to destroy the enemys food supplies. Agent orange was potent enough to contaminate all the farmland of the North Vietnamese. The Americans figured that if they could destroy the enemys food supply, then the war would not last very long. Agent orange was a dangerous chemical mixed together to create a different kind of weapon and means of attack for the Americans.
Hamilton Jordan was the author of the book, No Such Thing as a Bad Day. In his book he tells of his experiences in Vietnam as a volunteer in 1969. He first went over to Vietnam for the sense of adventure, but later realized how dumb a decision that was. He went over to Vietnam as part of the International Voluntary Service. This allowed him to do community service work in third world countries. Jordan explains, And I a twenty-three-year-old American who spoke about fifty words of Vietnamese and had never grown anything other than a mild beard was supposed to help these lifelong farmers learn to grow rice (46). While there, I developed a stiff neck followed by a violent fever (Jordan, 48). He was bed ridden for a few days, and then an American friend took him to the closes military base. He had a strange illness that could not be diagnosed. The American doctor told Jordan, I dont know what the hell it was whatever it was, we probably dont even have a name for it in American medicine. Im going to put it down as dengue fever (Jordan, 54). Jordan was released from the hospital after about five weeks of recovery.
Agent orange is made from two chemicals. This consisted of unpurified butyl esters 2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2, 4, 5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid. These chemicals were used in equal amounts. Another chemical used was 2, 3, 7, 8-tetrachlorodibenzo. This was used in small, variable proportions. Around 50 million liters of Agent Orange was dropped on Vietnam. The Vietnamese people were affected the most by this chemical. These people that were exposed to this have had abnormally high incidences of miscarriages, skin diseases, cancer, birth defects, and congenital malformations. The Americans that were affected by these chemicals went to the government to ask for help for what they had done. U. S. veterans brought a class-action lawsuit against seven herbicide makers that produced Agent Orange for the U. S. military. This was settled out of court with the establishment of a 180,000,000-dollar fund to compensate around 250 claimants and their families (Encyclopedia Britannica).
Agent orange proved to be a costly and effective weapon for the U. S. military. These dangerous chemicals played their role in the Vietnam War, and allowed the war to come to an end quicker. Hamilton Jordan and others were caused great sickness and suffering because of the use of this weapon. The U. S. government finally realized the dangers they were causing, and ceased using the dangerous Agent Orange in 1970.
Jordan, Hamilton. No Such Thing as a Bad Day. Atlanta, Georgia: Longstreet Press,
Agent Orange. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2000 ed. CD-ROM. Funk and Wagnalls