Vietnam veteran Paul Reutershan said on the Today show, “I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it” (Wilcox x). For the veterans that survived the Vietnam War without major physical injuries, there were still other problems to endure. After the war, many veterans faced disapproval for fighting, serious psychological problems, and for some, diseases believed to be caused by herbicides used in the war. Many veterans didn’t even think that Agent Orange could have been the cause for their diseases since the effects show themselves many years later. Reutershan was the first to publicly attribute his diseases to the herbicide Agent Orange he was exposed to during the Vietnam War. Many veterans, along with Reutershan, sought compensation from the government for diseases they knew were caused by Agent Orange.
Agent Orange was an herbicide that was widely used between 1962 and 1971 in Vietnam. The use of Agent Orange and other defoliants was referred to as Operation Ranch Hand. The objective of this operation was to defoliate the lush vegetation of Vietnam and deny cover to the Viet Cong. Agent Orange was regularly sprayed along roads and canals to prevent ambush because trucks commonly used the roads to transport supplies. Operation Ranch Hand employed 1500 soldiers who regularly sprayed defoliants by plane, helicopter, truck, riverboat, and on foot with a backpack (Dunnigan and Nofi 136). The most heavily sprayed areas were the forests near DMZ (demilitarized zone), forests at borders of Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam, forests of north and northwest Saigon, mangrove forests on the southernmost peninsula of Vietnam, and mangrove forests along the major shipping channels ...
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Gibbs, Lois Marie and the Citizens Clearing House for Hazardous Waste. Dying from Dioxin: A Citizen’s Guide to Reclaiming Our Health and Rebuilding Democracy. Boston: South End Press, 1995.
Gough, Michael. Dioxin, Agent Orange: The Facts. New York: Plenum Press, 1986.
Morrison, William H. The Elephant and the Tiger: The Full Story of the Vietnam War. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1990.
National Veterans Legal Services Program. Self help Guide On Agent Orange: Advice for Vietnam Veterans and Their Families. Washington, D.C.: NVLSP, 1997.
Summers, Harry G. Jr. Vietnam War Almanac. New York: Fact on File Publications, 1985.
Wilcox, Fred A. Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange. New York: Random House, 1983.
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