For ten years during the Vietnam War, the United States used a toxic concoction of two herbicides, labeled ‘Agent Orange,’ to wipe out large areas of Vietnam which were covered by thick jungle. The aim was to enable easier and more effective bombing of enemy bases. The issue was, Agent Orange wasn’t just an herbicide — it was also a deadly weapon, as it contains large amounts of dioxin.
Agent Orange was discovered in the year 1943 by American botanist Arthur Galston. Between the years of 1962 and 1971, the US army “showered” the deadly chemical over Southern Vietnam as part of the military operation “Ranch Hand”, or “Trail Dust.” In total, more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was used. Sadly, Agent Orange did more than contribute to the deforestation of vast areas of land. It also contaminated air, water, and food sources.
History Rundown reports that in high concentrations, dioxin can trigger severe inflammation of the skin, lungs and mucous tissues. Sometimes, the toxicity can result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary edema, and even death. The highly effective carcinogen is also known to affect the eyes, liver, and kidneys, and to cause laryngeal and lung cancer.
As a result of using Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, more than 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and at least 500,000 children were born with mild to severe birth defects. Additionally, 5 million acres of forests and millions more of farmland were destroyed. Agent Orange is said to have killed 10 times more people than all chemical weapons combined.
Because the United States didn’t “technically” violate international laws, as it signed defense treaties with Southern Vietnam’s government and its actions (for the most part) were in line with the defense treaties, there was no reprimand for using Agent Orange as a chemical weapon during the war. That doesn’t mean hundreds of thousands didn’t suffer — or continue to today.
Today, many Agent Orange victims live in Peace Villages, communities where workers care for them and try to give them a normal life. However, “normal” will never truly be possible for most, as mutations caused by Agent Orange still affect the people and the children of Vietnam. As AllThatIsInteresting reports, those who can live in Peace Village are luckier than some of their siblings. Reportedly, some victims of the chemical agent are too deformed to even survive childbirth.
“There is a room at the hospital which contains the preserved bodies of about 150 hideously deformed babies, born dead to their mothers,” one charity worker said. “Some have two heads; some have unbelievably deformed bodies and twisted limbs. They are kept as a record of the terrible consequences of chemical weaponry.”
Veterans who served in the Vietnam war, as well, returned to US soil reporting unusually high rates of lymphoma, leukemia, and cancer. The rates were highest among those who worked with Agent Orange directly.
Following are 24 haunting images from the war crime the US got away with:
1) Three planes fly over Vietnam releasing chemicals.
2) Le Van O., a 14-year-old boy who was born without eyes because of the effects of Agent Orange.
3) An aerial photograph showing the effects of Agent Orange. The land on the left hasn’t been sprayed while the land on the right has.
4) Not all of the chemicals were sprayed from above. These soldiers are spraying crops from atop a vehicle, getting up close and personal with the dangerous chemicals.
5) A ten-year-old girl born without arms writes in her schoolbook.
6) A five-year-old boy, born blind and mute because of Agent Orange poisoning, sits at the barred window of an orphanage.
7) Soldiers down below help spray Agent Orange on the jungle, getting a dangerous dose of the chemicals all over their skins in the process.
8) 55-year-old Kan Lay holds her 14-year-old son, born with severe physical disabilities because of Agent Orange.
9) Tran Thi Nghien bathes her handicapped daughter, an Agent Orange victim who is incapable of bathing herself.
10) Hoang Duc Mui, a Vietnamese veteran, speaks to American veterans during a visit to Friendship Village, Hanoi’s shelter for Agent Orange victims.
11) A soldier, after spraying the land with Agent Orange, tries to wash himself clean in some of the very waters that he had helped pollute.
12) An American veteran shows the long rashes across his arms that he developed from working with Agent Orange. Under his clothes, the rashes cover half of his body.
13) A helicopter sprays Agent Orange.