Fresh out of high school in 1968, and rated 1A in the draft; I enlisted in the navy, figuring if I was going to see Vietnam it might as well be from offshore!
Before I could say “this might have been a mistake” I found myself aboard the logistical support ship USS Platte, off the coast of south Vietnam; pumping fuel and hauling ammunition. We carried all manner of explosive and dangerous ordinance, but none with more respect than we gave those 55 gallon drums of Agent Orange, the notorious defoliant used to deprive the enemy cover.
Whenever those drums with the orange stripe around the middle came aboard everyone was extra jittery; we were never told anything about the drums contents officially mind you; yet the scuttlebutt in the fleet said the stuff had a nasty reputation & not to go near it if we could avoid doing so.
Five years after my enlistment ended I was living in Ketchikan Alaska; and was one of the founding members of a Vietnam vet outreach center. In another hasty decision, I became the groups advocate for filing Agent Orange claims with the VA.
Over the next five years I assisted several dozen fellow veterans with their Agent Orange claims. Part of my job description was to absorb everything available on the subject. I only mention these things because we’re gonna talk about Monsanto again, and maybe it’s important to know I have some skin in the game as they say.
Every story needs a beginning; and for Agent Orange that would be in a Monsanto factory explosion ironically located in Nitro West Virginia back in 1949, (the year of my beginning as well.) Monsanto was manufacturing a compound called 245T which when combined created the highly toxic by-product Dioxin. Following the explosion 228 workers developed acute cases of chloracne, an extremely disfiguring illness directly linked to dioxin exposure.
Agent Orange is what you get when you mix 235T with another toxic compound, 24D.
During the Vietnam war over 45 million liters of agent orange was sprayed, containing over 600 kilograms of pure dioxin. Dioxin is a human carcinogen, and mutagen in that serious genetic malfunctions occur as well as cancer.
The spraying program contaminated over 3 million people, including many thousands of American servicemen; and is still claiming victims 45 years later. When humans are contaminated with dioxin, it is primarily stored in the fatty tissue. When you get discharged from the military and become a civilian again, your entire lifestyle changes dramatically; and sudden weight loss is often the first of such changes, which releases the dioxin back directly into the veterans bloodstream and activating it.
As you can imagine, reunions with loved ones also happen a lot, with lots of lovemaking in the first weeks especially. So, not only is the dioxin now active in the returning veterans bloodstream, but he is also passing it along to his wife, & is guaranteed to infect any children conceived during homecoming intercourse.
Monsanto’s own research into dioxin showed the toxicity & lethality of the stuff; so they cooked the books, skewed the results and decreed that there were no harmful effects from using agent orange or dioxin. For the next ten years, the Veterans Administration denied every single agent orange claim, based on Monsanto’s own false reports.
Only after a decade of relentless effort by veterans support advocates, did the government finally relent, a little, and grudgingly begin granting limited benefits for dioxin contamination.
Read More: Here