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November 11, 1961

Agent Orange – A Trail of Devastation

Anna Liisa Covell

Digital Journalism and Design Masters Degree Program

University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Applied Research Project / July 2014

Vietnam Era veterans and Vietnamese people are dying every day from illnesses related to dioxin, the toxic substance in Agent Orange. Many of these people were exposed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Some are still being exposed today to deadly dioxin that remains in the environment. Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange fought over 40 years ago. Now they are fighting to save their lives. Vietnamese people have dealt with dioxin contamination in their country since the 1960’s which has caused countless cancers and birth defects.

Facing a silent killer has become the new fight for older veterans – veterans who served during one of the most turbulent times of our Nation’s history with toxic exposure  now claiming their lives at an alarming rate. My time line presents analysis, including abstract thoughts of veterans Ron ReadingerJoe Michael and Chris Johnson .

Vietnam is  facing massive clean-up challenges to rid the country of dioxin.  The people still struggle with sickness and disabilities caused by chemical exposure of dioxin which is toxic to humans and environment.  Research in my time line includes documentation to examine the devastation of Agent Orange spraying campaign during the Vietnam War.

My time line includes research from my trip to Vietnam in July 2013.  I was privileged to interview Eric Frater , an administrator from the Embassy of the United States Of America in Hanoi, Vietnam about USAid clean-up effort  at Da Nang International Airport.  I was also fortunate to visit to Friendship Village, a treatment center for Vietnamese people affected from dioxin contamination.  Comparison photos to illustrate the changes in Vietnam’s landscape, like my backdrop photo I shot for my time line called Phuong Hoang Phoenix Air Strip in Kom Tum are included throughout my project.

I utilized social media sites as a way to tell the story of Agent Orange.  My Facebook page gives readers an opportunity to comment on Agent Orange.  My Storify and Twitter  and Podbean sites are additional avenues into social media as a way to include reader participation on the subject of Agent Orange.

My time line starts on November 30, 1961 with President John F. Kennedy giving approval for use of defoliate inVietnam.  My story concludes in June 2014.  But for veterans, veteran’s families and the people of Vietnam the tragedy continues …

November 30, 1961

President Kennedy approves defoliants in Vietnam


President John F. Kennedy John F. Kennedy Museum & Library Media Gallery

President John F. Kennedy agreed to assist the government of South Vietnam with spraying defoliant to kill jungle regions and to poison the food supply of the North Vietnamese in November of 1961.

President Kennedy and South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh expressed concerns that the public would think the United States was involved in a barbaric mission to spray chemical weapons so missions were slowly started at first according to Agent Orange Record.

November 30, 1961

National Security Action approving defoliants.


National Security Action Memorandum

National Security Action Memorandum

National Security Action Memorandum, No. 115 approving the use of defoliants in Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy on November 30, 1961.  The top-secret document was declassified and released by Committee Print of Pentagon Papers. Information available on Agent Orange Record.

December 1, 1961

History of Agent Orange

YouTube video from “The World According to Monsanto” a French documentary  film summarizing the history of Agent Orange. Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and other companies produced Agent Orange for U.S. Department of Defense.

August 8, 1964

LBJ escalates war in Vietnam


President Lyndon B. Johnson History.com/Gallery of Presidents

President Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded in gaining Congressional Resolution which gave him unlimited powers to escalate the war inVietnam.

Johnson had claimed unprovoked attacks on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin by the North Vietnamese military which prompted Congress to pass a resolution to kick the war into high gear according to Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson

August 10, 1964

LBJ discuss Gulf of Tonkin

YouTube video

Published on May 31, 2014

Compiled by Anna Liisa Covell

President Johnson’s speech announcing the stepped up aggression in Vietnam claiming the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Archive information from:


March 8, 1965

Marines invade Da Nang

On 8 March 1965, two battalions of U.S. Marines waded ashore on the beaches of Da Nang. Those 3,500 soldiers were the United States first combat troops dispatched to South Vietnam to support the Saigon government according to Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson.

“I guess we’ve got no choice, but is scares the death out of me,” Johnson said. “I think everybody’s going to think, we’re landing the Marines, we’re off to battle”


March 9, 1965

Tactical blend of herbicides

Visual illustration of sprayed and un-sprayed areas of Agent Orange.

Visual illustration of sprayed and un-sprayed areas of Agent Orange. Photo credit: Dept. of Veterans Affairs


Agent Orange was a tactical blend of herbicides produced by government contractors to eradicate foliage and food supply of North Vietnamese according to the fact sheet at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It was sprayed from 1961 to 1972 in a military operation called Operation Ranch Hand. Agent Orange contained dioxin which is classified as toxic and a human carcinogen.

March 24, 1965

Dioxin exposure causes challenges


Chemical Dioxin

On March 24, 1965, Dow Chemical disclosed severe liver damage had occurred in test animals from dioxin.  Dow Chemical attempted to hide the harmful effects of dioxin from the public, according to a report in New York Times.

Dow conducted a meeting their senior scientists and other government contractors about the damaging effects of dioxin.  The information about the meeting and memorandum became available years later during pre-trial discovery for Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange case in 1986.

June 1, 1965

Spraying missions close to troops

 U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam

U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, Texas Tech University Virtual Archive, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Collection

Operation Ranch Hand spraying missions in Vietnam included areas in close proximity to living areas of troops. Agent Orange was used to clear foliage to build air strips according to U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health.

Agent Orange Review confirmed spraying missions from March 1965 through June 1970.

June 2, 1965

U.S. military planes spray Agent Orange

U.S. military planes spraying Agent Orange

U.S. military planes spraying Agent Orange Texas Tech University Virtual Archive, Douglas Pike Collection

According to historic records compiled by Georgia Tech College of Computing Operation Ranch Hand the United States Air Force equipped war planes with aerial spraying apparatus to make more frequent spraying missions for larger surface areas throughout Vietnam.

November 13, 1966

Soldiers led to believe chemicals not toxic


U.S. military spraying Agent Orange without protective gear. The Japan Times photo from Jon Mitchell story.

Military personnel were not given any protective clothing to wear while spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam according to Asia Pacific Journal.

Jon Mitchell reported Monsanto and Dow mislead soldiers on the ground to believe the chemicals were not toxic to humans in Asia-Pacific Journal.

March 2, 1967

Ron Readinger shipped to Vietnam


Ronald Readinger U.S. Marine Corp

Ronald Readinger
U.S. Marine Corp

Ron Readinger served two tours of duty as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.  Ron was shipped to Vietnam in March 1967.  He was in country until 1969 when his second tour was complete in Vietnam.

March 3, 1967

Soldier from first TET offensive



Vietnam veteran Joe Michael served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. After arriving in Vietnam, he was assigned to the motor pool as a driver for the colonel.



June 3, 1967

Scientists demand end of herbicide spraying


Agent Orange Record Infographic depicting defoliants sprayed in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971

In 1967, Federation of American Scientists submitted a petition to the White House with more than 5000 signatures of renowned scientists.

Seventeen Nobel laureates and 129 members of the National Academy of Sciences demanded the end of herbicide program according to Agent Orange Record. Scientists raised concerns about environmental and ecological impacts of spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, as reported at Agent Orange Record.

June 8, 1967

Ben Cat region-Agent Orange aerial spray map

Aerial spraying map of Vietnam supplied by Chris Johnson, Vietnam Veteran

Aerial spraying map of Vietnam supplied by Chris Johnson, Vietnam Veteran

February 11, 1969

News Reel of Agent Orange spraying

[8-11 February 1969] – from the Michael Sheets Collection, Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University.

December 3, 1969

11th Armored Calvary soldier


Chris Johnson

In December, 1969, Chris Johnson was shipped to Vietnam for his tour of duty as a soldier in the Army.  He served with the 11th Armored Calvary Division.

Johnson served for four months in Vietnam.  He was flown out after being critically injured in a fire fight with North Vietnamese soldiers.

February 4, 1971

Nixon stops Agent Orange use

President Richard M. Nixon banned the use of chemical and biological weapons according to PBS’s American Experience .

“I have decided that the United States will renounce the use of any form of deadly biological weapons that either kill or incapacitate,” Nixon said. “Our bacteriological programs in the future will be confined to research in biological defense, on techniques of immunization, and on measures on controlling and preventing the spread of disease.”

The Under Secretary of State/Memoradum for President Nixon suspends the use of chemical and biological weapons concerning crop destruction in Vietman, pending Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

January 23, 1973

Nixon announces end of Vietnam War

Uploaded to YouTube / June 5, 2014 / Compiled By Anna Liisa Covell

Miller Center Public Affairs
University of Virginia

January 23, 1973

President Richard M. Nixon’s announcement of Vietnam Peace Agreement on January 23, 1973.

February 8, 1978

Tom Daschle marching with Vietnam Vets


Tom Daschle marching with Vietnam Veterans from South Dakota in Washington, DC

Photo Credit:  Chris Johnson, Vietnam Veteran


November 30, 1983

Vietnam Veterans Against the War protest


Vietnam Veterans Against the War Protest Agent Orange, 1978

Photo credit:   Chris Johnson, Vietnam veteran



November 30, 1983

Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Vietnam Veterans Against the War picketed to bring awareness about Agent Orange use in Vietnam.  The picket kicked off the four-day National Salute supporting 2.7 million Vietnam veterans.

The picket was held in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC On November 30, 1983.  The protesting veterans wanted to focus on the class action lawsuit against chemical companies for the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

March 1, 1986

Agent Orange Review-1986

The Veterans Administration published Agent Orange Review-Information for Veterans who served in Vietnam in March, 1986 listing the first registry for veterans affected by Agent Orange.

The report has the first publication of mortality rates for Operation Ranch Hand personnel and carcinoma research in 1983.


April 10, 1986



In 1987 Monsanto Corporation, Dow Chemical and DOD were defendants in class action “AGENT ORANGE” PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION, 821 F.2d 139, 56, USLW 2028, 7 Fed.R.Serv.3d 109, brought by veterans.

The case underscores the plight of veterans while identifying the rights of DOD defense contractors who supplied Agent Orange.

Chief Judge Weinstein declared it a class action for 240,000 plaintiffs, with an award of $180 million settlement for veterans from reports at Open Jurist.


April 10, 1986

Military Contractor Defense pleaded by chemical companies


Chief Judge Weinstein ruled claims against the DOD in AGENT ORANGE PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION were deemed unwarranted according to Feres v. United States,340 U.S. 135 (1950) since the United States cannot be held liable for injuries to active military personnel.

Chemical companies pleaded “military contractor defense” in the case, stating all chemicals were produced in accordance to DOD specifications according to Open Jurist.

November 1, 1988

Vietnam Veteran founded Friendship Village


“The horrible experiences during the war and the suffering of everybody on all sides inspired me to do something that would be a living symbol of peace, reconciliation and hope.” —George Mizo Friendship Village photo

Vietnam veteran, George Mizo founded Friendship Village project in 1988 in Hanoi, Vietnam. Mizo collaborated with Vietnamese, French and United States veterans who were interested in peace and reconciliation.

Vietnam Friendship Village provides therapy, medical care, education and vocational training for Vietnamese children and veterans suffering from effects of dioxin exposure according to Friendship Village Newsletter.

March 5, 2003

National Agricultural Library

The National Agricultural Library Special Collections section houses The Alvin L Young Collection on Agent Orange.  The information in this library was created in March of 2003.   The bulk of the collection is from 1960 to 1980 which comprises of information relating to Agent Orange.

Dr. Young has done intensive research on dioxin risks on human risk and the environment.  There are over 1,400 pdf files available for the public at  Alvin L. Young Collection on Agent Orange Container List 

Alvin L. Young C

ollection on Agent Orange Container List

June 1, 2003

A Bill Bacon video about Friendship Village

Produced in 2003 by Emmy award-winning director Bill Bacon

Published on YouTube April 26, 2013

January 1, 2008

Vietnamese children report high rate birth defects


Video Credit: DocsOnline-Agent Orange Birth Defects

UNICEF researcher Frank Susa’s  2008 report estimates 1.2 million Vietnamese children have been affected by Agent Orange.

The research shows children living in areas associated with dioxin hot spots where Agent Orange was sprayed have higher rates of birth defects according to Agent Orange Record.

February 22, 2008

Veterans again denied day in court


In 2008, veterans were again denied their day in the Supreme Court in Re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation, 517F.3d 76 (2d Circ 2008, according Court Listener. The court refused to hear an appellate court ruling on Agent Orange filed by veterans. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the chemical companies, citing “government contractor defense” with precedent from Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988).

According to SCOTUS (1988), Common Law Doctrine is reserved for independent contractors that are hired to complete tasks relating to getting the “government’s work done” that have a unique federal interest.  The independent contractors have protection from lawsuits while performing contract obligations for the government.
JUSTIA US Supreme Court. (1988). Boyle vs. United Technologies.


February 22, 2008

Vietnam fails in lawsuit against United States


The Vietnamese people were prevented from suing the United States government for war crimes in Vietnam, Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chemical, 517 F.3d 104 (2d Cir. 2008).

Vietnam filed an amended complaint which alleged violations of the international, domestic and Vietnamese laws were violated by the United States military for using Agent Orange spraying campaigns. The plaintiffs also alleged that chemical companies committed same violations for supplying herbicides to the Department of Defense.

Plaintiffs alleged war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and torture were committed against the people of Vietnam by the United States government and chemical companies under the Alien Tort Statute. The plaintiffs were unsuccessful because they were unable to prove a violation of international law.

Court Listener, 2008

April 23, 2008

American Chemical and Biological Warfare


Uploaded on YouTube Apr 23, 2008

Produced by Breaking the Matrix

 The video shows effects of chemical spraying of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, the struggle of  veterans and  long-term consequences for citizens of Vietnam.

    January 15, 2009

    Vietnamese devastated by Agent Orange

    YouTube Video

    World Focus

    Mark Litke, correspondent and Ara Ayer, producer

    January 15, 2009

    April 7, 2009
    July 24, 2009

    VA approves Parkinson’s on Agent Orange

    The Department of Veterans Affairs released a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy which suggests veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during Vietnam War have an increased chance of developing Parkinson’s disease.  The decisions took effect in October, 2010.

    News from Parkinson’s Action Network reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs recongnized Parkinson’s disease along with ischemic heart condition and B-cell leukemias to be related to service in Vietnam for those veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

    February 1, 2010

    Vietnam denied day in court


    Photo Credit: Veterans for Peace

    Vietnam filed a class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical in the United States District Court, based on violation of the Geneva Agreement. The federal judge denied the claim, stating the use of Agent Orange was not a war crime against the people of Vietnam.

    The president of Veterans for Peace David Kline gave an impassioned speech supporting war veterans, Vietnamese Americans, peace activists, environmentalists and friends of Vietnam.

    Photo Credit: Veterans for Peace

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      Vietnam Veterans of America has a self-help guide for veterans who are experiencing the effects of Agent Orange called Service-Connected Disability Compensation For Exposure To Agent Orange for Veterans and their families.

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      Agent Orange barrels  in Okinawa. Photo credit: Texas Tech University Virtual Archive, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Collection

      Agent Orange barrels in Okinawa. Photo credit: Texas Tech University Virtual Archive, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Collection

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      January 4, 2013

      Check out Telly.com

      Visit Anna Liisa Covell’s site at Telly.com  for a comprehensive page listing Agent Orange videos. 

      April 24, 2013

      USAid begins Agent Orange clean-up at Da Nang

      Jewish News One
      April 24, 2013 / YouTube
      Da Nang Airport, Vietnam

      June 1, 2013

      The Embryo Project

      Arizona State University conducted The Embryo Project, research project on the effects of Agent Orange resulting in birth defects in June 2013.

      The report was inconclusive because eleven of the Vietnamese sources and two of the US non-peered reviewed studies sources were unpublished for the project.

      June 20, 2013

      31 unforgettable instance experiments all businesses college student should be aware recent

      From the current period, terrorism just end up getting widespread not simply only of the western nations however its capturing beginnings farther into Africa. The total word now poisoned with all of these self-centered all those who only but love their requirements infringing on people legal rights and walking afoul of that rules. The terrorist go to stop state separatism and stay the biggest frontiers of conditions from your total world. For the wake to the expression, weve enjoyed a terrorist episode in Kenya and Somali by Al-Shabaab as well Boko-Haram symptoms in Nigeria. We have seen much more conditions in Iraq and Syria by its Isis organization, Taliban in Afghanistan not forgetting the Al-Qaida, who has fully committed several of these terrorist will serve around the world. The plain truth is that all this terror attacks come up on the basis of the religious believers and practices. The biggest and most spiritual extremist are fundamental perpetrators of these terror driven teams. Case Studies Online Studying the Al-Shabaab’s record of starting point in Somali, it is superior that it is an Islamic extremist terror class.

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      July 9, 2013

      Bake ovens to destroy dioxin explained


      Published on YouTube – May 6, 2014

      Produced by USAid

      In-Pile Thermal Desorption (IPTD) Animation from the Environmental Remediation of Dioxin Contamination at Danang Airport Project, Danang, Vietnam.

      July 29, 2013

      U.S. Embassy talks about dioxin clean-up at Da Nang Airport

      By Anna Liisa Covell

      July 29, 2013


      Hanoi, Vietnam – The Embassy of the United States of America talks about dioxin clean-up at Da Nang International Airport.

      Chief of Environment, Science, Technology and Health, Eric M. Frater said USAid, in conjunction with Vietnamese government, agreed to clean-up environmental contamination at Da Nang International Airport caused by dioxin – dioxin, a by-product of Agent Orange residue left from spraying campaigns of Vietnam War.

      Frater said, “73,000 cubic meters of earth will be treated in a remediation process which is slated to be complete in 2016.”

      The project consists of building super ovens to bake contaminated soil to destroy dioxin. The process is called “thermal desorption treatment” to rid the environment of toxins.  Experts said Agent Orange is dissipated by sunlight and rain.  But the long term effects of dioxin remain in the soil which has a scientific shelf-life of over 500 years.

      “Hatfield Consultation Environmental Research provided limited analysis for the clean-up at Da Nang International Airport,” Frater said.

      The first step in the process is for USAid to build a super oven at the end of Da Nang’s International Airport’s tarmac.  The oven will be located in the vicinity of where United States military personnel stored Agent Orange shipments during 1961-1972.

      In the remediation process, dioxin-contaminated soil will be heated to over 800 degree Celsius by heating rods that are installed in the oven.  The oven will have electric heater system that consists of heater wells or evenly spaced heating rods.  Each rod has a minimum target heating potential of 335 degrees Celsius.

      Safety precautions at the clean-up site will be in compliance with United States regulations concerning environmental hazard sites to protect workers from dioxin exposure.

      “A committee of experts from USAid, Vietnam and United Nations will verify that at least 95 percent of dioxin has been removed from the soil at the end of the process,” Frater said.   “Any liquid or vapors will be put though a secondary extraction method to clean the dirt.”


      August 1, 2013

      Friendship Village – Hanoi, Vietnam


      Published on Jun 6, 2014

      Anna Liisa Covell / Producer
      August 1, 2013

      On August 1, 2013, Anna Liisa Covell captured inside look at from Friendship Village in Hanoi, Vietnam.

      Credit for music:  Dr. Phong Nguyen, recipient of National Heritage Fellowship (White House 1997)


      August 1, 2013

      Comparison of Rubber trees

      va002085-dead.rubber.tree rubber.trees


      The image on the left was taken from the archive file of Texas Tech University Douglas Pike Collection It shows rubber trees that had been devastated during Vietnam War from Agent Orange.

      The image of the right are rubbers trees taken August 1, 2013 by Anna Liisa Covell,  at Special Forces Green Beret Base near Kon Tum, Vietnam.

      August 2, 2013

      Phuong Hoang Phoenix Airstrip-Then and Now


      Battle of Kon Tum Airstrip  Credit:  Anna Liisa Covell/August 2013

      Phuong Hoang Phoenix Airstrip, Kon Tum, Vietnam
      Anna Liisa Covell/August 2013

      Kon Tum Airstrip Photo Credit: Gary Overby/November 1971

      Kon Tum Airstrip
      Credit: Gary Overby/November 1971