Tuesday, January 24, 2012

VASVW set to start House of Reps Campaign

The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War [VASVW] is set to begin its member mailing campaign to members of Congress.

Each member gets a personalized letter to their specific Representative, on VASVW stationery to print, fax and then mail to his or her US Representative. The letter is asking the Representative to support HR 3612, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2011.  Included in the email is contact information including mailing address, and DC fax number of that member's Representative. The member is then asked to fax the letter to his or her Representative, and then physically mail it.

Members are also urged to contact their Representative's local office to arrange a meeting with their Representative, and/or to have one of VASVW's Legislative Advocates meet with the Representative and staff at their DC office.

Upon completion of the campaign in the House of Representatives, we will begin another campaign in the Senate that works the same way.

There is strength in numbers. Why not join the 400 members of VASVW today, and add your voice to the member's messages to Congress?

Click here to register to join today. 

Welcome home and Welcome Aboard! 

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New AO Ship List out!

A new list adding 47 new ships to the list is now posted on the DVA website at this site: Ship List

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Seventh Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Exception to the Rule

We have provided information that according to a paper presented by Dr. Jeanne Stellman of Columbia University before The Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure in September of 2010 no US Navy commissioned ships carried Tactical Herbicides to or from Vietnam. We were in attendance at that presentation.

Very clearly, Dr. Stellman, who made an impressive and incredibly deep study of Operation Ranch Hand Missions, made the statement that no herbicides were carried on US Navy commissioned ships.

We have no reason to doubt Dr. Stellman’s report.

We have been presented with an exception. A Blue Water Navy Veteran provided us with a photograph of what is apparently many barrels of Agent White on the deck of the USS Ponchatoula AO 148, a US Navy Fleet Oiler, in either 1966 or 1967.

As promised, here is the best rendition of the photograph in our possession.


Here is an expanded view:



According to the Veteran who supplied these images, and two others that were close-ups of the same barrels, the herbicides were loaded in Pearl Harbor, and off loaded to a barge at sea, off the coast of Vietnam.

Here is our take on this photo, which we believe to be a valid photograph of Tactical Herbicides onboard a US Navy Commissioned Vessel during the Vietnam War:

We believe these barrels were not a part of the US Air Force’s Operation Ranch Hand, but instead were destined for use as part of the US Army’s on-the-ground spray program on base perimeters, or, depending on which part of the coast of Vietnam it was off-loaded, it could have been destined to some of the remote bases along the Thai-Vietnamese Border, or the Thai-Cambodian Border, or the Thai-Laotian Border. They also could have conceivably gone to Brown Water use along the waterways that our Naval Riverine forces frequented. We do not believe these barrels would have been a part of the Air Force Ranch Hand Operation. This was likely a small supply for use on an ad hoc basis, such as for preparation of a watercourse for Naval Riverine Ops, or small outpost preparation in Thailand.

Accordingly, we believe this photo is likely the exception that proves the rule. At this point, after 6 or 7 months of having asked for proof such as this, this is the only proof to come forward. Undoubtedly there is other proof out there, but not much.


VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Seventh Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

AO on Navy Ships? [Updated and reposted]

 Warning: The following will contain a lot of information that will upset many of you who read it. Be advised. We have researched this quite extensively.

We periodically get claims and queries from folks who served in the Blue Water Navy off Vietnam during the Vietnam War. They claim exposure to tactical herbicides in several ways, the most frequent of which are from leaking barrels stored on a hangar deck, or in some space the crew regularly accessed, and the other route was in cleaning aircraft returned from low level missions over South Vietnam.

These folks actually believe this, and in some cases that belief is driven by a desperation forced upon them by Congressional inaction and DVA anti-Veteran policies. We don’t believe that any one of the folks making these claims are knowingly lying, but instead believe them to be seriously mistaken.

Here are some facts. All herbicides were shipped to Vietnam and turned over to the government of the Republic of Vietnam. The barrels were black and had bands painted around them near their middle or top, that were color coded to match the various rainbow herbicides. They got their common names from those bands. Barrels that were all orange did NOT contain Agent Orange. Black barrels with an orange band painted around the barrel did. Black barrels with a white band painted around them contained Agent White, and so on.

The barrels were shipped on merchant ships under short term contract to the Department of Defense, or on board USNS [US Naval Ships], which are merchant type vessels, usually for one type of cargo or another, contracted long term to the US Navy and some of their crew were Navy personnel. [USNS ships provide a much closer supporting role today than they did during the Vietnam War. Back then all they basically did was haul stuff, usually for the Navy, but sometimes for the Department of Defense, or if it was a smaller vessel it was used for research or spying.] USNS Ships were NOT commissioned Naval Vessels, as the Fleet vessels were. Hence the difference between USS [commissioned] and USNS [not commissioned].

On arrival in Vietnam, the barrels were turned over to the government of the Republic of Vietnam [RVN].

Each spray mission required approval from the RVN government, and requests for such missions went up the military chain of command, across DC to the State Department, back to the US Embassy in Saigon, to the Government of RVN and then back the same path. Approvals sometimes took many months to get back to where they originated. When they did, a requisition had to be made to the RVN government storage facility to get the appropriate barrels of tactical herbicides.

Think about it this way: What would the end use for these barrels be on smaller US Navy vessels? What were the Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts, and Mine Sweepers going to do with barrels of herbicides?

Ask yourself this question: How did Navy ships with herbicides on board take part in the spray process? What was their role?

The answers should be apparent. There was no Navy role in this.

Were there exceptions? It is possible. Anything is possible. But to claim they were carried on Aircraft Carriers and Cruisers and Destroyers, etc. just defies logic. Were there leaking barrels on those ships? Certainly, in all likelihood there were. Were they leaking tactical herbicides? No. Most likely it was light machine oil, dry cleaning fluid, or a chemical like Silvex that was used to clean the intake ports for the water desalinization system, or any of a myriad of other chemicals used in the day-to-day maintenance of US Navy warships. [Silvex is a nasty agent, almost as dirty as the tactical herbicides. But that is a story for another day.] The odds of contamination from barrels on board US Navy ships were astronomically higher for almost anything shipped in a barrel than they were for it to be tactical herbicides.

Let’s talk aircraft contamination. Our brave pilots, and they were extremely brave, would often risk their aircraft and themselves in performing their missions as precisely as possible. Delivering a weapon to the ground from an aircraft flying four or five hundred miles an hour requires a high degree of skill. Sometimes, when flying missions over dense jungle canopy, the pilots would fly so low their planes would come back with green stains on their bellies. That is really close air support. We are sure the grunts on the ground appreciated their efforts.

We have had folks tell us their aircraft came back with orange stains, apparent proof that their aircraft was contaminated by Agent Orange.

The tactical herbicides were colorless for the most part, and were mixed with oil to help the chemicals stick to the vegetation. We don’t know what caused the orange stains on their aircraft, but it wasn’t a tactical herbicide.

First, missions did not go where spraying was being done. There was no desire to draw attention to the spray missions and therefore draw fire from the ground. Enough ground fire occurred that several of the C-123’s were lost to enemy fire. Certainly, if a plane came under fire they would call for help from any available air assets nearby, and unless otherwise engaged, those air assets would respond, and would show up long after the spray aircraft beat a hasty retreat.

If a maintenance crewmember of an aircraft wants to tell us his aircraft came back to the Carrier with green stains on it, we have no problem with that. Orange stains are a different story. Perhaps the plane went too low over an orange grove. Perhaps any number of things happened. But coming back contaminated by tactical herbicides was not one of them. It might have been coolant, or hydraulic fluid, or any number of things -- but not Agent Orange.

In the Brown Water Navy, sometimes the small river vessels would spray directly from a barrel of herbicide on the deck of the patrol boat. There are photos of such on the Internet. But we are talking about Blue Water Navy here, not Brown Water Navy. Army personnel sprayed from helicopters, and from armored personnel carriers, and from trucks and jeeps. So did Naval personnel at the Naval Bases on both sides of the South China Sea. But such spraying was not conducted by fleet elements.

People send us photos of stacks of barrels on board Navy ships. The barrels are not the right color to contain tactical herbicides, nor are they marked correctly for that. Nevertheless, they insist the barrels contained Agent Orange. And they are wrong. We are sorry that we must be the bearer of bad tidings, but in our estimation, presenting a claim based on any of the above scenarios to the DVA would be ludicrous.

If someone has photographs, good quality photographs of barrels of tactical herbicides on board US Navy commissioned Blue Water vessels, send them to us using the “email me” link found near the top of the left column. We will gladly publish them here, and print a correction.

The best plan of action is to keep alive a general claim based on drinking water contamination via runoff as the Australians proved to happen. And join us [VASVW] in advocating for S.1629, the Senate version of the Agent Orange Equity Act, and its House version HR 3612. It is the best chance to gain benefits for Blue Water Sailors that exists today. Those two bills are far superior to the bill in the house, HR 812, which is the same bloated bill Bob Filner ran out two years ago, got plenty of support for, and then refused to take it out of the subcommittee where it was buried.

With bipartisan sponsors, both S.1629 and HR 3612 have a very good chance of passing and are far less expensive than the current House bill HR 812.

S.1629 and HR 3612 call for presumptive eligibility to be applied to crews on ships that were within the 12 mile limit to Vietnamese Territorial Waters. We believe that 90% or more of the ships in the Combat Zone approached the shore close enough to qualify at some point or another on their deployments.

So, join us at the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War [VASVW] today and help us with our grassroots campaign to move the Senate Bill forward. Click the word “Join”.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2011: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Seventh Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.