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.


”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

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  1. Anonymous17:10

    So it would appear that anyone in Ponchatoula at that time could have a case after all; I'd be surprised if this was the only case, but is probably the only case with such obvious proof.

  2. That is correct as we see it. If others show up we will publish them here. Unfortunately for Veterans who served on the Ponchatoula, we were unable to pin down the dates that the barrels were on board beyond 1966 or 1967, We doubt that is good enough for the DVA.

    On the plus side, the Ponchatoula is already on the AO Ship list:

    "Operated on Mekong River Delta during July 1971"


  3. Another shot of barrels on the Ponchatoula. These look like orange stripes.

  4. We spent several hours searching through the photos of the Ponchaatoula the past few days. The photo in question shows a batch of OD or Brown barrels on the left, laying on their side...and some have what appears to be orange printing on them but not orange bands.

    The upright batch on the right of the photo shows reflection on the creased upper ridge. If you'll note, the sun appears to be from behind the photographer. All the barrels appear to us to be the same.

  5. Anonymous11:59

    Today I was told by a retired Master Chief who served on the USS Bonhomme Richard that Agent Orange was mixed on that vessel.

  6. Not even close. This is the last one of these I will post.

    First, it is hearsay. Second, there is no photographic or documentary evidence. Third, while we respect Master Chiefs, this is absurd on the face of it.

    Don't know what was being mixed but it wasn't Agent Orange.

    Please, readers, do not send comments like the above. They will not be posted.


  7. scifimom@aol.com14:58

    Is there anyway I can find out who this picture is from? My husband was on the Ponchutula between these years and I am currently fighting with the VA about his exposure. It's been going on for over a year even though we I have a "a buddy letter stating that he was onleave in Viet Nam and that there was Agent Orange on the ship. I fell this picture would definately help if I could name the person or get a letter from the person who had the picture.

  8. The photographs were passed to me by an intermediary and that person asked the source when they were taken. This was the response:

    "The guy who was onboard the Ponchatoula says the barrels were loaded on the ship in Pearl 1966/1967 and off loaded them to a Barge at sea not far from land Vietnam."

    Please also note the Ponchatoula is on the AO list for July 1971.