The Story of Agent Orange
Author: Edwin A. Martini
Toxic War: The Story of Agent Orange. Peter Sills. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 2014. 296 pp. $39.95 (cloth). Reviewed by Edwin A. Martini, Western Michigan University
The facts of the case are these: during the U.S. war against Vietnam, the United States and its allies sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of chemical herbicides over 2.5 million acres of land in Southeast Asia. As the war went on, it became clear that a major component in several of those herbicides, 2,4,5-T, contained significant and potentially dangerous levels of dioxin, a contaminant known to cause cancer and birth defects in lab animals. Years later, soldiers and civilians who may have been exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange, the herbicide most widely used in Vietnam, began to show some health effects that could have been caused by that exposure. Some American soldiers and their families have been compensated; many have not. No Vietnamese citizens or soldiers have been compensated. These facts are not disputed, but the jury is still out on just about every other issue related to the ongoing saga of Agent Orange, particularly the question of "what did they know, and when did they know it."