Examining the Myths of the Vietnam War
SESSION 9 (Transcript)

The Third Rail(s) of Veteran Politics

[Dr. Alan Hopewell's Segment will be provided later)]

Steve Sherman: Alan I’m getting into a stressful state myself over here.

Dr. Alan Hopewell: We’re finished up?

Steve Sherman: Yes.

Dr. Alan Hopewell: Do you want me to give a summary statement here?

Steve Sherman: No.

Dr. Alan Hopewell: Okay.

Steve Sherman: What I’m going to do is ask you to stay on the line and hear this other presentation. If we have questions afterwards dealing with both of these topics if we have time. Dr. Alan Hopewell: Okay.

Steve Sherman: We have Jack Spey who has been waiting patiently for us. He is President of the Ranch Hand Association and he has some information on Agent Orange.

Jack Spey: OK Thank you Steve, Can everyone hear me OK?

Jack Spey: As I mentioned in the earlier discussion, I joined Operation Ranch Hand in 1961 when the unit was put together. We deployed to Vietnam with sixty C-123 aircraft that were modified with a 1000 gallon spray tank in the cargo compartment and wing booms. We flew across the Pacific to Clark Air Base and then immediately deployed two aircraft after arrival of Clark into Vietnam and started the first of many test spraying missions along roads of lines of communication highways, actually the highway from Bien Hoa down to Cap St. Jacques or Vung Tau as most of you know it and on highway 13 north of Saigon going up towards Tay Ninh and we killed a few rubber trees with the missions on rubber plantation as well in following years. The military had never been involved in anything like combat crop dusting before so we had to learn as we went along, we had to learn by our mistakes, we were somewhat familiar with flat land spraying, malathion for mosquito control here in the States but that was the only experience that the military had at that time, and of course, there were not any books written about it. All the air crew were volunteers, the flight crew, the pilot and navigator and the flight engineer. If an individual came to the unit of volunteered port and decided he didn’t like it after he joined, in just about all cases that I can recall, he had the option getting a 94ER and transferring to one of the airlift squads there in Saigon. Because of the risk involved in the mission and being all volunteer, a little aura developed around the unit. The Vietnamese government or the Vietnamese Air Force honored this with honorary pilot and aircrew wings for all the aircrew that served in the unit over the 9-year period and the purple scarf which I am wearing replica became part of our uniform. At one time we worn green berets. In 1963, army special forces don’t know much about color and uniform color and all these sort of thing but when the regular army moved into Vietnam in 1965 and the _____ staff was growing and growing exponentially higher like everything happened in Vietnam over the years, there was many complaints about our Green Brace. Our green brace were tacked up on the opposite never actually ranger, Vietnamese ranger color and our _____ the Ranch Hand Sigone was on the side, we finally had to give that up or end up with the detachment commander. 12085 men served in operation Ranch and throughout the 9-year period that include the ground maintenance personal, the flight engineers pilots and the navigators. Now the whole lot of people. I mentioned early started in flaplane sprain in formation of two or three airplanes. We were operating at a 160 miles an hour and the 150 feet above the ground. So it is pretty obvious this room is about 65 feet long somewhere in that neighborhood from where I am staying into the back of the wall. So he has doubled that a little bit that’s about it, the higher up the ground we were, the airplanes wing span was 110, so it gives you some idea about the two and the spray equipments, the nozzluar rangement sailing on the wind domes spray domes rather were calibrated to spray at the rate of approximately 3 galloons an acre. As time went on, we got more gallant and as we received more target request from the province level going through the approval level which took about six months, the military advisor, _____ the advisor to province sheep or something of that sort. If they wanted to summit an area to be sprayed, a defoliation target, safe haven target war zones _____ or something of this nature, from the time that request was forwarded from the province level, 2 Sigan going through the joint 202 committee which was Vietnam US committee and subsequently through the entire approval process including the American embassy, there is joint team, once it went through the military element, it went through the political element at the embassy and in some cases when we sprayed the Hochimen trialiant, the winner of 1965, a portion of the trial south of highway nine, those missions had to be approved by the white house, so the approval process was fairly process. The general public has been given the idea that we just woke up in our hangover after a good night on Tudos street and went racing up to the airplanes about t -6 o'clock morning, jumped in the airplane, which way you want to go now George, well I just went out to the North East or North West or staying in and we will find a little patchy green down there and we will just go spray that. That’s the impression that the American public has received over the past 30 years or so. That was not the case at all. As time went on, we started picking up a lot of bullet holes, if you fly over some areas in Tennessee at 100 ft above the ground or 150 ft above the ground in a J3 cub or Cessna 140 or Cessna 182, we are going to get bullet holes on the cage and also, so we started flying fighter cover. We started flying with the forward air controller. He was given a target on the frag or he was given to a personally _____. In all cases, when we got a target to be approved, we went out and pluated all the _____and looked down at it. Because for many of you that were there in the early days, the first maps I saw of MR4 were the French maps. They were in French and I don’t recken the _____ type of thing. So it was difficult and we didn’t have a lot of photrecki going on at that time. A photorecki available until they brought the one and ones in long about 1964, it think is when the first plunk the F1 from shop and brought them over TDY and then of course as years went on satellites and all the rest of it and we got very very good maps and maps that we saw on the wall during earlier presentations, and we started doing crop destruction work in the mountains. I talked to one of the gentleman that spent little time in the Ann Law Valley and I spent a little time in the Ann Law Valley and in fact, the crow's feet there, the three little du dads and _____ went down the valley, the first time I was involved in the spray machine there, we were flying out on the trun and we snuk up on and boy, it was planned as a first light machine and we came off the mountains and we came was slowing down the crew speed and had one airplane and one crow's foot and we had these things striked at where the three of us were going to join up at the bottom at the same time and then we had end of the real _____ as we came down the river and passed the old original special forces camp and a little mol that sits there before the river makes the bend and then goes out towards the ocean. We hit it firstly good weather no problem, we heard a few gun shots we heard a few shock waves going by the open winders but nobody got hurt, we were hit. I think maybe one or two bullet holes in one up the three airplanes but no big deal and we did not extend the fighters. They went on and found another target. The next going season about six months later when the next crop was in why it was a little different and the third time I sprayed the thing, I just took three shrink pills just before we came over the top of the mountains and I gobbled those things down so I get hunched down, by this we had flat jackets and we had all kinds of things but that’s the valley Ann Law Valley turned out but we did a lot of roughing and mountain work became the name of the game. Flat train, rolling train and then down the mountains. As far as tactics were concerned, basically we had two kinds of tactics, the areas that we were spraying and of course were owned by the _____, the Vietnamese government had no political control over the area, and we attempted after we looked and studied the target itself, we attempted to well make a decision and based on the intel that we were receiving from the _____ controller in the area and the provential people, _____ we can slide through under the rising sun early in the morning. We had to have enough light to keep from running into tree limbs, at 150 feet. In fact one target we descended and this were 4000 feet in root checked _____ sons picking up real good and I like the good quick mind, we didn’t realize during this pass we were going into more darkness and we got down there and we didn’t abort it but it was scary because of the daring dark and we did not have clear advisors at that time on our helmets later on we had both the sun vicer and then also the clear they would provide sun eye protection from frag damage when we had to clear bodies were down and you needed to clear rather than the sun. I mentioned the target approval system, it took a long time for those of you that were in the field requesting the area to be sprayed and subsequently they have it sprayed. What was there beside Orange, 24D and 245t, I bought a container up to 24D with me _____ bag, 24 was invented in 1943 by Pani Fern and good old Dr. Pani Fern in Niceville, Florida, which I lived about 4 miles from Niceville, Florida for about 35 years. In 1943, the other element of this chemical was 245T, it is not available any longer because the chemicals does not manufacture it any longer. It was taken off the market for a short period of time during the early 80s, it was reevaluated all the scientific literature that existed before hand was reevaluated by the world health organization by EPA and it was reticenced to be manufactured and used again in the United States and everywhere else who wanted to buy it. The plants set _____ for about 3 years and because of nonuse of manufacturing facilities, they corroded and rusted and they all looked at the cost, it was going to cost rehab facility and what they could recoup in sale of the particular chemical and they said it is not worth, that is why they never remarketed again. Had they done that or chose to do that, if the economics were there, you could buy it today and I have two buckets _____ it is an excellent chemical. It killed the hell out of broad lead weeds, whether if anybody has ever tried to kill a pine tree with this stuff, _____ it is going to work and it does not happen overnight and we all know that, when we go out in our backyard trying to get rid of dandy lines, try round up nowadays. It just does not work overnight even roundup does not work overnight. It is much of that stuff cost. This chemical works by the simplest way to put it by accelerating plant growth round up is more of an acid based such as flack palms, the bush, and it kills everything except popcorn trees. The longer popcorn trees. Three gallons an acre. Our equipment was designed adventually, it started out at 1 gallon an acre and the agriculture people both the Vietnamese agricultural people as well as the American agriculture and the army chemical cores is back in early 1960s, 62 and elementally 63. we started out at the gallon an acre. Our equipment could not produce any more than a gallon and a half and the equipment had to go through modification, I had to put a bigger pump behind the spray tank in the airplane and they had to put larger nozzle holes drilled in to take a large

Nozzle itself in order to produce three gallons an acre. The American public in many a view heard the term drenching, I was drenched by agent Orange. Does anybody know how much three gallons an acre is, it is 9000s of an ounce per sq foot, if I take this whisky shot glass and chop chop a thousand times through this thing and divide that glass into a 1000 parts and fill 9 of those parts, and assuming the top of my head and my shoulders are one sq foot, 9007 ounce per sq foot, nobody got drenched, if they are on the ground, even the little bit if they are on the ground, 9000s of ounces is not going to drench anybody but we have all heard that term, it is part of the myth because nobody paid any attention to the facts in science. I was in the business for 3-1/2 years in Vietnam, 3 years in train, I sprayed range 52, an aglan which has been sprayed with more herbicide orange and other herbicides and any place on the planet for a 9-year period, I have been under the airplane when the airplane is flown over top of me, he was spraying water just testing the mechanical system but it would not mattered, what did I feel, probably anything, the other myth is that all of this material saturated the ground, 9000s of an ounce per sq foot is not going to saturate anything and very careful tests that were conducted in Thailand and here in the states showed with the least pattern that exists in folage particularly jungle follage as some of you are aware where did that material end up, on the tops through the leaves, very carefully conducted tests showed that less than 23% and in most cases on average only about 6% of that 9000s of an ounce per sq foot ever reached the ground. It was laced with dioxin, we have all heard that, haven’t we, dioxin was the big killer, we all in this room and everyone out walking the street up here on Fen Way in the city of Boston, we all have dioxin in our body, the human background level that when I smoke my pipe as many of you have seen me do, when I light my pipe and I almost was going to do that for real as the podium crop but it appeared I would be thrown out of the school and I did. I am ingesting a measurable and it is measurable because we can measure anything with today's technology, we can measure down to the quadrillion level, I ingest dioxin. All of us in this room and everyone in the city of Boston, if you _____ send it to the _____ for disease control and have their blood measured as my blood has and the other 1200 men in operation ran sham have Bostonians who are going to have 4 to 6 parts of trillion of dioxin in their blood. That is the human background level. The ranshan covert, I will get to this in a minute, but the ran shan covert when the blood analysis was done on us because of our imminent contact with the material, the loading of it, fixing of the leaky nozzles that would stand out in the rain, you are waiting for the crew bus, a leaky nozzles and the big drop of this cracked drums in your head and smelt like hell. You do a walk around inspection on the airplane, flight mechanics are in and out of those, they do walk around inspection they check the tanker _____ and there is certain material on your hands, it was part of the game, it was like some guys were good at firing a 105 mm _____ 155s, art gel was hand on the material, our mechanics pumped it from them, 55 gallons were almost into the 1000 gallons tanks to pump it into the 1000 gallon tank of the airplane, we had eminent contact with it daily not daily because we did not fly, every person didn’t fly every single day but it was part of our game, but the press when you read anything about dioxin, "agent orange" was laced with dioxin, how much dioxin was there in herbicide orange, does anyone have any idea,. Neither it is the press and neither it is most of the scientists, 2/10000s of 1%, I cant write that figure down on the black board, I am not a good arithmetic, I failed arithmetic and the nun threw me out of the class, 2/10,000s of 1% that is the equivalent of less the distance between here and Washington DC is what, this is a good _____ it is the equivalent from here to Washington DC and 2/10,000s of 1% presents 4 inches. If I were to do a table of contents on a 55 gallon drome of herbicide orange or any of the other herbicides, I am not _____ list even that quantity, it was a trace production contaminant, it was there, no question about that, and those of us that worked with it everyday accumulated more than our comparison group who were Vietnam Veterans who served in Vietnam, they flew airplanes, we are statistically matched against those gentleman, they receive 130 aircrew and ground crew. Their dioxin level is human background level, our was 10 times higher. Every 70 years, the human animal flushes out approximately one-half of what he started with. If you are a real fat person, it is going to be a slower process because fat binds dioxin. Fat mal fat cells holds on to it and the dioxin cannot wiggle out and disappear in your urine through your urine. Seven years it goes down by half. Most of our average now in the Ranch Hand but still 3.7 times higher than our comparison group. This was at the last measurement four years ago. They just finished last year that the last of six physical and I will get into the health study here shortly. Two ten-thousands of 1%, the pressure has totally ignored facts like this so, I used _____ with one of the gentleman, last night I guess it was of the snow ball. All the mass hysteria that we heard about in the 70s, the late 70s and the early 80s, you heard flames of every disease, every malady that the human animal could experience and it was blamed on "agent orange" has become a household word and it really makes a lot of us mad, we started having reunions in 1967 when the first of us came back from the states to take on the training job at _____ field to prepare new pilots to go to the _____ in Vietnam and in 1964, we are starting to hear all these press reports, real traitors up in Chicago, agent orange the deadly fog, these people are _____ what the hell is going on, ___________

Blue is cacodylic acid. Cacodylic acid was used basically to arise disruption and it killed by inducing rapid dehydration of the plant structure. It was a totally different kill process and the problem there was if we flew blue, blue did not do any good on normal folage. It worked great on rice so they would recognize rice field down about two days. That stuff was _____ over, hadn't turned brown yet because that has not dried out yet but it were not happy rice plant. But we had to abort a rice machine with a load of blue onboard then we are in the targets not a rice crop and if I spray that on a riverside target, I am not going to get any results and that stuff was expensive, herbicide orange ran about 11 dollars a galloon it was not something you just scattered around the country side. The snowball though started once some of these individuals started claiming my home had got full of herbicide orange. I was testifying before congress and a young man was before congress to testify before me, he was wearing a very high ranking decoration around his neck, a very high ranking decoration, I am proud to been able to shake your hand by the way. He almost made the claim before the congress men that his helmet was full and he was going to have to wash his hands and face with it, and the congress men saw that statement coming and stopped him before he put it on the congressional record. It was an embarrassment for me, particularly embarrassing because I had to follow with somewhat different story but he was about to say I was about ready to take a bath in it, it was filling by _____. 9000s of an ounce per sq foot.


Let me talk to you about the air force _____ just a little bit. I am not going to go into it any great detail, how am I doing on time Steve?


As a result of all these wild claims that everyone heard starting it evolved by like everything evolves but starting in about 1978 rather, five years after the last American fighting man left southeast Asia and all of a sudden this _____ popping up, Joe Curtis runs the show out of Chicago CBS _____ deadly fog, CBS finally let him go, I think he is working for ANE channel or something like it, he is still on television occasionally with "dark inventories" and worse _____ union, what the hell is going on, _____ they rank the cow boys, we were all called cow boys and the Ranch hand troops were calling each other, you hear that story, it is on AP, in the newspaper, so and so claims he is got flat feet, we heard flat feet, loss of sex drive, cleft palate, you know everything that you can think of, the air force surgeon general, the assistant surgeon general made a promise to congress in 1981 to conduct an epidemiology study comparing the health of the Ranch Hand personnel with the matched comparison group. It took a year and a half to write the methodology documented in the standard GI US Government shaped documented that way that high and that thick, 440 pages as you might expect. It went through a year of peer review, the methodology how this study is going to be conducted so that the scientific community could look at it and say your methodology is fraud, your conclusions are not going to be any good and to make sure that did not happen, these guys were shot, there were four scientists that wrote it, did a lot of thinking, we helped them, the association helped them to give them operational background about how the mission was flown blah blah blah. How the jews were put in a tank where the tank was located because these were O6 doctors and they did not know anything about airplanes, they bag, it was reviewed by the national academy of science and about three other organizations and they were all very happy with the methodology. In 1981, Calci Cebo Clinic in 1982 rather, conducted the first physical. The physical examination lasted 4 days, if you and I were to walk in to Calci Cebo or the scripts research institute today and have that same physical done, it would cost 5000 dollars, get your checkbook out, you and I go to get a physical with a normal doctor, you walk in, what's the cost. I just got my physical about three days ago and it was 90 bucks. The doc says your handwriting on the check is legible, you pass. The average physical for the average person is going to cost 300 bucks, 400 bucks, depending on how much lab work they do, if you are an old _____ like Fred, he is going to ask for an EKG and that is going to cost a little bit more. Our physicals run about 4800 bucks the last one we did at Calci Cebo last year. Lab tests are done on us that there is only two laboratories in United States that can break the code, this is there are going to _____, immune system they are going _____ they are doing so much stuff on that, I don’t even know about it and when I took the paper work that they gave as a result of my last physical, so my doctor, he said Jack I don’t understand half of this stuff. You have to be a scientist to break the code. They are doing it to the C130 group of pilots and navigators and flight engineers and mechanics over here, they all served in Vietnam for the same length of time that we did and doing on the Ranch Hang group, they are measuring the amount of dioxin in the C130 group and they are measuring the amount of dioxin in the blood at the Ranch Hang group and then they sit there and then they sit there and they throw all the results of these physicals into a computer and SIC, I think most folks recognize whats SIC, scientific international something, it is a big corporation, applications, they are the ones that break the code, the air force pays for this. The epidemiology study is causing 160 million dollars of our money, of tax payers money. When they say okay, how many flat feet we got over on this side now and how many flat feet we got over on the other side, how many cancers do we have over here, how many over there, heart disease, the whole nine yards, and it is the physicals done with a blind examination to try to remove any possible bias and they don’t rely on biases important and epidemiology study. They don’t rely on self reporting because we all lie. They want our medical records every five years brought with us from our doctors, they are looking at what the doctor says, not what we perceive, the study is blinded as much as humanly possible to try to reduce or eliminate examiner bias or patient bias. It is good stuff. Whats the result of this, in spite of the fact that dioxin level is higher than the guy walking in the street of Boston and it is higher than our comparison group. We in the Ranch Hang cohort are just as defective in the same areas as our comparison group. There are many of us that have died and we have died of cancer, of course we have. One in 4 of everyone of us in this room are going to die to cancer. That’s what the numbers say. But are we dying of cancer any more rapidly than our comparison group in spite of the fact that our dioxin level is roughly four times higher still, no, we are dying at the same rate. Mortality has been tracked for the past 20 years. Are we living longer than our comparison group, the Ranch Hand cohort, as a matter of fact, yes we are, but it is a statistical abnormality when you look at it from a statistical standpoint. It would not take the meter fall down here and _____. We are dying at the same rate or more importantly, we are living at the same rate, and interestingly enough, mortality rate is lower in the male white population in the United States but a significant margin, not a statistical abnormality but a statistical difference, a meaningful difference and the reason for that, I am not going to go into the simple if you think about it, we were in better shapes when we were selected, we were maintained better as military person, therefore you could expect that we would live longer and that’s the reason for it.


This last time it was 890 on the Ranch side and in order to add power because of the co-word is relatively small although when compared to other epidemiology studies that have been done by the science in this country, it is not that small actually, but what they did was enlarged the comparison group, so it made the imbalance show up if there was going to be _____, they do that with numbers in computers and mathematicians know all of that stuff, I don’t. so where are we today, the snow ball is still rolling and no matter what I say today I know I have made some people, I haven’t told them they haven’t heard today, what they may be expected or wanted to hear today but the facts of the thing. We killed the hell out of weeds but there is no indication that we harmed ourselves or harmed somebody that was on the ground. It makes me, I am president of the association, I have been because nobody else wants the job, we all know that story, it makes me very sad when I see some of our ranch hand people now believe what they have heard and what many of us do believe that we harmed ourselves when that’s absolutely not the case at all. We saved many many lives in Vietnam, we added immeasurably to the difficulty of the logistic system on the North Vietnamese by the crop destruction target, not that they were not mistakes, blah blah blah., but appreciate any other questions.


Stephen Sherman: Let me make a remark here, what I propose is that we open up the doors in the back in case any of the vast number of students in the Boston area plan to come in here tonight, the doors are open that they can come in here, we will go through the question and answer session here and we have Alan Hopewell still on the phone and we have Jack here and I would like to hear from John Cavaiani in this area as well, so don’t you go running away too far.


This session was titled “Third Rail of Veteran Politics” and we expect to have discussion on it here but I think that Alan started out with the statement that it was the responsibility of the VA to care for those who bore the wounds of war and regardless of what the source of the problem is, the VA has responsibility but not responsibility to increase those wounds by junk science ………..


Logan Fitch: You are dropping Agent Orange, Green Beret, and a purple scarf, I want to know who in the hell thought up that color scheme?


Fred Rice: Jack I would like to thank you very much for this information, I for whatever reason have had an interest in Agent Orange ever since these studies started and I have remained -- Herbicide Orange excuse me Herbicide Orange -- I will start using that term correctly from here on, believe me, but I have collected every single think I have seen in Army Times, in Legion magazine by the way the American Legion is probably the worst I am finding out right now, that the American Legion although they are trying to standup for their members they are not doing a very good job because they are working on pure fiction, they are working on trying to protect people and get coverage for them and that’s fine but they are missing the boat. I would like to thank you very much for very very clear, very straightforward information that confirms everything that I have doubt for years is that if Herbicide Orange is the thing that is causing all these things then how do all the other people in the world get these diseases and secondly, if Orange could do all these things, we would have the best biological agent that was ever invented in the history of the earth and we have to do is put that on some country and never go to war with them but thank you very much for the information. I enjoyed your presentation very much.


Jack Spey: One thing if I may. You mentioned you have seen newspapers. I have been involved in the press a lot. You don’t remember this but I opened Nightly News with Chet Huntley once. I have been interviewing so many [times], I have been on Japanese television and this has been going on before Congress in two or three different occasions but I watched a newspaper writer do the research for an article on Herbicide Orange on the Ranch Hand Mission. What did he do, he opened a file drawer, pulls the file drawer open, little tab on a file folder “Agent Orange,” he pulls it out, he lays it on his desk and what does he have, a bunch of newspaper articles, an article from Time Magazine and an article from, they plagiarize each other, I mean we all plagiarize either ourselves or our friends or someone to some degree or another, not a lot of original writing goes on. I say that for myself at least. But what was done was very early on because of the emotion, the antiwar element of this whole controversy, when the mistake or the erroneous piece of information got in that very first article whichever one it was, then the guy opens up the drawer and there that article is. it is on AP news wire and it just sits there and snowballs very slowly, then another one creeps in, the kid from Chicago that was flying as a door gunner in a Huey, forget the kid's name, now, he died of cancer, died of something, Radishon. Radishon dies of cancer, “I was in a Huey, we were flying underneath the Ranch Hand airplanes,” now come on where is the room to fly under a Ranch Hand airplane, a 150 feet off the ground with 80 feet trees in a Huey, you are going to go sneaking underneath and what would you be doing there anyway, out on a Sunday drive. We had Dust Offs sitting behind us in case we got shot down, but this was just one, but that snowball starts to go and it becomes a popular snowball because there is some people making money of it or trying to. The last gentleman used the [term] “cottage industry,” Herbicide Orange has got lots of cottage industries now and he talks about people getting grants, oh, if I didn’t want to be sued for libel, I could name a couple of doctors right now, today, that’s all they are doing, just sitting there trolling for grant money.


Jim McLeroy: Not to mention the attorneys………


Jack Spey: Attorneys, you got that right.


Jim McLeroy: That phenomenon of Herbicide Orange has a lot in common with the famous namplam-burned girl, it is part of folklore that is so good to believe it is true that people just will not let it go, and even though the evidence is absolutely clear. It is not what they think it is and the same way, the only organization that ever put out anything truthful and accurate on this question of Herbicide Orange is Accuracy In Media. I got those reports and they were really vilified by lot of people this ……..veteran or something…..


Jack Spey: What's his name again?


Jim McLeroy: Reid Irvine……….!


Jack Spey: Yeah, Reid. I have been interviewed by Reid a couple of times…..


Jim McLeroy: They did a good job….


Jack Spey: Oh yeah……


Mike Benge: The reason why I ask you about Herbicide Blue, I knew what it was, but a lot of claims are from people who claim they got sprayed by Herbicide Orange may have got or they did if they did in the area where they claimed it were, it had to be Herbicide Blue because they were claiming to be out in the middle of a rice paddy when they got sprayed with Herbicide Orange……….


Jack Spey: Can I address that……?


Mike Benge: Yeah sure.


Jack Spey: Okay first of all, we knew where the good guys were. We had a forward air controller that knew area. If he didn't know the area, nobody knew the area and any kind of army unit that was wandering around the rice paddy, somebody in the air knew he was there, except for long range sneaky teams, not that kind of stuff that was different, but any kind of regular army unit, that was going to be moving, whether be ARVN, whether be American, whatever, there was a FAC there, there were gunship fighters there, the whole nine yards, you guys just tramping around the bushes, you had recon outfits doing it but you know, what I am talking about and we knew where you were, and when we flew we had a free fire zone, if we took fire, we threw a smoke grenade out the door. The FAC said that the smoke is there, so when he really got hit, he was back here somewhere and now I look back there and see if I can find a good place where the guys were shooting from and if he found a place or maybe some crazy VC has decided to run, saw him, smoke on him and he called the fighters in and they splashed him and the other thing that you are talking about, Operation Ranch Hand had two insecticide airplanes. We few the entire country spraying for mosquitoes because of the type 2 malaria that existed over there, we had super mosquitoes as you all know, the little red pills didn’t work anymore, that’s what I started out with in 1961, somebody said take one of these very week, so I went gulp and down in went, they were great for killing wild dogs but lot of people, I have seen film that people have sent in saying there they are, see how close they sprayed to me and they were two silver C123s. Ranch Hand airplanes were all camouflage. Our spray birds were silver and the idea was we are makers of the bad guys realized that they are killing the mosquitoes and they won't shoot us, well that wasn’t the case at all but we went around fire bases, airports, cities spraying malathion to kill mosquitoes.


Mike Benge: The other thing that I wanted to add is that you were talking about the snowballing. We are now pumping millions of dollars into Vietnam studying Herbicide Orange.


Jack Spey: Oh yes…..I just got done going over the charts, where all the loading areas were at Phan Rang, and Danang and Bien Hoa and Saigon…..


Steve Sherman: Along the line of that Apparently there is some legislation in process to reopen the Agent Orange suits……..and also to reopen them so that people in southeast Asia can participate in the glory.


Jack Spey: Myth continues ……..


Max Friedman: 90 years of college come in and couple of science classes which I passed or didn’t pass, I am not sure. The problem with writing on Agent Orange and other chemical issues is basically we have no journalist with degrees in biology or biochemistry writing on these issues. I worked in the environment affairs. I have had an agent orange case and I can see a lot of the literature that comes out on this from people who are not involved in the chemical industry that your safety sheets have come out and they are actually writing on as you say myths, things have been passed on in the past that they have no qualifications to make a judgment on, so they just repeat it and I can only think that these -- like Walter Sullivan was a very good science writer for the New York Times, you don’t have guys like this anymore, people have been in the field and actually go out and learn what the subject is, I think that is one of the major reasons why you are getting junk science writers who actually are posing as journalists but they are not scientists, the second thing is I think, Mr. Hopewell, you have some Latin up there, non no Kerry, I agree with that absolutely non no Kerry.


Jack Spey: Well the timing here, the time of growing season, if you sprayed this morning when we woke up this morning, we flew, if you had a real good eye and a real right correct light, taking the right kind of picture, you could see a discoloration during the heights of the growing season say September or August, you could see a slight color change if the light caught just right in about a week, a week to 10 days. After about 30 days, when Big Red One came to Vietnam and camped just south of Bien Hoa there the first time, we sprayed that thing that area that they camped there six months later and because of the terrain, I had to fly what I called a window frame. We went out there and from _____ looked up and said, okay George, you think you would be able to see that dead tree down there that’s going to be the corner and we got a 1 to 25,000 shot or 1- 50,000 I think it existed then, they may not as well by 65 they did. yeah lets down there, we are going down there 3 km, there is a little wiggle there, you think we would be able to see it from 150 feet well we picked up four corners on this thing that we thought we could fly. So we waited one morning and it was dead calm. The haze was just hanging there and we went out and we didn’t have fighters of course. Well we didn’t figure we needed and we didn’t and we descended real slow keeping that tree in sight, the tree in sight and got down, went on a compass setting to the next tree, 3 km that way and picture framed the thing. We were able to come around and run a picture frame that morning, it took us one load to go all the way round the thing. Thousand gallons and then we say boy, we sure lucked up and we packed and climbed back up and got on final approach and landed in Saigon. Unbeknownst to us the mist around the turbulence around the nozzle creates real fine particles and it drifted when the breeze started when the sea breeze started and went on up and caught a rubber plantation to the northwest of that particular area and killed the leading edge of the couple of trees. Before we could go in and fill in the picture, we had to wait about a month before we could see the boundary and then it was just a matter of going back and forth, it depended.


R. J. Del Vecchio :One thing by the way it is 4 feet not 4 inches, if you had the actual calculation I presented it is 4 feet of the distance from here to Washington DC, not 4 inches…..and secondarily about dioxin which fascinated me is there was the explosion of dioxin plant in Italy. They levelled the plant, put 3 feet of dirt over it, made it into a park in the center of the city and 110,000 Italians have been living there for the past 16 years, there is no problem, no change whatever else.


Jack Spey: Let me hit on birth defects, they are talking about Seveso because Seveso, when the explosion occurred in 1976 in Seveso, Italy, release of enormous quantity of dioxin and it affected, it was measurable over a large area and it has been studied, studied, studied by every strap hanger that wants to get a grant to go do a study, go study Seveso again. Birth defects was one of the big concerns because if we give a little bit of diox a lot of dioxin into a mouse, you give it to the male mouse and he makes love to the female mouse, the offspring are fine but if we give it to the female mouse and she makes love to the male mouse, the increased risk of birth defects goes up, it is only when the female of the species of the animal is affected by dioxin in large quantities, not in little bits and pieces like I have got in my blood. It is only when the female is affected by dioxin so they did a lot of studying on birth defects in our group as well. All the children information from us was self reporting and all the children information in our comparison group, how many kids did you have Jack, two, are they screwed up, damn right. How many kids do you got George, three, are they good, perfect, self reporting. The National Academy of Science said no……you are not going to do it that way, we want hard fast medical records on 7000 babies that the Ranch Hand people fathered and the comparison group fathered after their service in Vietnam. Are they as defective as mine – you bet your ass. The amount of defects are the same in both groups…..in spite of the facts that the Ranch Hand Cohort at that time of pregnancy or impregnation or conception, our dioxin count was 10 times higher. Our children are just as screwed up as our comparison group children. That’s the result of hard copy medical examination, it took 7 years to retrieve. My ex-wife did not like it at all when I wrote her and said, you got to get the kids med records, they are born wanted at Fort Walton Beach but I made her go shag them and we had to do that for 7000 babies and compared the comparison group with the Ranch Hand Group. No different. Anyone else…………?

Thank you very much.



Jon Cavaiani: Steve asked me if I would talk a little bit on posttraumatic stress disorder. I’m one of these people. I went to Vietnam, I saw my action in Vietnam and saw things were bad and I saw things weren’t so bad. Not unlike a lot of the guys who were in the program with me, with the exception of losing my adopted son in the orphanage. The time in the prisoner of war camp, I tried to get my butt beat by _____ and the political officer and stuff like that. I came back to the state. I stayed in the service which actually gave me a real good sounding board to communicate with other people but basically in my perception of posttraumatic stress disorder is again the biggest problem is just lack of communication, individuals who came back were pissed off the way they came back and pull themselves in their little cubby holes. I went there in Massachusetts, I was back here, in posttraumatic stress disorder for two maybe three years but I violated all the rules that I laid, everybody told me I should vouch on who do you talk to, who do you talk to and so in some ways, I probably took on some of the problems of some of the other guys had. The relationship was I worked out of Fitchberg, I worked Dorchester, I worked Chelsea, I worked in a number of areas around here but the Ike Camacho was here and lot of problems with the program is that the approach that was taken was one would go out and tell them what all the symptoms are or if they don’t have it, they can say they do and that was really the problem of posttraumatic stress disorder in the sense of communication. The way I used to do it, I used to _____ on top and the guys sitting down below and you sit and talk about some of the symptoms and the guy down here is going to say, no, not me, what do you mean anger, I don’t get angry. I don’t need anger management, I don’t why they are up there going like this, _____ going like this, no that is not a problem I am, and the other problems were those individuals who embellished their story every week after going to these group meetings, which I absolutely abhored. I thought it was the worst way to go in the world but that’s the way things were done back then. The approach that we took up we treated PTSD much like AA treats with AA, ALANON, ALATEEN, because here is an environment this individual is grown, come back and created. My own little world and I am happy in it, therefore my wife, my kids and everybody else should be happy and that type of environment. However that wasn’t the case because what was happening is you got the guy and you are bringing him in and you are going the one on one with me and the guy is finally loosening up, beginning to talk about the things that bother him, the relationship that he is only able to have with another veteran, now ultimately I was able to take in depth, World War II veterans who could sit there and communicate with that individual from Vietnam, everybody is readily, every bit is much to say, hey, you know, I saw this, you think you got a bad time, talk to a friend, well I backed away from it because one night I saw myself with a pistol in my mouth, that was very stupidity or what it was, I had not really talked to anybody about Vietnam or any of this. I did not realize when he did it. And then fortunately I had a wife there. A friend of mine worked in water works here and the main blew up and at the day of dugups somebody turned the water on before they should have and before it was closed in, it blew up and all he saw was the bomb craters he had seen in Vietnam and the bodies were all in that hole as far as he was concerned. I don’t know that the minds really set. Who can say that they were not changed at all by war. I don’t think there is anybody in this room can honestly say I was not changed at all by my experience in Vietnam, Korea, World War II -- there is nobody. The helicopter flies over and you look up, you know those are startle reactions, no different than you would if you spill the pot of coffee and jumped back to get out of the way. It is something we were trained to do. But I don’t think any one of us ever was told we were going to do a lot of killing human beings because nobody really wants to do that. We killed Gooks we killed Chinks, we killed Japs, we killed………yet all these myriad names for an individual because it was not easy to say okay, today, gang we are going to go out, we are going to look for other human beings that we can kill. It is not reality. Decent individuals just through the fact that you got another name for the enemy. Like I stayed in, so I was lucky in a lot of regards. I stayed in, I retired out of Delta Force in 1990 as Squadron Sergeant Major. I loved it. I have been all over the world, been to a lot of different places, sometimes it involves killing other individuals but I get back, I say no, I can’t out-run my kids any more, it’s time to get the hell out. I have my best friend, a fellow sniper with me, all screwed up, drugs, long hair, hippy style, he got out seeking back, I saw him in San Francisco when I was there. We called him “Seedy” because he had a beard that looked like he planted it on his face and I put him with my father, got on the ranch, worked through about a year, decided to move back up San Francisco. I was stationed there, and I went thinking about it. I thought of get him into see a psychiatrist that I used, it was somebody I could communicate with, somebody who was really had a good personal relationship with me to what my problems were and I had managed to get Seedy an appointment with him and the doc had to cancel up on a Friday. On Saturday night, he called me. I’m sitting up here in my room and I am looking down of all the people down below on the street, and I am thinking about how easy it would be just to sit here and shoot them. I said Seedy I am on my way over, I will get over there put on his uniform you first time you had ever put it on. Blew his brains out. Other friend of mine going on work on PTSD, I go down the banker killed himself today before put on his uniform and hung himself. These are normal. This guy was have to go lucky guy, wife, kids, job, doing good, no rhyme or reason, to say there is not such as thing as post traumatic stress disorder or to say that different people are not affected by their traumatic situations, it is not even wrong. I agree. VA screwed up when they originally came out and started telling everybody because they gave everybody who wanted to be a malingerer or a goof-off the tools and just what to say to take and get free money. I got out moved up into the hills with my new wife, remarried, my wife used to ask, God, why do you get so damn angry sometimes. My god, I am not angry. One night whipped out the pills and tried to end it. I left a note and I get in I go, I got a problem, and the first thing that realization is do you have a problem, not like an individual who embellished his story every week. I said, hey doc, I got a problem, he said okay let’s sit down and talk about it, I would no talk about what the symptoms are or any of this though I knew them. so then talked. I went to an SOA meeting four years ago, I sat down and I just could not quit crying, I could not figure out how I could tell my son Tom about the situations we are going on in the United States now that I consider very very wrong and I got some help, now I live life through chemistry. It is crap on the sex life but it keeps me alive, keeps me together, my wife is the greatest sounding board I have ever had in my life. She sits there and goes, John, you are a little bit angry. I have been taking my medicine. And she goes, maybe you ought to take a little bit more, it is not something that just goes away or you can just literally turn off the story, seen a lot of people die. There are a lot of people looked when I was up in Vermont. And the doctor up there did ask me to come up and I will be doing this seminar on posttraumatic stress disorder. Governor called me in and I had made a statement. A lot of people say there are not any difference in the deaths and just put up single car accidents, drug overdose and suicides by 1975, over 200,000 more victims of war, whose names are not the wall. [This is an untrue statistic. SGS] I am happy for everybody that lived with the reality of Vietnam and was able to live with it -- because it changed us all -- but lived with it. I happened to be one of the fortunate ones I live with but I lived it through chemistry, through good support, my wife and through a good doctor. I had one other thing I want to say about it. For some reason, it slipped my mind. Thank you.



Fred Rice: I would like to offer an observation. I think John’s insights were tremendous. I am one of the ones I think from some of the doctor’s comments earlier. I think that although PTSD is not as commonplace as you would be lead to believe by the media and everything, to say that it does not exist is not realistic. I would like to give two insights. My son-in-law is a police officer with LAPD. He works the gang details in the South Central and Watts, Three years ago, he and his partner caught two guys in a shootout. They chased them down, one guy was cornered. He turned and started to lower a weapon, lower a shotgun on my son-in-law. He took him out with one shot and I asked him afterwards, I said how does that make you feel. Then he said, the son of a bitch was going to kill me, I got him first. He has no stress from it because it was a necessary part of his job. Just another quick example is a guy you have all heard the name used, Nick Rowe. I knew Nick intimately, I knew him for years, we were very very close friends. When he came back, I will say that after 5 years in a bamboo cage, they did not get to him at all and he never experienced any of that type of after action, but he was a very unique individual. He was probably a hell of a lot more balanced, going in, than 99% of the people on the face of this earth. So to say that it happens to everybody is not true but it can happen to people in all kinds of different situations and I think it is an individual thing that has to be evaluated on its own merit.


Steve Sherman: Phoebe Spinrad had some notes republished up on the website and I don’t think that anybody is denying the existence of PTSD, only the fact that when you start encouraging it by building up a reason to have fake claims in the case of Agent Orange, Herbicide Orange, we have a re-titling over here, it is when you put a financial reward on the end of it, then it changes all the statistics to go along with it. Again, I think it is the function of the VA to provide assistance, they aren't doing a very good job of it, I would like to see them do a hell of a lot better but they should not try to limit their assistance by weird science.


Dr. Timothy Lomperis: Hello! I am Tim Lomperis, from Saint Louis. I was just wondering if you would be willing to comment on whether like World War I called a Shell Shock, I think, World War II called it battle fatigue, we call it posttraumatic stress syndrome, and those are relatively the same thing, or they medically different phenomenon and I was wondering also if you’d comment on the media [which] seems to be reporting that, suicide and stress syndrome in the current Iraq insurgency seems to be at a much higher rate than in Vietnam at least that’s what our own Post-Dispatch how stressful these IEDs etc. It is going to be the talk about preliminary studies from the psychiatric casualties of the Iraq War and what these previous wars one of those terms of posttraumatic stress syndrome they were different things.


Dr. Alan Hopewell: I want to answer this, can you hear me?


Steve Sherman: Yeah we can hear you very well.


Dr. Alan Hopewell: I think the last two or three speakers and the last question is an excellent one, the answer basically is those terms have all been used really since about the civil war and they are basically interchangeable. Again this is some sort of construct or some sort of concept that we are trying to grapple with and nobody really says that this problem does not exist or is not a problem and no one really says or should say that yet again it affects everybody, but we are trying to get a hand on the types of reactions that people have to overwhelming stress and put a label on it and form into a concept to makes sense, so all these terms are started out with I think strange heart or soldiers heart in the civil war and shellshock and so forth. We think that the incidence has been about the same and we think that we are talking about the same reactions. Firstly, we are not favoring the term that we think that probably works best, there is something like battle fatigue and probably because again it has a connotation of battle with everybody is in it and everybody understands that and fatigue, you are stressed out and you get tired but also with a concept of fatigue that something people in their minds, I think _____ that’s my point to be permanently disabled in whatever, so big part is simply the way we look at it, we label it and of course it is as simple as that but is a factor when we start talking about posttraumatic stress syndrome and the expectation is that is going to be crippling and disabling for ever that is quite a different expectation and then something like battle fatigue which is now you can deal with and get that from. So we tend to reactions are the same and the trick is not the so that it doesn’t happen, the trick I think is to look at the cases where people have problems and react to stress and have some ongoing symptomatology to look at the instances where, as the other speakers mentioned again people do well and handle that well and learn what factors they have that make them handle stress better than the other folks and then the people who need some more help or more intervention to again help them in an appropriate way that helps them get better instead of making the problem worse. I have got a copy of the Mental Health Army Treatment team Interim Report which was the only report done last year. Actually on the battlefield in a rock and then there is follow-up report published in the New England Journal Medicine I think that has some figures on suicide rates and again I just think it is very early and I don’t really know if there is any strong feeling that the suicide rates are any higher at the present than they have been in the past. The problem with suicide is it is such a what we call it low frequency event, it is very difficult, you can have just a very low number of suicides in any one direction but because of the base rate, you can skew the data tremendously in trying to make comparisons and so I am very opposed to making these sort of general statements at this stage that suicides are any different hardly than they ever have been and it is exactly the same as the other speaker talked about the Herbicide Orange. Any group we know what those suicide rates are for any comparison group in the country so, people are going to commit suicide and so we got to compare those and just because someone comes in and says I am thinking about suicide because I was in Vietnam or whatever that also may not necessarily be true, again you are dealing with a self-report and what they put in their minds but we could still well be reacting to the fact that they are having marital problems which would occur anyway, so again you hear these statements and you hear these causal relationships that because of the causal relationships are not always what appeared to be on the surface and basically what is done with the herbicide study, just go on in and do control studies and rule these other factors out and take will it be sure what the stress led to and the stress results have been in terms of symptoms and the other thing that I think that there is extremely important and I am very impressed with is if you look at taking people and putting them in prison camp or the stress of combat or the problems that we face in a military environment, I think it is absolutely amazing and incredible to me that only 15% of people who have that kind of problems, so we can documented. I think that is an testament to the coping skills that people have to do in a terrible environment like this and I think people underestimate again the resilience that the people show and that is what the results of what the studies need to focus on is how to enhance that resilience and how do we help it along and which I did not get to at the end of the _____ talk, the ways to do it is we continue improve our selection methods and select people as one of the folks did, he selected people that had good coping mechanisms and think will do well. He trained them appropriately, he gave them the tools upfront to have the skills that they need to come through this stressful situation and then when they get exposed to that, come through that, just like another problems from Vietnam is coming back and not having any help or not having any support system or being spit on, so at the end you arrange for adequate sport mechanisms and you work with people appropriately to help them get through the tress they have been in, I mean you target these symptoms and treat them adequately so someone develops depression or drinking problem or suicidal ideation if the symptoms are not treated appropriately but the disability is not extended or exaggerated or enhanced or made worse. I think that the direction that we all want to go in and I think that as we get the data back from Iraq, we are going to see the same pattern and the same types of factors that we have seen again ever since we saw the Civil War. One of the things, I would be interested in is any folks in the audience who would really want to focus on this type of issue and project with my position with the Psy_____ association now in terms of _____ crew I will be more than happy to grab people, I think we can do something to tweak the diagnosis better and make it more appropriate so again get the help to people if needed but avoid this victimization of everyone.

Steve Sherman: Alan, I think we will continue a lot of this on the website, because I think that you would need more than the audience we have to help with that kind of a project.

Dr. Alan Hopewell: Sure.

Steve Sherman: So, on Session 9A, we will extend that and keep that ongoing. I want to just add one more bit to your stress here this evening. We had hoped for a large influx of students from the community that have questions and we are all prepared to answer with all the resources we have here virtually any question that could be asked. We have a special guest who came to us all the way from Ithaca, New York. He is sitting on probably the finest repository of Vietnam [cultural] materials . . .