History and Culture A _ 2012-2013

A class blog Patricia Bou. English Studies. UV

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Napalm Gas & Agent Orange (A chemical war)


1. Napalm Gas

Napalm is a flammable, gasoline-based weapon invented in 1942. The name is a composed word for naphthenic palmitic acid. Napalm is more concretely a powder that mixed with gasoline is a tactical weapon used to remove vegetation and produce clearances in places like forests or jungles.

A boat throwing gas Napalm

It was used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. It produced horrific wounds and illnesses in the population. The aim to use this arm was that the Communist forces would have no place to hide and the USA Army could detect them easily in the areas without vegetation.

The victims of napalm did not experience immediately 1st degree burns, but after appeared wounds and skin cuts (its adhesive properties make impossible to remove it from the human skin), and there were secondary effects like more serious burns, loss of blood pressure, unconsciousness, and even death in a short time after the contamination.

 Effects of the gas over human bodies

The doctor Mr Le The, a specialist of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam annotated the steps that the victims suffered. The results are based on approximately 150 cases of napalm he examined and treated:

- First degree: outer skin only (usually very little affection)
- Second degree: the layer of the outer skin
- Third degree: the layer of the inner skin
- Fourth degree: the deepest hypodermic tissues
- Fifth degree: the muscles
- Sixth degree: the bones

 Napalm's burning effects

Frequently, when American military forces were becoming over-run in Vietnam, air help was called to help stabilize the situation with Napalm, as well as with other explosives.
International law prohibited the use of napalm or other incendiaries gases against civilian populations, and they were also banned by the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1980. Protocol III of the CCW restricts the use of all incendiary weapons, but a number of states have not accepted these protocols.

2. Agent Orange
One major legacy of the Vietnam War that remains unresolved is the damage that Agent Orange, and its accompanying dioxin, have done to the people and the environment of Vietnam. For the last 30 years, this issue has generally been pushed to the background of bilateral discussions by other issues considered more important by the United States and/or Vietnam.
Michael F. Martin (2009)

Agent Orange is the common name used for one of the herbicides and defoliants that the USA Army spread as part of the warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, it was used in the Vietnam War for ten years. Its name was given from the colour of the orange barrels in which it was shipped, and was the chemical product most widely used from the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides".

Aeroplanes spreading the Agent Orange

During the Vietnam War, U.S. troops sprayed nearly 75.700.000 litres of herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia. The goal was to defoliate rural/forested land, depriving guerrillas of food and clearing areas to establish base perimeters for the Army.
The Vietnamese who were exposed to the chemical have suffered from cancer, liver damage, pulmonary and heart diseases, defects in the reproductive capacity, and skin and nervous disorders. People exposed to it had severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, and a shorter life. The forests and jungles in South Vietnam were completely devastated, without vegetation and perhaps they will need 200 years to grow back again.
It has been proved that the use of the Agent Orange in Vietnam was substantially underestimated and, furthermore, the concentration of dioxins in it was significantly higher than originally was thought. In historical terms, as proclaimed at a 2002 conference in Yale University, it was the “largest chemical warfare campaign in the history”. Kalen Iwamoto (2005)

The Agent Orange is the cause of some malformations

3. Testimonies

VICTIM: “The American airplanes came right toward me and dropped a strange mist in the jungle, and the next day, the trees were dead” he recalled. “We were scared. We were confused.” 

Vietnam society could do nothing under these chemical weapons

SOLDIER: If you served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971, as I did, there is a pretty good chance that you were exposed to Agent Orange. The VA acknowledges that some 20 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed across South Vietnam in an attempt to destroy foliage used to conceal enemy forces and supply lines. Spraying was also intended to deny access to agricultural crops used by the enemy. Recently, I tried to determine exactly where all this spraying occurred. […] The chart I found looked like one of those modern artworks where the painter takes his material and throws it at the canvas. It covers the entire country from top to bottom.



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