Silent Spring: Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War by Patrick Hogan

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In Silent Spring: Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War (Whatnot Enterprises, 216 pp., $12.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle) Patrick Hogan is the best, most fact-filled current book about Agent Orange that this reviewer has encountered. Departing from some previous AO offerings that little more than chronicle the woes and health challenges of the authors—along with a litany of beefs with health-care providers, primarily the VA—Hogan goes many steps further in this second edition of his book. We reviewed the first edition on these pages in December of 2018.

Hogan does lay out the health experiences that brought him to the writing desk, but not seeking pity or sympathy. He then moves quickly into explaining the military operations that sprayed million of gallons of herbicides, insecticides, defoliants, and other generally bad stuff on the Vietnamese countryside, as well as on U.S. bases and other installations, and troops in the field.

Hogan, a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, was motivated to dig into his subject after watching a presidential speech, and having a good buddy die of complications of Agent Orange exposure—as well as his desire to learn the details of how the spraying began and continued. He describes tactical, economic, ethical, and political decisions made on the battlefield, in the halls of Congress, and in industrial boardrooms.

And he takes us on a chemical excursion in which he spells out the main ingredients—both active and inert—that comprised Agent Orange, Agent White, and the other toxic chemicals used in the Vietnam War. Hogan also describes delivery systems and methods and compares wartime military concentrations of these toxic chemicals with peacetime commercial, agricultural, and homeowners formulations.  He also covers the laxity of handling and storage protocols.

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Hogan in country during his Sept. ’66-June ’69 tour of duty

As the result of his prodigious research into recently declassified documents—many apparently strategically and widely misfiled—Hogan finds (and wrestles with) decisions that seemingly were made with little with no regard for their health consequences. Seemingly without rancor—but certainly with exasperation and incredulity—Hogan includes evidence that the government and chemical manufactures had a cover-up mentality that pervaded our wartime leadership.

He also chronicles the VA’s past actions—and inactions—in dealing with the medical claims submitted by service personnel exposed to AO and other chemicals. And he details the progress being made, including what to expect from the VA in the future with respect to Agent Orange compensation,

All in all, this is a well-researched and executed book. It is well worth reading by anyone who was exposed to Agent Orange.

The book’s website is silent-spring-deadly-autumn.com

–Tom Werzyn

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Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War by Patrick Hogan

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Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War (Whatnot Enterprises, 216 pp. $12.83, paper; $3.99, Kindle) by Patrick Hogan indicts and convicts the United States government and Department of Veteran Affairs for miscalculations and denials about the indiscriminate spraying of Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals as weapons during the Vietnam War.

The spraying was intended to prevent the enemy from using forests as refuge and crop growing areas. The prolonged and intense spraying operation, though, shortened lives and threatened the health of future offspring of everyone in the country.

Hogan’s concern primarily focuses on the plight of Americans who served in Vietnam, as well as their children and grandchildren, all of whom should read this book. Hogan also mentions international liability, which suggests reparations for the Vietnamese.

In a manner similar to that with which American officials denied the existence of post-traumatic stress disorder, Hogan makes a case that government tactics have centered on the idea of “Delay, deny, wait till they die” with veterans who developed cellular and genetic diseases from exposure to toxic chemicals in Vietnam.

The portion of his research devoted to an analysis of the herbicides and insecticides resembles a textbook. He introduces the reader to  2,4-D and  2,4,5-T as part of a “short list of the most prevalent toxic organic chemicals.” Hogan’s classroom-like approach should not intimidate readers because he also provides detailed examples of the criminally improper uses of the chemicals, such as the Seveso Incident and the Times Beach Relocation Project.

Similarly, he speaks of ailments caused by chemicals as casually as introducing an old friend. They range from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to “cholecystitis—with subsequent cholecystectomy.

The last half of the book provides a courtroom of sorts for Hogan to plead his case against American leaders’ misuse of chemicals. In it, he argues the pros and cons of their decisions regarding programs such as Operation Ranch Hand and other spraying ops for defoliation or insecticide purposes.

He portrays the dangerous, far-ranging effects of using a mist-drift tactic for delivering chemicals. He cites lessons learned based on official reports. He explains improperly performed, intentionally skewed, and knowingly bogus research that “proved” that the chemicals were safe. He reveals government cover-ups that still exist. He describes how the chemicals of choice would have been less toxic to humans if Dow Corporation and other chemical manufacturers had been less greedy.

In summary, Hogan says that the failure of our government and the VA to take appropriate action is politically expedient and much less costly. He labels the inaction as betrayal.

Hogan knows whereof he speaks. His personal trouble began with “an angry rash” on his face a few months after his discharge from the Army, he says. An enlistee at eighteen, he had served with the 423rd Supply Company at Cam Rahn Bay from September 1966 to June 1969.

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Hogan, right, about to leave Vietnam in 1969

Soon after, indigestion and respiratory problems bedeviled him. He treated their symptoms with over-the-counter medicines, all the while suspecting that exposure to Agent Orange caused his health problems. Hogan was on his own, however, because the VA denied any toxic effects from Agent Orange.

From 1970-99, abdominal and digestive tract problems caused him to endure many surgeries. In 1999, Patrick Hogan took early retirement following a long law enforcement career, but his medical problems persisted.

In 2012, “a barrier broke in his mind,” he says. Memories of years of VA refusals to provide medical care and an Army friend’s early death from leukemia triggered him to write Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War. The depth of his research is highly commendable.

History needs more writers like Patrick Hogan—a guy off the streets who won’t take it anymore and acts on his feelings.

His website is silent-spring-deadly-autumn.com

—Henry Zeybel