Decades after end of Vietnam War, US begins Agent Orange clean-up

By NBC News staff and wire reports

HANOI, Vietnam — Nearly four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States and Vietnam on Thursday began cleaning up the toxic chemical Agent Orange on part of Danang International Airport.

The U.S. military sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant onto Vietnam’s jungles over a 10-year period during the war, and the question of compensation for the subsequent health problems is a major post-war issue.

Respiratory cancer and birth defects among both Vietnamese and U.S. veterans have been linked to exposure to Agent Orange.

Thursday marked the first time Washington has been involved in cleaning up Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Old enemies team up to battle Agent Orange

The U.S. government is providing $41 million to the project which will reduce the contamination level in 73,000 cubic meters of soil by late 2016, the ruling Vietnam Communist Party’s mouthpiece Nhan Dan daily said.

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear said at a ceremony at the former American air base at Danang that the project showed that the two countries were “taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past,” Voice of America (VOA) reported.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded contracts to two U.S. companies to work on the project along with Vietnam defense ministry officials, the U.S. Embassy said.

Danang in Vietnam’s central region is a popular tourist destination. During the Vietnam War, that ended in 1975, the beach city was used as a recreational spot for U.S. soldiers.

Return to Vietnam: Meeting a formerly faceless foe

Agent Orange was stored at Danang air base and sprayed from U.S. warplanes to expose northern communist troops and destroy their supplies in jungles along the border with Laos.

Over the next decade, other former U.S. air bases that stored Agent Orange are due to be cleaned up as well, VOA reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

Hill Street

By Karen Nugent TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

LEOMINSTER —  Throughout Helen Hill’s apartment, there are reminders of the handsome young soldier with the sparkling blue eyes.  Framed portraits hang on the wall and sit on tables. A teddy bear on the sofa plays electronic patriotic songs.

There’s the official letter from the Army offering condolences and describing her son as a “courageous soldier in this vast and most cruel of wars,” and Mrs. Hill, 89, has a yellow star designating her a Gold Star Mother — meaning a child was killed in action — on her clothing and in her front window.

Yet when her son, Pfc. David A. Hill, was killed in Vietnam in 1969, she and her husband, now deceased, had to keep their shades drawn to avoid hurtful, insensitive comments about his military service.

“We were getting calls from people saying, ‘Are you happy now that you got your son killed?’ It was so hard,” she said.

Her husband suggested leaving their hometown.

“We were just left to ourselves, but I did not get bitter. I just thought I would try and help the other veterans, and give of ourselves and work with them,” she said.

Despite the turmoil surrounding that war, Mrs. Hill at the time attempted to get city officials to name a street near where they lived in his honor. It wouldn’t have been much of a change: from Hill Street to David A. Hill Street. The earlier “Hill” name has no connection to the family.

They were refused, Mrs. Hill said.

“They called it a conflict not a war,” she said.

A renewed effort is under way, with the help of City Councilor Claire M. Freda, whose late husband also served in Vietnam.

Mrs. Hill

Helen Hill, 89, holds a photograph of her late son, Pfc. David A. Hill, as she stands on Hill Street. (T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG)

Mrs. Freda recently submitted a petition to the council to change the name of the street, near Pleasant Street, to David A. Hill Street. So far, it has not been acted on.

“It is simply a step to start the process, not to cause any hardships,” she said.

Mrs. Freda said some residents have already questioned if a name change would cause problems with mail delivery and property deeds.

“If a legal opinion says it would be difficult then I would ask that the street be dedicated with a sign on the street sign itself in David’s memory,” she said.

The street naming request was partially prompted by the recent naming of a park and a bridge in memory of Pfc. Jonathan Roberge, a Leominster native killed in Iraq in 2009 at age 22. Ceremonies and fundraisers for Pfc. Roberge have drawn hundreds, including state and local officials.

“That made me live my own heartache all over again, since it was the first military death in a long time,” Mrs. Hill said. “I am not envious — my heart goes out to the family — but I thought ‘shame on me for not doing something sooner for my son.’ I find some people still resent Vietnam veterans.”

According to the Leominster Veterans Services agency, Pfc. Hill, a Leominster High School graduate, was killed in action on Feb. 13, 1969, near Duc Pho, Vietnam. He was 21, and served with the Army Company C, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade. He was one of nine Leominster soldiers killed in action in Vietnam.

Richard N. Voutour, director of veterans services, said that besides Pfc. Roberge and the 10 fallen Vietnam War soldiers, one died in service in 1969 on a training mission in Virginia, and two men died while on active duty in the Gulf War in 2001.

Mrs. Hill said her son had just finished broadcasting school when he was drafted in June 1968. He went to Army training for a few months, came home in December and was sent to Vietnam in January 1969. He was shot in the arm a few weeks later, and the family thought he would be discharged.

He was sent back into combat and killed three weeks later.

“We got the news at 7 a.m. on Valentine’s Day,” Mrs. Hill said. “A very young minister who said it was his first time informing a family of a military death came with the Army car.”

Mrs. Freda said she wants to raise awareness of how Vietnam War veterans were treated.

“Other veterans did not acknowledge them. The support mechanisms are so much different now, maybe because 9-11 brought patriotism back. I had thought about getting that street name changed for a long time, and I watched Helen’s pain come back through the Roberge’s suffering.”

Airmen Missing from Vietnam War Identified

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

Welcome Home Brothers – Rest in Peace

Airmen Missing from Vietnam War Identified

           The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

           Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling of Phoenix will be buried June 15 at Arlington National Cemetery. There will be a group burial honoring Walling and fellow crew member, Maj. Aado Kommendant of Lakewood, N.J., at Arlington National Cemetery, on Aug. 8 — the 46th anniversary of the crash that took their lives.

           On Aug. 8, 1966, Walling and Kommendant were flying an F-4C aircraft that crashed while on a close air support mission over Song Be Province, Vietnam. Other Americans in the area reported seeing the aircraft crash and no parachutes were deployed. Search and rescue efforts were not successful in the days following the crash.

           In 1992, a joint United States-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team investigated the crash site and interviewed a local Vietnamese citizen who had recovered aircraft pieces from the site. In 1994, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team excavated the site and recovered a metal identification tag, bearing Wallings name, and other military equipment. In 2010, the site was excavated again. Human remains and additional evidence were recovered.

           Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and material evidence, along with forensic identification tools including mitochondrial DNA which matched Wallings living sister in the identification of the remains.

           For additional information on the Defense Departments mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1420.

Vietnam “Operation Babylift” (OBL) 37th Anniversary

“Operation Babylift”

Operation Babylift was the name given to the mass evacuation of children from South Vietnam to the United States and other countries (including Australia, France, and Canada) at the end of the Vietnam War (see also the Fall of Saigon), from April 3–26, 1975.

The end of the Vietnam War precipitated increased adoptions of Vietnamese children by American families. In April 1975, two years after the Americans signed a cease-fire accord with Vietnam, North Vietnamese troops spread through the South. The war’s end caused hundreds of thousands of citizens to flee the country, fearing for their lives.

With the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang having fallen in March, and with Saigon under attack and being shelled, on April 3, 1975, U.S. President Gerald Ford announced that the U.S. government would begin evacuating orphans from Saigon on a series of 30 planned flights aboard C-5A Galaxy cargo aircraft.

Visit Operation Babylift’s homepage by clicking the above graphic or right here.