Poet, author and Vietnam veteran Don Blackburn is seen in this documentary about Agent Orange. Blackburn is a Bandon resident when he isn’t in Vietnam working at his favorite charity Friendship Village an organization formed to aid the victims of Agent Orange.
Fifty years ago this month, in the early stages of the Vietnam War, the US military began spraying rural areas of the country with the herbicide, Agent Orange. The programme’s goal was to defoliate forested land, depriving the enemy Viet Cong of cover and driving peasants to the cities, thus destroying the Viet Cong’s support base and food supply.
Over the next 10 years more than 80 million litres were deployed across 7.4 million hectares of Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia. They were an effective defoliant, but there is strong evidence that the deadly dioxins contained in Agent Orange also had a catastrophic effect on the health of millions of Vietnamese – killing hundreds of thousands and causing dreadful diseases and birth defects in subsequent generations right up to this day.
Thousands of US servicemen – men who handled the herbicide and who operated in areas where it was deployed – were affected too, and they and their families eventually won compensation through the courts. But attempts to get similar US financial aid for the Vietnamese victims, or even much help with a clean up of polluted land, have been less successful.
With many areas of Vietnam still poisoned by the dioxin and the country’s hard pressed health and welfare services struggling to support those suffering, this film by Risto Vuorinen tells the remarkable story of the children of Agent Orange and a group of US veterans in Vietnam who are trying to atone for the mistakes of the past.