"I find myself looking for catharsis."
April 5, 2008 7:35 PM   Subscribe

The Boneyard. I’ve come to bear witness to American folly, to rest my eyes on the flying machines that flattened the forests of Southeast Asia, poisoned its people, and changed my life. A personal essay about the long-reaching effects of Agent Orange.

For more information about the AMARC [now AMARG] facility visited by the above article's author, go to The AMARC Experience or the Air Force's official page about the site.

The Agent Orange Website.

Agent Orange Project from Oxfam and the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.

Blood Debt, an article about the effects of Agent Orange on the children of Southeast Asia [warning: graphic images].

Previous MetaFilter posts about Agent Orange.
posted by amyms (14 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man. My dad worked at a chemical plant in Ontario that made that shit in the 70s. Something on the Vietnam War came on TV once, and they showed some pictures like those, and it's the only time I've ever seen the man cry.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 7:44 PM on April 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

"Ben Quick finishes his MFA in creative writing at the University of Arizona this spring. He lives in Tucson."
If that is the biographical quote an author supplies to a Web publisher, am I a cretin for saying the main link piece was overwritten, with its jump cuts, and bathos, and spelling errors? I dunno. As much as I hated the Vietnam War's excesses, as much as I sympathize with those who live with its ongoing legacy, as much as I understand the guy was telling a story which has ongoing personal ramifications, I feel a little astroturfed, having read it.

The Blood Debt link was, to my mind, more affecting, perhaps for the fact of all those disturbing images, but also, for the flat statement of facts it takes as tone:
"... The case was tried by Judge Jack Weinstein, who oversaw the 1984 settlement on behalf of the American servicemen exposed to dioxin. On March 10, 2005, he dismissed the VAVA lawsuit on the grounds that although the chemicals sprayed on Vietnam were toxic, their use didn't qualify as chemical warfare and was thus not in violation of international law."
Good post, amyms.
posted by paulsc at 8:31 PM on April 5, 2008

I didn't mind the jump cuts. But the bathos, yeah. And let's hope that Ben Quick learns the difference between brakes and breaks sometime before they give him that degree.

Note to Orion editor: spell check != proofread
posted by eritain at 8:40 PM on April 5, 2008

The denuded hills of Quang Tri Province that were covered in triple canopy jungle before the war.

Near the old American base south of Quang Tri, a young girl stands guard over her patch of saplings marked off by rows of old artillery shells. She is responsible for their safety, warding off birds and rats.

A young mother shortly after giving birth at the Tu Du hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Her baby was born deformed with a small brain, defective mouth, ears and limbs. It died the following day.

Kim Thoa, 16, suffers from a disfiguring skin condition; her face and body are covered in patches of inky-black, scaly growths. Thoa's father was sprayed fighting in the South. She worries that her skin looks like that of an animal.

Villagers with their affected children attend the health clinic in the village for their weekly checkup.

Le Thi Mit ties together the hands of her eldest son, Nguyen Van Lanh, 16, to prevent him from harming himself or others. His younger brother, Nguyen Van Truong, has an eye defect that makes him very sensitive to light.

Le Thi Hoa, 14, born stunted with deformed fingers, proudly demonstrates her excellent penmanship.

Penh, 14, born in Tramkok district, Takeo Province. He begs with his parents who have also moved to the city. With his handsome good looks he specialises in targeting open-air restaurants.

Le Thi Hoai Nhon is 23, but has the stature of a child of three, with stunted fingers and toes. Her father, Le Huu Dong, 55, is rice farmer and was stationed nearby in the Saigon Army during the whole war.

via (Images linked above are SFW, although some of the ones on the main page in the via link are graphic.)
posted by hadjiboy at 9:14 PM on April 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is an interesting post. Although I've only read about half of it, I didn't mind the style of The Boneyard, although, yeah, it seemed a little wordy.

Anyway. Just wondering if anyone else has noticed that most up-and-coming writers these days have MFAs in Creative Writing*. What does this mean? 'Cause everything now is McFiction - I've stopped reading novels or even short stories. Everything sounds the same.

*I myself have a BFA in Creative Writing, but I ain't no writer
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 PM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for those additional links, hadjiboy.
posted by amyms at 9:36 PM on April 5, 2008

Well. That was depressing.
posted by blacklite at 9:54 PM on April 5, 2008

Although I could have done without knowing how Ben Quick was attracted to the guide and felt the need to urinate as he left, I still enjoyed the article. The photos are shocking and deeply disturbing. Great post.
posted by Locative at 10:06 PM on April 5, 2008

But there was something else as well, something curious: although in every other way I fit the normal profile of a baby boy, my left hand was almost round, and at first glance, fingerless.

I took to wearing thick goalkeeper’s gloves that kept the shape of their fingers against gravity when I shook hands with players from opposing teams after soccer games (in retrospect, I wonder if the gloves weren’t part of the appeal of the position).

Why didn't he take off his right hand glove to shake hands?
posted by Tube at 12:54 AM on April 6, 2008

that article doesn't really get across just how huge the tuscon davis-monthan afb (pictures) really is. the us war machine is massive.

and I would kill to get that kind of access.
posted by krautland at 8:08 AM on April 6, 2008

Interesting that the writer felt such a need to see the aircraft.

I was stationed at DM (Davis-Monthan AFB) for two years. I was security forces and spent a lot of time out in the graveyard. At the time, early '80s it was the third largest air force in the world (USA, Russia, graveyard in that order). There was at least one of every aircraft the US military had ever used, to include civilian troop transports. A certain percentage of the aircraft had to be ready to fly with a 12 hour notice.

Many of the aircraft were not tightly mothballed. There was a problem with transients setting up house in them. It was common to find them open and filled with coyote dung. I have pictures of me walking on the wings of C141s and sitting in cockpits with the instrument panels still intact. I remember once going through a decommissioned Air Force 2. The vice presidential seal back rests, ashtrays, and coasters still sitting out. I so wanted to take one of those ashtrays at the time, but I didn't.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2008

hey Juicylicious, how tightly controlled is access there these days?
is getting in for a photo trip possible?
posted by krautland at 3:03 PM on April 6, 2008

Call them.
posted by Juicylicious at 3:32 PM on April 6, 2008

Heh, Juicylicious, my girlfriend is doing Security Forces work at DM as we speak, (although she's an ARCv from the Guard, and actually in Supply.) krautland, as her link says, it's actually pretty easy to get access to AMARC, at least by tour, and probably not overly difficult to get better access, assuming you're doing something more than just sightseeing. Here's AMARC's website. The Pima Air & Space Muesum is also a place you might be interested in.
posted by Snyder at 11:08 PM on April 6, 2008

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