Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ranch Hands.

This is coolbert:

From the time of World War Two [WW2] through the Cold War, there were a lot of military weapons and military related "projects" that created controversy.

Controversy in that whole groups of persons involved with or "exposed" to weapons and "projects" claimed disability as a result of their exposure to same.

Disabilities that caused varying degrees of bodily injury. NOT during the time of actual military service, but quite often disabling injury appearing in the years subsequent to military service. Controversial just in that regard.

First we have the group of naval recruits that were subjected to chemical warfare experimentation during WW2.

Recruits that were told that if they volunteered for certain unspecified duty, they would be guaranteed a "state-side" assignment for the duration of the conflict. This had a certain appeal to some recruits. "State-side" assignment meant NO COMBAT. You would serve with honor but would not be exposed to combat. A significant number of recruits DID volunteer for this unspecified duty.

The duty of course, was chemical warfare experimentation.

Sailors were placed in a sealed room, and told to don gas masks and protective suits. Poison gas would be pumped into the room, and the results observed. The sailors became human guinea pigs for masks, suits, filters, de-contamination equipment, etc.

"U.S. Navy uses human subjects to test gas masks and clothing. Individuals were locked in a gas chamber and exposed to mustard gas and lewisite."

[The U.S. government was not alone in such experimentation. Canada and Great Britain also did the same with chemical experimentation.]

"It is estimated that approximately 3700 members of the Canadian military volunteered to participate as human subjects in secret chemical warfare agent experiments, held in Suffield, Alberta (from 1941 to the mid-1970s, but mainly in the Second World War era) and at Ottawa (1941-45).

The experimentation was driven by wartime urgency and the need to build defensive capability to weapons that had been used with terrible results in the First World War, which was at that time still a recent and painful memory."

Decades later, many of these sailors complained of lung problems, skin problems, heart disease, eye problems, etc. Wanted disability payments from the government. I am not sure if any subjects died during the experiments, but decades later, a number of sailor DID complain of illness and sickness. Effects they claimed were the result of the chemical experiments.

A second group of persons that claimed disability from military related activities was the enlisted [officers too??] personnel who manned the EC-121D aircraft from the 1950's.

Aerial radar aircraft that performed picket duty off the coasts of the U.S. during the era of the Cold War before the advent of the ballistic missile. To warn of Soviet bomber aircraft approach. Provided radar coverage far out at sea to give advance warning. Provided radar coverage where none was previously available.

Personnel operating the radars claimed excessive long term eye damage from being exposed as they were to "scatter" from the intense and powerful radars aboard the Constellation aircraft. Long exposure at close range, something not found in ground personnel is what is claimed as the culprit. Eye damage such as premature blindness, cataracts, glaucoma, etc.

There maybe some credence to the suspicions of those that claimed eye damage. Those radars are like big microwave ovens. Pumping a lot of wattage at UHF frequencies into the atmosphere. If you are in close proximity to such a radar, you are told to stay out of the beam.

A third group of persons claiming disability from military related activities are the citizens of St. George, Utah.

Folks that are called "downwinders". Exposed to repeated "dusting" from nuclear fallout. Fallout from above ground nuclear tests at the Nevada test range. Slightly over a hundred miles away, and downwind, St. George was hit by fallout on a number of occasions. Always told NOT TO WORRY. "The situation is being monitored."

"The town of St. George, Utah lies about 135 miles east of the NTS. AEC rules of firing test shots in Nevada stated that when the wind was blowing from the test-site towards Las Vegas (75 miles to the southeast) shots weren't fired. When the wind was blowing away from Las Vegas, tests would be fired. When the wind was blowing away from Las Vegas it was blowing towards St. George. St. George, Utah was the city that AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss said the tests always 'plaster.'"

Citizens of St. George have complained for years about excessive [in their minds excessive] rates of cancers. Thyroid cancer, leukemia, etc. The type of cancers associated with nuclear radiation and fallout.

St. George, strangely enough is currently rated as the #1 place in the U.S. to retire to!!!???

Finally, a fourth group of persons complaining of maladies related to military service are those American GI's that served in Vietnam, and were exposed to Agent Orange. The defoliant used in a widespread manner by U.S. forces during the conflict. Again, persons exposed to the Agent, and the dioxin contained within, seem to suffer from all sorts of afflictions related to the "dousing" from the chemicals. Rashes, lung problems, etc.

Sin loi roughly translates from Vietnamese as "sorry about that!!"

Most acutely suffering are the persons known as "Ranch Hands". Members of the Air Commandos. Air Force personnel, mostly enlisted, that were actually the ones of the aircraft administering the chemical. A crewman on a C-123 aircraft operating the sprayers and applying the Agent.

["Ranch Hands" wore a modified cowboy hat as part of their uniform. Hence the name "Ranch Hand". Looked "boss". Had a high esprit'.]

[Since the entire defoliant operation in Vietnam was known as Operation Ranch Hand, some may disagree with the term "Ranch Hand" applied to the Air Commando. This is what I knew them as back in my day. "Ranch Hands".]

A couple of comments here.

First, at least in the case of the military personnel, it should be kept in mind at all times, that some time during your military career, you may be called upon to do something dangerous. And while doing that something that is dangerous, you might be actually be injured. Even KILLED!! It goes with the territory.

Second, you must also keep in mind that sometime during your life, no matter who you are, you will get sick in some manner. It happens to all of us. YOU WILL get sick from something and be sick in some way. It will happen.

Also, there is in almost all these cases, a big lapse in time here. Decades even. It is not like the sailors went into the room with the gas, got sick almost immediately, and then found themselves ill for the rest of their lives. Same in almost all the other cases. Aircraft crewmen in the EC-121D or the C-123, or the "downwinders" of St. George. People that claimed illness related to events that occurred in some instances decades ago.

This all seems to boil down to a statistical battle. The groups of people claiming disability have to be able to demonstrate through statistical methods that they suffer illness at a greater variance from a sample population of those persons of the same basic age category NOT exposed to say chemical weapons, powerful radars, defoliants or fallout.

It is required to have a large enough data base and smart enough statisticians on your side to marshal the evidence and "prove" that have suffered disability from your exposure to "negative" forces.

At least in the cases of the St. George "downwinders" and the Agent Orange victims, I think settlements have been reached. In the cases of the others, radar folks and sailors, I think the jury is still out.

Happy trails to you!!!



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