Patrick Hogan’s vivid memoir, SILENT SPRING – DEADLY AUTUMN OF THE VIETNAM WAR, is going to make readers furious. And it should.
Hogan, who served in the U.S. Army in South Vietnam from September 1966 through June 1969, mostly in and around Cam Ranh Bay, not only ducked enemy fire, but also was hit by the deadly spray of pesticides and herbicides, laced across the countryside by the U.S. government, in an attempt to destroy enemy trees and food crops. The government’s tactics did not cause the North Vietnamese of the Vietcong to surrender, but the American soldiers who served in that brutal war were harmed, by their own military’s ‘silent defoliation’ campaign.
After his discharge, Hogan began to experience minor, then major, illnesses. He had skin rashes, colitis, multiple abdominal surgeries, difficulty swallowing and breathing. He had to retire early from his job as a police instructor in New Jersey, and to this day, continues to suffer from what he calls ‘a treacherous betrayal’ by his own government.
Hogan proves a keen investigator. He outlines the secret use by the government of the worst of the poisons – Agent Orange, Agent White, malathion and DDT. He digs deep into what he labels ‘the biology of Vietnam’ in explaining what each of these deadly toxins does to the human body. And he pinpoints the responsibility of the government and the chemical companies, who lied to the troops and the American people about the poisons. “We all expected to be in danger from the enemy in Vietnam,” Hogan writes. “But never, in our wildest imaginings, did we conceive of being placed in harm’s way by our own military’s atomized spraying of tens of millions of gallons of extremely harmful herbicides and insecticides.”
The book could have done without some of the chapters that concentrate on the legalisms of what is and what is not a provable point in a court of law when it comes to what the government said or did not say about the spraying. But SILENT SPRING is an extremely valuable work, particularly because, nearly half a century has passed since the war ended, and many younger Americans have little or no idea what hell happened, both over there and to those returned. This.
SILENT SPRING – DEADLY AUTUMN OF THE VIETNAM WAR is an important book and a shocking reminder that, even many decades later, the war in Southeast Asia hasn’t ended for thousands of soldiers who developed extremely serious illnesses from toxic chemicals sprayed across the countryside, in secret, by their own government.
~James Bernstein for IndieReader