13405 Colfax Drive
Fort Washington, Maryland 20744-5438
September 22, 2010
Mr. Thomas J. Murphy
Compensation & Pension Service
Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Benefits Administration
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Mr. Murphy,
Thank you for your letter of September 13, 2010, providing new Department of Veterans Affairs policy and guidance concerning the use of Agent Orange in Laos during the Vietnam War.
The members of the Airborne Battlefield Command & Control Center (ABCCC) Association would like further clarification of this most recent Department of Veterans Affairs Agent Orange policy.
Your letter states that “any veteran providing evidence of service in this area of Laos would qualify for acknowledgement of exposure on a direct facts-found basis.” Does this policy encompass aircraft and the aircrews that flew over the Laotian countryside during the Vietnam War?
As a former aircrew member on board ABCCC, I am aware of three different types of aircraft that flew combat missions in the Laotian Theater: slow movers, fast movers and helicopters.
The slow movers were propeller aircraft that often flew at altitudes below 100 feet in order to fire flares and rockets to mark the enemy positions below or to provide helicopter escort on combat-rescue missions. The fast movers were jet aircraft that bombed and strafed the North Vietnamese coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The helicopters were the rescue aircraft that often landed in Laos to pick up a downed pilot or a wounded special-forces soldier that required immediate medical attention.
Since the slow movers often flew below 100 feet above ground level, there is no doubt that Agent Orange found its way into the cockpits of these aircraft. The same is true of course for the rescue helicopters that landed in the Laotian Jungle to pick up wounded American personnel or to rescue a downed American or Laotian pilot. Therefore our Association is requesting that the aircrews of these aircraft be included in the Department of Veterans Affairs Agent Orange Policy encompassing the War in Laos.
With regards to the current Department of Veterans Affairs Agent Orange Policy concerning Thailand.
As a 30-year veteran of the United States Air Force who accumulated more than 14,500 flying hours, I am very familiar with the geography of USAF bases throughout the world. Every USAF air base that I have ever been to has a “perimeter road” that completely traverses the base perimeter. On the base side of the perimeter road are buildings housing work areas and living quarters.
Our Association has been able to acquire photographs and maps of Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB) during the 1969 to 1973 period.
Enclosure 1 is a 1969 aerial photograph of Udorn RTAFB. From the photograph one can easily see the base perimeter and the buildings adjacent to the base perimeter.
Enclosure 2 is a 1969 base map of Udorn RTAFB. From the map one can easily see the base perimeter and the buildings adjacent to the base perimeter.
Enclosure 3 is a 1970 photograph of a section of the Udorn RAFB perimeter road. From the photograph one can easily see the base perimeter and the buildings adjacent to the base perimeter.
Enclosure 4 is a 1973 photograph of the Udorn RTAFB flight line. From the photograph one can easily see the base perimeter and the buildings adjacent to the base perimeter.
Enclosure 5 is a 1970 photograph of the Udorn RTAFB flight line. From the photograph one can easily see the base perimeter and the buildings adjacent to the base perimeter.
Enclosure 6 is a 1971 photograph of an Udorn RTAFB work area found adjacent to the base perimeter road.
From viewing the enclosed maps and photographs provided with this letter, it is evident that any Agent Orange used to defoliate the Udorn RTAFB base perimeter also unintentionally drifted into the various buildings located in the vicinity of the base perimeter.
Therefore, the ABCCC Association membership is requesting that the Department of Veterans Affairs revisit its Thailand Agent Orange policy and make the appropriate changes to include all base personnel who were either living or working within a two-mile radius of the Udorn RTAFB base perimeter during the Vietnam War era.
CMSgt Kenneth D. Witkin, USAF (Ret.)
ABCCC Association President
Enclosures (6) (Enclosures Not Provided On This Website)
CC: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid