The Lethal Legacy of the Vietnam War

Fifty years after the first US troops came ashore at Da Nang, the Vietnamese are still coping with unexploded bombs and Agent Orange.

By George Black
The Nation
February 25, 2015

Bombs, Agent Orange and the Lethal Legacy of Bombs in Quang Tri Credits: The Food & Environment Reporting Network and SwitchYard Media

On a mild, sunny morning last November, Chuck Searcy and I drove out along a spur of the old Ho Chi Minh Trail to the former Marine base at Khe Sanh, which sits in a bowl of green mountains and coffee plantations in Vietnam’s Quang Tri province, hard on the border with Laos. The seventy-seven-day siege of Khe Sanh in early 1968, coinciding with the Tet Offensive, was the longest battle of what Vietnamese call the American War and a pivotal event in the conflict. By the off-kilter logic of Saigon and Washington, unleashing enough technology and firepower to produce a ten-to-one kill ratio was a metric of success, but the televised carnage of 1968, in which 16,592 Americans died, was too much for audiences back home. After Tet and Khe Sanh, the war was no longer America’s to win, only to avoid losing.

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