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Chemical Weapons During The Vietnam War History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

How were the new chemical weapons designed, created and used in the Vietnam War?

Chemical weapons have been used throughout history, but in the Vietnam War they had a great impact. The chemical weapons use the toxic properties of chemical substances instead of explosive properties to produce physical or physiological effects on an enemy. The chemical weapons are not meant to destroy people but to incapacitate that person or group. Everyone would prefer for the enemies to put explosives instead of chemical weapons because the chemical weapons may affect you and your next generations because the chemicals get inside you, in the food you eat, the water you drink, the air you breathe. It is almost impossible for people to get these chemicals out of their bodies after the chemicals are inside you. This makes these mortality much larger and much more dangerous than the explosive and nuclear weapons. The chemical weapons can affect all of the living things, from humans to plants. Why would people want to put chemicals on the plants? This is an easy question and the answer to this is: hunger and starvation for the people who use these crops. The name for the chemical weapon that is used to harm a person is called lethal agent, and the one for crops is called defoliant. The defoliants are used to kill quickly the plants and crops where this chemical was placed. It was used a lot throughout history and in the Vietnam War, but it all started in World War I.

These weapons can be in a solid, liquid or gas form. They choke and affect the nerves or blood. They are classified due to how they affect your body. These are: nerve agents, mustard agents, hydrogen cyanide, tear gases, arsines, phsychotomimetric agents, toxins and potential CW agents. There are two categories and these are the lethal and the incapacitating. The lethal are the ones that cause death in a certain period of time, and the incapacitating can change the aspects of your body like deformation and paralization. The CWC is the Chemical Weapons Convention. It reinforces the aspects of the Geneva conventions that also deals with these agents and it has been negotiated over a period of 24 years. More than 170 countries have signed the CWC and about 139 have denied it. Once a government has signed this, they have to say where all of their chemical weapons facilities are. The two biggest chemical rouges are Russia and the United States. Some chemical weapons are too dangerous that they have to be destroyed and people have the techniques to get rid of it and not affecting anyone or anything. There are still being meetings between countries so that this chemical weapon war stops and the innocent people stop suffering.

The use of these weapons is considered to be biological warfare because it differs from conventional and nuclear weapons. The reason that it differs is because these are the only one that are harming the living things without any explosions and the other ones are explosives that only kill things at the instant. Any non-living toxic products are considered as chemical warfare. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) classifies any toxic chemical as a chemical weapon. During the 20th Century, about 70 different chemicals have been used as chemical warfare agents. Throughout the history, these weapons have been advancing technologically.

A really powerful advance in the history of the chemical weapons was the use of gas. This was a very dangerous and probably one of the most deadly weapons during all of the wars. This weapon could kill people instantly or make them suffer depending on the gas, and the worst thing was that there were many different types of gas. The German army was the first army to use the gas called Chlorine Gas. This gas was used a lot in the Vietnam War to harm the enemies. This type of gas causes you to feel a burning sensation and chest pains which will eventually lead to death. Even though it was a great weapon to use, it could also be bad for the side using it. The reason for this is that for you to be able to use this gas, the weather has to be perfect meaning either there can’t any wind or it has to be blowing in the opposite direction of the army using it. The reason for this is that it can come back and kill your own side. Another type of gas used and probably that most deadly and the cruelest gas is called Mustard Gas that is going to be explained later on. This gas is fired into the trenches with shells, fixing the weather problem that the chlorine gas had. This gas is really cruel to use because it can make you suffer for up to 5 weeks before it kills you.

In the 1900’s, the agents that were discovered were chlorine, chloropicrin, phosgene and mustard gas. All of these were moved by the wind so the people couldn’t stop this. The way to protect from this was by using gas masks, and if you were infected with these you had to urinate on the spot that you were infected. How could the people detect it? It could be detected with the smell. Chlorine is a chemical element that appears in the periodic table with atomic number 17 and it is a halogen. It is a really potent oxidant and it is used for disinfecting and bleaching. In the atmosphere, chlorine containing particles as the chlorofluorocarbons are destroying the ozone layer. Chloropicrin that is also known as PS, is a chemical compound that is a color-less toxic liquid and it is used as a fumigant and as a nematocide. When this chemical was introduced into the people, it caused vomiting and it is classified as a lachrymatory agent. This was a really intelligent idea because with this, the soldiers had to take their masks off to vomit and they could now inhale the powerful gases and die. Phosgene is a colorless gas used as a chemical weapon mainly in WWI. This chemical was used with gas weapons. Mustard gas is a member of sulfur mustard. If this gas touched the skin of a person, it could form large blisters. Now, the mustard agents are regulated by the CWC.

Later on in 1910, the Lewisite was discovered and used. The only way that a person could get protected from it was by using gas mask. It is specifically a arsine. It also made blisters on the people and it sometimes was a lung irritant. It can go easily through clothes so this was a cause of more harm in the soldiers, but the effects were seen after 12 hours as blisters or severe burns. If there is an excess in a body, death can happen. If anyone inhales it, they would have diarrhea, vomiting, burning pain, sneezing and pulmonary edema. The results if anyone ingested it were: vomiting, really hard pain, nausea and tissue damage. In the 1930’s, the G-series nerve agents were discovered. These were dropped by airplanes and people could recognize it if they placed it on a paper and it changed color. It is named G-series because of the Germans. This is the first and oldest family of the nerve agents. The first nerve agent was discovered in 1936, which was GA or tabun. In 1939, GB or sarin was discovered. Then was GD or soman and then was GF or cyclosarin. GB was the only agent that was used the United States as munitions.

In the 1960’s, the V-agents were discovered. V is for victory, viscous or venomous. This is the second family of the agents and there are five known agents: VE, VM, VG, VX and VR. These V-series are about 10 times more powerful than the G-series. The V- agents don’t get off clothes or surfaces for a long period of time. The most recent chemical weapon used was discovered in the 1990’s. This is the Novichok nerve agents. These nerve agents are the most deadly throughout all of the history. They are about five to eight time more powerful than the VX nerve gas, meaning that they are about fifty to eighty times more powerful than the G-agents. These were developed by the Soviet Union.

Lots of different weapons were used by different armies participating in the Vietnam War. These armies included the opposing armies of both the Republic of South Viet Nam and people’s Army of Vietnam (also known as the North Vietnamese Army). The United States, Viet Cong, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Philippine and New Zealand were armed and equipped. Almost all of these were armed by the United States because they were really powerful. In 1961 and 1962 the Kennedy administration accepted the use of chemicals to destroy all of the vegetation and food crops in South Vietnam. Between 1961 and 1967 the United States Air force sprayed over 12 million gallons of herbiades, mainly Agent Orange. Over 6 million acres were damaged of foliage, trees and food crops. This affected about 13% of South Vietnam’s land. In 1997, Wall Street Journal reported that about half a million children were born with dioxin related deformities and that the birth defects in South Vietnam were quadrupled those in the North. The use of Agent Orange may have been against the international rules of war of that time. Also, the most likely victims of such an assault were the small children. A 1967 study by the agronomy section of the Japanese Science Council concluded that 3.8 million acres of land (15,000 km2) of land has been destroyed killing about 1,000 peasants and 13,000 livestock.

I think that the discovery of the chemical weapons was a good and bad discovery for the history of mankind. It was good because there are some chemicals that are used to clean things and others that are used as treatment for health problems. The negative impact of these chemical weapons is much more noticeable because of one main thing, this is death. It caused thousands of deaths throughout all the wars and it is recently still taking people’s lives because of the chemicals that these persons had inside their body. If the chemical weapons would not have ever been discovered, maybe the history on which country is more powerful would have changed.


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