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A War Against Gentle Giants and Humanity

January 16, 2020

Jacob Shell, in his book Giants of the Monsoon Forest, highlighted a little-known fact that the during the Vietnam War, U.S. helicopter pilots were ordered to target elephants that were presumed to be employed by the North Vietnamese to transport munitions to the south along the Ho Chi Minh trail in neighboring Laos. There is no doubt that elephants were used to transport goods but the degree of the carnage and deliberate targeting of them came as a surprise. Moreover, there are accounts of up to twenty-eight elephants killed in one province alone. Further, helicopter pilots were instructed to recover ivory to bring back to headquarters as trophies. 

Prior to the Vietnam War, the elephant population in Vietnam numbered in the thousands and dwindled to a few hundred in the early 1970's. Land mines coupled with deliberate deforestation and destruction of elephant habitats may have taken as great a toll as aerial warfare. Cain W. Crouse wrote an article published in Pressbooks entitled The Use and Effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam which described the spraying of herbicides by military forces of the United States during the Vietnam War period from 1961 to 1971. Over this period, 13 million gallons of herbicides, most notably Agent Orange, were sprayed over 2.6 million acres to deprive Vietnamese forces of crops to eat and forest canopy in which to hide. Within days of application, plant and animal life for miles around were destroyed.

A before and after image of a mangrove swamp location clearly highlights the impact of Agent Orange. Interestingly, the herbicide Agent Orange program was code-named "Ranch Hand," an irony not lost on Texas ranchers that battle cedar encroachment into their cattle pastures.

The U.S. Corps tactical zone map below shows that the greatest concentration of spray missions was in the northern Quang Tri, Hue and Da Nang areas which were proximate to the northern supply source and provided immediate access to the Ho Chi Minh trail in neighboring Laos. Moreover, the re-entry point from Laos to the south would be the major supply route to deliver supplies to the Viet Cong.

Studies over the intervening years have found a correlation among dioxins, diabetes and cancer in Ranch Hand U.S. Army veterans. Accordingly, the U.S. government has spent billions on the health care of American soldiers exposed to Agent Orange. Interestingly, many of the Ranch Hand veterans moved back to Vietnam to lend their personal support to the Vietnamese who suffered from the program. Research has indicated that the greatest impact of Agent Orange rests in the subsequent generations of people exposed to it. Birth defects are an obvious consequence and examples are prevalent for woman who were exposed to Agent Orange. An image of a woman exposed to Agent Orange and her child was removed from the first draft as it was very disturbing. However, all one has to do is visit some of the schools that have received financial aid for Agent Orange offspring to see the level of suffering.

In 1994, the author returned to Vietnam to form a consortium to explore for oil and gas offshore southern Vietnam which remains active today. Over this period of time, we have been quite active under the direction of the Vietnamese government to address the needs of victims of Agent Orange. Moreover, further research is needed at a higher level to evaluate the impact on successive generations. The elephants are gone but we should do whatever possible to aid the humans remaining. In the bravado of Washington pundits, the true casualties of war are often ignored in the enemy body count-the civilians and the environment.

Suan Lahu Organic Coffee Beans

(a fair-trade coffee)

Suan Lahu, meaning "Lahu Garden" is a beautiful stretch of sloped land that encompasses about 30 acres in the highlands of Chiang Rai Province in Northern Thailand. 
As a producer of organic highland coffee, Suan Lahu strives to bring the intricate culture of the Lahu people into the growing, processing, and slow-roasting of one of the best Arabica coffees you can find in the region.  
This lovely coffee product is offered right here at The Elephant Story.

Suan Lahu Organic Coffee Beans (Light Roast)

Suan Lahu Organic Coffee Beans (Medium Roast)
Suan Lahu Organic Coffee Beans (Dark Roast)

The Elephant Creature Cup
(11 oz.)

Royal Belgium Coffee Maker
(Brass, Chrome or Rose Gold)

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