Ed Martini - Department of History, WMU

Taking on what one former U.S. ambassador called

“the last ghost of the Vietnam War,” this book examines

the far-reaching impact of Agent Orange, the most infamous

of the dioxin-contaminated herbicides used by

American forces in Southeast Asia. Edwin A. Martini’s

aim is not simply to reconstruct the history of the

“chemical war” but to investigate the ongoing controversy

over the short- and long-term effects of weaponized

defoliants on the environment of Vietnam, on the

civilian population, and on the troops who fought on

both sides.

Beginning in the early 1960s, when Agent Orange

was first deployed in Vietnam, Martini follows the

story across geographical and disciplinary boundaries,

looking for answers to a host of still unresolved questions.

What did chemical manufacturers and American

policymakers know about the effects of dioxin on

human beings, and when did they know it? How much

do scientists and doctors know even today? Should the

use of Agent Orange be considered a form of chemical

warfare? What can, and should, be done for U.S. veterans,

Vietnamese victims, and others around the world

who believe they have medical problems caused by

Agent Orange?

Martini draws on military records, government

reports, scientific research, visits to contaminated sites,

and interviews to disentangle conflicting claims and

evaluate often ambiguous evidence. He shows that the

impact of Agent Orange has been global in its reach. Yet

for all the answers it provides, this book also reveals how

much uncertainty—scientific, medical, legal, and political—

continues to surround the legacy of Agent Orange.


“One of the boldest and most impressive books

on the Vietnam War that I have read in the last

few years. It is deeply researched, innovative in

scope, and fundamentally challenging to many

points of conventional wisdom on the conflict.

Beyond that, Edwin Martini’s study interrogates

basic questions about science, causality, and

certainty that few other works of history—on

any subject—address.”

Jeremi Suri, author of Liberty’s Surest

Guardian: American Nation-Building from the

Founders to Obama

“Martini’s considerable talents as a storyteller

only serve to illuminate his comprehensive

research. This is such a powerful combination

of narrative skill and bibliographic evidence that

not only does Agent Orange make a significant

contribution to its field, it is hard to imagine

why anyone would attempt to add to this body

of literature.”

David Zierler, author of The Invention of

Ecocide: Agent Orange and the Scientists Who

Changed the Way We Think about the


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