I-TEAM: How much Agent Orange testing was done at Fort Gordon and for how long?

Friday, Oct. 11, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

Soldiers sprayed the substance known as Agent Orange all over Vietnam. (Source: Texas Tech Vietnam Archive)

FORT GORDON, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Almost a decade after an investigation exposed Agent Orange was tested at Fort Gordon, our I-Team is exposing another problem with exposure.

The toxin could also be passed down to kids and grandkids. But we're looking at why Fort Gordon was a test site to begin with.

The first clue could have been in a lost News 12 film reel that resurfaced 5 years ago.

The year was 1961, and there were already thousands of American troops fighting in Vietnam.

John F. Kennedy had been elected president, and there was about to be a change of command here at home, too.

"Fort Gordon is a very essential site and a very necessary part of the Army training system,” Gen. Howard M. Hobson said in a now 58-year-old interview.

Hobson, the outgoing commanding general, sat down for this interview with News 12, possibly alluding to some plans.

"The ideal climate year-round permits us to train everyday throughout the year,” Hobson said.

It's also a climate that has a lot in common with Southeast Asia.

Government documents show the Georgia site described as "a warm temperate, humid, moderate rainfall climate with deep, well-drained sands in rolling topography."

Camp Crockett was born -- complete with mock Vietnamese villages on a remote part of Fort Gordon. The idea was to make the training as realistic as possible.

Another clip from our old film archives shows from the hats -- to Saigon printed on the bus -- it was all pretend, but a very real danger arrived in 1967.

A map shows where the government tested agents blue, orange and white in Augusta. Or tactical herbicides, as they were called.

We found government documents outlining how they used a helicopter to spray the rainbow of toxic chemicals for almost 3 years. While there's no official government documentation, we've had veterans tell us they also sprayed it on the ground.

We received video from the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech that shows soldiers spraying Agent Orange along a riverbank in Vietnam. It begs the question -- how much of this kind of spraying happened here -- that might not be documented?

It's a good question we might never get the answer to. But we do know this, it has been a battle for vets exposed here to get benefits.

A man who won his fight has this advice: get three doctor's notes. He believes the VA has to have two doctors to counter one doctor's claim.

So, if you have a good case, it will be difficult to find six doctors who disagree.

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