Clean up bombs in Vietnam

August 21, 2013 

4/19 VIETNAM BOY

Phan Huu Luan, 10, sits while recovering from injuries in his home in Vinh Chap, Vietnam, Feb. 22, 2000. Huu Luan was injured by a bomblet found by two of his friends, who were killed when they threw it against a rock and it exploded. Hundreds of thousands of tiny bomblets were dropped by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War and many of them remain active, waiting to kill or maim whoever encounters them. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

RICHARD VOGEL — AP

The United States has a moral responsibility to step up efforts to identify, defuse and collect unexploded ordnance that U.S. armed forces rained down on Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

It’s been 40 years since U.S. forces flew its last bombing mission over the Southeast Asian country. But the killing and maiming from those bombs continues.

The Vietnamese government estimates that 100,000 people have been killed or injured from unexploded bombs and other ordnance since 1975.

From land, air and sea, the U.S. dropped nearly 16 million tons of ordnance on the country during the war. As much as 800,000 tons of it did not explode, leaving time-bombs behind that keep on killing.

The U.S. has spent some $65 million since 1998 to retrieve these deadly remnants of war. But that’s only a drop in the bucket, compared to the billions of dollars the Vietnamese government estimates it will take to restore a semblance of safety to its countryside.

Compounding the problem is the large number of impoverished Vietnamese who scour the land for ordnance that didn’t explode during the war. They eke out a meager living by selling copper and steel from the leftover bombs, but risk their lives to do so.

All too often, children at play in rural areas of the country fall victim to these unexploded war munitions. An estimated 20 percent of the country’s land mass is contaminated by the war era bombs.

U.S. officials have expressed desire to increase trade and economic ties with Vietnam. They should start by cleaning up the mess left behind from the ill-fated attempt to bomb the country into submission more than 40 years ago.

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