To my shipmates who were on board the USS Shelton (DD-790) for the 1972 WESTPAC deployment to Vietnam:
If any of you have suffered one of the terrible diseases or conditions, presumed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, this information may assist you in your effort to obtain benefits.
Lieutenant JG Dennis Garrow was the Officer of the Deck on the midwatch, on Wednesday August 16, 1972. In his entry in the Deck Log, Lieutenant Garrow wrote the following:
ØØ-Ø4 Underway in accordance with CINCPACFLT Quarterly Employment Schedule as a unit of the TU 7Ø.8.9 consisting of various units of the SEVENTHFLT providing Naval Gunfire Support in the vicinity of Quang Tri City, Military Region I, Republic of Viet Nam. SOPA is CTG 7Ø.8 embarked in USS PROVIDENCE (CLG-6). OTC is CTU 7Ø.8.9 embarked in USS JOHN S. McCAIN (DDG-36). Boilers 1 and 4 and generators 1 and 2 are on the line with the engineering plant split. Condition of readiness III and material condition YOKE are set. The ship is darkened, showing no lights. Presently steering various courses at various speeds to remain in vicinity of Point “P.” Conducting WBLC surveillance in area around mouth of CUA VIET River.
That last sentence is critical. VA Training Letter 10-06, at pages 7 and 8, states the following:
When evaluating deck log information, look for statements like “maneuvering at various speeds into…” and reference to such locations as “Cua Viet River,” “Saigon River,” “Mekong River Delta,” and “Ganh Rai Bay” or Rung Sat Special Zone” (both are up river from Vung Tau Harbor). When deck logs refer to entering or anchoring in the “mouth” of one of these locations, or any other identifiable river location, C&P Service had determined that this is sufficient to establish service on the inland waterways. It is not practical to establish a bright dividing line between a river entrance and the South China Sea. Therefore, the benefit-of-the doubt doctrine is applicable and evidence of the vessel’s presence in a river’s mouth is sufficient to establish the presumption of exposure for Veterans aboard that ship.
I hope that this may help any of you who have suffered the frustration of trying to prove that you served in the inland waterways of Vietnam, and provides the information that you were exposed to Agent Orange.
And God bless Lieutenant JG Dennis Garrow! Little did he know how important the words he wrote would become.
Ensign John Paxton, living with my wife Liz in San Francisco