Here are some photos from the exhibit:
The USA was actively involved, militarily, in the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1972.
The USA became involved in Vietnam after the French army was captured by the Vietnamese at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Here's something I found on youtube about the battle.
Ironically, although France had been occupied by Germany during World War II, and therefore knew how it felt to have a foreign country's soldiers in their homeland, as soon as World War II ended, France re-occupied various countries (including Algeria and Vietnam) which had once been French colonies. The French wanted to use the rubber and rice as well as inexpensive workers of Vietnam.
After the battle of Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam was divided into North Vietnam (communist) and South Vietnam (capitalist). President Eisenhower (president from 1953 to 1961) refused to send US soldiers to South Vietnam during his term in office. President John Kennedy was the first president to send US soldiers to Vietnam. Although Kennedy was a Democrat, he considered himself to be strongly anti-communist ('anti' means 'against') and did not want North Vietnam to unify the entire country under a communist government.
50,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam and over 1,000,000 Vietnamese died before President Richard Nixon removed all US soldiers from Vietnam in 1972. In 1975 North Vietnam finally defeated South Vietnam and the country became unified under a communist government.
During the war the US used a chemical called 'Agent Orange.' This chemical was sprayed on Vietnamese forests in order to 'defoliate' the forests (to destroy the leaves and other plants). The US army wanted many forests to be defoliated so that they could see the Vietnamese soldiers more easily.
Unfortunately, Agent Orange contained a chemical called 'dioxin.' If dioxin gets into a human being's body, it can cause severe damage. Indeed, if dioxin gets into a person's body, it can cause birth defects in the person's children. A birth defect is when there is something physically wrong with a child. To this day many Vietnamese children are being born with birth defects due to the effects of Agent Orange.
Here is an article about this from a few months ago which shows that when Agent Orange was being manufactured, the companies creating this chemical knew that it was dangerous to human beings. Clearly, the United States government should be doing more to help the Vietnamese people to clean up whatever dioxin is left in the soil. To this day children are still being born with birth defects due to this chemical.
dictated by - ordered by, demanded by; if the formula was dictated by the US government, the US government required that certain type of formula. A formula is the way something should be produced.
a cargo plane - a giant plane that usually carries goods and products (cargo). These huge planes were used to carry Agent Orange over the Vietnamese forests and then the chemical was sprayed on the trees from the air.
to dispense - to emit, to send out, to spray
a herbicide - a chemical that kills plants. Anything with 'cide' means an agent that kills. Insecticide kills bugs and insects. Rodenticide kills mice and rats.
the conflict - the war
defoliants - chemicals to kill plants
veterans - former military personnel, former/previous soldiers
he dropped a startling bombshell - he said something which was a shocking surprise
contaminated with dioxin - contained dioxin, possessed dioxin
scenario - a situation (so the US knew that Agent Orange harms people, but nobody at that time seemed to care because they thought only Vietnamese people would suffer).
strict military specifications - the military had strong guidelines or a specific formula that had to be followed
compensation for ailing veterans - money to be given to US soldiers who began to suffer from dioxin (ailing means suffering)
exposure - coming in contact with the chemical
cited - referred to, pointed to
organ toxicity - if something is toxic it can kill you; so dioxin can severely harm and destroy body organs (a body organ might be the liver, kidneys, lungs etc.)
psychopathological - dioxin can cause damage to the brain
revelations - if something is revealed it is made known to everyone
shielded - protected, defended
liability - legal responsibility
absolved themselves of responsibility - they have stated they are innocent or not responsible for the harm caused by the dioxin to people
Operation Ranch Hand - this was the secret 'code' name for the process of dropping/spraying Agent Orange on Vietnam.
benign - it was supposed to be a benign program...benign means there was not supposed to be any harmful effect on people, only trees. Benign means 'harmless.'
the moral will - a moral person tries to do what's right and tries to avoid doing what's wrong; a will is a desire to do something. So 'moral will' means the desire to do something good.