Requiem in Orange

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Tran Van Ngoc was walking to school the first time he saw the planes trailing clouds of white fog. The 16-year-old stopped to watch as the American aircraft circled his village and the mist settled to earth. "It smelled sweet, like ripe guava," he recalls. It was a routine repeated every morning for a year, and soon the village got used to itójust as they got used to a barren landscape, with tree leaves turning black and branches withering.

More than 30 years later, Ngoc thinks of those shriveled trees as he watches his two-year-old...