What is the Blue Water


The issue of "brown water" vs "blue water" is easily misunderstood. This differentiation is easier to look at from the viewpoint of “ships that served within the geographical boundaries of Vietnam” and “ships that served only offshore” Vietnam. "Brown water" is meant to describe Inland Waterways, literally inside the land boundaries of the country. So even though the actual color of the water in close-to-shore locations was certainly brown, if it was offshore, and part of or open to the 'deep blue sea,' it would NOT be considered a brown water location for this specific definition being used by the VA. In fact, the VA has not conceded that the water itself, either for inland waterways or the deep ocean water, contained anything at all related to the presence of herbicide. Their definition is only based upon geographical LOCATION that will grant an individual the presumption of exposure to herbicide in Vietnam.

For the purposes of granting presumption of exposure to herbicide, the VA Compensation Division has stated that no ports, bays or harbors are considered Inland Water, regardless of what color they might have been. Even though several Regional Offices as well as the Board of Veterans Appeals has several times awarded presumptive exposure to herbicide (Agent Orange-dioxin) to a veteran who was clearly outside the confines of that definition, those rulings do not set precedent and apply only to the circumstances of that specific individual.

Yes, that is very inconsistent, illogical and seemingly a 'legal contradiction.' But VA states that each case is unique and associated rulings only apply to that specific veteran. This is a very strong target for a legally-based attack BUT FOR THE FACT that VA Law is not a part of the American legal system of the public courts. It is based on a set of rules and regulations that stand apart from common law as used in the public courtroom.

For a “Blue Water” ship to be considered to have served on “brown water,” the ship had to have actually passed an imaginary line drawn across the mouth of a river or canal and located itself (at least partly) within the geographical boundary of Vietnam.

Any of the many inlets along the shore, including the ports, bays and harbors, that are open to the sea for deep water vessels are not considered Inland Waterways under the definition of the Inland Waterways Project 211, 211_AOSHIPS.VBACO@va.gov, which is the office within the VA that releases a list of ships that are acknowledged to fall within the VA definition of ships having been on Inland Waters or ships that had crew that went ashore. In this latter instance, only those specific crew members that went ashore (and thus had "boots-on-ground") are granted the presumption of exposure, not the entire ship's crew.

I hope that helps you understand the current distinction that the VA is making in their definition of “Blue Water Navy.”

John Rossie
BlueWaterNavy.org