A Brief History
On August 10, 1961, the US began Operation Ranch Hand, a ten year program of using chemical herbicides against the flora of Vietnam and surrounding countries to both deprive the Viet Cong of food crops and of foliage for cover.
Chemical weapons are banned by international treaty, including the 1925 Geneva Protocol and The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Not only are deadly chemicals prohibited, but irritants such as “tear gas” are also banned for use in war.
Herbicides escaped mention in previous prohibitions against deadly chemicals used in war, but in 1978 the Environmental Modification Convention closed that loophole and banned any attempt to change “the composition or structure of the Earth’s biota.”
Over the decade of Operation Ranch Hand, C-123 aircraft sprayed about 19 million gallons of herbicides over 5 million acres of forest and jungle, as well as 500,000 acres of crops. How much damage to people and the environment is unknown.
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you know anyone that suffered from exposure to “Agent Orange’ or other herbicides in Vietnam? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Cecil, Paul. Herbicidal Warfare: The RANCH HAND Project in Vietnam. Praeger, 1986.
US Air force. Operation Ranch Hand: The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia, 1961-1971. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of the “Ranch Hand” sign at Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam, with a Fairchild C-123B Provider in the background, is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain in the United States.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.