Operation Ranch Hand


Four-plane defoliant run, part of Operation Ranch Hand

Operation Ranch Hand was a U.S. military operation during the Vietnam War, lasting from 1962 until 1971. Largely inspired by the British use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (Agent Orange) during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s, it was part of the overall chemical warfare program during the war called ‘Operation Trail Dust’. Ranch Hand involved spraying an estimated 20 million U.S. gallons (76,000 m3) of defoliants and herbicides[1] over rural areas of South Vietnam in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong of food and vegetation cover. Areas of Laos and Cambodia were also sprayed to a lesser extent. Nearly 20,000 sorties were flown between 1961 and 1971.  The ‘Ranch Handers’ motto was ‘Only you can prevent a forest’ – a take on the popular U.S. Forest Service poster slogan of Smokey Bear. During the ten years of spraying, over 5 million acres (20,000 km2) of forest and 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) of crops were heavily damaged or destroyed. Around 20% of the forests of South Vietnam were sprayed at least once. The herbicides were sprayed by the U.S. Air Force flying C-123s using the call sign ‘Hades’. The planes were fitted with specially developed spray tanks with a capacity of 1,000 U.S. gallons (4 m3) of herbicides. … Within two to three weeks of spraying, the leaves would drop from the trees, which would remain bare until the next rainy season. In order to defoliate the lower stories of forest cover, one or more follow-up spray runs were needed. About 10 percent of the trees sprayed died from a single spray run. Multiple spraying resulted in increased mortality for the trees, as did following up the herbicide missions with napalm or bombing strikes.The use of herbicides in the Vietnam War was controversial from the beginning, particularly for crop destruction. The scientific community began to protest the use of herbicides in Vietnam as early as 1964, when the Federation of American Scientists objected to the use of defoliants. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a resolution in 1966 calling for a field investigation of the herbicide program in Vietnam. In 1967, seventeen Nobel laureates and 5,000 other scientists signed a petition asking for the immediate end to the use of herbicides in Vietnam. Press coverage of the controversial use of herbicides in Vietnam increased in the late 1960s. …”
Wikipedia
[PDF] Ranch Hand in Vietnam (photo essay)
[PDF] The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia 1961-1971
YouTube: What Is Agent Orange? | History


Map of herbicide usage during the Vietnam war.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Agent Orange, CIA, John Kennedy, Lyn. Johnson, Napalm, R. McNamara, Saigon, Viet Cong, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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