Thursday, August 4, 2011

Agent Orange's legacy remains painful for Vietnam War veterans
By Chuck Fager

Agent Orange.

One of the many terms associated with the Vietnam War that evoke strong and often angry reactions.

Why mention it now and risk stirring those responses again?

Partly, it's the calendar: Aug. 10 will mark 50 years since the first load of powerful defoliant was sprayed by U.S. forces on the Vietnam landscape in 1961. It was the beginning of what was initially called Operation Hades, then was soon renamed and expanded into Operation Ranch Hand.

The name came from the color of the label on the barrels; other defoliant "Agents" used were coded Blue, White, Purple, Pink, and Green. But Agent Orange made up 60 per cent of the sprays.

The idea was that by withering the jungle, Agent Orange would deprive Ho Chi Minh's guerillas of cover. And by withering crops, it would help move rural farmers into towns under the control of the South Vietnamese government.

Over the 10 years of Operation Ranch Hand, planes and trucks sprayed some 20 million gallons of such defoliants across parts of Vietnam that added up to an area as large as Massachusetts.


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