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Agent Orange and Related Issues

Operation Ranch Hand

Herbicides Sprayed in 9th ID AO



March 2000





• An estimated 3.1 million veterans served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand, and sailors in the South China Sea).

• An estimated 2.6 million personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam and in adjacent waters.



Agent Orange was a herbicide used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove cover for the enemy.  Agent Orange spraying missions were flown in Vietnam between January 1965 and April 1970.  Shipped in orange-striped barrels, it was a reddish-brown liquid containing four herbicides:  2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), cacodylic acid and picloram.  The 2,4,5-T was contaminated in the manufacturing process with dioxin.  Several herbicides were sprayed in Vietnam at different times -- during different years as well as during different seasons because of the variety of vegetation and environmental conditions.


The history of herbicides for military use dates to World War II.  During the early part of the war, interest arose in chemicals that could be used for crop destruction. Two chemicals were developed as a result of those early efforts -- 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. Although neither chemical was used in World War II, the value of their use in weed and brush programs was recognized, and both chemicals have been used widely throughout the world since the 1940s by farmers, foresters and homeowners.




      Free Medical Care:  VA has offered special access to health services and studies since 1978, when it initiated a medical surveillance program for Vietnam veterans with health concerns.  By 1981, VA offered priority medical care to Vietnam veterans with any health problems which may have resulted from Agent Orange exposure.  That program continues today.  


  Special Compensation for 10 Diseases:  As with other veteran, Vietnam veterans with disabilities incurred or aggravated by military service may receive monthly VA compensation.  As knowledge has grown from studies of Agent Orange, some diseases that may not have become evident in service have been recognized as service-connected.  Based on clinical research, the following diseases are now on VA's Agent Orange list:  chloracne, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, porphyria cutanea tarda, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx and trachea), soft-tissue sarcoma, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy and prostate cancer.  In addition, monetary benefits, health care and vocational rehabilitation services are provided to Vietnam veterans' offspring with spina bifida, a congenital birth defect of the spine.  VA presumes that all military personnel who served in Vietnam and who have one of the listed diseases were exposed to Agent Orange.



      • VA developed the Agent Orange Registry Examination Program in 1978 to identify Vietnam veterans concerned about Agent Orange exposure.  Nearly 300,000 Vietnam veterans have been provided examinations under the Registry program as of December 1999.  VA maintains a computerized registry of data from these examinations.  Registrants receive periodic updates on studies and policy.

      • VA's Advisory Committee on Health-Related Effects of Herbicides was established in 1979 to examine issues surrounding the possible health effects of herbicides on Vietnam veterans.  VA also established the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Environmental Hazards, consisting of non-VA experts in dioxin and radiation exposure as well as several lay members, to advise the Secretary on the results of Agent Orange-related research, and regulatory, administrative and legislative initiatives.  Since passage of a 1991 law (PL102-4), which directs VA to request that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review diseases associated with herbicide exposure, the committee's work has been superseded by the NAS review.

      • The NAS reviews and evaluates scientific literature about Agent Orange.  NAS reviewed more than 6,000 abstracts of scientific or medical articles and analyzed 230 epidemiological studies before its initial July 1993 report, which led to the inclusion of additional diseases on the list for presumptive service-connection.  The NAS review has been continuing, with acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy and prostate cancer added to VA's presumptive list after the NAS issued an updated report in March 1996.  Also based on that report's findings of new "limited or suggestive evidence" of an association between herbicides and spina bifida in the children of Vietnam veterans, VA proposed legislation to aid children of Vietnam veterans who suffer from that disorder, and established a reproductive outcomes research center to investigate potential environmental hazards of military service.  The latest NAS update, released in February 1999, contained no major changes in its classifications of diseases.  (The executive summary of that report is available on the Institute of Medicine's National Academy Press web site at  The next major update is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2000.  

However, a separate VA study led Secretary of Veterans Affairs Togo D. West Jr. to call for legislation to benefit children who suffer from birth defects that may have been caused by their mothers' Vietnam service, not necessarily by herbicide exposure.  Secretary West also asked NAS to further review a study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health of dioxin-exposed production workers at two U.S. plants that revealed elevated rates of diabetes among workers.  A decision whether to establish a presumption of service-connection for diabetes will be made once the additional review is completed, which is expected in May 2000.



Operation Ranch Hand

"Ranch Hand" was the USAF Herbicide Spraying Program


All vets should check out the VA web site,

especially the publication site listed at the bottom of this article.

Web site for Air Force "Ranch Hand Study"

Check out this VA web site on Diabetes:

also this agent orange site:

All Viet Nam Veterans should have an "Agent Orange Registry Examination"

.... A local service officer can help you arrange, if you haven't

already had one.

Some info is at this VA web site:

Most VA publications and manuals are at this site:



Herbicide Sprayed in 9th ID Area of Operation


Amounts of herbicide sprayed in IV Corps


(from Aug. 1965 onward)

The following totals represent the USAF Ranch Hand sprayings ONLY

They do not include the US Army helicopter or ground

applications, any form of the Insecticide programs by GVN

or other US Military. Areas specified below are either cities or

US military bases.

The amount (in gallons) represents what was sprayed

within 8 km radius of the specified area.

(Thus, each area shown below is 9.6 miles in diameter.)


                         Orange      White      Blue

    Vinh Long         8360        9755       890

    Vinh Loi         30010         ----         ----

     Tra Vinh         9885        8000        ----

     Tieu Con         8700          ----         ----

       Tan An         89550      36450       ----

    Soc Trang          3410         2391      1280

     Seafloat          4700          ----           ----

   Phu Quoc         19000         ----           ----

       Phnom            ----          184           ----

     Rach Gia           ----          2155         ----

   Nam Can         150345       64295       ----

        My Tho         13320         7316         965

Firebase Moore      9820           ----           ----

     Moc Hoa         12400         6590         ----

    Ham Long          3275          1620          ----

       Ben Luc         45900        14838         ----

       Ben Tre         24800         24750         ----

         Can Tho        15160         13915      11685

      Cao Lanh         1875           2935         830

    Dong Tam          5870           605           ----

   Firebase Grand Can(yon?)       ----            154          ----