The United States Sprays Agent Orange in Vietnam (Great Events from History II: Ecology and the Environment Series)
Article abstract: Thousands of U.S. soldiers and unknown numbers of Vietnamese were exposed to dioxin, the highly toxic contaminant of the defoliant Agent Orange.
Summary of Event
The involvement of U.S. military forces in the civil war in Vietnam presented the troops with problems U.S. soldiers had seldom experienced. Most of the war was fought in jungles, and the combat strategies that had been used in most preceding U.S. conflicts were not effective. U.S. forces were largely unaccustomed to fighting against enemies hidden in the underbrush of thick jungles. In addition to providing secure hiding places for the enemy, the jungle also provided the North Vietnamese soldiers with adequate food supplies, so that they did not have to rely on deliveries.
In 1961, U.S. Army personnel at Fort Detrick were asked to determine the feasibility of using herbicides as defoliants in Vietnam. At that time, U.S. assistance to South Vietnam consisted only of military advisers, economic aid, and some logistic support. In December, 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized the use of herbicides, and on January 12, 1962, the first herbicides were sprayed from U.S. Air Force planes. The herbicides were delivered with the full cooperation and at the request of the South Vietnamese government. By the time the first U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam in April, 1965, the defoliation program was well underway.
(The entire section is 1728 words.)
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