Agent Orange was used by the Americans in the Vietnam War to take away jungle cover for the NLF on the ground. Agent Orange was a defoliant and between 1963 and 1966, six million gallons of it were used in Vietnam.
Agent Orange (or ‘Super Orange’) was one of the so-called ‘Rainbow Herbicides’ used by the US in Vietnam. Others included Agent Pink and Agent Purple. However, out of all the ‘Rainbow Herbicides’, Agent Orange released most dioxins and became the most infamous used.
Agent Orange had been used in farming for a number of years where it kept wheat and cornfields free of weeds. The herbicide was first used in 1946 and by the 1950’s it was in widespread use.
When the US government first purchased Agent Orange to be used in Vietnam, the manufacturers of it claim that they told the government that dioxin was a by-product.
Between 1962 and 1977, 77 million litres of chemical defoliants were sprayed over South Vietnam, the most widely used being Agent Orange. The logic behind it use was simple – to deny the NLF cover on the ground as they transported supplies and personnel around thus making them more easy to be spotted from the air and attacked by US forces.
However, while the military impact of Agent Orange can be argued over, its impact at a physical level on people cannot. The actual spraying of Agent Orange was indiscriminate in that there could be no control over where it specifically landed. It was used in the mountainous region along the Vietnam/Cambodia border and the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs claim that about 5 million people became the victims of Agent Orange. High exposure to its dioxins caused cancer and a variety of genetic problems – many of which manifested themselves in children born to mothers who were affected by these dioxins. It is not known whether there has been any research in Vietnam into the long-term effects of low-level exposure to the dioxins of Agent Orange.
In 1984, Vietnam veterans received a settlement of $180 million from the companies that manufactured Agent Orange. As US troops had gone into areas where Agent Orange had been dropped, they too were exposed to its dangers. Ex-troops from Australia, New Zealand and Canada also received compensation.