The History, Use, Disposition and Environmental Fate of Agent Orange

pp 23-45


A History of the Development and Procurement of Tactical Herbicides

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Since 1980, controversy has persisted over the locations at which the Department of Defense (DOD) may have used, tested or evaluated, the herbicides containing 2,4,5-T and its associated dioxin, and “other herbicides” used in the Vietnam War. Adding to the controversy is the confusion by the public, Vietnam veterans, and by the Department of Veterans Affairs as to the distinction between “commercial herbicides” purchased by the DOD and “tactical herbicides” developed by the DOD. Contrary to historical records, many individuals thought that commercially available herbicides were purchased directly from the chemical companies and deployed to the battlefields in Vietnam. However, the use of commercial herbicides was under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces Pest Control Board (subsequently the Armed Forces Pest Management Board), Forest Glen Station, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. The uses and application of commercial herbicides were the responsibilities of the Base Civil Engineers, while tactical herbicides were under the control of special military units (e.g., Army Chemical Corps, and the 7th Air Force’s 12th Special Operations Squadron) specifically trained to handle and apply them in hostile military environments. The history of the military development and use of tactical herbicides dates to World War II. The lead agency in developing and testing these tactical herbicides was the US Army Chemical Corps Research Laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland. This Chapter describes the development and procurement of the tactical herbicides used in Vietnam.