Operation Ranch Hand Spray Projects and Targets

Figure 1: A diagram of herbicide projects, targets and spraying. Taken from Stellman, Nature, 2003

Spray missions carried out under Operation Ranch Hand were organized into projects that contained specific approved targets. The Projects underwent a complex combined South Vietnamese and US approval system which could sometimes last as long as one year. Each project consisted of specific targets, as shown in the accompanying map, that were often amended or deleted during the approval process. Crop destruction also required White House approval until 1963, after which final approval was delegated to the State Department via the US Ambassador to the RVN. Part a of Figure 1 shows all 487 herbicide targets that are included in the files. Some areas, such as the one shown in inset b, were targeted by multiple projects at different times.

The inset labeled c, shows the spray projects that were carried out prior to 1965. This time period, 1961-1965, often called the "early years" is prior to the arrival of the first combat troops. At least 4.7 million liters (1.24 million gallons) were used to destroy 82,382 acres (33,339 hectares) of crops and defoliate 250,317 acres (101,300 hectares) of land during those early pre-combat years. For more information on these missions, click here. Dioxin contamination may be particularly relevant for this time period because the herbicides may have been more heavily contaminated then. In inset d one can see the overlay between a target and railroad tracks and can also see that the spray missions were carried out carefully within targets. Orange represents Agent Orange missions and white represents missions which sprayed Agent White.

Using the information collected from the Ranch Hand spray projects, we have developed a set of interactive maps that show all the spray projects in a given tactical zone and provide the full contents of the folder corresponding to each project. To view these maps, click here.

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