The VA’s Office of Public Health recently released their findings in Agent Orange Residue on Post-Vietnam War Airplanes an investigation in connection with the possible exposure to herbicides in post-Vietnam War veteran’s who were crew members of the Fairchild C-123 Provider, which were used to spray herbicides in Vietnam. The Office of Public Health determined crew members of the C-123’s exposure to herbicides, such as Agent Orange, was “minimal” and could not have resulted in health effects related to the residue that was left in the planes.
The VA did acknowledge the residue was left in the planes, however the findings of the investigation determined the residue could not have been inhaled or ingested in a dry state. On the ground veterans in Vietnam were exposed to the harmful effects of the herbicides by the liquid form, often sprayed from the wings of the C-123 from above. Any veteran who worked in, on or around the C-123 after the war must prove on a factual basis that they were exposed to the herbicides or residue that was left on the interior of the planes.
The spraying of Agent Orange and other herbicides from the C-123 began on January 12, 1962. The mission of delivering the defoliating chemicals from the planes in Vietnam was known as Operation Ranch Hand, which continued until January 7, 1971. The herbicides were sprayed from the wings of plane with a spray system inside the carrier that pumped the defoliant to the wings. According to the study these missions were flown from inside Vietnam.
Not all C-123 Provider’s were used to spray herbicides in Vietnam. The main function of the Provider’s was to airlift troops and cargo to and from Southeast Asia. It was capable of carrying large amounts of cargo and landing on small dirt airstrips. Making it the perfect aircraft for the war in Vietnam. Only a few of the C-123’s used in the war were used in Operation Ranch Hand and only a few of those planes were in the fleet of the United States Air Force after the war.
At the end of the Vietnam War the United States Air Force transferred a portion of the C-123 Providers used in Operation Ranch Hand to the Air Force Reserves at Westover Air Force Base who used them until 1987 . Some of the C-123’s were used by the U.S. Coast Guard and several other foreign Air Forces. Today one of the planes, Patches, used in Operation Ranch Hand is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Daytona, Ohio.
This study did not deal with many of the veterans who may have serviced these planes outside of Vietnam during the war.
Although the study does not reveal a presumptive condition it still leaves the door open for more studies and additional questions in connection with exposure to herbicides outside of Vietnam and after the war.
Updated June 2012