How it Went Wrong
One of the most disastrous parts of using agent Orange was how we used it and the daily tasks and precautions involved when using such a deadly chemical that often went ignored or overlooked. When used properly and as intended Agent Orange proved to be every bit as effective at killing vegetation as the United States hoped it would be. With specially designed sprayers attached to helicopters and long range c-123 airplanes the United States was able to reach farthest and densest jungles in Vietnam so there was no where for the enemies to hide.
Planned missions weren’t the only way Agent Orange was spread across the globe. With the most common mode of transportation being 55-gallon drums accidents were bound to happen were common with one historian suggesting “about 10 out of 10,000 drums shipped (0.1 percent) were defective and leaked and others were damaged during loading and unloading”. Reports of spills happening both on the ships and planes transporting the chemical across the ocean were common and in many cases were not properly cleaned which contaminated the vehicles and those in them. Most of the spills happened in the military bases in Vietnam as they would fill the sprayers equipped on planes and helicopter or fill the large holding tanks on the base. Although proportionally it was small amounts of chemicals that spilled these types of accidents accounted for a sizeable portion of how our military personnel got exposed to the chemical. The empty drums also became a problem as they were rarely ever cleaned and decontaminated properly and then they were then used for other purposes. According to the State Department the standard procedure for what to do with the empty barrels was to “thoroughly clean, puncture and then flatten the barrels, to be buried in a landfill”. Although this was done most of the time, some of these barrels were just left as is and stored on the military base intact where “enterprising local Vietnamese living outside of airbases like Da Nang regularly procured the barrels for there own use, including the transportation of fuel”. Since they were never properly cleaned the fuel they put in the barrels would mix with agent orange and then be put in the engines of their cars which would be carries into large cities and villages and be even further spread that way. The barrels were also used as construction material in temporary bases and protection which contaminated even more people located around the base.