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Veterans Law

Beyond Vietnam: Other Military Areas Where Agent Orange was Used

Kaitlyn Degnan

May 9, 2017

Updated: November 20, 2023

agent orange storage areas|Beyond Vietnam: Other Military Areas Where Agent Orange was Used

What Is Agent Orange?

As one of a group of chemicals referred to as the “rainbow” herbicides, Agent Orange served as the most well-known defoliant used in the Vietnam War.  The U.S. military used Agent Orange and other herbicides to deforest large areas of land in Vietnam to disrupt enemy supply lines and prevent ambushes.

Dubbed ‘Operation Ranch Hand,’ millions of acres were being sprayed in Vietnam by the late 60s.  The poison spray rained down from military aircraft, and millions of people on the ground were exposed—with many eventually becoming ill due to ‘hot spots’ of dioxins left in the geography.  That legacy was also carried back to the U.S., as dependents of veterans have been born with serious birth defects such as spina bifida.

Agent Orange is composed of a mixture of two kinds of herbicide agents, 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T.  The highly toxic dioxin contaminant known as 2, 3, 7, 8-TCDD is a byproduct that is produced by Agent Orange.  This dioxin often takes years to break down once it has been released into the environment.

Herbicide Use Outside of Vietnam

Vietnam was not the only area where herbicides were used, stored, or tested.  The uses of numerous herbicides at many sites were recorded, to include:

  • Testing of 2,4,5-T, 2,4-D and other herbicides in Puerto Rico.
  • Research and testing of Agents Purple, Orange, White, and Blue at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where some contamination of the soil was discovered in trace amounts.
  • Testing of Agents Orange, Purple and Blue at the Gagetown military base in New Brunswick, Canada, where eventually the Canadian government was forced to pay restitution to citizens who claimed health problems due to the dioxin contamination.
  • Locations in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Guam, American Samoa, and the Korean DMZ.

During the Vietnam War, herbicides were stored at military bases all over the world.  With facilities in Cambodia, India, Korea, Laos, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Canada, as well as at sea, Agent Orange was stored at many overseas location—as well as used for testing purposes—up until 1970.

There were also 21 military bases used for storage during the war and up until the time that use of Agent Orange was discontinued in 1971.  After the war, remaining barrels of the herbicide were sent to both Seabees base in Gulfport (where there was documented contamination) and Johnston Island in the Pacific in April 1972, where all that was left was eventually destroyed at sea.

All substantial, physical remains of the substance may have been destroyed, but the terrible legacy of Agent Orange use is still seen in the physical disabilities of those in Vietnam and our U.S. veterans.

Agent Orange in Hawaii at Fort Detrick

Hawaii was one of the main sites for the storage and testing of Agent Orange throughout the 1960s.  In December of 1966, Fort Detrick personnel conducted field tests of Agent Orange in Hilo, HI to evaluate variables such as rates, volume of application, season, and vegetation.  An aerial application of the herbicide was completed and data was recorded.

Around this same time, another testing project was administered in the State Forest area of Mauna Loa, HI.  The purpose of this project was to evaluate the herbicide Tordon in mixtures with Agent Orange, to determine if it would be a successful defoliant agent.  Following this, Agent Orange was again tested from 1967 to 1968 in Kauai, HI.  Here, a short-term evaluation was orchestrated by personnel from Fort Detrick’s Plant Science Lab in coordination with contract research completed by the United States Department of Agriculture and University of Hawaii sites.

Overall, this research involved field tests of different mixtures and formulations of the herbicides produced by chemical industries.  When evaluating the effectiveness of herbicide mixtures, Agent Orange was used as the standard.

Agent Orange in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was also home to the storage and testing of Agent Orange from 1956 to 1957, and then again from 1966 to 1968.  This occurred in many locations spanning Puerto Rico, including Mayaguez, Guanica, Joyuda, Loquillo, Las Marias, and near the Rio Grande.

Specifically, in 1956, numerous herbicide chemicals were evaluated on tropical woods in Mayaguez and Guanica, PR.  The chemicals were applied in highly concentrated solutions using a micro-sprayer.  This testing was repeated in 1957 to determine the effectiveness of such herbicides as defoliants and killing agents.

After a brief hiatus, testing resumed in 1966 with the aerial application of Agent Orange taking place in Loquillo and Las Marias, PR.  Subsequently in 1967 the Dow Chemical Company, a manufacturer of Agent Orange, was awarded a Department of Defense research contract.  The objective of this research was to prepare mixtures of various herbicides in the form of pellets, and to test them on various types of vegetation.

Agent Orange and other Herbicides Stored at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

While Agent Orange was burned at sea after the war, another “rainbow herbicide” of the Vietnam War era, called Agent Blue, could not be disposed of via incineration due to its high concentration of arsenic.  Agent Blue was first stored at Johnston Atoll along with Agent Orange, but was then stored at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.  Since Agent Blue could not be burned, the herbicide was sprayed on the Air Force base as a way to dispose of the remaining stores.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was known as home to the aircraft boneyard, where retired military aircraft are stored.  Agent Blue was used from approximately 1973 to 1977 on the Air Force Base grounds.

Agent Orange in Thailand

Several reports show that Agent Orange and other herbicides were used and stored on numerous Royal Thai Air Force Bases (RTAFB) during the Vietnam War.  These bases include: Ubon, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, Don Muang, U-Tapao, and Nakhom Phanom.  The United States used C-123 aircraft to spray the herbicides over the forests of Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand.  These C-123s were often staged at Air Force bases in Thailand, and the barrels and spraying equipment on the aircrafts were known to leak, exposing service members to the toxic herbicides.

In addition to being storage areas for Agent Orange, herbicides were used on Thai Air Force bases to control vegetation along the perimeter of the bases in order to improve visual observation of the perimeter.

Presumptive Service Connection for Agent Orange Outside of Vietnam

On August 10, 2022, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act was signed into law.  The passage of this act extended the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) presumptions of Agent Orange exposure to include several additional locations outside of Vietnam: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll.

As of the PACT Act, VA acknowledges presumptive Agent Orange exposure for veterans with active military, naval, air, or space service in the following time periods and locations:

  • January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975 in the Republic of Vietnam: This includes boots-on-the-ground, Brown Water veterans, and Blue Water Navy veterans.
  • January 9, 1962 to June 30, 1976 in Thailand: At any U.S. or Thailand base, without regard to the Veteran’s military occupational specialty (MOS) or where on base they were located.
  • December 1, 1965 to September 30, 1969 in Laos
  • April 16, 1969 to April 30, 1969 in Cambodia: Specifically at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province.
  • January 9, 1962 to July 30, 1980 in Guam or American Samoa: Or in the territorial waters thereof.
  • January 1, 1972 to September 30, 1977 at Johnston Atoll: Or a ship that called at Johnston Atoll.
  • September 1, 1967 to August 31, 1971 in the DMZ: On or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ).
  • 1969 to 1986, C-123 aircraft: Active duty and reservist personnel who had regular contact with C-123 aircraft.

Additionally, veterans must have a diagnosis of a specific Agent Orange presumptive condition to qualify for VA presumptive service connection.  On August 10, 2022, the PACT Act added two Agent Orange  conditions to VA’s list: hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance.  The full list of conditions eligible for a presumptive service connection due to Agent Orange exposure includes:

What if I Do Not Qualify for Presumptive Service Connection?

Although Agent Orange exposure parameters continue to expand, there are still many locations outside of Vietnam (e.g., Hawaii, Puerto Rico, etc.) and conditions for which VA will not presumptively concede exposure.

If you do not have a presumptive Agent Orange condition or did not serve in a qualifying location, you can still apply for disability benefits based on Agent Orange exposure.  However, you will have to show a medical connection between herbicide exposure and your disability.  VA generally requires evidence of the following three things:

  • A medical diagnosis of a condition considered disabling by VA;
  • Evidence of exposure to Agent Orange; and
  • A nexus, or link, between Agent Orange exposure and your medical condition.

Was Your VA Disability Claim Denied?

If you believe you were exposed to Agent Orange in service and have been denied VA disability benefits, seek help now.  While you focus on taking care of yourself, let us take care of the claim process and secure the disability benefits you deserve.

Our team of attorneys and claims agents at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have more than 30 years of collective experience and can put our knowledge and resources to work for you.  Reach out at 800-544-9144 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.

About the Author

Bio photo of Kaitlyn Degnan

Kaitlyn joined CCK in September of 2017 as an Associate Attorney. Her practice focuses on representing disabled veterans before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Kaitlyn