Courtesy of National Archives, "National Security Action Memorandum No. 115 Defoliant Operations in Vietnam," 30 November 1961
The use by the U.S. military of defoliants such as Agent Orange under the codename Operation Ranch Hand has been controversial since the war ended. During the war, the use by some was viewed as necessary to fight both to expose the enemy and to make it difficult for the North Vietnamese economically. The use of the chemical also led to serious health problems for U.S. soldiers responsible for spreading the chemical with little protection. The memo below authorizes the use of this type of chemical warfare.
Transcript of "No. 115 Defoliant Operations in Vietnam" NSA Memorandum
- What might be some of the long-term human and environmental impacts of using these kinds of chemicals?
- Why would it be important to have an alternative food supply prepared? What does this communicate about the U.S. mission in Vietnam as more than just "winning" the war?
- Consider the timing of the memo prior to the Gulf of Tonkin. What did the early consideration of such tactics communicate about the potential role the U.S. would hold in Vietnam?
"National Security Action Memorandum No. 115 Defoliant Operations in Vietnam," 30 November 1961. Courtesy of National Archives