Spraying of Chemicals in Phuoc Tuy Province
in and around
Nui Dat

 

 
 

Recently our Rich Magin sent me a question asking about spraying of chemicals at Nui Dat and the surrounding area. Rich was HQ Battery Clerk in 66-67 at Nui Dat.

Rich recently discovered that herbicides were sometimes sprayed by jeep. He states "That really got to me as I only thought that the jeeps were using insecticide to spray, and I definitely remember a jeep driving around the compound spraying a very large cloud of "whateveritwas". Anyone else remember that, I now wonder? In my reply to Jeff McKay, I made mention on his pics that the leaves were falling from some of the rubber trees. Did anyone else pick up on that, or that some pics had the grasses all died off? Can any of the guys from Camp Everett tell us was there any spraying after the majority of us '66-67's were gone, that would have been in '68, '69? Looking at some of the pics of those years, the grasses were getting pretty green and lush. Rich"

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From what some of you have told me in the past, our area was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange. As much as many of us were kept in the dark, even if I did see spraying of any sort, I probably would have thought it was for "critter-control". We all drank water from the same wells, I suppose, so it is amazing that more of us haven't shown ill effects.

I asked our Aussie and Kiwi members if they could fill us in on what they knew of spraying of chemicals (Agent Orange and/or ???) that occurred in the area in and around Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province.

Below are responses that I have received so far.

Bob Billiards (Aussie)

"Not sure that I was ever in defoliated areas, but we were mosquito sprayed by the same C123's that sprayed the defoliant."

Ian Guy (Aussie)

"During late 67 through to late 68 land rovers did tour the base of an evening supposedly spraying against mosquitoes. I was told that it was Malathon that they were using. Supposedly dangerous if ingested through the skin or a scratch/cut or that is what was told to my brother in law in the 80's. He was a wheat, barley, oats and sheep farmer and the Doctors at Peter McCallum Cancer Hospital in Melbourne gave him this information. Why does your wife always say to "are you mad or just stupid" when you do something wrong -must have been in something you drank!"

Ted Harrison (Aussie)

"...you might remember that the 5RAR perimeter consisted of a couple of strands of concertina barbed wire tied to star pickets. This was sprayed with an herbicide to keep it clear of weeds so that our field of fire was clear. I can't say if it was agent orange though."

Ernie Newbold (Aussie)

"My recollections are that the area around Nui Dat wasn't sprayed with the herbicide, "Agent Orange" while I was there during '67-'68 but was subject to spraying of an insecticide, especially during the "wet" season to control mosquitoes and to reduce the risk of malaria.

I have attached two photos below, one of a USAF C123 spraying herbicide around the Nui Dat area. Just above the tip of the C123's tail are the buildings occupied by the 1/83rd. These flights were carried out very early in the morning just after sunrise (as you can see by the long shadows) while there was negligible wind to affect the spray.

I have often wondered if this plane was used at other times for spraying Agent Orange and if it was, how well the spray tanks may have been washed/flushed before being used to spray the insecticide.

The second photo shows an Australian army Landrover fitted with a fogging machine being used to disperse an insecticide during the wet season for mosquito control. The smell of the insecticide used in the C123 and the Landrover was very similar to me and although I would have difficulty describing the smell, I would still recognise it today."

Don (Nod) Donaldson (Kiwi)

"Just prior to leaving Vietnam after my first tour was complete in 1966 we were out on a major operation designed to clear the road from Bien Hoa through the Vung Tau area and then on to Nui Dat where 161 Bty was moving to. We were certainly subjected to aerial spray at that time, but not when we were in the area of the Courtney Plantation. But the rest of the surrounding country got a heavy drenching. Even to this day I still get the taste in my mouth. Brigadier General Williams or Williamson the Commanding General of the 173rd Bde had published a general order stating that troops were not to be bothered about the spray as they were only killing mosquitoes. What a load of crap that was from him!!!

On my return to battle in 1967, we landed at the Vung Tau Air Base and drove by vehicle up what at that time was a partly red road from Baria onwards. I couldnít help noticing that the beautiful foliage of the jungle areas I had seen about 11 months previous, were either dead or dying. That to me was an indictment on the bastards who authorised the spraying. Whilst the actual Nui Dat Base was not sprayed during my second tour, I do know for sure that the taste in my mouth while out on operations during that time proved to me, that those bloody C123's or whatever they were, were not spaying for mosquitoes. It was some sort of anti-defoliant spray thatís for sure. I canít say it was Agent Orange, but Iíll bet my left testicle that it certainly was an anti defoliant spray.

So in answer to your query: Yes our AO was heavily sprayed, but not the base camp."

Colin Campbell (Aussie)

"RE AGENT ORANGE. There was a major commission that looked at Diggers and Kiwis exposure to Agent Orange, when, where, who and outcomes. Many were exposed. Access to the files is available. While cancer rates were multiple times those of the control group, our government decided that there was no adverse effect from exposure.

This is not surprising, as our government will fight any claim for compensation by servicemen all the way to the High Court (read supreme court equivalent).

It might be interesting to note that service pensions have the lowest rate of indexation of any government pension.

The commission noted at there was also "critter control" for mosquitoes, which was sprayed from vehicles and aircraft.

Re Camp Everett, I don't know as I left in mid Feb 68."

Ross Wood (Aussie)

"This may be of interest. During February 1967, the main 1 ATF water point (spring) dried up, and a new water point just to the north of 1 ATF, outside the barbed wire perimeter in front of A Company 5 RAR's position was established, and the 1 ATF drinking water came from this spring - water point, until the rain came again.
The battalion used to send a platoon to guard this external water point of a night during March - April 1967, and the immediate area around this new water point was sprayed with something - I don't know what, but I didn't see any vegetation alive in the immediate vicinity of this external water point.

I don't recall who told me the main 1 ATF water point had dried up and that is why this new water point had been established.

Best Wishes

Ross Wood
former B Company 5 RAR"

This prompted Bill Taggart (US 1/83rd ) to reply...

Thanks Ross, I was on the water run many times with the 1/83rd water truck, "Juicy Lucy". We used to fill up at a water point in the ATF area. I can remember a time where we were directed to a new location, I suppose that was it. Not too heartening to think about is it?"

 

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