Agent Orange: 24 Haunting Photos Of The War Crime The U.S. Got Away With

Published August 22, 2017
Updated June 11, 2021

For ten years, the U.S. military terrorized a country with Agent Orange, a chemical weapon whose effects are still being felt today.

Operation Ranch Hand Planes
Agent Orange Victims Eyes
Agent Orange Defoliation Effects
Atv Spraying Agent Orange
Agent Orange: 24 Haunting Photos Of The War Crime The U.S. Got Away With
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For ten years in Vietnam, it rained a chemical mist. It was the height of the Vietnam War, and planes and helicopters flew over top of the country, spraying out a toxic chemical called Agent Orange.

The plan was to wipe out the enemy's food supply. Agent Orange was an incredibly potent herbicide made even stronger in the hands of the U.S. and South Vietnamese Air Forces, who mixed it to 13 times its usual strength. It could obliterate whole farms and wipe out entire forests with nothing more than a gentle mist. Their plan was to leave the Viet Cong exposed and hungry — but they couldn't have imagined the full impact that this plan would ultimately have.

The plan worked, in a sense. From 1961 to 1971, 5 million acres of forests and millions more of farmland were destroyed by Agent Orange. These were farms that the U.S. and South Vietnamese thought were being used to feed the Viet Cong's guerrilla army – but in reality, most were feeding civilians. People across the country starved.

The real impact of Agent Orange, though, took years to come out: 4 million people had been exposed to a chemical that could wipe out any form of plant life it touched. Despite what the chemical's producers had promised, it wasn't harmless.

Agent Orange caused health problems in the people who'd breathed it in, and even worse ones in their children. Babies across Vietnam started being born with horrible mutations – some with physical and mental defects, others with extra fingers and limbs, and some without eyes.

A whole generation of Agent Orange victims was born plagued with mental and physical problems that made it impossible for them to have normal lives. Today, many of these Agent Orange victims live in Peace Villages, where workers care for them and try to give them a normal life – but the mutations caused by Agent Orange still affect the people and the children of Vietnam, even today.

The ones who can live in a Peace Village are luckier than some of their siblings. Some Agent Orange victims are born too horribly deformed to even survive childbirth. "There is a room at the hospital which contains the preserved bodies of about 150 hideously deformed babies, born dead to their mothers," one charity worker has said. "Some have two heads; some have unbelievably deformed bodies and twisted limbs. They are kept as a record of the terrible consequences of chemical weaponry."

The American soldiers who sprayed the fields were promised that the chemicals would only be hurting plants, not people — but these soldiers didn't come home any better off than those they sprayed. Vietnam Vets came home reporting unusual rates of lymphoma, leukemia, and cancer — especially those who had worked with Agent Orange.

The Vietnam War has been over for more than 40 years, but because of Agent Orange, it's still tearing people apart.

After this look at Agent Orange victims, find out the stories behind the Vietnam War's iconic Napalm Girl photograph and Saigon execution photograph. Then, read up on some of the worst war crimes in history.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer, teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked, and can be found on his website.