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“Hearts, Minds, and Herbicides: The Politics of the Chemical War in Vietnam”
Diplomatic History (2013)
  • Edwin A Martini, Western Michigan University

In the early years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the Departments of State and Defense battled over the decision to use chemical herbicides to defoliate the landscape and destroy enemy access crops. While the Pentagon won the initial battle, allowing herbicidal warfare to proceed, State’s concerns about program ultimately proved prophetic as the chemical war waged by the United States in Southeast Asia further alienated the Vietnamese villagers the program was ostensibly designed to protect. This essay moves beyond previous studies of Operation Ranch Hand by exploring the politics of the herbicidal warfare, and crop destruction in particular, from Washington D.C. to MACV to Vietnamese villages. Drawing on previously unexplored archival sources, this essay explores contemporary reactions to the herbicide program and shows how the chemical war embodied the larger contradictions of the American war in Vietnam.

  • Agent Orange,
  • Vietnam War,
  • Herbicides
Publication Date
January, 2013
Citation Information
Edwin A Martini. "“Hearts, Minds, and Herbicides: The Politics of the Chemical War in Vietnam”" Diplomatic History Vol. 37 Iss. 1 (2013)
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