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Agent Orange: Ailing reservists blame postwar ‘spray bird’ missions

May 27, 2011

Ailing reservists blame postwar 'spray bird' missions

Carter found a report from 1994 showing that before Patches was put on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, an analysis for toxins found that it was “heavily contaminated with PCDD,” or polychlorinated dibenzodioxin, a human carcinogen.

A medical service officer, Carter said he thought about the many hours he had served aboard foul-smelling C-123 “spray birds” after the war, flying out of Westover Air Force Base, Mass. So in recent weeks he conducted online searches, looking for any report of lingering Agent Orange contamination on these planes assigned Reserve missions until 1982.

Agent Orange presumption needs to be reexamined to include all those who were exposed outside the Vietnam territories, both in the Air Force and the Navy.”

What Carter found alarmed him, enough he told me, that he began to contact crewmen from his squadron. The first five he reached had prostate cancer, Carter said. He heard of others who had died, most of them from more diseases that Department of Veterans Affairs presumes, at least for veterans of Vietnam, were caused by Agent Orange exposure.

They want to help those with AO-related ailments get VA care and compensation, and for spouses of colleagues who have died from these conditions get VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Carter started a blog,, with links to reports and memos referencing dioxin contamination aboard C-123s flown by reservists after the war from Westover, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Air Reserve Base and Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio.

One of the first disturbing documents found, Carter said, deals with a famous C-123, nicknamed “Patches” during the war because it was hit so often by enemy fire during spraying runs. Patches was one of three C-123s, among 16 aircraft of the 731st Tactical Airlift Squadron, known to crewmen as having sprayed herbicide during the war.

By filing an IG complaint, Carter wants the Air Force to explain why, after learning C-123s flown by reservists were toxic, the service did not warn former crewmen of their exposure and possible health risks.


Tom Macarthur – artist

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Legacy of Our Veterans' Military Exposures

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