06 January 2014

Reader Insists UC-123K "Patches" Never Sprayed Agent Orange

Received as a comment on our blog:
"UC-123K 56-4362 or known as Patches, was never an Agent Orange spray, The bird was a Malaria hunter and sprayed Malathion. written by a Ranch Hand."
In fact, Patches did indeed spray Agent Orange, but was switched to malathion and returned to bright, shinny aluminum because the bug juice fouled the paint, leaving the other UC-123s in their familiar cammo scheme.

Working our way backwards, the 1994 tests on Patches labeled the aircraft "heavily contaminated with dioxin on all test surfaces" and "a danger to public health." The 1979 "Conway" test on Patches at Westover did not test for dioxin in particular, but did identify "military herbicides."

The USAF Historical Records Research Agency confirms Patches' history as an Agent Orange aircraft. Also, the Air Force Museum's bio of Patches acknowledges its Agent Orange spray history:
The Museum's Aircraft: Patches The C-123K on display saw extensive service during the Southeast Asia War as a sprayer, and Ranch Hand personnel developed a strong symbolic attachment to this aircraft. The aircraft took almost 600 hits in combat, and it was named Patches for the damage repairs that covered it. Moreover, seven of its crew received the Purple Heart for wounds received in battle. 
Patches was accepted by the USAF in 1957 as a C-123B, and it went to Vietnam in 1961 to fly as a low-level defoliant sprayer. In 1965, it was redesignated to UC-123B. At about the same time, Patches became a dedicated insecticide sprayer to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and in 1968, Fairchild converted it to a UC-123K. 

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