Weather manipulation during Vietnam War

Agent Orange distribution
Agent Orange distribution

Agent Orange distribution
Agent Orange distribution in the Vietnam War

As part of the US’s attempt to win the Vietnam War, the US military undertook a secret weather manipulation operation in South East Asia.

More than US$3 million was spent from 1967 to 1972 as the secret project sought to make the monsoon season longer and flood the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was being used by the North Vietnamese as a supply route.

It was hoped that the extra rains would cause rivers to flood cutting off bridges and crossings, as well as landslides. It was the first military operation that attempted to influence the weather.

Some saw it as a positive alternative to fighting and bombing.

The operation included creating clouds over South East Asia using silver iodide. American jets made about 2000 sorties to create the clouds. The cloud making units were attached to the side of WC-130A Hercules aircraft.

General Electric and the US military had already previously worked together to attempt to control weather systems, after World War Two.

Whether the program was successful or not remains debated. Some agree that the manmade clouds created between one and seven inches of rainfall every year of the operation. However, no data was retrieved from the operation so it can never be corroborated.

Meanwhile General Westmoreland,who was commander of US military operations during the Vietnam War, did not believe the cloud units had created any great increase in rain in the region.

As details of the project began to leak into the public domain many showed concern. The US military and Nixon administration tried to deny the project and even the Secretary of Defense at the time, Melvin Laird, stated as such to a Senate hearing in 1972.

But both the Washington Post and New York Times ran stories revealing that the project was in fact a reality. Once these newspaper articles appeared the project was closed down to ensure there was no public hysteria around the operation.

Pressure from the general public, which did not want its government ‘playing God’, encouraged Congress to pass new legislation that would ban weather control operations from military activity, the Paleofuture reports.

While most agree weather manipulation is a dangerous activity, particularly for war, the US military and its intelligence agencies are still researching the subject, but this time how it could be used by foreign powers on the US.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE