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Operation Pink Rose

On 16 March 1966, Command in Chief, US Pacific Command (CINCPAC) assigned the codename Pink Rose to all jungle-burning activity. CINCPAC indicated that the initial reports of the jungle-burning test showed that the concept might be a feasible and practical tactic, and requested Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV) to provide preliminary plans for exploiting this or similar operations. Research and development on the concept had begun in late 1965 under the direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency through ARPA Order 818 with the support of the US Forest Service. The operational phases developed for previous tests, Operations Sherwood Forest and Hot Tip, would be used for Pink Rose operations.

COMUSMACV replied to CINCPAC on 2 April 1966 that the effectiveness of techniques used in jungle-burning tests had been indeterminate and that further evaluation would be necessary prior to considering and selecting areas for this type of operation. COMUSMACV suggested that the best defoliant was Agent Orange, which killed foliage and produced drying in 4-6 weeks.

Guidelines for incendiary operations were published in June 1966. At the same time laboratory studies were undertaken to develop flammability criteria for Southeast Asian fuels similar to those ready developed for forest fuel types in the United States, and climatic analyses of Southeast Asia were initiated in order to define the weather conditions most likely to contribute to successful incendiary operations.

On 2 September 1966, COMUSMACV advised CINCPAC that the next test of the Pink Rose concept would be in War Zones C and D. The zones would be sprayed with defoliation agents, allowed to dry, then sprayed again with Agent Blue, a drying compound then in use primarily for crop destruction missions. In October 1966, COMUSMACV designated the Air Force Test Unit-Vietnam (AFTU-V) as action agency for the upcoming Pink Rose test. COMUSMACV desired that a coordinated test plan be developed and necessary actions be taken to permit project evaluation on a selected date, which was anticipated to be early in 1967.

The planning continued and the target areas (one in War Zone D and 2 in War Zone C) were selected on 6 November 1966. The first defoliation treatment of all selected target was completed on 27 November 1966. Between August and December 1966, selected areas were to be defoliated twice by C-123 aircraft, using Agents Orange or White dispensed from standard dispensers. Selected areas were to be resprayed, using Agent Blue, approximately 10 days before ignition. In the end, approximately 225 sorties were flown and 255,000 gallons of herbicide were dispensed in support of Operation Pink Rose.

After treatment with the defoliants, the Pink Rose concept of operations called for the selected areas would then be bombed by B-52 aircraft using M35 incendiary cluster bombs. The expected forest fire would then consume the dried vegetation and denude the target sufficiently to deny its use as a safe haven.

Enemy forces and installations were uncovered in War Zone C during Operation Attleboro in late 1966, leading to increased tactical air strikes and long range patrols. As a result the completion of spraying of the War Zone C targets for Phase II and III of Operation Pink Rose was delayed and COMUSMACV recommended that the War Zone D targets be designated as the primary target. COMUSMACV reported that no major operations were planned in War Zone D before the scheduled Pink Rose testing, and the targets could be made available for the ignition test during the last 2 weeks of February 1967.

Operation Pink Rose initiated on 18 January 1967 and the first target was ignited on 19 January 1967, during Operation Pink Rose I, and was a qualified success. The target area was accurately saturated by the ignition munitions, but did not produce the "fire storm" desired due to weather conditions. Two further operations, Pink Rose II and III, were conducted between 19 January 1967 and 4 April 1967. The results were no better than those of Operation Hot Tip, and the US Forest Service advised against further operational testing in Vietnam as the technique appeard to be ineffective as a means of removing jungle canopy and did not warrant the high cost of resources. In spite of these recommendations, further research was conducted in 1968 and 1969 to determine the specific limiting factors for forest fire initiation in humid tropical forests.

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