1 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
01 July 2011
I received several disks from Hill AFB in response to my FOIA and there's simply too much
evasion discovered in these official documents to believe. The Air Force has worried for years
about how to resolve the dioxin contamination of the remaining C-123K/UC-123K aircraft stored at
Davis-Monthan. The issue was to be addressed by the folks at Hill AFB Utah who managed the
fleet. The aircraft were already positive for dioxin, and couldn't be sold, couldn't be buried,
couldn't be simply kept stored because even that was an environmental, inter-governmental - and
legal - problem.
A chief decision maker in this MAJCOM-wide fiasco was Dr Alvin Young, Consultant on Agent
Orange to the Office of Secretary of Defense. A retired Air Force colonel (not of the flying
persuasion, of course), Dr Young has a well-developed sensitivity to the public concern about
Agent Orange. Memo after memo from him showed exquisite sensitivity to unnecessary public
awareness...what he calls "misinformation" about Agent Orange. Best to keep things mum, from
his perspective, and he even wrote the terms the Public Affairs office should use to minimize
public attention...and avoid use of the words Agent Orange, dioxin, poison, contamination,
2 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
hazardous and all the rest. (see last para of his letter)
Therefore, as Air Force leadership decisions (including by general officers) were made about what
to do with the Agent Orange-contaminated C-123K/UC-123K aircraft remaining in the Air Force
inventory, Dr Young was there to help craft things so as to make the event a non-event! (read last
paragraph) His memos were cited everywhere as justification...indeed, as requirement, to keep
the issue quiet and low-key so as to avoid unnecessary media attention. In justifying their
attempts to downplay the destruction of 18 aircraft, many other AF officials cite his 27 July 09
letter explaining "the aircraft should be disposed of as soon as possible to avoid further risk from
publicity, litigation, and liability for presumptive connection." Did I miss anything...did he even
mention safety, aircrew health, Air Force families, Air Force values, soapy stuff like that? The Hill
PA shop drafted memos to be ready, just in case the media asked what was going on, memos
carefully crafted to prevent unnecessary public alarm about dioxin, poison, contamination,
hazardous materials, Agent Orange and a whole host of words John Q. Public just wouldn't
understand. But Doctor Al sure did!
In the same memorandum, he incorrectly states that the Ranch Hand aircraft were "essentially
cleaned" after Vietnam. Nobody associated with Ranch Hand recalls anything other than removal
of the tanks, spray gear, and simple scrub-down of the airplane before returning home. Nobody in
the Reserve squadrons did anything special about cleaning them other than follow DOD
instructions to scrape away residue and scrub surfaces with Dawn detergent...not quite the
$53,000 professional decontamination job that Patches required at the Air Force museum before it
was safe to bring indoors!
Hill AFB (AFMC) managed the destruction of the remaining C-123K/UC-123K aircraft stored at
Davis-Monthan, with much of the Air Force leadership concerned about the Agent Orange
contaminated status of the fleet and, quite reasonably, wanting the issue resolved quickly,
correctly, completely...and quietly.
Al Young, The Veteran's Friend!
3 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
Smelting the shredded C-123K/UC-123K
Using an existing but completely unrelated US Navy disposal contract so as to shred the aircraft,
they were able to meet state & federal guidelines for avoiding declaring the aircraft "contaminated
hazardous waste" because shredded metal falls outside that EPA classification. AF then paid
Navy $1000 per aircraft to melt them into scrap ingots..."for the automobile industry." I guess that
means your next Jeep is an Agent Orange Jeep, although, of course, the dioxin would not survive
the smelting process. Still, just for old time's sake, can we hope for a "Jeep Dioxin LX" model?
Hill officials made it sound perfectly normal, but the Air Force had never destroyed aircraft like
this before, and the only reason this method was selected was because of...that old devil, your
friend and mine, tasty dioxin!
Forming ingots from smelting process of C-123 remains
4 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
In his amazing 24 February 2009 memo, Dr. Young, that ever-helpful retired colonel and
Consultant on Agent Orange to the Office of Secretary of Defense referred to an article by Mr Ben
Quick in Orion Magazine, wherein Ben wrote of his visit to Davis-Monthan AFB: His public affairs
host described the fenced-in C-123/UC-123K aircraft as "toxic." Young's memos pressed the need
to keep the April 2010 destruction of the aircraft a non-event, low-key, and for everyone involved
to be sensitive to the possibility of media exposure...or as he called it, "misinformation."
Al Young, The Veteran's Friend
Misinformation, I have come to understand, is anything not released in a DOD press release. Thus,
Young told Hill officials to have Public Affairs carefully word the announcement of dioxin-
contaminated aircraft which had sickened hundreds of flyers (that's us, folks), "the media
specialists at both Hill AFB and Davis-Monthan
5 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
Al Young, True Friend of the American Veteran!
And then, dear friends, Dr Young shoots us straight through the heart (see first para, "Issue") with
his recommendation: "Although the Orion Magazine story received little media coverage, any new
publicity on the aircraft may trigger a “storm” of articles that will eventually involve the health
effects of previous aircrews and mechanics. The Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) now
provides “presumptive compensation” for exposure to Agent Orange and other tactical herbicides
used in Vietnam. This “presumptive compensation” is no longer focused only on Vietnam
veterans, but veterans who can claim exposure in other situations, e.g., testing of the herbicides
or aircraft spray systems involving the tactical herbicides in CONUS and OCONUS locations. What
this means is that a whole new class of veterans may claim that their exposure was due to the fact
they were members of aircrews or mechanics associated with the contaminated aircraft
that returned from Vietnam and are now located at Davis-Monthan AFB. The DVA provides
presumptive compensation for such common conditions (in older men) of diabetes and prostate
cancer, regardless of cause and effect."
6 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
Al Young, Doin' What's Right by Dioxin!
His advice was well-received. Major General Andrew Busch wrote him a kind letter of
appreciation for his hard work, saying "your commitment to excellence is a model example of
character and leadership, as well as reflects greatly (sic) on the USAF and Department of
Defense. Again, please accept my appreciation for a job well done--you are truly one of "America's
Gosh, I guess it takes America's Best to keep the sensitive information about us flying dioxin-
contaminated aircraft kinda quiet. I guess it takes one of America's Best to remind the Air Force
that media coverage about the contaminated aircraft might mean a whole new class of
veterans (duh, that's us, folks!) who might claim that their exposure was due to the the fact they
were members of aircrews" etc. Gee, the guy loves aircrews, doesn't he? Really cares about
alerting us to our exposure. Really cares about our families. Really cares about how much cancer
and heart disease hurt. Really takes America's Best to care about COVERING IT ALL UP! It took
American's finest to, in print, tell Hill AFB/AFMC to get rid of the aircraft and be alert to publicity
which might tell aircrews who've already been exposed about their exposure!
LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR: It is without dispute that the Air Force had dioxin-contaminated
Providers which we flew between 1972-1982. Not in dispute: The planes were flown to Davis-
Monthan for retirement storage and the dioxin contamination became a worry with Air Force
studies surfacing around 1993, concerned with Patches at the AF Museum and, eventually, the
Davis-Monthan surplus fleet. he AF had to get the issue of the dioxin contamination resolved
because they couldn't keep storing the planes without it being obvious they were storing
contaminated substances and shouldn't have been. Shredding and melting, sneaking elimination
of the C-123s into an unrelated Navy scrap metal disposal contract was the undercover option
selected for both political and efficiency reasons. The Agent Orange Consultant to the
Secretary of Defense weighed in with his suggestions, and reminded everyone involved that the
Orion article about the C-123K toxicity might resurface in new media attention...and in those
nasty, greedy undeserving war veterans (duh, that's us, folks!) claiming exposure. He was more
concerned about AO-exposed veterans coming forward than he was about US veterans needing to
be told WE might have been exposed.
7 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
And for this service to Dr. Young's fellow veterans (who, unlike him, wore Nomex and went aloft to
do manly [and for the flight nurses, very womanly and very manly] things while we worked for a
living at the already-hazardous profession of flying), he gets a lovely thank-you note from a Major
General of the United States Air Force. Young expressly stressed the need to manage the public
affairs issues to prevent flyers and maintainers (again, that's us, folks!) learning about the
dioxin situation and coming forward to the VA with our legitimate claims, thus the General worded
an even more grateful note. Vietnam veterans have their "boots on the ground" rule for Agent
Orange exposure, and we should have a "boots in the airplane" rule for our own eligibility for VA
But...aircrews get the shaft when we turn to the VA for an automatic denial of our Agent Orange
claims. I can't believe any honorable official with the Secretary of the Air Force SAF/IG knew
about the mess in Ogden when they dismissed my recent IG complaint.
Perhaps it is that a warrior's sacred HONOR is defined differently for Air Force guys in flight suits
than it is for Air Force guys elsewhere. SAF/IG should remember that is upon the honor of guys
and gals in flight suits that the security of the country rests...our honor compels us to do our duty.
We did our duty...in a dioxin-contaminated C-123K/UC-123K.
Wherever we are, however far from home, however cold or hot, however miserable or scared,
however lousy the pay or the food or stupid the boss (no, I don't mean you, Big John!), honor
means people in flight suits and maintainers on the ground must do our duty or die trying, to
protect our nation. Why can't we then count on the honor of others in our beloved service to
Why can't we count on others in our beloved service to, as in Lincoln's Second Inaugural
Address, "care for him who has borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan"?
My name is Wes Carter. Doctor Young, if you happen to see me sometime, please be certain to
introduce yourself so I can discuss this with you in more intimate circumstances. You may find
my perspective informative...and persuasive.
There is a community of us who loved, flew and maintained the C-123K Provider in the years
following the return of the aircraft from Vietnam until its retirement in 1982. Some of us are
Vietnam vets, most served also in Desert Storm, many in Iraqi/Enduring Freedom. Some of us flew
as primary aircrew and career trash haulers, aeromedical evacuation crew or ACMs, but the point
is...many of us have cancer!
8 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
Patches, Wright-Patterson AFB
Turns out the Air Force concluded in 1993 (perhaps even earlier) that many of the Providers were
too contaminated for resale as surplus, even after extensive cleaning and replacement of interior
components, and the passing of nearly a quarter century!
On 28 Apr 2011 I located this fact in a decision by a board of the General Services
Administration (GSBCA14165, Sept 2000) dealing with a lawsuit involving resale of the Providers
for commercial use, wherein the GSA happened to include reports from Air Force toxicologists
that many of the aircraft stored at the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB remained contaminated
with dioxin and other toxins! There's no conspiracy here (except perhaps by the Director of the
Office of Environmental Law for the Air Force.....its just that nobody got around to having the
thought that we'd like to know we'd been exposed. A "minor" oversight? Really? Somehow, the
question about our exposure never seems to have been raised. Hard to believe these reports were
written by people calling themselves our comrades-in-arms, scientists, physicians, attorneys,
officers and leaders!
In particular, Patches (Tail #362) at Wright-Pat has received special attention, with a very detailed
study prepared by the Air Force Medical Service in 1994. Identified as AL-OE-BR-CL-1994-0203,
the study concludes (and backed up by the May 2011 Oregon Health Sciences University analysis
of the Air Force data) that Patches is "heavily contaminated", "extremely hazardous/dangerous"
and recommended that museum personnel not work around or enter the aircraft without Tyvek
protective clothing and HEPA masks, followed by decontamination. Funny thing...I recall wearing
a thin Nomex flight suit as I soared the lofty heavens, "where never lark nor even eagle flew", in
Patches and our other 123s between 1973-1980...does anybody else suffer this memory lapse?
Download and read this report carefully...it details the specific levels of dioxin contamination by
position outside the aircraft, within the aircraft and by itself, proves the point of our having been
exposed so long as we can show we flew her. John Harris of the 731st was an aircraft
commander, flying over 200 hours in Patches. During these missions, he flew with the windows
open in the summer to reduce the stink of Agent Orange...in the winter, he flew with the heat off to
keep the smell down. The plane was drenched! The plane was deadly! We cycled a total of 26 C-
123K/UC-123K aircraft through the 731st TAS over the years...records now available indicate at
least eleven had been used for spraying Agent Orange! (note: FOIA info received 1 July 2011
shows $53,000 was spent to "mostly" decontaminate Patches so that at least limited access is
permitted, through the plane is still kept away from public access.)
Even if you're not a Vietnam veteran, law exists (although ignored by the VA) to protect those
exposed to Agent Orange:
"any other veteran who may have been exposed to dioxin or other toxic substance in an herbicide
or defoliant during their military service must provide proof of exposure to enroll and obtain an
9 C123K Aircrews and Dr. (Col., Ret., USAF) Al Young
AO Registry exam. For an incomplete list of locations and dates where dioxin (Agent Orange and
other agents) was used, consult the VA information available online
at http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/" Just remember that it seems to be VA
policy to automatically deny a claim the first couple times it is submitted and in every instance to
deny a claim on AO exposure except for Vietnam veterans. Still, eventually justice might prevail
for one of us.
In early May as I learned I have heart disease and prostate cancer, I began a phone survey of a few
Air Force friends who flew with me, and instantly found five in our squadron with prostate cancer.
The sixth I tried to call had died. Then I learned our squadron commanders also had AO-illnesses.
As did the wing commander vice commander, hospital commander (our flight surgeon), and our
first sergeant. And our aircraft commanders! There must (unfortunately) be others, and all of us
need to submit claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs if we wish to get service connection
due to Agent Orange exposure. Nearly two months into this project, it seems I have trouble
finding crewmembers who don't have AO-illnesses!
As is our right, I have pumped out a bunch of Freedom of Information Act Requests to the GSA,
Air Force Museum, Department of the Air Force and other agencies to seek documentation about
post-Vietnam use of the aircraft and what might be known about its contamination.
So here's what we have so far
1. the GSA report citing Air Force studies establishing toxins remaining in the C-123K surplus
2. Davis-Monthan spent $123,000 to put all their surplus Providers in a fenced, inaccessible area
"out of sight"; workers are not allowed into the aircraft without protective equipment (we've since
learned the planes were all destroyed 4/2010)
3. museum and display aircraft (Robins, Air Force Museum, etc) are sealed and no access or very
limited access permitted; Robins allows contact with their plane
4. lots of us are getting cancer & other AO-presumptive illnesses, and dying
5. Two contaminated aircraft had been sold to Disney for movies! One is still available to the
public, with physical contact allowed to the contaminated outside surfaces of the UC-123K.
7. Contaminated aircraft had been sold to foreign governments, with JAG officers and general
officers more concerned about the "political implications" than the safety of those allied aircrews
8. the VA's web site claims that if a vet proves exposure to Agent Purple, Agent Orange and other
toxins, the VA may consider award of service connection (their term for an illness being caused
by military service) and that opens the door for compensation and medical treatment, as well as
perhaps benefits for survivors. We also know that unofficially at least, the VA universally denies
every single claim of illness related to Agent Orange exposure, no matter how verified and even if
on their list of presumed illnesses, unless a veteran was exposed at one of their published list of
exposure sites. You can show them videos of being forced to eat, breathe, and bathe in Agent
Orange, and your claim will be automatically denied. Most Veterans Service Officers won't even
encourage you to file, but everyone should get on the AO Registry!