U.S. report to deny Agent Orange in Okinawa

Pentagon to admit pesticides dumped but not Vietnam War defoliant

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

A U.S. Department of Defense investigation into the presence of Agent Orange on Okinawa Island is set to support veterans’ allegations of the clandestine burial of potentially harmful chemicals there — but dismiss claims that the toxic Vietnam War defoliant was among them.

Sources knowledgeable about the final report say the inquiry is likely to uphold accounts that large amounts of military supplies, including pesticides, were dumped during the 1960s and ’70s at Okinawa installations — possibly including U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and a former military installation in the town of Chatan.

The admission is likely to fuel demands in the prefecture for environmental tests to ensure that the land — some of which has been returned to civilian use — is no longer contaminated.

According to information obtained by The Japan Times, the Pentagon launched the inquiry at the request of the Japanese government nine months ago. Full details of the final report will be announced in Washington next Tuesday at a meeting attended by officials from the Japanese Embassy and representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs — the agency responsible for deciding redress for service members sickened in the line of duty.

Over the past 18 months, The Japan Times has reported accounts from U.S. veterans that dozens of barrels of chemicals — including Agent Orange — damaged in a shipping accident were buried near Hamby Air Field, Chatan, in 1969. Today, the area is popular with tourists and the allegation of the burial caused alarm among local residents.

Several mayors, as well as Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, demanded a full probe. It was also reported that as many as 100 barrels of Agent Orange had been unearthed during construction work at Futenma in 1981, sickening the station’s former maintenance chief, retired Lt. Col. Kris Roberts.

In that case, it is alleged the chemicals were illegally removed from the base to be disposed of at an undisclosed location.

While the Pentagon report to be released next week may help the veterans directly involved in these burials receive redress for their exposure to chemicals, it is also likely to prompt an angry reaction from hundreds of other former service members who claim they were exposed to Agent Orange on Okinawa Island.

According to details of the Pentagon report obtained by The Japan Times, the inquiry will categorically deny claims that the defoliant was ever present on the island.

U.S. investigators apparently were able to track down records of the shipment of Agent Orange to Vietnam. Counter to some veterans’ assertions that the defoliant passed through Okinawa ports, none of the surviving documents suggest this was the case.

The report will also rebuff veterans’ accounts of spraying Agent Orange on bases by offering evidence that such substances were, in fact, nontoxic herbicides. However, the Pentagon did not attempt to contact any veterans to clarify their accounts of exposure to Agent Orange on Okinawa, according to the sources.

Likely to draw the ire of many veterans was the man selected by the Pentagon to head its investigation: Alvin Young. A retired air force colonel with more than 40 years of experience investigating military usage of defoliants during the Vietnam War, Young has written dozens of reports and is the author of four books about Agent Orange.

However, his close connection to the Pentagon and previous research funding from the manufacturers of Agent Orange — including Dow Chemical and Monsanto — have led some veterans’ advocates to question his findings, which often downplay correlations between defoliants and human health effects.

Herb Worthington, chairman of Vietnam Veterans of America’s Agent Orange and Other Toxic Substances Committee, expressed anger when he learned of the report.

“These veterans of both sexes were there on Okinawa at different times, served in different branches, but they all have the same memories of being exposed to Agent Orange and many are ill today. They respected and loved our country — they believed it would never do anything to harm them,” Worthington said.

  • Equalizer

    Not the first time that the US military sweeps dirt under the carpet…

  • Saidani

    Did anyone honestly expect a different outcome?

  • David C

    Did US admit using agent orange in Vietnam initially?

  • http://www.lenaldis.co.uk Len Aldis

    This is an insult to those who died through the use of Agent Orange and who have been left suffering from its effects.

  • Glen Herman

    J.M. All we can do is keep hitting them with the evidence. If you would like for me to get up in front of any politician or any of the Japanese Public holding my uniform and the uniform of my WWII father and raise my right hand and tell them just how big of a lie it is they are telling I would gladly do it..

  • msgtroyfoster

    Alvin Young is a liar and a paid employee of dow chemical and monstanto. He is on the payroll. He is paid to put out the fires of AGENT ORANGE used outside of Vietnam like Okinawa and Guam. I power sprayed millions of gallons of it on Guam. Alvin Young can not be trusted. He lied about AO in the beginning and he is lying now. There have been several eye witness that saw me spraying on guam with a 750 gallon trailer. I used AO, AW, AB and Silvex. The cancer rates on Guam shot out of the roof 1900 times greater than the rest of world. Dr. Robert Haddock and Dr. Luis Szyfres found the dioxin in the soil and water and in the blood of the victims on Guam . I am sure Okianwa is just like this.

  • guest

    Lies, denials and misinformation. Standard operating procedure for the DOD.
    Kudos to Mitchell for fighting this fight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamieleestclair Jamie Lee St Clair

    My husband was a warehouseman on Okinawa in 1961-1962, and he now has Parkinson’s disease of 7 years now, neurological disorders, memory problems, and a very enlarged prostate for many many years now. He shakes non uncontrollably all the time now, where is his justification in all of this? This is just N O T right that our government that is suppose to support our servicemen that took time out of their own lives to save our county’s life and to help other lives of this land, where is his help now that he needs it? He was exposed to Agent Orange being a warehouseman. Where is his fairness, He has been denied once for service related compensation, and has refiled again about 3 months ago, and if this doesn’t change, and the pentagon get it right and together he may be denied again. Where is my relief in all of this too. I have to give him all his care except for two hours a week that VA will only pay for to help him. He is getting to where he is needing full time care, I too am disabled, but that is of no concern to them. He deserves to be compensated for his good that he did for his country. Stop the bull!!!! Jamie Lee St.Clair for George Marvin St.Clair

  • Joseph twardzik

    Our government knows they killed us but wail never admit it.