In the spring of 1945, 180,000 US soldiers clashed with 120,000 Japanese troops, catching Okinawa civilians in the crossfire; almost a third of the population lost their lives.
However less well-known is the suffering the islanders have been forced to endure since the end of that war. In 1952, the US military was granted control of Okinawa under the Treaty of San Francisco and soon it took advantage of the island’s influential location in the South China Sea.
OKINAWA – A TIMELINE
|1400s: Okinawa, an independent kingdom, starts a trading relationship with China which stays out of the island’s domestic affairs in return for tributary of goods.1609: Japanese samurai invade Okinawa and take share of Okinawa’s trading profits. For the next 270 years, Okinawa exists in a gray zone.1879: Okinawa becomes a prefecture of Japan; Japan introduces policies to bring Okinawa in line with the rest of the country – including the suppression of the island’s culture and language.1920s: Widespread famine causes tens of thousands to leave Okinawa in search of work overseas and in mainland Japan (where they experience widespread discrimination).
1945: Battle of Okinawa kills 145,000 Okinawan civilians.
1952: Treaty of San Francisco ends the Allied Occupation of mainland Japan but Okinawa remains under US administration.
1959: US jet crashes into Miyamori Elementary School killing 17 people.
1969: Leak of nerve gas on base sickens 23 US GI’s – and confirms suspicions that island houses bio-chemical weapons.
1970: 3,000 Okinawans participate in anti-US riot in Koza City, burning more than 80 US cars and injuring 60+ Americans.
1972: Okinawa reverts to Japanese control after Tokyo pays US$650 million to Washington in a secret agreement.
1995: Following the gang rape of an Okinawan child, Washington and Tokyo make an agreement to reduce the US military presence on Okinawa.
2012: Despite a 100,000-person rally, US stations V-22 Osprey aircraft on island.
Published on Nov 4, 2012
This is the English-language version of Defoliated Island, a Japanese
award-winning documentary about the usage of Agent Orange on Okinawa
during the Vietnam War. Produced by Okinawa TV station, QAB, the show won national acclaim in Japan when it was first aired in May 2012.
Newly discovered documents reveal that 50 years ago this week, the Pentagon dispatched a chemical weapons platoon to Okinawa under the auspices of its infamous Project 112. Described by the U.S. Department of Defense as “biological and chemical warfare vulnerability tests,” the highly classified program subjected thousands of unwitting American service members around the globe to substances including sarin and VX nerve gases between 1962 and 1974.
According to papers obtained from the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the 267th Chemical Platoon was activated on Okinawa on Dec. 1, 1962, with “the mission of operation of Site 2, DOD (Department of Defense) Project 112.” Before coming to Okinawa, the 36-member platoon had received training at Denver’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal, one of the key U.S. chemical and biological weapons (CBW) facilities. Upon its arrival on the island, the platoon was billeted just north of Okinawa City at Chibana — the site of a poison gas leak seven years later. Between December 1962 and August 1965, the 267th platoon received three classified shipments — codenamed YBA, YBB and YBF — believed to include sarin and mustard gas.
For decades, the Pentagon denied the existence of Project 112. Only in 2000 did the department finally admit to having exposed its own service members to CBW tests, which it claimed were designed to enable the U.S. to better plan for potential attacks on its troops. In response to mounting evidence of serious health problems among a number of veterans subjected to these experiments, Congress forced the Pentagon in 2003 to create a list of service members exposed during Project 112. While the Department of Defense acknowledges it conducted the tests in Hawaii, Panama and aboard ships in the Pacific Ocean, this is the first time that Okinawa — then under U.S. jurisdiction — has been implicated in the project.
Corroborating suspicions that Project 112 tests were conducted on Okinawa is the inclusion on the Pentagon’s list of at least one U.S. veteran exposed on the island. “Sprayed from numbered containers” reads the Project 112 file on former marine Don Heathcote. Heathcote, a private first class stationed on Okinawa’s Camp Hansen in 1962, clearly remembers the circumstances in which he was exposed.
Throughout the late 20th century, rumors of Project 112 were widespread among U.S. veterans, but they were quickly dismissed by an American public unwilling to believe its government would test such substances on its own troops. However, following a series of TV news reports by CBS, the Pentagon admitted to the existence of Project 112 and promised to come clean on the issue.In 1961, as the Cold War deepened, the U.S. initiated a comprehensive overhaul of its defensive capabilities in more than 100 different categories; No. 112 on this list was the study of CBW. Envisaged by President John F. Kennedy’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, as “an alternative to nuclear weapons,” Project 112 proposed experiments in “tropical climates” and, to evade laws regulating human testing in the U.S., it suggested the use of overseas “satellite sites.” Fulfilling both prerequisites, Okinawa must have seemed a perfect choice.
That disclosure began in 2000, when the Pentagon claimed that there had been 134 planned tests, of which 84 had been canceled. The experiments it admitted carrying out included the spraying of troops in Hawaii with E. coli, subjecting sailors to swarms of specially bred mosquitoes, and exposing troops in Alaska to VX gas. The Pentagon stated that no participants had been harmed in these tests.
Throughout the Cold War until 1969, Washington adhered to a strict policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of CBW on Okinawa. In all likelihood, it would have continued to do so, were it not for the events of July 8 of that year. On that day, American service members were conducting maintenance on munition shells at the Chibana depot when one of the missiles sprung a leak. Twenty-three troops and one civilian fell sick from exposure to the missile’s contents — likely VX gas — and were hospitalized for up to a week.
Considering the toxicity of such weapons, those exposed escaped lightly. Nevertheless, when the accident was reported, its ramifications were far-reaching: The Pentagon was forced to acknowledge its chemical arsenal on Okinawa — infuriating local residents — and promised to remove the entire stockpile before the island’s reversion to Japanese control in 1972.
|Proof of Project 112 on Okinawa?: An excerpt from the history of the 267th Chemical Platoon.|
Operation Red Hat, the mission to transport the weapons off the island, was organized by the same man who had brought them to Okinawa two decades previously: John. J. Hayes (by then a general). It also involved the 267th Chemical Platoon, which had been renamed the 267th Chemical Company. During two separate phases in 1971, the military shipped thousands of truckloads of sarin, mustard gas, VX and skin-blistering agents from Okinawa to U.S.-administered Johnston Island in the middle of the Pacific. The consignments totaled 12,000 tons — a terrifying amount considering that many of these substances’ fatal dosage is measured in milligrams. After the final shipment had left the island, Hayes assured journalists, “Every round of toxic chemical munitions stored on Okinawa has now been removed.”
This year marks 60 years since the first delivery of chemical weapons to Okinawa; this week is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Project 112 on the island. However, the continuing illnesses suffered by U.S. veterans including Heathcote and Mohler suggest this problem is far from a purely historical matter — and only now are potential correlations between toxic munitions and illnesses among Okinawan residents coming to light.
In the near future, Washington plans to return a number of U.S. installations on Okinawa to civilian usage. However, just as former U.S. CBW storage sites elsewhere — such as the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Johnston Island — remain dangerously contaminated, Okinawan land is likely to be handed back in a similarly toxic state.
Under the current U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, the host government is solely responsible for the cleanup of former bases — a task that’s expected to set Japanese taxpayers back hundreds of millions of dollars. With the true cost in terms of health and capital yet to be determined, there is a real risk that these weapons of mass destruction will poison not only the soil but also American-Japanese-Okinawan relations for decades to come.
This video explores the perspectives of three generations of Agent Orange survivors offering a rare insight into non-Vietnamese survivors highlighting the global scale of this issue. Additionally, Jon Mitchell, a Welsh born journalist now residing in Yokohama explains his groundbreaking work in helping to uncover the use, storage and burial of Agent Orange on the Japanese islands of Okinawa. Through the video, viewers can see how these inspiring individuals used their time aboard Peace Boat to spread the messages of this issue as well as their time on land in Da Nang, Vietnam; where they were able to visit a support center for Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.
Special thanks to
Heather Bowser (Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance), Kenneth H. Young, Jenna Mack, Jon Mitchell
Da Nang Center for Agent Orange and Disadvantaged Children
During the Vietnam War, 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange were stored on Okinawa, according to a recently uncovered U.S. army report.1 The barrels, containing over 1.4 million gallons (5.2 million liters) of the toxic defoliant, had been brought to Okinawa from Vietnam before being taken to Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean where the US military incinerated its stocks of Agent Orange in 1977.
The army report is the first time the U.S. military has acknowledged the presence of these poisons on Okinawa – and it contradicts repeated denials from the Pentagon that Agent Orange was ever on the island. At the same time that the document was revealed, a series of photographs was also uncovered apparently showing the 25,000 barrels in storage on Okinawa’s Camp Kinser near Naha City.
The army report, published in 2003, is titled “An Ecological Assessment of Johnston Atoll”. Outlining the military’s efforts to clean up the tiny island that the U.S. used throughout the Cold War to store and dispose of its stockpiles of biochemical weapons, the report states, “In 1972, the U.S. Air Force brought about 25,000 55-gallon (208 liter) drums of the chemical Herbicide Orange (HO) to Johnston Island that originated from Vietnam and was stored on Okinawa.”Read Full Article – http://www.japanfocus.org/-Jon-Mitchell/3838 This is a revised and expanded version of an article that appeared in The Japan Times on August 7, 2012. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120807a2.html Jon Mitchell teaches at Tokyo Institute of Technology and is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. In September 2012, “Defoliated Island”, a TV documentary based upon his research, was awarded a commendation for excellence by Japan’s National Association of Commercial Broadcasters. An English version of the program is currently in production in order to assist U.S. veterans exposed to military defoliants on Okinawa. Updates on the issue can be found here – http://www.jonmitchellinjapan.com/agent-orange-on-okinawa.html 1. The full document, “An Ecological Assessment of Johnston Atoll”, can be accessed from the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity homepage here http://www.cma.army.mil/publications.aspx?criteria=site&value=JACADS 2. For a concise overview of the campaign to ban Agent Orange see Philip Jones Griffiths, “Agent Orange – ‘Collateral Damage in Viet Nam”, Trolley Ltd., London, 2003 http://www.amazon.com/Agent-Orange-Collateral-Damage-Vietnam/dp/1904563058 3. For a more detailed explanation of Operation Red Hat, see: Jon Mitchell, “Military defoliants on Okinawa: Agent Orange”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, September 12, 2011 http://www.japanfocus.org/-Jon-Mitchell/3601 4. The full text of the V.A. ruling is available here http://www.va.gov/vetapp09/files5/0941781.txt 5. From interviews with author conducted Summer 2012 see also http://www.guamagentorange.info/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Johnston_Atoll_History261114404.225173000.pdf 6. For an account of Okinawan NGO Citizens’ Network for Biodiversity’s June 2012 meeting with Okinawa Prefecture see here http://okinawaoutreach.blogspot.jp/2012/06/okinawa-ngo-discusses-with-okinawa.html 7. See for example Fred Wilcox, Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam, Seven Stories Press, New York, 2011. http://www.fredawilcox.com/scorched_earth__legacies_of_chemical_warfare_in_vietnam_99600.htm 8. See Jon Mitchell. “U.S. Veteran Exposes Pentagon’s Denials of Agent Orange Use on Okinawa,” The Asia- Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 17, No. 2. http://www.japanfocus.org/-Jon-Mitchell/3740 9. See for example: Jon Mitchell, ‘Agent Orange on Okinawa – New Evidence,’ The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 48 No http://www.japanfocus.org/-Jon-Mitchell/3652 10. See Okinawa NGO discusses with Okinawa Prefecture over Agent Orange: http://okinawaoutreach.blogspot.jp/2012/06/okinawa-ngo-discusses-with-okinawa.html
We here at COVVHA, get this question a lot…
When I made my first trip to Vietnam, my biggest fear was that I would be considered a traitor, a war sympathizer, and God forbid, a Hanoi Jane (A.K.A. Hanoi Heather). Even after my first trip, I was a little hesitant to start speaking out. Then it happened. I just started sharing my experiences with others. To my surprise, as I started speaking out, many American Vietnam Veterans came to me asking questions. They would ask, “Did you go to XXX? I served there, what is it like now?” Others would speak of the topography, where they went on R&R, more than one told me of a lost love, asking if I met any Vietnamese American children. Some would tentatively ask how I was treated by the Vietnamese. When I would tell the stories of meeting aging Vietnamese veterans, who once fought for the North or South, and how they would listen to my family’s tragic Agent Orange story, and tear up, then tell me through the translator, how they are very sick from diabetes, cancers and heart conditions and how their children are very ill or dead. The American Veteran would listen, and then more often than not say, “I’m glad you went, I’m not sure if I would go back, but I’m glad you went. I know your Dad is very proud of you.” That was all the affirmation I needed. I was on the right path. It took the men who are living the long Shadow of the Vietnam War to give me the courage I needed.
A few times, and I say very few, because it’s only happened twice, I have been called a “War sympathizer,” I will tell you no Vietnam Veteran has ever called me such. Maybe they are too polite or too pissed to speak with me, I get that, but I’ve never had that experience. When it has happened, I have said, I am not a war sympathizer, I am a humanitarian, the war is over, and our countries are at peace with each other. The mental, and physical pain left from the war is not over, on either side, but the actual taking up arms and killing each other is.
The Vastness of the problem with Agent Orange in Vietnam took till my third trip to even grasp. Vietnam is roughly the same size in square miles as the state of New Mexico. Vietnam reports it has over three million Agent Orange victims. Now think about a county in your state. In one small province in Vietnam I visited, there were 14,000 Agent Orange Victims, 7,000 of them were second generation victims. Can you imagine? Remember the polio epidemic? If it were happening again, would you just sit by and watch? Now, not only throw in the polio epidemic, but also throw in extreme poverty, very poor health care and toxic local environments that are continuing to poison the food supply, creating more victims. This is the current state of things in Vietnam. Would you support those who were doing the work to stop it, and improve the conditions of innocent children? There are many trying to stop this epidemic in Vietnam.
How can helping those offspring affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam help the offspring of Vietnam Veterans in the US or Australia? Currently, there is more research going on in Vietnam on issues of Agent Orange than anywhere else in the world. In Vietnam, there are more supporters globally then there have ever been for the children of US or Australian Veterans. Ninety nine percent of these global supporters do not even know there are Agent Orange offspring Victims in the United States or Australia. If none of the children of American Vietnam Vets or Australian Vietnam Vets are speaking out and educating those in the global community that we are in fact here, how will they ever know? How will they ever know we need help with health care costs and the like?
Why is all this research happening and global supporters still do not know other victims exist? Number one, it is the multitudes of identifiable Agent Orange victims in Vietnam. Remember, three million victims in the area as large as the state of New Mexico. Secondly, it has to do with the fact that Vietnam acknowledges there is a problem, unlike the Australian and US Governments, and invites researchers in to try to help. I do have to have a side note to say, at least the Australian Government has been more open to appropriate research. Our governments and chemical companies have worked hard to dismiss the Vietnam Veteran’s story of suffering in their children and stifle any real research. Then they turn around and say, there are no reputable studies on the affects of Dioxin in the offspring of Vietnam Veterans
Wouldn’t it be helpful if this international support would come to the offspring of American and Australian Agent Orange victims as well? Especially after the last 40 years that our own governments have turned their back on our Fathers, and our families. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the same pressure that is happening in Vietnam to require the government to create social/medical change for the victims of Agent Orange could also happen in the US and Australia? Unless the children of American and Australian Vietnam Veterans engage with the rest of the world, it will pass us by while we wait for our governments to just do the right thing. How much longer should we be passive?
There is something to be said for the emotional healing that has happened for me as a result of my trips to Vietnam. I was once extremely bitter, especially after my own Father died as a result of his AO illnesses. It changed me to see other disabled children born after the war, who also like myself, had no say in the politics of the 60’s, interacting and caring for each other. Their simple acts of compassion for each other helped heal a very lonely place left in my heart from childhood. It’s also given me hope by watching Non Government Organizations, physically help those in most need in Vietnam. I see what could be. I see the future for projects that could meet the unique needs of American and Australian generational victims of Agent Orange. We have to be out there meeting each other, we have to understand the suffering we ALL are going through. One of our dreams is to facilitate a group of American/Australian victims of Agent Orange to go to Vietnam as a delegation to experience this for themselves. It’s only with doing, engaging and acting can real change happen.
It’s about public relations, building relationships, comparing research, and comparing experiences, that helps not only the greater good, but us in the long run. Some may never agree with me, and that is fine. I am a humanitarian, not a war sympathizer, I have my Father’s approval and that is all I need to continue this work. Caring about the Vietnamese Agent Orange victim really does matter.© Heather A. Bowser Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance
Heather shared her personal story with Peace Boat participants, describing the ways in which her father’s exposure to Agent Orange in Viet Nam resulted in her multiple birth defects. For the first in a series of lectures covering the topic of Agent Orange, Heather Bowser appeared on stage to discuss her personal connection to the virulent wartime herbicide. Filling the entire auditorium, participants gathered to hear her testimony. Heather, an mother of two from the US with a business in antiques and part time career as a mental health therapist, is also a second generation Agent Orange survivor who was born with multiple birth defects. This has led her to reach out to other innocent victims like her–most of whom have long suffered in silence, bearing the scars of a war that began and ended long before they were born. Heather also speaks out about the issue in order to raise awareness of the need to prevent such horrific man-made chemical disasters in the future.”Agent Orange was the code name for a chemical herbicide developed for the U.S. military, the purpose of which was to deny an enemy cover and concealment by defoliating the trees where the Vietnamese enemy could hide,” Heather explained. She went on to tell the audience that her father Bill Morris was drafted to Long Binh, Viet Nam in 1968, where he was forced to work in conditions where Agent Orange was transported and stored. Heather’s father even recalled servicemen using the barrels for BBQs and collecting drinking water. The U.S. government assured servicemen and the world that Agent Orange was proven to be harmless to humans and would only destroy one crop cycle.
Heather worked closely with Peace Boat volunteers who together helped raise awareness of the ongoing generational effects of Agent Orange. They collaborated to create posters, banners and messages of support for Agent Orange victims, additionally assisting Heather with lectures and workshops. Heather also works towards seeking support from the U.S. government, which up until this point has taken minimal responsibility for the generational effects associated with Agent Orange. While some compensation is available, it is primarily for survivors born to female veterans who were exposed and only in very rare cases for males, and Heather’s condition is invalid under U.S. government designations. She explained that it is not only the sense of neglect from her own government that is immoral but the financial burden left to those in need of medical assistance. “Every morning when I put on my artificial leg, I wonder if the people who decided to dump 20 million gallons of a toxic chemical on Vietnam think of the people who they harmed.
Heather Bowser tells locals to start organizing and demand disclosure from government
By JON MITCHELL
Residents of Okinawa Island have recently been confronted with mounting evidence that their land used to be a major storage site for the toxic U.S. defoliant Agent Orange.
Over the past 18 months, dozens of American veterans have claimed that they were poisoned by the dioxin-tainted chemical while stationed on Okinawa Island during the Vietnam War. At the time, the island was under U.S. jurisdiction and a staging post for the conflict in Southeast Asia in which millions of liters of defoliant was sprayed in an attempt to rob enemy forces of jungle cover and crops. Last month, a U.S. Army document was discovered that seems to prove Okinawa veterans’ claims; the report states that 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange were stored on the island prior to 1972.
Despite this apparent confirmation, the U.S. government denies that Agent Orange was ever in Okinawa and Tokyo has refused to conduct environmental tests. The two governments’ intransigence has angered Okinawa residents and left many of them seeking answers about the potential impact on their island. Last month, they were given the opportunity to speak firsthand to someone who has dedicated her life to spreading awareness about the dangers of these defoliants.
Heather Bowser, 39, is the daughter of a U.S. soldier exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam during the war. “My father had five bypasses on his heart when he was only 38 years old and at age 40 he developed diabetes. When he was 50, he died of a massive heart attack,” Bowser said during the visit.
The notoriously persistent effects of dioxin, which can even sicken the children and grandchildren of those exposed, did not stop with her father; his first two children died in the womb and when Bowser was born, she was 2 months premature and missing her right leg below the knee, several fingers and the big toe on her left foot.
“My father used to say that if he’d known the effects of Agent Orange on his children, he would have fled to Canada to avoid serving in the war,” Bowser said.
During the 1970s and ’80s, the U.S. government and the manufacturers of the chemicals strenuously denied the harmful effects of Agent Orange. But Bowser’s father campaigned to spread awareness and often brought his daughter to rallies — dressing her in a bright T-shirt bearing the message, “Agent Orange Kills.”
Although his activities attracted the attention of the authorities and the family’s telephone, he believed, was tapped, work by activists such as him helped to persuade the U.S. government in the 1990s to offer compensation to American service members directly exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Today they are eligible for compensation for over a dozen illnesses ranging from cancers and diabetes to heart problems. In addition, the sick children of the estimated 1,800 female veterans of the Vietnam conflict are offered assistance. Yet Washington still refuses to help the tens of thousands of poisoned children of male veterans — second-generation survivors like Bowser who are sick with serious health problems.
After her father died in 1998, Bowser carried on his struggle to seek justice for those exposed. In 2010, she became one of the first second-generation survivors in the U.S. to travel to Vietnam to meet with some of the country’s 3 million dioxin victims. Her trip was featured in a Japanese documentary, “Living the Silent Spring,” directed by Masako Sakata.
While in Vietnam, Bowser met a young third-generation survivor whose birth defects mirrored her own. “Meeting him really struck home the legacy of these poisons across generations and borders. And on a personal level, it helped me to come to terms with myself,” said Bowser.
The visit convinced Bowser of the urgent need to reach out to all of those affected by Agent Orange. In January, she set up the nonprofit organization Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance with a fellow second-generation survivor. Today the group has over 350 members on three continents united by its mission statement to serve “as a voice for the children of Vietnam veterans, including second- and third-generation victims of Agent Orange and dioxin exposure worldwide. We will fight for justice globally.”
Last month, Bowser brought the group’s message to Okinawa as part of a program organized by Japanese NPO Peace Boat to highlight the international and intergenerational legacy of Agent Orange. During her three-day stay on the island, Bowser was shown several of the U.S. bases where the toxic chemical had allegedly been stored and sprayed to clear weeds during the 1960s and ’70s.
In the northern Okinawa town of Henoko, Bowser met with people living near U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab. According to U.S. veterans, the installation had a cache of hundreds of barrels of Agent Orange that was used to kill vegetation within the base and on the adjacent Jungle Warfare Training Center. While in Henoko, Bowser heard how local residents were apparently poisoned in the 1960s after consuming shellfish contaminated by the toxin.
Hiroshi Aritomi, an outspoken critic of the American bases in the area, voiced his anger over the Japanese government’s refusal to conduct health tests among people living near Camp Schwab. “Tokyo is only following Washington’s orders. They’re trying to hide the truth from the people of Okinawa. We need an urgent investigation into medical records of former base workers (who allegedly sprayed Agent Orange).”
Bowser also visited Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, often labeled by locals as the most dangerous U.S. base in the world due to its location in the densely populated central part of the city of Ginowan. In June, The Japan Times reported that dozens of barrels of Agent Orange had been secretly buried on the installation and marine corps officers had attempted to conceal the fact when they were accidentally unearthed in the 1980s.
Bowser expressed her concerns and commented on the geographical similarities between the Futenma base and the former U.S. air base in Da Nang, Vietnam, which today is the scene of a well-publicized dioxin cleanup attempt by the U.S. government. “Both Da Nang and Futenma are located in the middle of residential areas where people have been living alongside contaminated soil for decades. It really makes me worried about the long-term health impact on Okinawa residents,” Bowser said.
Bowser’s concerns were also heightened by accounts from local residents of elevated rates of autism and cleft palates on the island — both of which are common problems among second- and third-generation Agent Orange survivors.
On her final day on the island, Bowser attended a screening of the documentary “Living the Silent Spring” at Okinawa University in Naha. As testament to the islanders’ worries over dioxin, the rainy weekday screening drew over 100 residents. Also in attendance was Seiryo Arakaki, chairman of the Special Committee of Base Issues, and four municipal assembly members whose constituencies host U.S. bases where Agent Orange had allegedly been sprayed.
Following the screening, Bowser told the audience that she felt an affinity with Okinawa people, whose prefecture had been devastated by fighting during World War II and continues to host the majority of U.S. bases in Japan. “My few days here in Okinawa have made a lasting impression on me. When it comes to the legacy of war, you have suffered so much, but I have been moved by your power to see through the ravages of loss and find strength in each other,” she said.
Following a plea for Washington to award compensation to U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange on Okinawa, Bowser ended her visit with reassurances to residents that they were not alone in their struggle.
“I urge you to start organizing with each other and reach out to international Agent Orange communities. Demand full disclosure from the Japanese government as to the storage and use of Agent Orange in Okinawa. Now is not a time to stay silent.”
Masami Kawamura, cofounder of Okinawa Outreach, the citizens’ group at the forefront of demands for a full inquest into Agent Orange usage on the island, believes Bowser’s trip paved the way for the struggle for justice that lies ahead. “By sharing her knowledge and experience, Heather has inspired many people. From now on, we will work together in solidarity with her. She has shown us that we need to not only look back at the past, but also work together for our future.”
“We didn’t really get their stories when they came home. They didn’t come home to much of a reception,” said Madeline Darnell, program coordinator for the “The Boomers,” a joint project of the Athens Regional Library System and the Lyndon House Arts Center.
Working together, the two institutions got a three-year leadership grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services focusing on the baby boomer generation. They aim to develop a model for other libraries to use in serving the baby boomers as they start to retire.
So far, Darnell and retired radio journalist Mary Kay Mitchell have interviewed six Vietnam vets, but are hoping many more will share their experiences in video interviews, said Darnell.
Interviews like one conducted recently with Athens veteran Roy Moseman have been a little surprising, she said.
Nearly 60,000 Americans died in Vietnam, and like veterans of other wars, those who came back often had to deal with not only physical, but psychological wounds.
But veterans interviewed so far have said they also benefited from their service.
“I actually was kind of relieved to hear they got something good from their service in the war,” Darnell said. “The veterans we’ve interviewed did seem to gain something that enriched their lives.”
Moseman gained confidence from his wartime experiences, he said.
“It let me know I could do a lot of things I didn’t think I could do,” he said. “It let me know I could withstand a lot of things.”
But Moseman also came back with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Continue Reading - http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/24/4755748/vets-sought-for-interviews-by.html
As the voice and face of Agent Orange in Canada, Kenneth Young of Emo has travelled the globe bringing awareness to the effects caused by the harmful herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War from 1961-71.
But the 64-year-old is especially excited to continue his Agent Orange awareness campaign aboard the “Peace Boat,” a Japan-based, international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development, and respect for the environment.
Peace Boat’s 77th Global Voyage for Peace departs next Friday (Aug. 24) from Yokohama, Japan and will travel to Da Nang, Vietnam.
There, Young will meet with Vietnamese survivors of Agent Orange as well as the U.S. ambassador in Vietnam.
“His role is that he is going to be teaching about what happened in Canada at CFB Gagetown,” noted Young’s son, Daniel, who also lives in Emo, adding his father will give a 75-minute lecture to university students aboard the Peace Boat.
“They called him in as an expert on the subject because he’s been an advocate for so many years, researching and getting all the facts on the matter,” Daniel Young said.
“And he’s been disseminating that through the Internet and other means.
“He’s been published probably hundreds of times now. He’s been really focused on this mission to get the information out there.
“He’s excited but a little nervous, too,” admitted Daniel Young, referring to his father’s upcoming presentation.
A Canadian veteran and first generation Agent Orange survivor, Kenneth Young also will be travelling alongside Heather Bowser, a second-generation American Agent Orange survivor, and Jenna Mack, an 18-year-old third-generation American survivor.
Bowser was born with multiple birth defects as a result of her father’s exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin during the Vietnam War while Mack’s mother was born with severe hip dysplasia, suffers from lupus, and also developed an extremely rare form of cancer five years ago.
This is the first documented case of three generations of survivors from the U.S. and Canada travelling to Vietnam to build ties with Vietnamese survivors and to raise awareness of the global scale of the Agent Orange legacy.
Young indicated in an previous interview that Vietnam has suffered the most from the side effects Agent Orange caused, including “birth defects, 15 different types of cancers, diabetes, and destroying the immune system.”
There are an estimated 300,000-500,000 third-generation casualties, some of which Young noticed while in Vietnam last year, where he was a speaker at the Second International Conference of Agent Orange/Dioxin
Continue Reading…. http://fftimes.com/node/253791
DANANG, Vietnam — The United States began a landmark project Thursday to clean up a dangerous chemical left from the defoliant Agent Orange — 50 years after American planes first sprayed it on Vietnam’s jungles to destroy enemy cover.
Dioxin, which has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, will be removed from the site of a former U.S. air base in Danang in central Vietnam. The effort is seen as a long-overdue step toward removing a thorn in relations between the former foes nearly four decades after the Vietnam War ended.
“We are both moving earth and taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past,” U.S. Ambassador David Shear said during the groundbreaking ceremony near where a rusty barbed wire fence marks the site’s boundary. “I look forward to even more success to follow.”
The $43 million joint project with Vietnam is expected to be completed in four years on the 19-hectare (47-acre) contaminated site, now an active Vietnamese military base near Danang’s commercial airport.
Washington has been quibbling for years over the need for more scientific research to show that the herbicide caused health problems among Vietnamese. It has given about $60 million for environmental restoration and social services in Vietnam since 2007, but this is its first direct involvement in cleaning up dioxin, which has seeped into Vietnam’s soil and watersheds for generations.
Shear added the U.S. is planning to evaluate what’s needed for remediation at the former Bien Hoa air base in southern Vietnam, another Agent Orange hotspot.
The work begins as Vietnam and the U.S. forge closer ties to boost trade and counter China’s rising influence in the disputed South China Sea that’s believed rich in oil and natural resources. The U.S. says protecting peace and freedom of navigation in the sea is in its national interest.
The Danang site is closed to the public. Part of it consists of a dry field where U.S. troops once stored and mixed the defoliant before it was loaded onto planes. The area is ringed by tall grass, and a faint chemical scent could be smelled Thursday.
The contaminated area also includes lakes and wetlands dotted with pink lotus flowers where dioxin has seeped into soil and sediment over decades. A high concrete wall separates it from nearby communities and serves as a barrier to fishing there.
The U.S. military dumped some 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of Agent Orange and other herbicides on about a quarter of former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971, decimating about 5 million acres (2 million hectares) of forest — roughly the size of Massachusetts. Continue Reading…. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/us-starts-landmark-cleanup-of-agent-orange-nearly-4-decades-after-vietnam-wars-end/2012/08/09/3bfc819a-e1d7-11e1-89f7-76e23a982d06_story.html
During the Vietnam War, 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange were stored on Okinawa, according to a recently uncovered U.S. Army report. The barrels, thought to contain over 5.2 million liters of the toxic defoliant, had been brought to Okinawa from Vietnam before apparently being taken to Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean, where the U.S. military is known to have incinerated its stocks of Agent Orange in 1977.
The army report is the first time the U.S. military has acknowledged the presence of these chemicals on Okinawa — and it appears to contradict repeated denials from the Pentagon that Agent Orange was ever on the island. The discovery of the report has prompted a group of 10 U.S. veterans, who claim they were sickened by these chemicals on Okinawa, to demand a formal inquiry from the U.S. Senate.
The army report, published in 2003, is titled “An Ecological Assessment of Johnston Atoll.” Outlining the military’s efforts to clean up the tiny island that the U.S. used throughout the Cold War to store and dispose of its stockpiles of biochemical weapons, the report states, “In 1972, the U.S. Air Force brought about 25,000 55-gallon (208 liter) drums of the chemical Herbicide Orange (HO) to Johnston Island that originated from Vietnam and was stored on Okinawa.”
In the early 1970s, the U.S. government banned the usage of Agent Orange in Vietnam after acknowledging the dioxin-tainted herbicide posed a serious threat to human health. Moreover, the time frame stated in the report suggests that the barrels were a part of Operation Red Hat — the military’s 1971 operation to remove from Okinawa its 12,000-ton stores of chemical weapons in preparation for the islands’ reversion to Japanese control the following year. A previous statement from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2009 stated that military herbicides had been included during Operation Red Hat but attempts to investigate that claim — including the filing of multiple Freedom of Information Act requests — have been hampered by U.S. authorities.
During the past year and a half, dozens of U.S. veterans have spoken to The Japan Times about their spraying, storage and disposal of Agent Orange on Okinawa during the 1960s and ’70s. At this time, the island was a major staging point for the U.S. war in Vietnam, where the American military sprayed millions of liters of Agent Orange, poisoning tens of thousands of its own troops and approximately 3 million Vietnamese people. Many former service members stationed on Okinawa claim they are suffering from similar illnesses due to exposure to the herbicide but the U.S. government is only known to have paid compensation to three of these veterans.
Following the discovery of the army report, 10 former service members have written a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs demanding a full investigation into the military’s usage of Agent Orange on Okinawa. “We have a strong desire to do the right thing for all of the U.S. veterans who were exposed to herbicides/Dioxin on Okinawa as well as for Okinawa,” states the letter, organized by former air force Sgt. Joe Sipala.
Read The Full Article - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/rss/fl20120807a2.html
The fallout from the US military’s use of Agent Orange may have spread from Vietnam to Japan. Massive caches of the toxic herbicide were buried on Futenma, “the world’s most dangerous base,” potentially poisoning the island, a Japanese daily reports.
The US military presence has long been a point of contention for locals on the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, a cluster of islands located some 400 miles south of Japan.
A slew of violent crimes committed over the last 40 years by US servicemen has led 85 per cent of locals to oppose the presence of American bases on Okinawa. However, the military’s most deadly mark on the islands may be a far less visible killer: Agent Orange.
Scores of barrels of the defoliating chemical were clandestinely buried at Futenma Air Base on Okinawa Island following the Vietnam War, the Japan Times reports.
The Pentagon allegedly ignored repeated requests from soldiers serving on the island in the 70s and 80s to safely dispose of a pesticide a million times more toxic than any naturally occurring poison.
In the Summer of 1981, “unacceptably high readings” of chemicals in the wastewater flowing out of the installation prompted Lt. Col. Kris Roberts, the former head of maintenance projects on Futenma, to start digging up the ground near the end of the base’s runway.
“We unearthed over 100 barrels buried in rows. They were rusty and leaking and we could see orange markings around some of their middles,” Roberts, now a state representative in New Hampshire, told the Japan Times in a recent interview.
Agent Orange, the most widely-used of the “Rainbow Herbicides” deployed during the United States’ decade-long herbicidal warfare program in Vietnam, got its moniker from the orange-stripped barrels in which it was shipped. The US used over 76 million liters of defoliants to rob the Vietcong of cover and food.
As Okinawa was a forward staging post for the US military during the war, the base was a likely transit point for the herbicides despite the Pentagon’s insistence to the contrary.
Roberts’ ranking officers tried to hush the find up by having local workers haul off the seeping barrels to an undisclosed location. A typhoon soon flooded the burial site, whereby Roberts and his men jumped down into the toxic cesspool and drained “the contaminated water off the base.”
Since his contact with the chemicals, Roberts has been plagued by a series of life-threatening illnesses, including prostate cancer, precursors of lung cancer, and heart problems. His doctors have no doubt his ailments stem from his exposure to Agent Orange.
Roberts has fought to have the US Marine Corps and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contact his former crew out of fear they were similarly poisoned, but his appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
Despite the official Pentagon position, in February the Department of Veterans’ Affairs awarded two former service members compensation for exposure to Agent Orange during their deployment on Okinawa at the time.
One of the sick veterans said it was routine to ship goods contaminated with Agent Orange for cleaning as the Vietnam War was winding down.
In fact, between 1962 and 2010, 132 Veterans serving on Okinawa during the Vietnam War era claim to have been exposed to Agent Orange, despite repeated denials from the Pentagon that the defoliant was ever present on the islands.Read The Full Story http://www.rt.com/news/agent-orange-buried-okinawa-932/
A collection of several recent articles in the news relating to Agent Orange and Dioxin
Okinawa bases stored toxic defoliant, ex-soldier says
U.S. vet pries lid off Agent Orange denials
By JON MITCHELL
Special to The Japan Times
JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Thousands of barrels of Agent Orange were unloaded on Okinawa Island and stored at the port of Naha, and at the U.S. military’s Kadena and Camp Schwab bases between 1965 and 1966, an American veteran who served in Okinawa claims.
In an interview in early April with The Japan Times and Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting Co., a TV network based in Okinawa, former infantryman Larry Carlson, 67, also said that Okinawan stevedores were exposed to the highly toxic herbicide as they labored in the holds of ships, and that he even saw it being sprayed at Kadena Air Base. Carlson is one of only three American servicemen who have won benefits from the U.S. government over exposure to the toxic defoliant on Okinawa — and the first of them to step forward and reveal that massive amounts of it were kept on the island. If true, his claims, which are corroborated by five fellow soldiers and a 1966 U.S. government document, would debunk the Pentagon’s consistent denials that Agent Orange was ever stored on Okinawa.
“The U.S. Department of Defense has searched and found no record that the aircraft or ships transporting (Agent) Orange to South Vietnam stopped at Okinawa on their way,” Maj. Neal Fisher, deputy director of public affairs for U.S. forces in Japan, told The Japan Times recently. But the VA’s decision to grant Carlson benefits over his exposure to the herbicide would appear to buttress his account.
“I am the tip of the iceberg. There are many others like me who were poisoned but the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) is denying their claims,” Carlson said during the interview at his Florida home. “I urge those men to dig in and plant their feet.” During his time in the U.S. Army, Carlson was assigned to the 44th Transportation Company at the U.S. military port in Naha between December 1965 and April 1967. ”Transport ships came in (from the United States) and we would move drums of Agent Orange. We worked 12 hours around the clock until we’d unloaded the ship,” he said. ”A lot of the time, when they dropped the barrels in our truck they would leak. I got soaked at least three times and we couldn’t do anything because we were driving (the barrels to storage sites) and couldn’t shower until we got back to our barracks.”
The USS Comet and the SS Transglobe, the most decorated American merchant vessel during the Vietnam War, were two of the ships used to transport Agent Orange to Okinawa, according to Carlson. Deliveries arrived every two months on average, and 1966 was the busiest time in terms of shipments, he said. ”It was hot and heavy then. They wanted us everywhere, and we were hauling everything — including Agent Orange,” Carlson said.
After the barrels were unloaded, they were temporarily stored on Okinawa Island and then shipped to South Vietnam, where the U.S. military sprayed huge amounts of Agent Orange over jungles and crops in an herbicidal warfare campaign against the Viet Cong.
The Vietnam Red Cross estimates that about 3 million Vietnamese are still suffering from their exposure to the dioxins contained in the herbicide, almost 40 years after the war ended. Carlson’s claims will fuel existing concerns in Okinawa that Naha’s port, Kadena Air Base and the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab are still contaminated with Agent Orange dioxins, which remain in the soil for decades and have been linked to widespread birth defects, stillbirths, cancers and other diseases. In southern Vietnam, the ground where former U.S. military installations once stored the herbicide remains highly toxic to this day.
Given Carlson’s allegation that local stevedores helped unload leaking barrels of the toxic defoliant, Okinawan residents are likely to be alarmed about their own risk of exposure. In the mid-1960s, roughly 50,000 Okinawa residents were employed at U.S. military bases. Carlson also recalls witnessing the chemical being sprayed as a weed-killer at Kadena air base. ”Sometimes, the supply chain would request 10 drums (of Agent Orange), so the trucks would go up there (to the base) and unload whatever they had asked for. There were workers spraying the chain link fence so that it looked neat,” he said.
Carlson first suspected that he had been sickened by his exposure to the dioxin-laden defoliant in 2005. ”I hit the brick wall. My kidneys weren’t functioning. They diagnosed me with Parkinson’s Disease. Then lung cancer. . . . They removed half of my left lung and parts of my right,” he said. Carlson also worries his own exposure may have affected the health of his children, who could have inherited genetic defects. His daughters suffer from thalassemia — a rare, inherited blood disorder — and two of them gave birth to stillborn babies.
When Carlson first applied for redress in 2006, the VA dismissed his claims. While Vietnam War veterans are automatically eligible to receive benefits for 14 dioxin-related illnesses, the Pentagon’s denials over Agent Orange’s presence on Okinawa scuppered Carlson’s initial application. But he persisted in his battle over compensation and collected five statements from fellow service members who had worked alongside him at Naha’s port. All of their accounts corroborated Carlson’s claim that large quantities of the herbicide were transported through the docks. Two of the men were even suffering from dioxin-related illnesses, including ischemic heart disease and prostate cancer. Carlson also tracked down a 1966 U.S. Air Force document that described an 18-day trip by civil engineering representatives to the Philippines, Taiwan and Okinawa to teach naval and air force service members how to safely handle herbicides.
Infantrymen like Carlson, however, received no such training and handled Agent Orange without any protective equipment. ”A simple training session would have saved some of the guys from being contaminated,” Carlson said. The documentation tipped the scales in Carlson’s favor.
In July 2010, the VA’s regional office in St. Petersburg, Florida, awarded him its maximum disability compensation due to his exposure to Agent Orange on Okinawa.
“We determined that the claim you submitted for lung cancer . . . was substantiated by the information and evidence in VA’s possession,” a letter he received from the office says.
Carlson currently receives $2,800 a month (about ¥225,000) to cover his medical expenses, which include a daily dose of more than 20 pills to keep the effects of dioxin-poisoning under control.
“When I received the letter, I felt blessed. I felt that an unseen hand had touched the heart of the person who awarded that claim. I am really thankful for the VA,” he said. During the past year, more than 30 U.S. veterans have talked to The Japan Times about sicknesses they blame on exposure to Agent Orange during deployments covering 15 military installations on Okinawa between 1961 and 1975.
U.S. government records show a further 130 veterans have lodged compensation claims similar to Carlson’s, and experts say the number of those exposed could be in the thousands. The VA has only approved redress in two other cases. One involved a former marine who developed prostate cancer from his exposure to herbicides on Okinawa from 1961 to 1962, and who was awarded benefits in 1998. The other concerned a claim from another marine, who also served on Okinawa, for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and diabetes mellitus type 2 attributed to handling contaminated equipment shipped from the Vietnam War to Okinawa in the early 1970s.
Paul Sutton, a former chairman of the Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee run by the Vietnam Veterans of America, a nonprofit organization, expressed doubt that the Pentagon will relent and fully compensate all the other veterans exposed to the herbicide on Okinawa. ”The U.S. government will fight tooth and nail against granting compensation to veterans who served on Okinawa,” said Sutton.
“To do so would be an admission that it violated treaties not to store herbicides within other countries’ political boundaries. Washington is also betting that not enough veterans will come forward to fight over their (Agent Orange) exposure on Okinawa.”U.S. vet pries lid off Agent Orange denials | The Japan Times Online. By JON MITCHELL Special to The Japan Times