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Evidence for Agent Orange on Okinawa U.S. veterans speak about its harm to their health and their struggle for justice

April 12, 2011

Evidence for Agent Orange on Okinawa U.S. veterans speak about its harm to their health and their struggle for justice

In addition to these three veterans interviewed for The Japan Times, records from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (V.A.) contain hundreds of similar accounts of Agent Orange on Okinawa during the late 1960s and early '70s, a time when the island was under U.S. rule and served as a forward base for the American war in Vietnam. The testimonies reveal that the dioxin-laden herbicide was not only stored in large quantities on Okinawa before being transported to the war zone, but also that it was routinely used to clear weeds on military installations and tested in the northern Yanbaru jungle.

This protracted, widespread use of Agent Orange on the island has left many of the service members who handled it seriously ill. Spencer, Threet and Sipala are today suffering from a litany of dioxin-related sicknesses including cancer, type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease. Moreover, Sipala's first child died in the womb — so misshapen that the doctor said he should be thankful the baby didn't see the light of day — and his two surviving children suffered from deformities consistent with Agent Orange-poisoning.

After 11 months of deliberations, though, the V.A. denied Sipala's claim, citing two grounds. First, it stated there was no proof of him having developed illnesses due to exposure. Sipala refutes the notion. "My medical records clearly show that I developed diabetes right after I returned from Okinawa. Why didn't the doctors state it was due to Agent Orange at the time?  This was 1970 and no one really knew about the dangers of exposure."

Second, the V.A. stated, "We were unable to find any evidence of spraying, testing, storage (or) usage of Agent Orange in Okinawa, Japan, by the personnel in your unit."

This phrase is common among denials issued by the V.A., and it baffles Sipala. "I don't understand how they can keep rejecting claims due to lack of data. Do they expect us to believe that the 1998 ruling was the one time anyone ever used the herbicide on Okinawa?" Meanwhile, as the hundreds of veterans whose appeals have been denied by the V.A. continue to grow sicker and sicker by the day, Sipala believes that the government is neglecting its duties to those who once served their country. "Among vets, the unofficial motto of the V.A. is 'Deny, Deny . . . until they die.' The only way that we can force the government to recognize what they did is for more of us to come forward and tell our stories to the world."

 

 

 

 

Legacy of Our Veterans' Military Exposures
  1. McNeil Zellars Reply

    I was stationed at camp foster from 1972-73 as a mechanic and truck driver. I see you were involved in placing a fence around the motor pool area. Well I have a picture of the maintenance shop, fence, and hundred of drums and other materials in that area. We,the mechanics, test drove many vehicles in that area. I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Please reply.

  2. Kenneth hubeny Reply

    I was on Camp Fatima USMC 3rd Mar-Div 3rd FSR. 54 platoon heavy truck company. We hauled agent orange all the time. When it leaked or spilled we just sprayed down the trucks with a powerful fire type hose causing sprays and mist everywhere.
    We were all exposed. I only recently put 2 and 2 together.

  3. Kenneth Snyder Reply

    Was exposed to dioxin agent orange twice.When I delivered trucks to danang. I was boots in country and was in the worse hot spot in the world for the dioxin agent orange . I stayed in barracks by the end of the runway danang ab. Then went to danang on ship with fleet Marines USS Juneau .ship is in list for being exposed to dioxin agent orange. The dioxin is 10x stronger . My diseases are really bad and getting worse.Diabetes LL millitus,vascular disease,Heart disease,neuropathy,retinopathy.and more.

  4. dale gaulden Reply

    in 1971 I was stationed at camp foster 3rd fsr H&S maintenance btn. I was a motor vehicle operator, just a truck driver also gunner. Before we put up a fence at motor pool/whare house we had two or 3 drums of AO and would mix it with desiel. we sprayed every ware along the roads, even hill side to keep them little snakes away. LOL I got diabt II, 4 Stents in heart, CAD, and more. Want apply but don’t think VA will approve it. I get 10% for ringing in ears

  5. Marvin Seastedt Reply

    I was stationed at Camp Foster in a supply company in 71, agent orange was stored in our lot an was overturned and spilled from time to time. Lot of guys got in it. And we would have to clean it up.

    • McNeil Zellars Reply

      Marvin:
      I was stationed at Camp Foster in the motor pool as a mechanic in 1972-73. I can attest to your statement because I have a photo of that area with drums and other materials stored outside. We would test drive our vehicles in that area. You are right about the spilled and overturned drums because when some the mechanics test drove the vehicles they would hit some of the drums causing spills. occasionally, we had to set the drums upright and put them back on pallets.

    • McNeil Zellars Reply

      Marvin:
      Email me: mczellars@yahoo.com

  6. dave Reply

    during my time on okinawa, I was handling mia and deceased personel clothing and gear dated from 1962 on, for 4 years. agent orange had to be  on some of the item's. denied due to no boots on the ground act. my age at the first year of service in okinawa was 17 years old. tell me that that's not  wrong to place a young man in that situation with no protection for hands or mouth inventoring each pc of gear?

    • admin Reply

      Hi Dave, Thank you for your comment. Well you know I am going to agree with you but that’s about all I have the power to do – is agree. You should check out Agent Orange Okinawa’s FB page at this link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Agent-Orange-Okinawa/205895316098692?ref=ts
      Ask for Joe. If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me via this site or send an email to aolegacy@gmail.com
      Sincerely,
      Sharon L. Perry, Founder
      AO Legacy

  7. paul lair Reply

    i was stationed on okinawa from 1971-1972 in the maintance battalion camp foster 3rd fsr
    i have had diabetes since 1980 and now in the last few years have cll and heart dissease with blockages.
    i have filed a claim with v a still awaiting there decision. i worked on all vehicles that came back from vietnam touching every part of them

  8. philip j dube Reply

    help your country , protect the freedom of our country and then need help we are getting screwed over by our country

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