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U.S. Veteran Exposes Pentagon’s Denials of Agent Orange Use on Okinawa

Jon Mitchell
Foreign Policy in Focus / News Report
Published: Thursday 10 May 2012
“Former infantryman Larry 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.”
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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 a Jacksonville Florida 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 witnessed 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.

His claims, which are corroborated by five fellow soldiers and a 1966 U.S. government document, directly challenge 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, recently informed the author.

But the VA's decision to grant Carlson benefits over his exposure to the herbicide  appears to fly in the face of this - and similar U.S. government denials - while also offering the closest that the authorities have yet come to admitting to the presence of Agent Orange on Okinawa.

"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, a period of major escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and of the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam and Laos.

"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 SS Transglobe (highly decorated during the Vietnam War for having come under enemy fire more than any other civilian ship), the USS Comet and ships from the Sea Lines were most frequently 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 and then shipped to South Vietnam, where the U.S. military sprayed huge amounts of Agent Orange over jungles and crops during “Operation Ranch Hand” - 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. Adults who came into contact with Agent Orange developed a range of sicknesses including cancers, skin diseases and diabetes. Since dioxins are also fetotoxic, the children of those exposed were affected - they died in the womb or were stillborn; many others were born with crippling birth defects - both mental and physical. In Vietnam, an estimated 150,000 children are suffering from the impact of US herbicides.

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 have remained in the soil for decades. In a November 2011 press conference, people residing near Camp Schwab in the late 1960s explained that their neighbors had fallen ill after eating shellfish gathered near the installation. Others worried that the early deaths of former base workers may have resulted from their spraying of Agent Orange.

In southern Vietnam, the ground where former U.S. military installations once stored the herbicide remains highly toxic to this day. Scientists have identified almost 30 potential dioxin hotpots - including Da Nang Air base where dioxin levels up to 30,000 times normal levels have been found. To date, the Japanese government has blocked requests for dioxin tests on Okinawa’s bases, claiming that it found the testimonies of US veterans’ implausible.

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. The usage of Agent Orange in this manner was widespread in South Vietnam, Guam and Thailand due to these locations’ quick-growing vegetation.

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 that 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.

Carlson first applied for redress in 2006. In his claim he wrote, “Constant pain in kidneys, prostate and bowel. Heart problems - hole in my heart. Severe hypertension. All of these problems I feel is a direct result of exposure to Agent Orange. I was with the 44th Transportation Comp. on Okinawa, Japan, where we transported 55 gallon drums of the agent to storage facilities.”

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. One of these men has since died from ischemic heart disease while another is suffering from prostate cancer - both diseases are listed by the U.S. government as related to dioxin-exposure.

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. According to the report, one of the purposes of the trip was to “review base programs and assist individual bases with establishment of safer and more effective programs” related to the usage of these chemicals. The report also stated that “Literature on various products was distributed at the conference and all bases visited. This action is designed to keep sections informed on some of the newer chemicals now available for pest and weed control.” Given that Agent Orange was first formulated on a large scale in 1966, many veterans suspect that it is among the “newer chemicals” mentioned.

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 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 with me about sicknesses they attribute to 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.

Taken together, these three successful claims paint a worrying picture of not only the long term presence of these poisons on Okinawa - but also the vast geographic extent of their usage from the Yanbaru jungles (where the 1998 veteran was exposed) through Camp Schwab to Naha Port in the south of the island.

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."

ABOUT Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell is currently coordinating two Japanese TV documentaries about Agent Orange on Okinawa - including "The Scoop Special", a 90-minute program for TV-Asahi which is set to air on May 20th 2012. The Welsh-born writer is based in Yokohama and represented by Curtis Brown Ltd., New York. He has written widely on Okinawan social issues for the Japanese and American press. He teaches at Tokyo Institute of Technology and is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate.

I was stationed in Okinawa at

I was stationed in Okinawa at Shukran Army Base 1966-1968, worked in a motorpool not far far from Kadena Air Base. I was just resently diagnosised with Parkinson. I just submitted a disability claim at my local VA in Pensacola, Fl. today 8-19-2014. I am wondering how many Vets serving on Okinawa have come down with PD? I have no family history what-so-ever.

my husband was stationed at

my husband was stationed at camp hansen in the early '70's..he was diagnosed with parkinson in family history of the disease whatsoever.

stationed 1972-73 had heart

stationed 1972-73 had heart attack at 38 and open heart surgery at 48 please let me know how you did your claims thanks jim buckley

stationed 72 and 1973 heart

stationed 72 and 1973 heart attack at 38 open heart surgery 48 would like information,help, on how to apply for disability. please contact me

Good day to all that are

Good day to all that are attempting this recognition: I was on Okinawa Kadena AFB from 1970 till July 1972. I was also TAD to Kung Ju Korea for 4 months. I was a welder or Metals processing Specialist. I'm now 63 years old. Along with the CE welding we were required to do. We had to go around the base when there were water leaks in the main pipe and melt lead for the repairman to seal the water line. We were right next to the fence line where they had sprayed and we were in a large hole. I have since been fighting sever Periferal Neuropathy, and have been seeing numerous Cardiologist for chest problems and pain. I have a leaking valve and blocked PAD. I just yesterday had a cardiac MRI checking for heart Iskimea. I have cyst on my kidneys and liver benign at present. And have had Metal fume posioning from welding. am developing various rashes and skin tags I've never had before. I have sever sleep apnea and am oxygen 3% at night for now. And have OCPD. I'm convinced that it was exposure to those chemicals. We were also required to move a leaking rocket stored on the Island to another storage hanger.

My husband was stationed on

My husband was stationed on Okinawa from Oct. 1961 to Nov. 1962. He was sent on many occasions to spray herbicides around the perimeters of the bases on Okinawa to clear fields of fire. Two years ago he was diagnosed with Myleoidysplastic Syndrome that within 6 months went into Acute Myleoid Leukemia. He also has heart disease, Parkensins, and Neuropathy. The VA has denied that Agent Orange was on Okinawa or that he was exposed to it since he did not go to Vietnam. I have just begun to research this and am trying to gather as much information as I can to submit to the VA.

I have wondered if there were

I have wondered if there were any other dependents exposed, I was on okinawa from 1969 - 1974, lived in camp Zukeran, was in the boy scouts, worked youth summer hire at Machinato Depot and walked between bases as a teen. As a scout I camped at white beach and in the northern training area, Ie Shima, Bolo point and other points around the island. 4 years ago was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, my father had lymphoma when he died. If AO was on Okinawa likely thousands dependents were exposed either directly or indirectly.

The Pentagon may be able to

The Pentagon may be able to out wait vets who served on Okinawa in the 1960s, but hopefully not the thousands of dependents who were on accompanied tours with their parents who will continue the fight on their behalf and make claims of their own. My family was on Okinawa from 1973 to 1975 - two and half years.

Everyone in my family who lived on the island is/was sick. My father, the service member, has hemolytic anemia, polymyositis, peripheral neuropathy and congestive heart failure. He's having bypass surgery next Friday at age 83.

My mother passed almost four years ago from a malignant brain tumor.

My brother had unexplained cysts and various other maladies. His first (and only) child died four days after birth from a heart defect.

And I have three autoimmune diseases, which I know are not yet recognized by the VA as a result of AO exposure, but my father insists that I file a claim. He has requested copies of his orders to and from the island for documentation purposes.

None of the above diseases runs in our family; in fact, after extensive research, I discovered we come from a long line of very healthy people.

My father retired from Fort Huachuca and lives nearby; the area is populated with loads of veterans and their dependents. His physician has just learned of AO on Okinawa and he suspects that many of his other patients may have a connection to it as well. He is now writing notes to substantiate my father's claim and the claim my father wants me to submit.

My father insists that AO seeped into the drinking water and everyone on the island has come in contact with it at some point. I was a stable brat and spent most of my free time with other brats riding our horses through the vacant land at Kadena. I remember seeing orange streams in some of the more remote areas that we could ride. When we weren't riding, we'd walk through these fields to the officers club where we'd eat lunch.

If AO was used as a weed killer, then it was all over our schools and housing areas, the playgrounds, tennis courts and swimming pools, etc., etc., etc.

There are dependents on Okinawa right now who most likely are drinking tainted water or - at the very least - showering in it. Decades of spouses and children have cycled through the island a couple of years at a time.

And when the American public discovers that these dependents were knowingly put at risk the Pentagon is not going to know what hit them.

If there are any servicemen

If there are any servicemen that were stationed on Okinawa 1970 - 71 and have illness please email me. I was stationed at Camp Courtney, USMC and am filing a claim - the more Statements of Support of Claim Form 4321 you have the better your chances are of winning compensation. I am suffering from several different dieseases and need help building my case. My email is: - thanks in advance for any help!

jim buckley stationed on

jim buckley stationed on Okinawa 72-73 have heart disease from age 38 to present open heart surgery at 48 I also need any help or advice I can get thanks jebuckley@hotmail,com

Has there been any reports of

Has there been any reports of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) among veterans or volunteers or people living close to where Agent Orange was sprayed in Vietnam, especially around the Central Highland area ?

Several years ago my Vietnam

Several years ago my Vietnam War veteran friend died from agent orange exposure. He was in his early 50s.

100% of the male smallmouth

100% of the male smallmouth bass sampled from the Potomac River in the nation's capital had ovaries!

This is a very alarming canary in the coal mine finding. This should give the ultra-tough man fascists pause because such pollution levels might compromise their he-manliness. They'll just have to increase their dose of steroids to compensate. Bwahahahaha

What? You don't like pink

What? You don't like pink slime? Man up! You must be toughened up for the coming soylent green.

My own experience in the U.S.

My own experience in the U.S. army over 40 years ago showed me the systematic lies built into chains of command then. I'm not surprised they continue now that the U.S. subsidizes:

-- the nuke industry's guaranteed forever poisons and toxins;

-- genetic-modifying, mass feedlot, & processed food Industrial Ag;

-- freeway, highway, & parking-lagoon-based sprawl culture;

-- for-profit standardized testing;

-- for-profit prisons;

-- for-profit health care;

-- "higher" ed based on corporate-style departmentalizations;

-- drug syndicates, both those of Big Pharma and all the street gangs.

It's a sick, sick culture now, the American -- so of course it relies on a gulag of over 700 military bases in over 130 countries -- and, too, on the same sickening ingredients there as at home. And even more on the lies I saw first-hand long ago.

The Department of Defense can

The Department of Defense can afford to play the waiting game hoping that Vietnam War-era veterans will die off before they have a chance to have their Agent Orange disability claims heard by the Veterans' Administration.

The US military violated international treaties AGAIN and stored Agent Orange on Okinawa (There's a surpise -- NOT!) and must maintain the lie to save face.

And US soldiers thought that the Viet Cong and ARNV was the enemy in the Vietnam conflict.

It you know any one with

It you know any one with unexplained illnesses, please have them contact me!
I too was exposed while stationed at Kadena A.F.B. between 1966-1967, for a
total of a year. Please contact me via

Thank you in advance
Clarence Thomas

May God's wrath and justice

May God's wrath and justice come down on those who put their love of money above their love of man.

You can trust God's wrath

You can trust God's wrath after they're dead, but until then we have to protect ourselves here.

Scientific evidence is

Scientific evidence is mounting that Monsanto's best-selling herbicide RoundUp also causes birth defects. A new generation of babies born near fields of "RoundUp Ready" (genetically modified) soy in Argentina are suffering birth defects as terrible as those found in the Agent Orange contaminated areas of Vietnam. Scientific research published in 2010 showed that Monsanto's Roundup and the chemical on which it is based, glyphosate, cause birth defects in frog and chicken embryos at dilutions much lower than those used in agricultural and garden spraying.

Industry and regulators knew aslong ago as the 1980s and 1990s that glyphosate causes malformations – but that this informationwas not made public.

Monsanto's “exciting” new GMO seeds are resistant to more than one kind of pesticide. Rather than resisting Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup alone, they will now also be resistant to Dow AgroScience’s pesticide 2,4-D . Agent Orange is a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D.

So the next generation of GMOs is made to resist one of the major chemicals used in Agent Orange! Monsanto and Big Agra are planning to dump this crap on all of our food. Big corporations and our own government are poisoning us and our unborn babies.

I too was exposed while

I too was exposed while stationed at Kadena A.F.B. in Okinawa for a year...1966-1967!..........I too have unexplained illnesses!

Thanks Much,
Clarence Thomas

My husband was at Kadens Air

My husband was at Kadens Air Base in1968-1969. He worked on the SR-71 Blackbird engine. Whenever these planes were on the ground they leeked fuel (JP-7). His clothing was absorded with fuel. 19 years ago he was diagionised with Parkinsons and we believe it is environmental Parkinsons, we are now hearing of Agent Orange being used thier also. Between these chemicals used their we believe thats how he has become sick. If anyone can help us please reply. email: Thank you,

My husband was stationed at

My husband was stationed at Kadena A.F.B. in Okinawa during the Viet Nam War. He worked on electronic air craft equipment. Since he was small they would have him climb on top of the caskets stacked in the airplanes coming back from Viet Nam. He would have to climb on and lay on these caskets that were returning from Viet Nam in order to repair the equipment.

He suffered rashes (sometimes 3 different rashes at one time as documented by Mayo Clinic), high fevers, swelling, and then autoimmune blood dyscrasia -- hemolytic anemia. He required blood tranfusions and was monitored by Mayo Clinic cancer specialists because at any time it could turn into cancer.

He died and I am continuing with his claim.

If any of you have information that would be helpful to me with this claim, I would appreciate your help.

Thank you
Colleen Ruehl

There were soldiers exposed

There were soldiers exposed to defoliants even in WWII.
My father was an MD stationed in the S Pacific (Truk Isl.). The island, and it's inhabitants were regularly exposed to defoliants. He developed a rare leukemia and died @ 55.
As an MD and medical researcher, he, and at least two colleagues, were convinced that it was his exposure to those chemicals that caused his cancer.

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