U.S. veterans claim to have been exposed to toxic defoliant used in eight military facilities in Okinawa during the 1960s and 1970s.

U.S. veterans claim to have been exposed to toxic defoliant used in eight military facilities in Okinawa during the 1960s and 1970s.

The rulings of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs on the applications by the veterans who have insisted that their health difficulties were caused due to exposure to toxic defoliants. In the papers, the names of facilities operated by U.S. forces in Okinawa appear.


August 7, 2011 Ryota Shimabukuro of Ryukyu Shimpo

More than 100 veterans who were stationed on the United States military bases in Okinawa during the 1960s and 1970s have claimed compensation from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for damage to their health caused by exposure to a highly toxic defoliant containing dioxin. These men had worked spraying, storing and transporting the defoliants.
According to VA official documents, an Air Force veteran and others who were stationed in Okinawa in the past sought government acknowledgment that their health problems were caused by the toxic defoliant. The documents suggested that the highly toxic defoliant had been used extensively in up to eight facilities in Okinawa, and that it had caused serious health hazards to those involved in its spraying, storage and transport.

With regard to damage caused by the toxic defoliant used by the U.S. Forces on Okinawa, only one case has been reported in 1998 in which the Department of Veterans Affairs approved a claim that there was a connection with prostate cancer suffered by a former U.S. military personnel member who used the highly toxic defoliant in the Northern Training Area during his term of duty in Okinawa.

During the Vietnam War, from 1960 to 1975, the U.S. military used aerial spraying of toxic defoliants, causing child birth defects, miscarriages, and cardiovascular and skin diseases among the local Vietnamese people. Toxic defoliant has a long residual period because it does not break down easily in nature, so there is still an ongoing issue of soil contamination in Vietnam.

Joe Sipala, a 61 year-old U.S. military veteran living in North Carolina, worked at the Awase communication site in 1970. Once a week he sprayed the defoliant called “Agent Orange” on about 55 hectares of land surrounding the site and two hectares around the fence once every two weeks when directed to by his superiors, to secure clear vision for monitoring the approach of potential intruders into the facility. He claims that this work caused his diabetes and skin disease.

According to Department of Veterans Affairs documents, Agent Orange was sprayed, stored and transported at other facilities in Okinawa in addition to the communication site, including Naha military port, the Northern Training Area, Camp Schwab, Kadena Air Base, White Beach, Tengan Pier and Futenma Air Station, and veterans who worked at such facilities have made claims regarding health difficulties due to exposure to this toxic material.
British journalist Jon Mitchell, who has continued to cover the Agent Orange issue, also stated that veterans gave testimony that this defoliant was used and stored at Camp Kuwae, Camp Zukeran and Camp Kinser.

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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