Veteran alleges that U.S. military buried Agent Orange in Chatan

Veteran alleges that U.S. military buried Agent Orange in Chatan

A U.S. military veteran explains with a map that the defoliant was buried by U.S. forces in 1969 in Chatan Town. On the map, Kadena Air Base, Futenma Air Station, Camp Hamby in Chatan and Naha military port area are shown (photograph provided by John Mitchell contributed to Japan Times).

August 14, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

A former member of the U.S. military, a 61 year-old veteran who was stationed on Okinawa and now lives in United States, has said that in 1969 the U.S. military buried several dozen 55-gallon (208-liter) drums containing dioxin defoliant along the sea of Chatan Town on land since returned by the military. With regard to defoliant on U.S. bases in Okinawa, more than 100 veterans have submitted claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs for damage to their health due to exposure to the defoliant, which was sprayed, storage and transported in many facilities in the prefecture in the 1960s and 1970s, but this is the first such statement about the disposal of defoliant waste in the prefecture.

On August 13, the Japan Times reported that a former member of the military involved in transport operations for the U.S. Army supply depot from 1968 to 1970 has stated that Agent Orange was buried in Chatan Town. He explained this to Air Force veteran Joe Sipala, drawing a map of the location in Okinawa then known as Camp Hamby where he alleged in July that the defoliant was buried. Sipala, a 61-year-old resident of North Carolina, has claimed that his health problems are due to being exposed to the defoliant during his service at the Awase Communication Site in 1970. Sipala has been gathering information about Agent Orange in Okinawa.

According to the statement to Sipala by the former U.S. soldier, the man was involved in unloading cargo, including the defoliant, from a freighter that become stranded on rocks in 1969 when it was carrying supplies to U.S. forces. At that time, he also handled drums with orange stripes containing Agent Orange, and he was exposed to the defoliant as it leaked from cracks. He saw an operation in which they dug a large hole about 46 meters in length in Chatan Town and used a crane to put in several dozen drums containing Agent Orange, with the hole then being covered with soil.

A senior official of Chatan Town said that they have found nothing resembling drums during the land redevelopment project since the handover by U.S. military of Camp Hamby to the town in 1981. However, in 2002, a large number of drums containing an oily substance were discovered in the Mihama area, land returned by the U.S. military near what was Camp Hamby.

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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