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Army veteran claims Agent Orange buried on beach

Date Posted: 2011-12-09

He remains unidentified for now, but a former American soldier stationed on Okinawa has identified a beach area in Chatan Town, near Araha Beach, as a site where he helped bury Agent Orange more than four decades ago.

The former Army serviceman says the burial took place in 1969, when the beach area was part of the U.S. Army’s Hamby Air Field. The airfield was dismantled and the land returned to Japanese control in 1981 and transformed into a tourism mecca with a plethora of hotels, restaurants, boutiques, apartment stores and shops dotting the landscape.

There have been other allegations of Agent Orange being stored and buried in Okinawa, but this latest claim is the first that identifies a civilian site as the location for the dumping or burial. The former soldier insists he was part of a team that offloaded dozens of dioxin-filled barrels of Agent Orange from an American cargo vessel that struck a reef in 1969. He’s told officials he watched the chemicals being buried ina 45-meter-long trench at Hamby Air Field.

Using a 1970 map, the ex-soldier pointed his finger to the spot he claims the incident occurred, using markings for a pier as a reference point.

Nearly two dozen former American servicemen have made recent allegations regarding Agent Orange in Okinawa during the Vietnam War era. Okinawa was a staging point for war materiel heading to Vietnam, and the men’s testimony has convinced four local mayors to demand investigations of Agent Orange. Thus far, the Japanese government hasn’t moved, and the American military’s Pentagon in Washington continues to deny there was ever Agent Orange on Okinawa.

Governor Hirokazu Nakaima is pressing the case, going to Tokyo to meet U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos to ask for help in quieting his citizens’ fears about the alleged chemical dumping. Chatan officials are suggesting reports of people with unexplained ailments should be investigated. One official says it might be too early to conduct dioxin tests, but says “if tests are to be conducted, it’s the Japanese government’s duty to do so.”

Nearly a decade ago, 215 barrels of chemicals were uncovered in Chatan as construction was under way. That area is only 750 meters from where the latest allegation of Agent Orange burial is claimed. The 215 barrels were disposed of, but one dioxin expert says “I’m 100% confident that soil in the immediate area remains contaminated with dioxin, if Agent Orange was in the barrels that were buried there over 40 years ago.”

The former soldier at the heart of this latest allegation says he’ll soon go public with both identity and testimony. “I’ve scheduled a meeting with my congressman to explain what I saw happening at Hamby,” he says. “The U.S. government has been lying for too long, and it’s time to get some truth for the veterans and the people of Okinawa.”

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