For the attention of the government of Japan and the people of Okinawa:
As accusations and denials swirl regarding the burial of herbicides
employed by the U.S. military in Vietnam during that war, there are
irrefutable facts that seem not to have been considered in their true
context. Denials of such burials by the U.S. military on land that was
then part of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa by Dr. Alvin Young, a hired
consultant and purported expert on military herbicides, and the U.S.
Department of Defense are disingenuous at the very least, and at worst a
blatant cover-up of historical realities.
For over 15 years I served as the lead scientist for Hatfield
Consultants, investigating the impact of Agent Orange on the environment
and human population of southern Vietnam. Our studies formed the
foundation for understanding the movement of dioxin, originating from
Agent Orange, through the ecological landscape and into humans.
Implementation of remedial measures in Vietnam has stemmed directly from
our Agent Orange research, including work now underway at the site of
one of the former U.S. air bases in Vietnam, Da Nang.
Ehime University analyzed liquid residues in 22 30-gallon drums
uncovered on former Kadena Air Base land. All but two samples contained
the toxicant TCDD (a dioxin), a specific by-product of the manufacturing
process of 2,4,5-T, one of the two constituents of Agent Orange. This
constituent, 2,4,5-T, was present in the majority of the drums, but at
low levels probably indicative of gradual decomposition over the years
inside these drums.
Interestingly, 2,4-D, the other constituent of Agent Orange, was not
found in any of the 22 drums, suggesting the liquid residue was not
Agent Orange. The Okinawa Defense Bureau concluded that given these
data, and specifically the lack of 2,4-D, the chance this liquid residue
was, in fact, a defoliant was “slim.” This contention is blatantly
false and totally disregards objective analytical data that clearly
shows the presence of 2,4,5-T, a herbicide, in these drums. I suggest
that the word “slim” should be altered to “certain.”
The use of such terms as “herbicide” and “defoliant” should not
confuse the reader — the two are interchangeable and should not be used
in attempts to skew the interpretation of data and the issue of the
presence or otherwise of specific “wartime chemicals.”
These chemicals, used for removal of vegetation to deprive opposing
forces of forest cover and rice crops during the Vietnam conflict,
consisted of a variety of chemical mixtures. To enable identification of
a specific chemical spray, drums of these herbicides/defoliants were
painted with colored bands — orange, green, pink, white, etc. As the
conflict progressed, the term “agent” was prefixed to a given color by
the international media to provide a more “mysterious” aura to these
chemicals. In time they became known as the “rainbow herbicides.”
In an article in The Japan Times (“Okinawa dump site may be proof of
Agent Orange: experts,” Aug. 7), Jon Mitchell writes: “Still, the
Pentagon denies that it ever stored military defoliants — including
Agent Orange — in Okinawa. In February, it released a 29-page report denying that such substances were ever on the island.”
I place emphasis on the last few words. How can such a denial be
factual when 2,4,5-T was discovered in these drums? In support of the
Pentagon’s claims, a Dow Chemical representative stated that given the
drum volume and their markings, it was inconsistent with the way they
I am in possession of a U.S. Department of the Air Force document
that clearly shows Dow Chemical in August 1966 shipped 1,866 30-gallon
drums of herbicide destined for Saigon. Consequently, the Pentagon and
Dow are either confused or clearly in error regarding their claims.
READ MORE: Evidence
Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk is an environmental scientist based in Canada.