The U.S. government has awarded compensation to the ailing
former marine at the center of allegations that Agent Orange was dumped
on Futenma Air Base in Okinawa.
On Aug. 10 the Board of Veterans’ Appeals ruled that retired
Lt. Col. Kris Roberts, chief of maintenance at the installation in the
early 1980s, had developed prostate cancer due to “exposure to hazardous
chemicals.” The presiding judge based the decision on evidence
including medical reports, statements and “photographs of barrels being
removed from the ground.”
However, the carefully worded ruling avoids specific
reference to Agent Orange, which the Pentagon denies was stored on its
Roberts is the first veteran known to have won compensation
for exposure on Futenma, and now he is urging the military to come clean
about what really happened at the air base.
“The Marine Corps has a moral and ethical obligation to
alert others who may have been exposed,” he said in a telephone
According to Roberts, he was ordered in 1981 to
investigate high chemical readings detected in waste water running from
the installation into neighboring communities in and around Ginowan, the
city that surrounds Futenma. After checking the area of concern near
one of the base’s runways, Roberts and his team unearthed more than 100
chemical barrels, some marked with the tell-tale orange stripes used to
label defoliants. On orders from Futenma’s top brass, Roberts says the
barrels were moved by Okinawan base workers to an undisclosed location.
After the discovery, Roberts developed a number of serious illnesses, including heart disease and prostate cancer.