El Toro Marine Goes Toe-to-Toe with VA


 (MINNEAPOLIS, MN) – John Uldrich, an El Toro Marine veteran, has a 100 percent plus disability rating. But for all intents and purposes, it is as bogus as they come!

Courtesy: Salem-News

Former MCAS El Toro Marine comments on his experience with the VA and passes on important information to other veterans.   

 The VA knew he was closing in on them for TCE exposure and coming down hard on the issue of Coccidioyomicosis (Desert Fever) that comes with the Santa Ana Winds that sweep down the San Juaquin Valley and over MCAS El Toro on a seasonal basis – as these winds have for millenniums. 

Uldrich was diagnosed with COPD, his lungs are scarred and he’s at risk of lung cancer despite the fact that he’s a non-smoker. In 1958, his last year in the Corps – a Navy doctor – a four striper – told me him that his problems were related to having “Blastomicosis” – a river-borne fungus he ‘inherited’ from his youthful days swimming in the Mississippi.  Uldrich was born at the headwaters of that great river – raised in Little Falls -Lindbergh’s hometown on the same river. 

How he got into the Marine Corps in 1956 with this horrible condition remains a mystery. 

Uldrich said that veterans who have served at MCAS El Toro need to learn how he confronted the Veterans Administration with a broad, well documented and in depth attack on the issue using “Agent Orange as the ‘comparable’ to borrow a phrase in ‘real estate’ parlance.” 

Why would any continue to confront the VA when you have the 100 per cent rating? 

Uldrich said “if he dies and his death relates to issues having to do with TCE or Coccidioyomicosis, he does NOT qualify for death benefits related to these issues, and I haven’t served my fellow Marines – their ‘heirs or assigns’ well by avoiding the issue.” 

The following letter is reprinted by permission from John Uldrich.    

The Uldrich File:

September 5, 2006

To:           Veterans Administration, Compensation and Pension Review Board

From:        John T. Uldrich, Jr., Claim Number 24-052-014

Subject:   1). Service exposure to toxic chemicals impacting acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy related claims* and 2). Service exposure to carcinogenic chemicals linked to prostate cancer

A thorough review of your response of June 19, 2006 tells me you are not convinced that I was, in fact, exposed to such chemicals such as Trichloroethylene (TCE).

I have provided you with clear, abundant and convincing information that substantiates this claim and with this document packet continue to provide you with such confirmation.

Further, I would remind you that precedent has been set with the Agent Orange decision that ‘” . . . presumption by the VA to be service-connected . . .”

If one landed at Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon, left the plane, returned to the plane, left Vietnam within the hour and later developed prostate cancer or one of the other 11 service-connected medical conditions, the “presumptive” rule would apply and that veteran would be qualified at 100 per cent disability.

It should be pointed out that TCE is not the only harmful chemical I would have been exposed to while at El Toro. This list is an extensive litany of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) including:

JP5 jet fuel



Carbon Tetrachloride




Exhibits, 4, 5, 6, 12, 29. 30, 31, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83 & 88.

I cite the following background:

My primary service time was spent at MCAS El Toro in Southern California. (See Exhibit 1)

MCAS El Toro, now closed, is a “Superfund Site” which is based on the presence of numerous toxic, carcinogenic and wastes with known immunosuppressive values; the primary chemical being Trichloroethylene. Exhibits 2, 3, 11, 17 & 20.

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary: “trichloroethylene – n. chem. – a colorless, poisonous liquid C2HCL3, used chiefly as a degreasing agent for metals and as a solvent, esp. in dry cleaning, for fats, oil, and waxes. Abbr.: TCE (1915-20).”

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary: “Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide and defoliant containing trace amounts of dioxin, a toxic impurity suspected of causing serious health problems, including cancer and genetic damage, in some persons exposed to it and birth defects in their offspring’s: used by U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War to defoliate jungles.” [Chem C12H4CL402 ]

I call attention to the molecular make up of both Agent Orange and Trichloroethylene – both are considered ‘dioxins’ capable of causing ‘cancer and genetic damage’.

My actual time at MCAS El Toro: according to my service record, I would have been stationed there approximately 18 months and 9 days.

This calculates out to 592 days. As I recall, Army/Air Force/Navy tours in Vietnam were 365 days plus 1 and for the Marines, 14 months.

Assuming 50 days away from the base for leave, family emergency leave and time spent away from the base by virtue of being a ‘prison chaser’ or courier flying to NAS Alameda, NAS Sand Point, NAS Whidbey Island, Bridgeport CN, MCAS Minneapolis, this would give me 542 days at MCAS El Toro (this sidebar: all of these bases are considered “Superfund Sites” as well – contaminated. NAS Sand Point is shut down).

Again, using 30 day months, this works out to 18 months- plus of my ‘boots being on the ground’ at MCAS El Toro.

Your June 19th report also cites (and implies) that my MOS (administrative clerk) somehow fails to put me in direct contact with TCE. As this is not an issue with Agent Orange contact, I fail to see how it can be an issue for exposure to TCE.

I do not understand how two separate standards can apply when the issue is simply one of prolonged exposure to chemicals having known carcinogenic and toxic mutancy histories.

Your department is already in possession of a four-color overlay showing the ‘contamination’ plume which emanates from the now closed MCAS El Toro. See Exhibits 22, 26, 27 which make it a Superfund Site.

I call your attention to specifically to Exhibits 12, 13 and 27 which have not previously been made available to you. They are the product of continuing research.

Exhibit 22 indicates where I was physically located – MABS-37, MAG-37, 3rd MAW.

Exhibit 26 will confirm in a three dimensional format what is stated in a one dimensional view on Exhibit 27.  Exhibits 14, 26, 27 will indicate that “Site 24” – the primary source of TCE pollutants is directly tied to the complex of hangars in which I served for 18 months.

MABS-37, in 1957-58, was located at “Ground Zero” for the ingestion of TCE into twin aquifers underlying MCAS El Toro. Exhibit 26.

I have provided you earlier with Exhibits 20, 24 & 25 which speak to ‘why’ this was “Ground Zero” – locating of the maintenance squadrons which used large quantities of TCE as a paint stripper and cleaning solvent.

TCE, once sprayed on the plane outside my hanger simply ran into drains running into the sandy subsoil of the 4,500 acre base.  Exhibits 3, 4, 5, 12.

No attempt to recover, contain or reprocess TCE was made at MCAS El Toro until the early 1980’s. Exhibits 5, 17, 26. 55.  

As I worked a standard 5-day, 8-4:30 work week with time spent evenings and weekends studying (with the permission of the MABS-37 commander) in conjunction with earning a college-year of credits at Santa Ana Junior College (Exhibit 57), my exposure to TCE at “Ground Zero” would have been constant, prolonged and extensive. VA standards, I remind you, consider “three months” as being the standard for “chronic exposure”.

Further, like all other’s on the base, I would have drunk the water, showered in the water and have demonstrated in detail, that I swam in the water of the base pool as a member of the El Toro Bulls Swimming Team and while doing life guard and some swimming instruction at the officer’s pool after it opened in spring of 1957. It should be pointed out that these were jobs for which one got paid and were not duty assignments and therefore would not be part of my service record. Exhibits 38, 39, 41, 42, 44.

My current research has brought up still another issue of “pesticide and herbicide’ exposure while at MCAS El Toro: in that era (1942-58) this base, having been created out the Irvine Ranch was surrounded by Orange Groves on all sides. Further, over 400 acres of land on the base was made available to area farmers, schools etc for agricultural products. Exhibits 2, 3, 7, 20.

The orange groves were regularly sprayed by crop dusters in the early evening and morning. J3 cubs, Stearman’s and converted N3N’s were used to deliver DDT. (C14H9CL5 – it’s use was banned in 1973)) In 1957, the crop-duster “Ag-Tractor” was introduced and used at El Toro. In that same year, the use of Malathion on the orange groves started. (Chemical formula: C10H19O6S2P –an organic phosphate insecticide and a known toxin)

In addition, truck crews and hand carried sprayers were used in the surrounding orange groves and on the base property devoted to crops. This side bar: Ray Alkofer, who served at MCAS El Toro in the early 1950’s, actually worked weekends spraying DDT in the orange groves next to the base to earn extra money).

I do not believe that it is incumbent on me to further establish the degree, nature and extensive exposure I, under the Vietnam Rules of Engagement (boots-on-the-ground evidence) linked to the ‘presumptive theory’ should be tasked to continue to this research.

I do believe it is now incumbent upon the VA to accept my facts, data, and extensive research and to rule in my favor on issues such as prostate cancer and all other claims which have a direct or indirect link to issues having to do with acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy Exhibits 56 & 69.

I have been researching my case, issues of TCE exposure since 2004.

I believe it is now the VA’s duty to accept the issue of my exposure TCE and a host of other VOCs having carcinogenic, neurotoxic, immunotoxic, respiratory toxic, skin and sense organ toxic and apply the “Categories of Association” principles I & II to my claims; “Sufficient evidence of a causal relationship” and II – “sufficient evidence of an association” and to do so in a timely, fair and equitable manner. Exhibit 59.

This final quote taken from the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine: “Conclusions: This study provides the first report on quantitative immune changes induced by occupational exposure to low levels of trichloroethylene and strongly suggests that exposure to this substance alters immunohomeostatis in humans with possible effects on health.” Exhibit 56.

My exposure to TCE could not possibly said to be ‘low level’ and it was certainly prolonged.

John Uldrich


*Exhibit 100: I have provided the “Executive Summary of the July 27, 2006 – Assessing the Human Health Risks of Trichloroethylene: Key Scientific Issues.” This is a condensed version of the 472 page report.

The participants in this study and their bona fides are included.


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Robert O’Dowd served in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings during 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. While at MCAS El Toro for two years, O'Dowd worked and slept in a Radium 226 contaminated work space in Hangar 296 in MWSG-37, the most industrialized and contaminated acreage on the base. Robert is a two time cancer survivor and disabled veteran. Robert graduated from Temple University in 1973 with a bachelor’s of business administration, majoring in accounting, and worked with a number of federal agencies, including the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Defense Logistics Agency. After retiring from the Department of Defense, he teamed up with Tim King of Salem-News.com to write about the environmental contamination at two Marine Corps bases (MCAS El Toro and MCB Camp Lejeune), the use of El Toro to ship weapons to the Contras and cocaine into the US on CIA proprietary aircraft, and the murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and others who were a threat to blow the whistle on the illegal narcotrafficking activity. O'Dowd and King co-authored BETRAYAL: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up. The book is available as a soft cover copy and eBook from Amazon.com. See: http://www.amazon.com/Betrayal-Exposure-Marines-Government-Cover-Up/dp/1502340003.