Agent Orange and Related Chemical Exposure Outside of Vietnam: Guam


This is the second part of a series of articles on the probability that Agent Orange and the related Rainbow Colors of chemicals used by our Armed Forces in their Herbicide War in Vietnam may have been present on Guam during the war.

We at VT have gone through a ton of evidence, interviews, email exchanges, and asked the hard questions being devil’s advocate for the VA, and this is what we came up with.

First, both the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs have neither confirmed nor denied the presence of the Herbicides in the Agent Orange family of chemicals having existed on Guam during the Vietnam War. The Defense Department released a vague response to the VA stating that they could find no records of Agent Orange being used, stored, or shipped through Guam.

In this above response from the Pentagon to Congressman Lane Evans in September 2003, [that’s about seven years ago folks] someone signing FOR Donald Rumsfeld stated that,

“The [Defense] Department has found no record of the use, storage, of Herbicides Orange, Blue, or White on Guam. In 1952, roughly 5,000 drums of Herbicide Purple were transported to Guam and stored there in anticipation of use on the  Korean Peninsula. The herbicide was never used and was returned to the United States. Although other herbicides may have passed through Guam during the Vietnam Conflict, we have no record of long-term storage or use of these herbicides on Guam.”

Further, “The presence of dioxin contamination at a site [on Guam] does not necessarily indicate that Herbicide Orange was used or stored on that site. According to Air Force Studies, the dioxins at sites references in the Public Health Assessment were associated with burned material.”

This is not only a response of convenience but Congressman Evan’s staff did not ask the hard questions nor question this response from DoD. We do not know what the response of Evan’s office was circa 2003, but we do know that the VA has used this vague response to delay, delay, then deny hundreds of VA Claims from Vets who have served on Guam. It is a trend that gives appearances as if the VA and DoD had somehow coordinated and collaborated on coming up with this response from DoD in order to make denial of VA Claims a given regardless what evidence a Veteran presented on their own behalf of Rainbow Colored Herbicide use on Guam.

It is also as if some GS-5 fresh out of college staffed this coordination with the Pentagon accepting the vague DoD response at face value without question. We are amazed that Congressman Evans would even be naive enough to accept such a lame response at face value, but he is not in the hot seat now.

Here are the hard question that needed asking.

The VA also did not ask the hard questions. Any attorney representing a Vet before VA Appeals will tell you that VA adjudications is not going to take the time to research any evidence provided by a Vet that they get off the internet, from a third party, whatever, unless the Veteran who served in Guam can prove the Pentagon wrong or at least lame. Ain’t going to happen, when the easy way out is to delay and deny your claim until you die based on the DoD having no record that Agent Orange or what ever Agent existed on Guam except circa 1953. How convenient a cop out for the VA and DoD.

DoD has found no record of the use, storage, of Herbicides Orange, Blue, or White on Guam is not the same definitive answer at DoD cannot confirm or deny the presence of these chemical agents on Guam during the Vietnam War, or better yet DoD can confirm beyond a doubt that these chemical agents were never present on Guam during the Vietnam War. These are the responses that Congressman Evan’s staff should have could have made to DoD for a more definitive answer.

In 1952, roughly 5,000 drums of Herbicide Purple were transported to Guam and stored there in anticipation of use on the  Korean Peninsula. The herbicide was never used and was returned to the United States. Our response to this lead would have been can DoD provide our Congressional Office with documentation showing exactly when (dates) and where in the U.S. the Herbicide Purple was shipped from Guam for storage or disposal, and can DoD provide us proof that the Herbicide Purple was not stored or dumped in any land fill on Guam remaining there during the Vietnam War?

Although other herbicides may have passed through Guam during the Vietnam Conflict, we have no record of long-term storage or use of these herbicides on Guam. Our response would have been exactly what “OTHER” herbicides passed through Guam during the Vietnam WAR? If DoD has records that OTHER herbicides may have passed through Guam during the WAR, it stands to reason that DoD would have records as to storage or use regardless the duration?

The presence of dioxin contamination at a site [on Guam] does not necessarily indicate that Herbicide Orange was used or stored on that site. According to Air Force Studies, the dioxins at sites references in the Public Health Assessment were associated with burned material. Of all the lame responses from DoD this one should have set off a red flag to any intelligent person in Congressman Evan’s office that the DoD was snowing them. We would have responded that DoD indicates that the presence of dioxin poisoning at a site on Guam does not necessarily indicate Agent Orange was use or stored on that site, but the only hard evidence DoD provides is that the dioxins result from burn pits. This raises more questions about exactly what was DoD burning at these sites, when, was it during or shortly after the Vietnam War, and why were material containing dioxin being burned on Guam in proximity to Housing Areas and such in the first place?

We believe readers that what seriously has most Vets pissed off that served on Guam, swear (willing under oath if necessary) that they personally sprayed Agent Orange or one of the other Rainbow Colors, handled the colorful drums, even submitting evidence such as Performance Reports that reflect they sprayed herbicides they believe to be Herbicide Orange and now have illnesses, some recognized by the VA as presumptive and some not, birth defect in children and grand-children, Veterans are being told by the VA that they are LIARS.

The sad thing is that the VA bases calling Veterans’ liars on slim evidence that the Veteran lied or is mistaken, or worse yet is not smart enough to know what Agent Orange was when they are spraying it even IF they were. SAY WHAT?

Another problem is that not enough Vets “speak out” regardless their beef with the VA. Readers you have to begin speaking out while you are at the VA, the minute you receive a denial, the minute you are doomed to the appeal process AND you have got to scream loud enough for VSO leaders and Congress critters who never served to hear you. Heck Congressman Bob Filner admits in committee that he proudly opposed and protested the Vietnam War as part of the Anti-War movement, and Filner is not a VETERAN. If we can’t twist his arm to demand the VA take ACTION to add Guam as a presumptive location of Herbicides used in our Herbicide War against Vietnam now that he is Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, not that it needs much twisting now that he is in our camp, what else can we do at VT or any other Veterans activist group or VSOs.

While I’m on that subject we will touch on it below, but even Congressman Filner had used the words Agent Orange and Guam in the same breath several time while in Committee. Several VSO spokesperson’s have said Agent Orange and Guam in the same breath, but folks these men and women cannot do it ALONE. They need our backing at the grassroots level.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, VT News Network

Another Class Action Lawsuit Against the VA and DoD is NOT the Answer?

The thought crossed our minds at VT that maybe members need to put pressure on VSO leaders to launch yet another class action law suit against the VA and DoD, however that is not the solution, because it is only time consuming, expensive, the VA and DoD would love Veterans to do that for all they need to is wait out the long and winding litigation process.

How many Vietnam Era Vets will die of Agent Orange or other herbicide related causes before the case comes to court, goes to appeal, or even once again to the Supreme Court (as in the case of Vietnamese who unsuccessfully sued the Chemical Companies). We believe more older Vets will perish from being chemically poisoned than will fall in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same time-frame.

Regardless, should DoD and the VA ever be taken to federal court in a class action lawsuit on this situation, this response from DoD and the lack of Congressional questioning of such a lame, vague, diversionary response from DoD, used conveniently by the VA, would just not hold up to the scrutiny or even common sense of a very good legal team representing the Veterans against government corporate lawyers.

Wartime is not the time for Veterans to be questioning the fact our government, especially DoD, and VA cannot be TRUSTED – could be bad for military recruitment.

Not only that but during wartime (well a few of us are at war) is not the time for former members of the Armed Forces to be legally suing the Department of Veterans Affairs and DoD for it sends the WRONG message to our troops in the field and could potentially harm military recruitment.

Can DoD confirm beyond a doubt that Agent Orange or related chemicals never existed on Guam. We do not think so, and based on this inability to prove that none of the Rainbow Colored poisons ever existed on Guam, the VA by its own regulations must err on the side of the Veterans it is suppose to serve not at the convenience of DoD or COST SAVINGS.

Would the Pentagon go on record confirming beyond a doubt that Agent Orange, Agent Pink,  Agent Green, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, or Agent White NEVER existed on Guam during the Vietnam War? The Rainbow Agents had to be stored, and logistically trans-shipped from somewhere in the Pacific, and it is no secret that not only was Anderson AFB, Guam an operational Bomber base flying mission over Vietnam, but Guam was also a logistical hub in support of combat operations in Vietnam.

Even if the Pentagon took a position of not being able to confirm or deny, which is pretty much what their response to Congressman Lane Evans back in 2003 sounds like, the VA should be giving the benefit of a doubt in favor of America’s Veterans in lieu of an emphasis on COST SAVINGS.

We have also learned that the number of Veterans who served on Guam have placed enough pressure on the Veterans Service Organizations they belong to testifying they have used, stored, or transported one of the various Agents while serving on Guam during the Vietnam War that several VSOs have already gone before Congress to express this concern. This was BEFORE my last article went to post on this situation went to post, so my apologies for inferring the VSOs were not doing enough on this issue, but enough is not FAST ENOUGH.

Just as our troops, be we Vietnam Vets. Gulf War Vets, Iraq or Afghanistan Vets train, prepare, and exercise for unit readiness, our Veterans Service Organizations and members of Congress need to show a SENSE OF URGENCY that is not only lacking but DEADLY.

Several Congressional Representatives, too few to mention, including Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Congressman John Hall of New York have gone on record stating they believe Veterans when WE say Agent Orange or one of the related chemical contaminants was present on Guam during the Vietnam War.

We will provide documented statements from several VSO representatives who have expressed this concern to Congress specifically mentioning Agent Orange and Guam in the same breath in the next segment of this series of articles. We will post a statement by the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee stating in committee hearing that he believes Agent Orange was present on Guam during the Vietnam War.

We believe the best course of action is to for Veterans concerned, those who served on Guam and feel they have been exposed to a chemical contaminants like Agent Orange to continue pressure on your VSO leaders to stay the course in Congress to force the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees to tell the VA to add Guam to the listing of recognized locations outside Vietnam where Agent Orange existed. Statements we have seen coming out of Congress only mention a suggestion that the VA do this not a directive.

If the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees are not in a position to tell the Department of Veterans Affairs to make such a simple change to policy instead of simply recommending the VA make such changes, no wonder America’s Veterans are so slow to achieve change at the VA. Why need a House or Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in the first place if they lack authority to direct the VA to implement change?

Veterans seriously concerned about this issue need to also put pressure on your member of Congress to get behind any legislation proposed that expands Agent Orange and related herbicide poisoning to any location outside of Vietnam where these chemical could have potentially existed.

When the Chairman of a Committee in Congress makes a statement using Agent Orange and Guam in the same breath, said Chairman should be able to make it happen or we find another Chairman.

My fellow Veterans, we are entering the 2010 November election final stretch there could be no better time or opportunity to press your cause than NOW.

Simply put NO GUAM added to the list of locations where herbicide poisoning occurred or existed = NO VOTE. Unless YOU take collective grassroots action, your VSO leaders are impotent to do anything without a voting bloc to back them. Mind you members of Congress could write the Veterans’ vote off if they seriously wanted to, but this is still wartime for at least one percent of our population, writing our vote off could potentially be as much of a political suicide as implementing THE DRAFT.

I for one will not Vote for any Congress person or Senator in Ohio who cannot make this happen. We Veterans should care less if bean counters at the Pentagon say they can’t find any documentation, if our brothers and sisters in arms are willing to swear under oath giving testimony that they were exposed to Agent Orange related chemicals on Guam, we must take their word for it over some Pentagon or VA Bureaucrat who most likely never wore a uniform much less saw combat.

Part three will cover statements made by Congressman Bob Filner, and leaders of several Veterans Service Organizations on behalf of Vets who served in Guam. The word and honor of Veterans is more reliable than most any representative of the VA or DoD.

Lastly, keep in mind that although our focus is Agent Orange and Guam it unfortunately is the burden of us Veterans to fight for recognition of Herbicide or related poisoning outside of Vietnam proper.

Congress tends to be moving in that direction, but those of us vaguely familiar with the Congressional process know it moves at a snails pace, Congress could never win any war on their own without a shove from us MILITARY VETERANS.

The November 2010 elections are coming up and NOW is the time for Veterans to be doing the shoving at grassroots level, at every Town Hall Meeting, at every political rally, at every politicians photo op to show how much he or she supports us make the demand loud and clear


Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, VT News Network


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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.