The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
I spent 23 months stationed at Andersen AF Base attached to the 1958th Air Force Communications Squadron. During this time, I lived 6 months in barracks housing, then living off base in Yigo after my wife came over.
During my assignment on Guam, our squadron had a storage bunker for teletype equipment in the area used for underground bomb storage. Just yards from our storage bunker was an area set aside for storage and dispensing of liquids contained in 55-gallon drums. The ground in this area was well soaked from the mixing of the liquids.
In conversations with the AF personnel assigned to using the materials, they indicated to my Seargent and I that it was a new, very powerful herbicide used in controlling the rapid growth of vegetation on Guam. We were impressed during our conversation on its “bragged” power to arrest the vegetation growth that seemed to grow inches per night. I remarked that I would like my granddad to get ahold of some of this herbicide to kill the Bermuda grass he had fought all of his life back home.
Years later, the EPA would disclose that chemical to be Agent Orange, as it wound up in a number of landfills. Meanwhile, with cancer rates on Guam higher than most other areas in the world and Veterans like myself having numerous Agent Orange related diseases, the DoD continues to deny its use at Andersen and off-base Guam areas.
Also, thousands of gallons of unfiltered trichloroethylene was poured down common base sewers by me and my fellow Airmen during degreasing of teletype equipment in our maintenance shops. We used sinks that emptied straight to base sewage. All of this eventually found itself flowing into freshwater wells as was discovered some few years later.
All islanders, both military and civilian, drank the contaminants. We were even forced to use the “Trico” (nickname) on the Communications Building’s concrete floor to remove the floor wax every Sunday night. Using “Trico” with buffers caused dangerous vapors everywhere. We would get so drunk off those vapors that we had to go outside every few minutes to clear our lungs.
Today, I have Diabetes, Heart Disease, Breast Tumors, Adrenal Tumors, Hypertension, Neuropathy, Kidney Tumors and various Cysts in my Liver and Pancreas. My wife, who lived on Guam with me, has diabetes. No one in her family ever had this disease. Our oldest son was born on Guam and also has diabetes. My oldest daughter was conceived on Guam and has no ovaries or are so small that they cannot be seen by x-rays.
I saw the AO being sprayed everywhere on runways, fences, sidewalks, roadways, pipelines, playgrounds, etc., but the DoD denies it. Yet, the EPA found traces of it in landfills years later. Figure that one out!
I sprayed at least 50 gallons of “Trico” onto teletype equipment monthly. We had 4 rotating shifts of 7-9 men spraying the equipment every 24 hours also. We all were poisoned by its toxic fumes. We were told they would give us blood tests on our livers but that never happened. My liver enzymes stay elevated. Although never using alcoholic beverages, I have been questioned by my doctor every time I have blood tests and the readings are above normal.
In 1961, there were no computer inventory systems. Once a bill of lading completed its purpose of identifying a shipment, the document was destroyed. No paper trails exist today. People who were not even born in 1961 are swearing that Agent Orange never hit land in Guam. They have no clue about what went on 8000 miles out in the Pacific Ocean 50+ years ago. We have people that did spray it for years like Master Sgt. Foster, who was awarded a disability VA pension for AO, testifying in court that they sprayed it everywhere. The DoD still denies its use, but gives a select few disability for actually using it on Guam.
Typical government screw-up. Time to drain the swamp!
I entered the Air Force in 1960, a healthy 19-year-old male, and exited 4 years later chemically poisoned along with my family. Three years later, I would have a breast tumor removed. Five years later, another one was removed. Then, I battled one disease after another and finally, after years go by, discovered the root cause of all of them. Fifty-plus years later, my government offers my family and I no help. They boldly continue to deny all connections although a few of our brothers received a token of help like Master Sgt. Foster.
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Georgia. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.