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JON'S ORANGE FIGHT; 'US buried toxic Agent in Okinawa after Vietnam'.

Byline: ROBIN TURNER robin.turner@walesonline.co.uk

HUEY helicopters, jungle fire fights and battle weary GIs listening to Jimi Hendrix - the icons of the Vietnam War have been popularised through film and pop culture.

But the toxic effects of one of the most brutal wars of the 20th century carry on - and a Welsh journalist in Japan is warning that Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used by US forces to rob Vietcong fighters of jungle cover and crops, is a problem of today, particularly in Okinawa, Japan, a major supply hub for the US military in the Vietnam conflict.

Swansea-born Jon Mitchell, pictured, has made allegations on Japanese TV and in publications including the Japan Times that defoliants including Agent Orange were buried in Okinawa following the conflict and that they continue to pose a massive threat to health.

This summer, 22 steel barrels were discovered under a municipal football pitch in Okinawa with claims that traces of Agent Orange were found in some of the chemicals inside.

The discovery, on what was previously an air based used by the Americans, is close to two schools, the Bob Hope Primary School and Amelia Earhart Intermediate School.

The US authorities deny any Agent Orange was buried on Okinawa but Mr Mitchell's articles are leading to calls for a major investigation into the scale of any buried Agent Orange chemicals in the area.

Last year, his Japanese TV d o c u m e n tary, Defoliated Island, won him the Japanese E m m y, the first time a TV d o c umentary based on the investigative journalism of a non-Japanese writer has won the award.

Mitchell, who grew up in the Sandfields, Swansea, opposite the Vetch Field, arrived in Japan in 1998 and stayed.

He said: "It's been quite a ride, especially last year when the TV documentary won the Emmy.

"What made me first interested in Agent Orange was the Welsh photographer Philip Jones Griffiths [born in Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, he died in 2008] who documented the legacy of these poisons in Vietnam. In some small way, I hope I'm following in his footsteps.

"Because Okinawa and Wales share so much similar history - language suppression, poverty and love of a good drink and music to go with it - I've really poured my heart and soul into winning justice for the residents of Okinawa."

In 2014 a Japanese publisher is bringing out a book on Mr Mitchell's research.

He said: "Between 1962 and 1971, the US military sprayed South Vietnam with approximately 76 million litres of defoliants - including Agent Orange - the Pentagon assuring South Vietnamese residents and its own troops it was harmless to humans.

"But in reality they contained a witches' brew of poisonous substances including arsenic and dioxin - a substance described by the World Health Organization as 'highly toxic which can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, interference with hormones and can cause cancer'.

"The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates three million people today suffer from dioxin poisoning related to the US use of defoliants between the 1960s and 1971."

Thousands of US service members exposed to Agent Orange also suffered from serious illnesses. in many cases, their children and grandchildren became ill too.

More than 100 US servicemen claim to have been affected by Agent Orange on Okinawa.

Still, the Pentagon denies that it ever stored military defoliants - including Agent Orange - in Okinawa and in February, it released a 29-page report denying that such substances were ever on the island.

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The US army used Agent Orange throughout the Vietnam War
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Oct 20, 2013
Words:599
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