Juan Santiago joins two other veterans I’ve spoken to personally who saw Agent Orange used on Okinawa during the Vietnam War era. Like those two, he is still fighting for compensation.
Mr. Santiago served in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1971. He was stationed at Camp Schwab in Okinawa in 1969. He was a diesel generator mechanic, heavy equipment operation, and a nuclear / biological / chemical warfare instructor. He operated cranes and RT 60s (rough terrain fork lifts). He later was stationed in Naha. Part of his job was to unload semi trucks loaded with equipment and supplies from Vietnam. He would move barrels of Agent Orange around on a daily basis in order to access other barrels he needed to use. The Agent Orange was mixed with diesel. Mr. Santiago sprayed the Agent Orange to control vegetation. It was sprayed weekly on equipment and walkways. It got on his boots and pants an stunk. The barrels were striped. When they used up a barrel they disposed of it by throwing it on the local trash trucks.
If anyone saw Agent Orange being used or stored on Okinawa, or remembers Mr. Santiago, please contact me here. Your help will be much appreciated.
It was common practice for Mr. Santiago and his fellow marines to use the equipment rack located on the edge of the hill for maintenance, including washing and changing the oil on 24 generators, a crane and an RT 60. They used the crane to move generators and other equipment as it arrived from Vietnam, as well as to move barrels of chemicals, including Agent Orange. In the summer of 1970, Mr. Santiago was driving the crane about a mile outside of Camp Schwab toward Kadena to help lift a water buffalo that was in a ravine at the request of a farmer. On the way back, the crane slipped down a ravine and injured him. The crane had to be lifted out of the ravine with helicopters and was eventually cut up for removal. At the time, Mr. Santiago was only 18-years-old. He received at least 34 stitches on his head.
There was also a large refuel tank on the ground with fuel lines running to the generators. The tank was large – perhaps a 10,000 gallon capacity – and rested on the ground without any wheels. Part of Mr. Santiago’s job was monitor the fuel level and check for bacteria buildup. Mr. Santiago and others would add additives to the diesel fuel. He was told the additives were to control mildew and bacteria, which would clog injectors if it was not kept down.
If anyone remembers there time on Camp Schwab or Okinawa, please contact me. Your information could be of service to Mr. Santiago and the dozens of other veterans who are trying to win their claims.