After digging through his boxes, air force veteran Jim West found old pictures taken at Andersen Air Force Base, presumably showing "photographic proof" of herbicide spraying on Guam.
West, who was deployed to Guam in the mid-1970s, said the three photos he posted on Facebook were taken at the firefighting training area right off the road leading to Tarague Beach.
“These were taken in 1974-75 while I was at Andersen. The B-52 the fire department practiced on was nicknamed ‘The Gray Ghost,'” West, a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, wrote on Agent Orange Survivors of Guam’s Facebook page.
“No telling what variety of chemicals (including AO?) were sprayed in that area, blowing with the wind. Here, my friends, is photographic proof,” he added.
One of the photos, showing the skies heavily tainted with blowing black smoke, is captioned: “Andersen AFB, Guam, 1974, right off the road to Tarague Beach on the base. We find the base firefighting training area with a B-52 nicknamed ‘The Gray Ghost’.”
Two almost identical photos show a B-52 and a red trailer truck parked behind a chain-link fence, one is labeled “gray ghost.” West identified the location as Guam’s firefighting area.
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Despite countless claims by Guam veterans and previously released photos showing drums of herbicides at AAFB, the Department of Defense continued to deny that Agent Orange was stored and used on island.
Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide used by the U.S. military to thin vegetation for military operations during the Vietnam War.
Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to certain illnesses. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, dismissed several veterans’ claims in the past “based on insufficient evidence.”
In a 2018 report, the Government Accountability Office said at least one ship carrying Agent Orange stopped on Guam on its way to Vietnam but no record exists showing that any cargo actually landed.
“Available shipment documentation indicates that nearly all of the Agent Orange procured was either used in U.S. military operations in Southeast Asia, used for testing, damaged, or destroyed,” GAO said.
West’s photos drew comments from other veterans, who were deployed to Guam during the Vietnam-war period.
“I was there in 76-77. We spent a lot of time at that beach. I have also heard of barrels of who knows what being thrown off the cliffs above the beach. I have recently been diagnosed with Atypical Parkinson’s,” Joyce Duncan Swift wrote.
Robert Fink, who was on Guam from 1970 to 1972, said “he walked into those practice fires as a firefighter… 19000 ppm of dioxin we were wading in.”
Buck Devowe said the "Gray Ghost" was used as a qualifying facility for nuclear weapons training. “I was assigned to the Primary Loading Evaluation Team and had to train numerous teams during ‘The Pueblo Incident,’” he wrote. “I now have type II diabetes, sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, spinal stenosis, peripheral neuropathy in both legs, hypertension and unexplained lumps. Damn I loved my job and would do it again.”
Last month, Speaker Therese Terlaje introduced two resolutions expressing the 36th Guam Legislature's support for two U.S. House of Representatives bills that would recognize Guam’s Agent Orange exposure.
The first resolution, Resolution 199-36, backs H.R. 3967, titled "Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act of 2021."
H.R. 3967 advocates for the expansion of the toxic exposure definition of "covered veteran" to include those who were deployed on Guam on or after Oct. 30, 1980.