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Sep-17-2012 11:47printcomments

BETRAYAL: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up

Now on Amazon Kindle...

Betrayal: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up
BETRAYAL can be purchased from Amazon’s Kindle.

(SOMERDALE, NJ) - BETRAYAL, written by two former MCAS El Toro veterans, Robert O’Dowd, investigative reporter and disabled veteran, and Tim King, photo/journalist and war correspondent, is a nonfiction account at two Marine Corps bases of injuries and deaths from exposures to toxic chemicals, murder, narcotrafficing and government cover-up.

BETRAYAL tells the story of the thousands of veterans and their families, once stationed at MCAS El Toro, CA, and Camp Lejeune, NC. Both Marine Corps bases are among the 130 military installations listed as EPA Superfunds, a group of the most environmentally hazardous sites in the U.S.

Like most of the 130 military installations on the EPA Superfund database, El Toro Marines and dependents continue to be ignored by the U.S. government. No government agency is interested in the health effects of toxic chemical exposure at the once premier Marine Corps jet fighter base.  Veterans’ requests for occupational risk assessments by the Navy were denied.

The 3rdMarine Aircraft Wing was moved to Miramar with the closure of El Toro in July 1999. The Navy sold most of the former base to a real estate joint venture in 2005 and walked away with $640 million.

Millions were spent on environmental remediation but not one dime for medical care monitoring of Marine veterans and their dependents. Marines with cancers and out of work are left to their own resources to file VA disability compensation claims

BETRAYAL reports on the Navy’s transfer of almost 1,000 acres of the former base to the FAA and the FBI. The FAA dropped out of the picture and passed ownership over to the FBI. There is no access to this acreage in the Southeast quadrant of the former base to Orange County residents. The base’s ammunition bunkers (now empty) were housed in this area. Several contaminated sites are in this property. No maps or tallies were kept of the buried 55 gallon drums of TCE waste. The Navy has no interest in looking for the buried drums. One of the few areas on the base devoid of vegetation, concrete and asphalt, this acreage controlled by the FBI would be a logical place to quickly bury 55 gallons drums.

BETRAYAL reports on recent legislation to provide health care benefits to Camp Lejeune veterans and their dependents. President Obama signed H.R. 1627, “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (Janey Ensminger Act),” into law in August 6, 2012. This legislation provides VA health care benefits for Lejeune veterans and their dependents with one of the 15 medical conditions identified by the government as linked to organic solvent exposure. To be eligible, Lejeune veterans and dependents had to serve at least 30 days on the base during the period 1957 to 1987. The VA will provide health benefits to dependents only as a payer of last resort.

No veteran compensation was included in the Janey Ensminger Act. Camp Lejeune veterans sick with cancers and unemployed must get into a ‘long line’ of claimants, file a VA disability and compensation claim to be considered for compensation.  Veterans claims without evidence of medical conditions in military medical records or medical nexus opinions from medical care providers will be denied by the VA.

BETRAYAL includes the legal argument for full presumptive VA disability compensation to Camp Lejeune veterans.  To those who served honorably and were unknowingly exposed to deadly contaminants and injured at Camp Lejeune, the Congress needs to pass entitlement to VA presumptive disability compensation benefits. Don’t look to the Corps to lend a helping hand to its veterans. The Marine Corps denies any science linking injuries and deaths to the Lejeune’s contaminated well water.

BETRAYAL reports the stories of veterans who have died without ‘connecting the dots’ between their cancers and military service. None of the veterans that served aboard these two Marine Corps installations were notified of their possible exposure to deadly contaminants when it was discovered. In fact, there is no requirement for the government to notify any veteran of their possible exposure to toxic chemicals. It appears that the government prefers to keep it that way.

The Marine Corps is a brotherhood; Marines share a common bond and trust that other Marines will always have their back. Like Cain and Abel, the ultimate betrayal is murder.

BETRAYAL includes the story of the death and suspected murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow whose death has been tied to use of El Toro assets during the 1980s and 1990s to import South American cocaine into the U.S and to export guns to the Contra Rebel faction of Nicaragua. Colonel Sabow was found dead in his quarters by his wife on January 22, 1991. The circumstances surrounding his death and the forensic evidence from the crime scene support murder by a government assassination team and cover-up, including a ‘doctored autopsy photograph ‘submitted in an NCIS report to Congress. His family has waged a 21-year war to correct the record.

The motive of the murder was to prevent Colonel Sabow from ‘blowing the whistle’ on the use of CIA proprietary airlines to transport weapons from El Toro to Central and South America and cocaine into the U.S. The Defense Department denies murder, the use of the base for covert operations and the illegal transit of cocaine into the U.S. The forensic evidence supports homicide and a government cover-up that goes well beyond the confines of El Toro.

One witness is Robert Tosh Plumlee, a long time CIA contract pilot, who provided testimony to the Defense Department Inspector General on flights of CIA unmarked C-130s into El Toro. Plumlee flew many of these flights into El Toro with huge quantities of cocaine. When Plumlee’s realized that the covert operation to supply weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras included the shipment of cocaine flights into the U.S., he left the program. Shot out while driving his truck, his house burned to the ground and beaten by thugs to keep his mouth shut, he went on T.V. and radio shows to tell his story.

Not surprisingly, the DOD Inspector General dismissed Plumlee’s testimony on the basis that there was no corroborating support from interviews of Pentagon officials. This is something like asking a teenager who is about to go out on a‘hot date,’ if he finished his homework. You just know the answer. Deniability goes hand in glove with any covert operation.

A criminologist in 2011 found a ‘doctored autopsy’ in a Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) report to Congress on the death of Colonel Sabow. Bryan Burnett, the San Diego scientist, compared the head photo in the NCIS report to blow up of a full body autopsy photo. The head photo in the NCIS report was not Colonel Sabow’s head, according to Burnett.

The full body autopsy photo shows a tramline bruise, a tell tale sign of a violent blow to the head with a lead pipe, baseball bat or similar blunt object. The NCIS report does not show any tramline, a dead give-away of homicide.

The death occurred in government quarters on a military base. Yet, the autopsy was done by a civilian pathologist under contract to the Orange County Sheriff/Coroner. The death certificate was signed by the Orange County Sheriff/Corner the day after the autopsy was completed.

Open and shut case, some might say. Hardly. No suicide note, no fingerprints on the shotgun, very little blood from the head wound on the patio, a Marine Colonel with 221 combat mission over Vietnam and ever reason in the world to live with a beautiful wife, two children, and looking forward to a career as a civilian airline pilot.

BETRAYAL reports on the destruction of environmental records and the denial of responsibility and the cover-up to hide the truth of environmental contamination from veterans, their dependents, civilian workers, and the public at MCAS El Toro, once the premier Marine Corps jet fighter base. These include no usage records on TCE and other organic solvents used on the base for decades; Marine Corps’ denial of ownership of the TCE plume spreading into Orange County for years until a lawsuit forced the government to accept responsibility; unexplained loss of the official government contract procurement file for the municipal water purchase with the Irvine Ranch Water District; loss of all of the original well construction drawings; over 40 years of water distribution engineering drawings missing; no records on the dates the base wells were abandoned but several engineering drawings showing the base wells part of the water distribution system after the early purchase of softened municipal water.

The softened water purchased in 1951 from the Metropolitan Water District for not enough to allow El Toro to abandon the base wells. Yet, the base pumping records inexplicitly cut off possibly purchased to reduce hardened well water. The wells may have been in production until TCE was found off base in 1985; the base entire set of water distribution drawings redrawn in 1986; discovery of a well screen opened in the contaminated SGU (shallow groundwater unit) and all remaining wells sealed in concrete without inspection for their well screens; one El Toro Marine dead from Agent Orange exposure who never served in Vietnam; and a radiation contaminated hangar shuddered and sealed in 2012, ten years after the Navy reported the hangar free of radiation.

King and O’Dowd hope to change the course of a government that chooses to ignore veterans until death silences their pleas for assistance. The Marine Corps League, American Legion and most Veteran Service Organization have not taken up the fight for health care benefits for veterans who served at EPA Superfund sites. Most of the VSOs have excellent websites that can readily access the health effects of exposure to contaminants on military installations from the EPA Superfund database. This information would be invaluable to health care providers and a great service to veterans.  Veterans pay due to these organizations to represent them.  It’s hard to imagine anything more important than your health.  VSOs need to put this critical link on their websites.

BETRAYAL can be purchased from Amazon’s Kindle.


Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Half of that time was spent with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. A graduate of Temple University, Bob has been married to Grace for 31 years. He is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of two boys. Bob has a blog site on former MCAS El Toro at This subject is where Bob intersected with Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. The base is highly contaminated with TCE, trichloroethelyne

You can email Bob O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address:



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Tricia October 16, 2013 4:21 pm (Pacific time)

My first husband was stationed several times in El Toro and mostly at Camp Lejeune during 1978-1987. He was medically discharged from the Marines while at Camp Lejeune in May 1987, he was having extreme headaches, had a heat stroke, and really just never got much better. So, they discharged him with a medical discharge, and he ended up dying from brain cancer in 1999. We knew nothing about the contamination at Camp Lejeune until recently. I think it is really crappy of the government to cover this up and for no compensation to be given to the families, the service men and women, and anyone who worked in the area. Seems like you can't win in this life time.

Rick Ritter January 31, 2013 8:07 am (Pacific time)

I was stationed at LTA from 1973-1975. How can I larn more about the contanimation? I had prostate cancer at age 59. Thanks

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