Clark Air Base FAQ

Last updated 6/2/01
This FAQ is intended to address general questions about Clark Air Base. To add other topics, send an E-mail to me at . Please note that this section is somewhat focused on the 1970s and 1980s -- if you see incorrect information or want to add information for another time period, I'd be glad to add it -- please E-mail me.

Military topics

What sort of planes operated out of Clark?
Clark was known mostly for its large F-4E fighter population. Also being in a strategic part of eastern Asia, C-141, C-5, and C-130 aircraft were common visitors. A C-9A aeromedical squadron was stationed at Clark to ferry critical patients to well-equipped hospitals in the U.S. Transient aircraft were very common, and F-5, F-15, and F-16 aircraft were often on the "leghorn" section of the base.

What was the deal with the Elephant Cage? Did they really keep elephants in there, and if so, who was responsible for the peanuts?

Clark's Elephant Cage
The Elephant Cage, measuring about 850 ft wide by 100 ft high, was an circular array of towers that supported a large antenna array. The antennas were capable of locating signals thousands of miles away with an accuracy of 3 degrees or better. Jeff B, a signals intelligence analyst at Clark from 1987-91, confirms the Double Deuce (6922nd Electronic Security Squadron) used the Elephant Cage for intelligence listening during the Cold War era. Go to the following site for more information on the AN/FLR-9 "Flare-9/Elephant Cage": Jeff also adds, "It was the best assignment in the world!"
To our knowledge no elephants were ever kept inside the AN/FLR-9.


Did you have a supermarket at Clark?
Yes, Clark had a large "commissary" (the equivalent of a modern supermarket) which was replaced in 1984 with the largest commissary in the Air Force. Nearly any American grocery item could be found, with the exception of milk products, ice cream, and certain vegetables. Dairy products were generally produced by a local plant on-base that manufactured the product from dried milk.

How did you get around the base?
Clark had a fairly dense network of bus service that criscrossed the base every 30 minutes.

What was the climate of Clark like?
Needless to say, the climate is tropical, however it consists of a season when rain is fairly common (July through November) and a season that tends to be dry (January through April). Typical low/high temperatures in summer average 75/93 and in winter average 70/87.

What were some things that took getting used to?
The lack of common American conveniences such as milk, ice cream, fast food, and TV programming bothered some folks. One had to watch out for the malathion truck, spraying for mosquitoes -- when you heard it coming, you had to run for cover! Power outages were quite common, especially in late 1981 when rotating blackouts occurred around the base due to energy shortages. Earthquakes were fairly common, with a memorable one occuring once every year or two. Burning of crop fields in the Zambales mountains before planting season was common, and this typically blanketed the base in a fine layer of ash.

What was the biggest natural disaster to hit Clark besides Pinatubo?
That would probably be Typhoon Irma on 11/28/74, with 95 mph winds measured at the airfield and widespread damage. In terms of earthquakes, the strongest one was on 7/16/90 when a magnitude 7.6 tremor hit just north of the base. The Baguio area suffered tremendous damage.

What did "FM" in FM Hill and FM Washout stand for?
One popular theory says it stands for the late deposed President Ferdinand Marcos. However according to Fred Scott (CAB 70-71,75-77,80-85), "As a 1961st Comm GP troop, I know it was also called MARS Hill for Military Affiliate Radio Station, which was up there. They made short wave phone patches home for Clarkites. It was called FM hill for Frequency Modulation, or regular FM radio, because that's where the base's FM and TV antennae were."


What was so strange about the timing of the base closure?
  • Pinatubo erupted at a time when debate was raging in the Philippine legislature over whether to extend the 1947 Military Bases Agreement.
  • The 1966 revision of the 1947 Military Bases Agreement set an expiration date of 9/16/91, just 91 (there's that number again!) days after Pinatubo's main blast.
  • Typhoon Yunya arrived on the same day as the worst eruption of Pinatubo, carrying ash downstream through and around Clark.
  • Typhoons are rare in June, favoring August through November.

  • Clark Special Economic Zone

    Can you list some major changes that occurred after Clark closed?
    There have been many. In some cases they are interesting, and in some cases hilarious!
  • Wurtsmith Memorial School -- Demolished and replaced with Fontana Casino. Hey, if you learned arithmetic there, you can return and use this knowledge to place a wager!
  • "Elephant Cage" antenna array -- This giant circular array of antennas dating from the cold war era now serves as a framework for the elaborate Philippine Expo amusement park.
  • Chambers Hall BOQ building -- It's been converted to a Holiday Inn. Hmm... does that mean it's gotten better or worse?
  • 13 AF Headquarters -- this centerpiece building in front of the parade ground serves as Clark Development Corporation headquarters. Remember to salute the CEO!
  • Airmen Housing Area -- all the barns between the BX and Airmen's Club were bulldozed and replaced with suburban homes.
  • Hill Housing Area -- Some units were renovated to serve as luxury homes, however most are abandoned and linger beneath thick, overgrown vines and weeds.
  • Wagner High School -- Abandoned
  • Clark Regional Medical Center -- Abandoned
  • Airmen's Club -- Demolished