Clark Air Base
©2001 Tim Vasquez

Much of this wouldn't have been possible without the detailed Annotated Pictorial History of Clark Air Base (1899-1986) by David L. Rosmer. I highly recommend it to researchers and historians. Credit also goes out to Lauren Sobkoviak, Mike Ward, Beau E Gros, and numerous sources in print and on the Internet, which unfortunately are too many and sometimes too obscure to list here.

Clark gets its name from Maj. Harold M. Clark, of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Born in Minnesota and raised in Manila, he was the first American to fly in Hawaii. Clark died on May 2, 1919 in a seaplane crash in Panama and is now buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. Fort Stotsenberg gets its name from Col. John M. Stotsenberg who died April 23, 1899 in a battle in Bulacan province, and is also buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Spain cedes the Philippines to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris for $20 million. Philippine revolutionaries turn their hostilities onto American colonial forces.

On February 6 the U.S. Senate voted to annex the Phillipines. Americans fought fragmented Philippine forces in the Battle of Angeles, which began on August 13. This led to their permanent presence in the Talizundoc area of Angeles City (what is now the Lourdes Sur barangay), in order to establish control over the central plains of Luzon. Hostilities generally ended November 5.

The U.S. Army studies relocating their post from Angeles City to a fertile plain on what was later Clark Air Base, which supposedly had better grass for their horses.

President Roosevelt signs an executive order on September 1 establishing 7700 acres as Fort Stotsenberg, with Camp Wallace and Camp John Hay being established in November. Fort Stotsenberg was centered on what was Clark's parade ground in modern years.

The first flagpost at Fort Stotsenberg is commissioned on September 16 near the modern 13 AF headquarters.

An executive order expands Fort Stotsenberg from 7700 to 156,204 acres, covering much of modern-day Clark and the mountainous region to the north.

In March Lieutenant Frank Lahm heads the Philippine Air School on Fort Stotsenberg with one aircraft. The first concrete buildings (the modern 13 AF headquarters) and a gymnasium are built.

Five aircraft hangars are constructed at what was the motorpool in modern times.

The first dependent school, Leonard Wood School, is opened at Clark.

Construction of a small runway began along what in modern times was Dyess Highway as it passed by the flightline. The airfield was officially designated Clark Field. Three additional hangars were built. In September a series of tent dormitories was built, and in November the 3rd Aero Squadron was formed, giving rise to the popular "3" that would tag many organizations at Clark in later years (3 TFW, etc). The first plane to arrive was a DeHavilland DH-4.

The first permanent enlisted dormitory is built.

The second dependent school, Worchester School, is opened on November 8.

The Japanese launch an attack on Clark Air Base on December 8, destroying dozens of aircraft. Clark was evacuated on December 24.

On April 9 American forces fell on Bataan and Corregidor, leading a few days later to the brutal Bataan Death March from Bataan to San Fernando (about 20 miles southeast of Clark). Japanese forces maintain possession of Clark Field.

American forces begin air raids on Japanese occupation at Clark in October, continuing for four months and damaging over 1500 Japanese planes.

On January 31, American forces regained possession of Clark Field after three years of Japanese control. However a few Japanese soldiers still held tough in the nearby mountains, and sometimes sneaked onto base at night to sabotage American planes.

The 13th Air Force is transferred to Clark in January, except for a brief period between May 1946 and August 1947 when it was at Fort William McKinley on Luzon. The Philippines was given independence on July 4. Major improvements were underway, including a new chapel, golf course, the NCO (Top 3) Club, and more.

The U.S. and Philippines sign the Military Bases Agreement on March 14 which guaranteed American possession of U.S. bases in the Philippines for 99 years. The Clark Field Dependents School was opened July 7.

On April 15 the first Philippine president, Manuel A. Roxas, died of a heart attack after speaking at the old Kelly Theater.

In May the facilities at Fort Stotsenberg and Clark Field were transferred to the U.S. Air Force, and from then on the entire base became known as Clark Air Base. The Air Force decided to consolidate all its cemeteries, including the one on the modern day golf course, and moved them to the current location near the main gate. The Silver Wing was built this year.

The first school, [Original] Wurtsmith School is opened in August in Bldg 3100 near what was the modern day 1961 CG compound (near Auto Sales).

On August 30 the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty is signed, which still remains in effect today.

The new Kelly Theater was opened.

The Airmen's Club (Lower 4 Club, or Coconut Grove) was opened, as well as the new post office near the present-day BX.

A brush fire on Lily Hill reveals the remains of two Japanese planes. The Bamboo Bowl stadium is built, while the old chapel in the hospital area is torn down in May.

U.S. Vice President Nixon visits the Philippines, and formally acknowledges Philippine sovereignty over American bases in the country. However the U.S. continued to retain control for nearly 23 more years.

Construction began on the new Regional Medical Center and was opened four years later.

In April Wagner High School is opened.

Clark entered the Vietnam War effort in March as KC-135 tankers staged from Clark and refuelled fighters enroute to Laos. On May 11, a C-135B (serial 61-0332 of the 1501 ATW, 44 ATS, Travis AFB) carrying an Air Force band from Hawaii crashed in heavy rain 1500 ft short of Clark's runway 02, killing 79 (including 1 American on the ground in a taxi). The 200-bed Regional Medical Center was opened April, costing only $4.5 million.

The large 6-story Chambers Hall building, containing over 300 rooms for bachelor and transient officers, was opened. The Rusk-Ramos agreement signed on September 16 revised the 1947 Military Bases Agreement to expire in 25 years: 1991, an ominous coincidence.

In August Grissom Elementary School is opened (known as Wurtsmith Hill School until Nov 14 1968).

Late-night attacks against American servicemen led to both Clark and Angeles being placed on curfew in August. Demonstrations flared to a boiling point on October 4. The new Base Operations building was opened.

Wurtsmith Elementary School is opened in August, eventually being the home of over 1100 students at any given time.

Filipino employees went on strike March 3 for the first time. The walkout lasted three days, and another strike followed on July 25, this time lasting 15 days. This was at a time when anti-American sentiment was at a peak.

President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, which also acted to suspend elections. Martial law remained in place until 1981. Clark's first C-9A aircraft arrived in February. Lily Hill Middle School was opened September 18.

The first group of Vietnam POWs arrives February 12, with a second group following on February 18.

MacArthur Elementary School is opened in August. On November 28 Typhoon Irma (not to be confused with the 1981 storm of the same name) hit, with winds at Clark clocked at 83 kt (95 mph) out of the northwest at 1 pm, and a pressure measured at 979 mb (28.91") at 3 pm. This was the strongest typhoon to hit Clark.

Clark serves as a staging point for Vietnamese fleeing the North Vietnamese invasion. The first planeload, consisting of orphans, arrived April 5. As many as 2,000 refugees at a time were housed in a tent city in the Bamboo Bowl during April and May. A total of 30,082 refugees and 1565 orphans were processed through Clark.

On the evening of May 21 at 1:35 am, a mild magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit just northeast of Clark and was felt by many.

Typhoon Rita hit Clark during the wee hours of October 27, bringing 58 kt (67 mph) winds but causing little damage. On December 25 hundreds of politicians rallied against Marcos in a carefully-written statement seeking to remove American military presence from the Philippines.

A revised 1947 Military Bases Agreement was ratified on January 7 and executed at Clark Air Base February 16 to transfer command and security of Clark and other American bases to the Philippine government. The size of the Clark reservation was reduced from 156,204 acres to 131,000 acres, with the base itself remaining at 9155 acres. On March 25, Clark's third major labor strike occurred.

On March 31 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit about 80 miles northeast of Clark at 8:41 pm, but was distinctly felt at the base. In October Flying Tigers established the first scheduled 747 contract service to/from Clark, replacing Flying Tigers and Trans International DC-8 service. This continued for about a decade until Hawaiian Air L-1011's got the contract.

On January 17 President Marcos "removed" martial law, though this had little effect as his political opponents still remained in exile. Later in the year, FEN television switched channels from 8 to 17 (?). Construction began late in the year on the new commissary, but it would be a couple of years before it opened. On November 24 Typhoon Irma (not to be confused with the 1974 storm of the same name) struck, bringing wind gusts to 50 mph at Clark and causing minor damage (mostly downed tree limbs).

On August 21, Ninoy Aquino, one of President Marcos' political opponents, returned from ten years of exile and was shot on his arrival in Manila, precipitating a gradual collapse of the Marcos administration and the economy. The Military Bases Agreement was revised further in 1983. Starting October 3, unionized Filipino employees went on strike for four days over pay issues. On December 31, live television programming from AFRTS new satellite network began at Clark.

On March 12, the U.S. was permitted to begin flying its flag at the base cemetery. On March 29 a new Youth Center was opened inside the original Kelly Theater. In April the largest commissary in the Air Force opened between the Post Office and NCO Open Mess. It was completed at a cost of $6.2 million. In June the Original Wurtsmith School (not the new one) was demolished. In October am HH-53C helicopter crashed in heavy rain during a nighttime training exercise near the base, killing all occupants.

In March the new Family Support Center opened. On the evening of April 23 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit just northeast of Clark at 12:15 am. The opening of the new Golf Club House occurred in August on top of what was once the old Fort Stotsenberg cemetery.

On January 1 the longtime NCO (Top Hat or Top 3) Club near its Lily Hill location moved to a new location near the Silver Wing. On February 25 after massive outcry over a rigged election, President Marcos is forced out of office. Helicopters from Clark's 31 ARRS pick him up at his Presidential palace, and flew him to Clark where he transferred to a C-9A and was flown to Hawaii. On March 22 at 9 p.m., civilian employees went on strike, forming large picket lines outside the main gates of all American bases in the Philippines. Ultimately the strikers blocked Clark's gates on March 25, preventing anyone from getting on or off base except those who were resourceful enough to sneak across base fences. The 3 CSG commander placed Angeles bars off-limits to servicemen, which pitted strikers against local merchants. Finally after a scuffle between strikers and merchants the strike was broken at 4:30 pm on March 30. On May 31 the longtime Clark AB Officers Open Mess (CABOOM) was closed for demolition and rebuilding, moving temporarily to the old NCO (Top Hat) Club. On September 16 the new nationalist government rejected extension of the Military Bases Agreement. On December 29 at 11:49 pm a mild magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck along the coast west of Clark.

On April 25 at 8:16 pm a strong earthquake, at magnitude 6.5, hit just north of Clark. On October 28 three servicemen were killed in simultaneous attacks near Clark AB by teams of the New People's Army (NPA) brandishing .45 caliber pistols. The NPA is the strongarm of the Philippine communist party.

On the evening of October 25 Typhoon Ruby brought 46 kt (53 mph) winds to Clark AB and 69 kt (79 mph) winds to Subic Bay, making it the strongest storm at Clark since Rita in 1978.

On September 26 shortly before Vice President Quayle's visit to Clark, NPA terrorists killed Ford Aerospace employees William Thompson and Donald Buchner at a roadblock near Camp O'Donnell. Terrorist tension reached a climax in December.

Clark's worst earthquake occurred at at 3:26 pm on July 16. It registered magnitude 7.6 and was centered about 80 miles northeast of the base. Baguio was devastated, with over 2000 killed and a million homeless.

In April pilots reported seeing smoke emanating from Mount Pinatubo, and by June it was clear that a major volcanic eruption was imminent. Evacuation of Clark AB began on June 10. The first "big" eruption hit June 12. On June 14, the base was drenched in a sea of ash, and the biggest eruption followed at 5:55 am on June 15 just as Typhoon Yunya was making its approach. The Philippine Senate rejected an extension of the Military Bases Agreement, and it expired on September 16. The U.S. Air Force formally transferred Clark in its entirety to the Philippines on November 26, ending its century-long presence in the region.

The U.S. Navy withdrew the last of its forces from Subic Bay on October 1.

On April 3 President Fidel Ramos approved the Clark Special Economic Zone and established the Clark Development Corporation.

The Clark International Airport Corporation was established to manage the airfield facilities.

Limited air service from Clark to Hong Kong began.

The last U.S. forces leave the Philippines on November 24.

1899: A U.S. Army field artillery unit at its Angeles City post.

1919: 3 Aero Squadron logo made of rocks and the "main drag" along the enlisted housing tents.

1937: Looking west on Fort Stotsenberg, nestled around the parade ground.

1944: Clark pilots during World War II consisted essentially of the Japanese Imperial forces. Here Clark's Japanese Air Forces commander addresses a group of pilots.

1945: Hangared Japanese planes at Clark began suffering heavily at the hands of American bomber attacks toward the later years of WWII.

1952: Clark's first major BX was in this star-shaped building. It became the Arcade while the new modern BX was built in the 1960s. Looking south along Leary Avenue toward the accompanied airmen housing area.

1954: Pilots and ground crew race to their F-86 during a practice alert at Clark.

1965: The trailer park near the Silver Wing was established in the 1960s to house a surge of transient personnel during the Vietnam War.

1970: A new elementary school opens in the Hill Housing Area: the new Wurtsmith Memorial Elementary School.

1973: A C-141 arrives at Clark from Hanoi with POWs during Operation Homecoming.

1979: A sight familiar to many -- Clark's main gate at Angeles City.

1979: The year 1979 was a pivotal point in Clark's history as the Philippine government began assuming administration of the base.

1984: The largest commissary in the Air Force opens at Clark after over two years of construction plagued with delays.

1986: A weeklong strike at Clark's main gate severely crippled base activities.