Welcome to Clark Air Base

The following is a reproduction of an original Clark AB Philippine Flyer, Newsletter #81, describing the dramatic events leading up to and following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Photographs have been added from various sources.
Original copy contributed by Vincent J Slupecki, Wagner HS Class of 1970

The "Home for Christmas" Crier No. 1 -- Monday, Sept. 30, 1991
For the Clark Family, Wherever You May Be
Special Edition

In the Shadow of a Volcano 
Editor's Note
We published the last regular edition of the Philippine Flyer Friday, June 7. Since that time, in an effort to keep the Clark family well informed, we've published 80 special volcano editions in newsletter format -- four at Subic in the days leading up to Black Saturday, and 76 here at Clark. Since Wednesday, June 19 with an issue that headlined "We're Back," we've come out every weekday (except for three holidays) with all the news our ash warriors needed to know.

Today's a milestone of sorts because It's the end of the fiscal year, So for this, our 81st edition, we wanted to do something special...to provide more than a snapshot of the day's news. Instead, we've tried to capture the feel of the entire volcano experience from soup to nuts (or ash to dust, as it were).

We wrote it with the whole Clark family in mind...our mission essential ash warriors here as well as all you evacuees, no matter where you are. Hope you like it.

In the shadow of a volcano

For all of us stationed at Clark Sunday, June 9, the low-level ash emission from Mount Pinatubo, located 8.6 miles to the west, triggered a sequence of events unlike anything we'd ever experienced...or dreamed possible. Who will ever forget the evacuation to Subic the next day, and the search to find quarters there for thousands of Clark people? Or the first big eruption on Wednesday morning, and the others that followed?

The images of Black Saturday are etched forever in our memories. The eerie midday darkness; ash falling like snow; mud and rocks raining like cats and dogs; the raging volcano clashing with a thundering typhoon; families and friends huddled together in the glow of candles and flashlights, because there was no power; everybody jumping with fear each time the earth quaked; and all of us wondering just when it would all end and things get back to normal.

But as we cautiously emerged from our shelters Sunday morning and looked in awe on the gray devastation all around us, we knew things were never going to get back to normal. Buried in ash several inches deep, with hundreds of buildings collapsed, Clark, Subic, San Miguel and Cubi Point were no longer able to support us. Roads were blocked by mud, tree limbs, and abandoned vehicles; the power was still out and there wasn't much food and water.

And so began the Fiery Vigil evacuation of more than 20,000 military people, DOD civilians, and families from the Republic of the Philippines. Why? To prevent any more suffering at the hands of the volcano, and to relieve the strain on the overcrowded U.S. facilities. Roughly 300 folks went to Kadena AB, Okinawa, while more than 19,700 took the trip of a lifetime -- by naval vessel to Cebu, and from there by MAC C-141s, C-5s or charter jets to Guam, Hawaii, and the good old U.S.A.

The mission essential team left behind at Clark had much to do. Security was a top priority, along with restoring essential services like power and water, shoveling volcanic ash off roofs to make buildings safe, clearing roads, and packing and shipping the household goods of everybody who'd left. Then, July 17, U.S. Special Negotiator Richard Armitage and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Raul Manglapus announced the U.S. decision to completely withdraw from Wallace AS and Camp O'Donnell by Sept. 16,1991, and from Clark by Sept. 16 1992. We're in the process of withdrawing now.

We've built a plan which will allow us to get all of our people, household goods, equipment and supplies out of here in an orderly, dignified, and safe manner. We haven't established a completion date yet, but we're trying to finish the job as soon as possible. If things continue to go well, "home for Christmas" may be a real possibility -- for all of us.

continued on page 2


PI Flyers
Next Page