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Clark Air Base

Pacific Air Forces.png

Part of United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)
Located at Angeles City, Luzon Island, Philippines
Type Air Base
Coordinates 15°11′09″N 120°33′37″E / 15.18583°N 120.56028°E / 15.18583; 120.56028Coordinates: 15°11′09″N 120°33′37″E / 15.18583°N 120.56028°E / 15.18583; 120.56028
Built September 1, 1903
Built by United States
In use 1903-1991 (US)
Philippine Government
Controlled by United States Air Force and Philippine Air Force
Clark Air Base, 1975.
Clark Air Base is located in Philippines
Clark Air Base
Clark Air Base, Philippines

Clark Air Base is a former United States Air Force base on Luzon Island in the Philippines, located 3 miles west of Angeles City, about 40 miles northwest of Metro Manila. Clark Air Base was an American military facility from 1903 to 1991. The base covered 14.3 square miles (37 km²) with a military reservation extending north that covered another 230 square miles (596 km²).

The base was a stronghold of American forces during the end of World War II, and until 1975, it was a backbone of logistical support during the Vietnam War. Following the departure of American forces in 1991, the base eventually became the site of Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and the Clark Freeport Zone.



For full details, see History of Clark Air Base.
For information on Clark after its closure, see Clark Freeport Zone and Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

Clark Air Base was originally established as Fort Stotsenburg in Sapang Bato, Angeles City in 1903 under control of the U.S. Army. A portion of Fort Stotsenburg officially set aside for the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps and named Clark Field, Sep 1919. Clark served as a landing hill that was very big for a landing hill, for medium bombers and accommodated half of the heavy bombers stationed in the Philippines during the 1930s. In the late summer and fall of 1941, many aircraft were sent to Clark in anticipation of war with Imperial Japan.

The base was overrun by Japanese forces in early January 1942. The base then became a major centre for staging Japanese air operations. Japanese aircraft flying out of Clark participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, considered to be the largest naval battle of the Second World War.[1] [2]

During the war, the Allied prisoners of the Bataan Death March passed by the main gate of Clark Air Base, as the soldiers followed the direction of the railway tracks north, towards Camp O'Donnell. Clark Air Base was recaptured by Americans in January 1945, after three months of fierce fighting in the Philippines.

Clark grew into a major American air base during the Cold War, serving as an important logistics hub during the Vietnam War. The base was later closed due to the refusal by the Philippine Government to renew the lease on the base. After extensive damage from the Mount Pinatubo eruption, the Philippine Government attempted to reopen base lease talks, but the greed of the Philippine Government resulted in the base being closed.

In November 1991, the United States Air Force lowered the Stars and Stripes and transferred Clark Air Base to the Philippine government. With the United States military's withdrawal from Clark, the base was systematically looted and was left abandoned for several years. It finally became the Clark Freeport Zone and the site of Clark International Airport (CIA), renamed to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in 2003.[citation needed]

Military units

See the article List of military units of Clark Air Base.

During much of the Cold War, Clark Air Base's activity largely revolved around the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing and its fleet of F-4 Phantom II fighter jets. It also hosted an interceptor squadron and a flight school, all of which flew a variety of other combat aircraft. Transient aircraft of many types, especially cargo jets, were very common. Fighter planes regularly visited to participate in aerial warfare exercises at Crow Valley about 30 miles (50 km) to the northwest.

Clark was served regularly by cargo and passenger flights to and from Andersen AFB, Guam; Kadena AB, Japan; Diego Garcia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Saigon, Vietnam (until 1975). During the 1970s, passengers arrived via Trans International Douglas DC-8 flights from Travis AFB, California (via Honolulu and Guam). By 1980, the base had grown to such an extent that weekly Flying Tigers Boeing 747 service to St. Louis (via Kadena AB Japan; Anchorage; and Los Angeles) had begun. The 747 service was taken over by Tower Air sometime in the late 1980s, and was augmented with a weekly Hawaiian Airlines L-1011 or Douglas DC-8 to Guam-Honolulu-Los Angeles.


Clark Air Base was arguably the most urbanized military facility in history, and was the largest American base overseas. At its peak around 1990, it had a permanent population of 15,000. It had a base exchange, a large commissary, a small shopping arcade, a branch department store, cafeterias, teen centers, a hotel, miniature golf, riding stables, and other concessions.


Angeles City bars were legendary, particularly around the red-light district on Fields Street. As a result, Clark's servicemen's clubs were under considerable pressure to serve its members with wholesome entertainment. All three were large-scale operations: the Officer's Club (CABOOM) near the parade ground, the Top Hat Club for NCOs near Lily Hill (moved to near the Silver Wing around 1986), and the Coconut Grove Airmen's Club with indoor palm trees. The NCO Club was a very extensive operation and operated an upscale dining room, an in-house thrift shop, and a calendar of daily activities. It regularly brought major bands and artists from the United States to perform.

At least a hundred sponsored clubs and organizations were active on the base, including Knights of Columbus, a Latino American club, martial arts dojos, and more. Two major movie theaters operated daily: the Bobbitt Theater which played first-run films, and the Kelly Theater which showed older releases. By 1988 the Kelly no longer showed films at all but was used for Commander's Calls and large squadron sized meetings. In the late 1960s and early 1970s movies were also shown at the Bamboo Bowl (the football stadium on base).

The Bamboo Bowl, later renamed Challenger Field, was largely used for high school football games as the school did not have its own athletic field. In addition to high school football games it also hosted rec league football games for ages 8-18. The high school football teams were actually part of the rec league. The base's sole high school, Wagner High, actually had multiple football teams. It was also used for the base's 11 man tackle football league which not only included teams from Clark but from Subic Naval Base as well.

To keep the residents entertained at home, Clark had a very active broadcast center called FEN, or Far East Network Philippines, a division of American Forces Network. A television station broadcast on Channel 8 until 1981, then Channel 17 afterward. It showed about 20 hours per day of syndicated programs from the "big three" networks in the United States, with local news and talk programs. This content was locally syndicated until 1983 when it began airing live programming by satellite from Los Angeles. FEN had two 24-hour radio stations: an AM station which broadcast news and popular music, and stereo FM which was dedicated to easy-listening and classical music. G.I.s could also receive local Filipino T.V. which aired newer American shows than F.E.N. did. Unlike the local T.V. stations in Europe they were broadcast in the same format as American T.V. and not dubbed into Tagalog.

Two major annual events at Clark were the annual Chili Cookoff, held near the Silver Wing recreation center around September, and the Happening On the Green ("the HOG"). The HOG was a major carnival held on a designated weekend in February which attracted thousands of residents. Amusements and rides were built and operated not only by Filipino entertainment contractors but also by individual Air Force units seeking to boost unit morale, showcase their talents, and raise funds.

Clark's unique size and history allowed it to develop its own supernatural lore. By the 1970s, the Filipino "white lady" legend had established itself at Clark. Most variations of the story involved a young woman dressed in white who would hail a taxi late at night, and then would vanish from the vehicle enroute. And more recently, the tv series Ghost Hunters International have done an investigation at the hospital. A lot of paranormal activities were reported, so the team came and confirmed that the hospital has its share of paranormal activities.


The Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) operated six schools in Clark, serving children from kindergarten to twelfth grade.

  • Elementary schools (kindergarten-5th grade): MacArthur Elementary School, V. I. Grissom Elementary School, and Wurtsmith Elementary School. The latter two were located in the hill housing area.
  • Middle schools (6th-8th grade): Lily Hill Middle School, and Wagner Middle School. The latter primarily served the hill housing area and officer dependents.
  • High school: Wagner High School, otherwise known as Wurtsmith Memorial High School in the 1960s and Clark Dependent School in the 1950s.

Additionally, Clark was also home to several community colleges, namely the Pacific Far East Campus of Central Texas College. Classes were typically held in the evenings at Wagner High School.


Clark Air Base experienced two distinct seasons: a dry season from November through April, with a wet season from May through October. From 1953 to 1991, the mean daily low was 73.6°F and the mean daily high was 88.1°F, with April being warmest and January coolest. The average annual rainfall was 78.39 inches. Typhoons tended to approach from the east during the summer and fall. Many damaging storms struck the base, including Typhoon Irma on November 28, 1974 (generally considered to be the strongest one); Typhoon Rita on October 27, 1978; Typhoon Irma on November 24, 1981; Typhoon Ruby on October 25, 1988; and Typhoon Yunya on June 15, 1991 which coincided with the Mount Pinatubo blast. In July, 1972, central Luzon experienced a month of nearly continuous rain, resulting in 96 inches falling on the plain around Clark.

Top 24 Hour Extreme Rainfall in Clark Airbase and Angeles City
Rank Storm or Tropical Cyclone Date of Impact 24 Hour Rainfall Date Logged
Climate data for Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Republic of the Philippines (1961-90)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °F (°C) 86
Average low °F (°C) 70
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.51
Source: National Climatic Data Center.[3] 2009-02-17

See also

Other United States Air Force installations in the Philippines:


  1. ^ Morison, Samuel E. (1956). "Leyte, June 1944 – January 1945". History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. XII. Boston: Little & Brown. 
  2. ^ Woodward, C. Vann (1947). The Battle for Leyte Gulf. New York: Macmillan. 
  3. ^ Summary of day data for National Weather Service (U.S.) and Department of Defense (U.S. and foreign) sites, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville NC, 1991.
  • Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799536
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0887405134.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Sheftall, M.G. (2005). Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze. NAL Caliber. pp. 480pp. ISBN 0-451-21487-0. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

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