CLARK FIELD looking westward. In the upper left center, abutting the foothills of the Zambales Mountains, lies Fort Stotsenburg. The rectangular, tree-lined area is the parade ground.

 

Air Forces headquarters was located at Nielson Field on the outskirts of Manila; the majority of the planes were based at either Nichols, also near Manila, or Clark Field. The 4th Composite Group at Clark Field had under it a headquarters squadron, three pursuit squadrons, one bombardment squadron, and an observation squadron. The 20th Air Base Group at Nichols Field contained miscellaneous supporting units, including the 27th and 28th Materiel Squadrons, and the 19th Air Base Squadron. Total strength of the air forces was 254 officers and 2,049 men.

The newly activated Far East Air Force, with headquarters at Nielson Field in Manila, included the V Bomber Command, the V Interceptor Command, and the Far East Service Command. The main element of the bomber command, led by Lt. Col. Eugene L. Eubank, was the 19th Bombardment Group with its thirty-five B-17's. Only two squadrons of the original group, the 30th and 93d, were in the Philippines. On 16 November, the 28th Squadron, a medium unit, was also assigned to the group and equipped with B-17's and on 2 December the 14th Squadron joined the group. In addition to heavy units, the bomber command also contained the ground echelon of the 27th Bombardment Group, whose fifty-two A-24's were delayed at Hawaii and never reached the Philippines.46

In mid-November. MacArthur decided to establish a heavy bomber base in northern Mindanao at Del Monte, which since September had had a strip capable of landing B-17's. This decision was based on the belief that heavy bombers on Luzon would be subject to attack and that they should therefore be moved south, out of reach of the enemy. His plans, MacArthur told the Chief of Staff on 29 November, called ultimately for a bomber base in the Visayas, but until such a base was completed he expected to use the field at Del Monte. Work on Del Monte Field was rushed and by the beginning of December it was able to accommodate heavy bombers.

The one air warning service company of 200 men in the Philippines was entirely inadequate to the needs of the Far East Air Force. In November General Arnold recommended, and the Chief of Staff approved, the shipment of an aircraft warning service battalion to the Philippines.51 The 557th Air Warning Battalion was organized in the United States and on 6 December 1941 arrived in San Francisco, too late for shipment to the Philippines.

When war came there were seven radar sets in the Islands, but only two had been set up and were in operation. In the absence of the necessary equipment and personnel, USAFFE had organized a makeshift air warning service. Native air watchers stationed at strategic points reported plane movements by telephone or telegraph to the interceptor command at Nielson Field, which in turn relayed the information to Clark. It was this primitive system, augmented by the radar sets established at Iba and outside Manila, that was in operation when war came.

That other prerequisite for a balanced air force, antiaircraft artillery, was also slow in reaching the Far East. The two antiaircraft units alone obviously could not defend the fields of the rapidly growing Far East Air Force, let alone meet civilian defense requirements. Of necessity, therefore, the air defenses included only the Manila Bay area and Clark Field; all other installations were left virtually without defense against air attack. General Brereton was rightly concerned about the lack of antiaircraft defense and observed, even before he left Washington, that sending heavy bombers to the Philippines without providing proper antiaircraft protection would probably be suicide. But there was little that could be done in the short time available.

 

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