Philippines

Clark Air Force Base
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In the missile shop we worked a 24/48 shift. That is, we worked for 24-hrs and then had 2-days off. During that 24-hrs on duty we slept about 9-hrs. But it was broken up with calls to deliver and pickup missiles on the flight line, so it wasn't really good sleep. But we had it pretty easy.

When we were off duty, we would hang around the barracks and entertain ourselves with hobbies.

During the rainy season we would spend a lot of time just waiting for the rain to stop. Sometimes it would rain for weeks at a time. Here's a shot of me outside my room on the barracks balcony. The walls of the barracks were just slatted openings with screens. There was no need for real walls in the Philippines. It was hot all year long.

I had never experienced a monsoon before. When I arrived at Clark I had noticed the large drainage ditches along the roads. You can see one in the background of this picture. These are actually swales that are about 4-ft deep and 15-ft wide. During the monsoon season they overflowed with water.

Me on the porch
Airmen Gantz, Addison, and Gould

 

On base lived a tribe of Negritos. According to Wikipedia: The Malay term for them is orang asli, or original people. They are likely the indigenous people of Southeast Asia. Pygmy-sized, they are numerically and physically among the smallest as well as among the least-known of all living human groups.

Legend has it they were such a help to Mc Arthur during WWII that he gave them permission to live on base for as long as they like. They had a village way out on the back side of the base where they lived as they pleased. They had full use of the medical facilities but rarely came in to actually use them.

They would make knives, like the one being held by Airman Gould in the photo, and blowguns to sell to tourists and GIs. They would also steal anything that was not nailed down. I would sometimes wake up at night and see one running down the length of the barracks looking for things. I'd see them but never hear them. Word had it that they will kill someone for you for a couple cartons of cigarettes.

 

Shortly after I arrived I got a new 'cube-mate.' (The open bay of the barracks was sectioned off into cubes of four bunks on each side of the center isle. We used the lockers to make walls.).

When I said, "Hi, my name is Bill" he said, "North West."

"Er..OK.. Mid-west!?"

"No," he said. "That's my name. North West."

"Yeah, sure."

He pulled out is ID card in an obviously practiced maneuver and there it was: 'West, North E'

"What's the 'E' stand for," I asked?

"East," he said. And he was serious.

West and I became pretty good friends over the next year or so. When the Squadron moved into new barracks (with actual rooms and Air Conditioning!!!) we stayed on as roommates. He was probably the strangest and most interesting man I had ever met or would ever meet.

Maybe it was because of his name but he was extraordinarily gragarious. He would talk to anyone about anything.

I think he was from New Jersey. He said he owned over 100 Indian motorcycles and that was his passion while in the Philippines. He'd grab me and say "Let's get on a bus and head north," or south or east, whatever. And we'd do just that. As soon as the bus would pull into some small out of the way village (which, in the sixties in the RP didn't take too long) he'd jump out and seek out the local police department. He'd buy the cops a beer (although he didn't drink) and make small talk. After a couple of beers he'd ask if they had any old motorcycles left over from the war. Usually they'd say no. But then, remembering that old thing in the garage down the steet we'd all be off to see if it was, in fact a motorcycle. About half the time they'd pull back the tarp and there, somewhat rusted, was a late-40s vintage Harley-Davidson or Indian. West would offer them a deal they couldn't refuse (like $40 or so) and then go back to Clark to arrange to have it shipped home.

West played guitar. Sort of folk or classic style guitar; not rock. He tried to teach me, but I just never quite got it.


We would often have engines and parts stacked up in our room such as this engine setting on our end table. West had sand blasted it at the shop and was waiting to ship it home.

I made quite a few friends while at Clark. Most of them were of course from work. Many aquaintances who were friends of freinds, that sort of thing.

People like Mike English and Ed Norman and Rick Addison:

And there were some others who, while I remember who they were, that is I can see them talking and laughing, I simply can not remember their names.

There were a lot of things to do on Clark Air Base. I guess they didn't want us to get so bored as to head down to Balibago or Angeles City. More on that later.

We had movie theaters and hobby shops. We had libraries and Auto Shops.

But most of us still headed down town when we got off work.

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