"Anything You Say Sir!"
The job of Base Commander could, in some ways, be compared to being the mayor of a city of about 50,000 people, which has one grocery store, one gasoline station, one dry cleaner, one variety store, a couple of theaters, a cafeteria, and one club for each category of personnel. The business of pleasing anybody -- much less the majority -- is practically impossible.
One activity which had a bad effect on the morale of most people at Clark was a flourishing black market existing in the local area. This condition exists in all overseas areas particularly in Asia. A semi-police organization called Merchandise Control had been established at Clark for a long time. This office kept great, cumbersome records on the purchases of every individual assigned to Clark Air Base. The objective of Merchandise Control was to insure that no one diverted tax-free goods into the local economy. It was so marvelously unsuccessful that most of the goods in the local black market outlets got to the downtown stores before they made it from the warehouse to the retail facilities on base.
There are about 60 marriages a month between American servicemen and local girls and more than 50 per cent of the people at Clark are on an overseas tour extension. I can't imply that everybody who extends his overseas tour is involved in black marketing, but I am sure that most of those who are in the black market would extend (forever) if they could.
I tried to think of a way to limit black market activity at Clark AB. The main purpose I had in mind was to somehow assure that items were available for sale to authorized purchasers instead of having the bulk of our "goodies" sold at a tremendous profit down town. I think I know something of the 'nature of people' so I detailed master sergeants to each of the retail sales facilities. All they were required to do was to observe purchases and see to it that the cash register operator rang up at least as much as the purchaser bought. I will admit that it was nothing more than a program of intimidation. At first I was concerned regarding the effect these sergeants would have on the morale of the base because no one wants to be watched. We had lists of controlled items and for lack of a better term we established daily purchase "limitations" for example, four bars of soap, two towels, one shower curtain, two bottles of hand lotion, and things like this. The only problem with the daily purchase limitation was that many people got the idea that this was the amount they were required to purchase each day. When the exchange opened each day at 10 o'clock, the same 50 or so shoppers arrived to fill their downtown orders.
We audited several thousand individual purchases and revoked purchase privileges of some 160 people who were charged with overbuying. Suddenly, our retail sales facility had all of the hard-to-get items that everyone could use. I didn't realize how effective merchandise control had been until the BX officer complained that he had a $2 million surplus in his warehouse.
The system of accountability for individuals who were suspected of over purchasing was so simple that it worked. We just kept records and would call certain people in, pointing out that they had bought 130 bars of soap in a 35 day period. If they still had the soap they could keep their exchange privileges. If they didn't -- and it was evident that they hadn't washed that much -- they would probably be considered one of those who made more than his salary during a tour in the Philippines.
I had the retail liquor stores break the seals on all bottles of booze sold on base because I knew that unsealed whiskey was difficult to sell. We wound up with such a surplus of whiskey that we were able to reduce our inventory by about 35 per cent.
The Philippines has no corner on the black market and, they certainly didn't invent ways to make illegal profits, but no one can deny that 27 years of trying does give people a capability to develop some real sophisticated ways to beat the system.
Attitudes have a great deal to do with control over illegal activities. The story of the proposed space trip to Mars may reveal a prevailing attitude since it was told to me by a Filipino. It seems that all nations joined together to support the venture and the candidates to make the trip had been reduced to an American, a Russian, a Frenchman, and a Filipino. Each was interviewed by the President who asked what compensation each desired to embark on the dangerous trip. The American stated that he would like one million dollars as payment. When asked why, he said that he wanted to assure the financial security of his family and the education of his children. The Russians response was the same and he also asked for one million dollars. The Frenchman's request was for two million dollars because he not only had his wife and children to take care of but also his mistress and her brood. When the Filipino astronaut was interviewed, he requested three million dollars. When the President asked why so much, he replied, "One million for you, one million for me, and one million for the American who will make the trip."
One of the tasks I was charged with was to assume the perennial responsibility as Clark Air Base co-chairman of a joint park project sponsored by the City of Angeles and Clark Air Base. Outside the main gate is an extension of the principal road of the air base, which runs about one-half mile to an intersection of the national highway. The area on both sides of this road is about 500 yards wide. At one end is the Philippine National Railway near the main gate and at the other end is the barrio of Balibago. Balibago has approximately 100 grubby little bars where hostitutes ply their trades to the great consternation of the base Public Health Officer.
About 20 years ago someone had an idea that this area was well suited to build a park on. The idea was sound, but the methods suggested to construct this project were not entirely logical. The most obvious recommendation was to have the United States Government build a park and the local citizens would be delighted to use it. There were several factors which prohibited the use of this property -- most of which involved vendor stands and squatters who had moved onto the Philippine National Railway right of way. There is an old Philippine tradition which allows squatters to build on this property. Enterprising officials of the Philippine National Railway had traditionally sold, rented, or leased the right of way for whatever the traffic would bear, and businessmen of sorts erected structures of dubious engineering quality. I've even heard some of the buildings called boarding houses.
There were other factors which encouraged the squatters. It is easy to tap into local and base power systems and hook up to the base water supply. Being close to the air base, it also gave the military population easy access to the delights of the local culture.
It had been customary for years to discuss the park project occasionally, giving both the Angeles and Clark officials an opportunity to have free lunches on each other without getting too involved in any kind of real effort. You can't beat a staff study to while away the hours and each side promised to study the proposal.
I became friends with the former Mayor of Angeles, who was a delightful personality -- although it is said that he had some close associates whose ethical values were questionable. He did enjoy coming to the Officer's Club with the apparent objective of romancing whatever blondes were available, and appeared to be successful at times.
After one meeting we decided to go ahead because he seemed certain that the entire effort would come from the American side of the conference table. After about three months of discussion, we finally decided to really build a park at the expense of both sides. The agreement was so ambiguous, and Filipinos seem comfortable with ambiguity, that we agreed to start.
Since there was no appropriated American money for this purpose and the city coffers of Angeles were always empty, we had to generate funds for this purpose. The only place I could think of where a possibility of money existed was the Clark Air Base Officers' Wives Club. They had run a sales facility for many years in the officers' club called the Mad Money Mart. They sold rings and "things" at a great profit and used the money to buy beans, rice, and school books for Negritos. (The Negritos will be discussed in a later chapter). They also contributed to other charities and scholarships.
I was able to convince the chairman of the finance committee that the park project was worthwhile and that the wives club should probably donate to this base-community project. The lady -- being a strong minded woman -- surprised me by railroading a $5,000 contribution through the wives club board of governors. I thanked her profusely and I never asked how she did it. The Philippine community should be eternally grateful for her efforts over the objections of many, (There are still those who aren't sold on the project).
We converted the entire $5,000 into pesos and established a park project fund -- the agreement being that no money would be spent without the signature of the Base Commander and the President of the Philippine Prudential Bank.
The successor of the Mayor of Angeles was also a strong supporter of the park project and backed his support with manpower. The City Engineer surveyed the park site and determined that we needed about a mile and a half of drainage ditches from three to five feet deep and at least four feet wide. These ditches were meant to accommodate concrete pipe. The size of the pipe varied from 18 to 45 inches in diameter and were one meter long. There was no machinery available to dig trenches, and we finally decided that the only way would be to dig them by hand. The president of the "Angeles City Bar Owners Association", the mayor, and several other civic leaders began a campaign to encourage Filipinos to help dig the trenches. At the same time I started a program at Clark to encourage Americans to assist in the dig. I won't say I used undue pressure to convince military personnel at Clark, but I implied that I carried the efficiency reports of all squadron commanders with me to give them an opportunity to receive a rating of above the evaluation of "occasionally acceptable".
The first dig was conducted in a carnival atmosphere. The Commanding General also participated and we procured a couple of hundred shovels. More than a thousand people showed up the first Saturday morning and from 9 o'clock until about 11:30, more than a half mile of trenches were dug.
About 250 hostesses arrived on the scene and in the bright morning sunlight it was difficult for me to see what the enticing attraction of some of the bars was. The girls dug like hell, however, and were able to motivate most of the GI's who came to see what kind of silly project I had started. One girl told me that if I could only dig two more meters of trench she would give me a "no hands" massage at the local massage. I wasn't sure just what a "no hands" massage was, but I did have some idea. I turned her down because at that time we were shipping penicillin to Clark in 55 gallon drums.
The engineering requirements for the project were monumental. We did have surveyor transits and other equipment to determine elevations, but no one seemed too sure how to work these devices. We did develop a fool-proof method for laying tile, however. We simply put the tile down in the ground and poured water through it. If the water ran north, it was good; if the water ran south, it was bad.
For the first digging effort, the integrity of the local community was indeed heart-warming. We got back more shovels than we issued. The second dig wasn't as successful from an equipment standpoint because the drainage pipes apparently had some value and a few bags of cement disappeared during the first two weeks. At the end of the month we had completed all of the ditches and the City of Angeles engineering department installed the pipe.
When we had completed the park drainage system, we knew the water had to go some place. The national government, many years before, had installed a drainage pipe about 36 inches in diameter from the park area along the national highway to the river. The reason it never worked was because they simply followed the topography; and notwithstanding the obvious, they were never able to make the water run uphill to the creek about a mile away.
I loaned the City of Angeles a crane and clam shell and they provided the labor to complete the drainage project outside the base. Since it was customary to sue Americans, we couldn't use any of our people to complete the drainage lines off base. In some areas they went as deep as 18 feet below the surface of the ground to insure that the water from Balibago would really run into the creek. We built seven manholes in the barrio of Balibago and even if the park project had stopped at this point, the whole thing would have been worthwhile. The annual flood in that barrio had been eliminated.
I was really pleased with the local merchants because, as soon as we were able to drain this area, there appeared to be a change in attitude on the part of business establishments. People began to fix up their shops and many businessmen cooperated with each other to pave the streets. The mayor and city counselors also agreed to begin a street improvement program near the base. Some day the park will be restricted to private vehicles only, with the jeepney's prohibited in the area. From a safety standpoint alone, the benefit to the Americans has been significant.
By pleading with the local Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Philippine-Chinese Community, and the churches, we were successful in convincing them to volunteer contributions to the park foundation. The Rotary Club launched a campaign to build a promenade. I thought the design was too ambitious, but they did make a commitment of over 70,000 pesos, at no expense to the United States or Philippine governments.
Many people have accused the Filipinos in the Angeles City area of being entirely selfish, but this project proved it wasn't true. There are a large number of dedicated, patriotic men in the Angeles City area. They proved to the Americans that they also have pride in their city and their country.
I thought the park would be a smashing success and would be completed within six months, but shortly after we completed our drainage project, the rainy season began. The usual rainfall around the base in July is about 30 inches. In July of 1972, we set a world's record. In 32 days, 109 inches of rain fell, which not only hampered the park project but washed half of the island of Luzon into the South China Sea. As a result of flooding, the negotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and many other activities that took place on the base, the park project was suspended. As a matter of fact, it was necessary to stop most of the activity from July of 1972 until March of 1973.
After things settled down, I had an idea to regenerate the park project in an attempt to overcome the apathy on the part of Americans regarding this enterprise. I had been invited to a cockfight at the Angeles City cockpit and found the Philippine national sport to be interesting and exciting.
The raw bravery of a game cock is probably as great as any animal on earth. The Philippine system of cock-fighting requires the birds to fight to the death and though there is some blood, guts, and feathers, even the most kind-hearted person would have difficulty generating sympathy for the loser.
I will not try to explain all the things that took place, but I was impressed with the methods and the great protocol that takes place prior to each fight. One of the outstanding elements of a cockfight is the honor of the bettors. No money is ever shown prior to a fight, and bets are made by hand signals, nods of the head and other indications that compared favorably to the most sophisticated auctions. At the end of each fight people simply tossed money into the ring or out of the ring, depending on who won. This is a facet of Philippine culture that must be seen to be believed. It had been my experience that there was little hesitancy about certain people stealing from each other, but in the cockpit it was rare indeed for anyone to renege on a bet.
There was one other hazard with the Angeles City cockpit. A certain amount of emotional response is generated at a cockfight. The week before I attended a contest in Angeles City, two spectators in an argument over who had bet on what cock, decided to kill one another. The one with the .45 automatic was successful.
I asked the chairman of the Peace and Order Council in Angeles City to help me arrange a cockfight on the park site. He is the number one aficionado in Angeles City and a member of the board of the cock-fighting association. The manager of the best hotel in Angeles is also one of the foremost cocker's in the Philippines. Between the three of us we began to develop a plan for a Filipino-American cockfight. To my surprise and pleasure, a lot of enthusiasm began to develop.
We built a temporary cock-fighting arena and the communications people set 12 telephone poles around the site. We put up temporary bleachers for about 2,000 people, a salvage parachute was used for shade, and cocker's from all over the Philippines volunteered to bring their birds for a derby.
There was some political hassle regarding having the fight because cock-fighting can only be conducted in the Philippines on Sundays and holidays. I asked the Mayor of Angeles if we could work out something to have a fight without violating Philippine law. He told me all I had to do was to declare 31 March 1973 as a holiday. The 31st of March happened to be a Saturday; so I asked the Commanding General to issue a statement declaring this day, "Astro Park Day," which he did.
I was led to believe that the Philippine Constabulary was the final authority for this kind of permit. Since the country was under martial law, I wasn't too sure how to get an approval. I found that the Office of Social Welfare could give some kind of blessing and this would be the first step in securing a permit. At the end of a week of telephone calls and letters, it looked like there would be no way to get an approval. Two days before the scheduled event, however, the Mayor sent me a permit authorizing the whole thing. This was when I found that the Philippine Constabulary had nothing to do with granting the license, but it did give them the opportunity to make me aware of the fact that they still had a capability to limit Clark Air Base operations.
The entire day was a great success, although we lost control of the crowd and didn't sell as many tickets as I expected. We set up a refreshment stand where we sold hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, and soft drinks, skimmed off ten per cent of the bets and finally wound up with more than 20,000 pesos for the park fund.
I received a challenge from the tactical fighter squadron assigned to Clark. A lieutenant appropriately named "Weird Al" owned four fighting cocks, which he claimed were the world's greatest. This is a fighter pilot syndrome. They have convinced themselves that everything they do is the world's greatest. During the 20 years I was a fighter pilot I subscribed to that thesis. Since the Base Commander at Clark is not permitted to fly, I now question the theory that "fighter pilots do it better."
I accepted the challenge, then made an arrangement through the hotel manager with the owner of a large stable of fighting cocks. The agreement was relatively simple; I agreed to pay 400 pesos per fighting cock. If they won, I would sell them back to the owner and if they lost I would pay 400 pesos for every loser. The agreement was more than fair, because I didn't want to own any fighting cocks, and in the event any of them won, their value would be far greater than the original 400 pesos.
The only pressure I applied on the hotel manager was to advise him that if my cocks lost, I would put his entire establishment off limits.
When Weird Al saw the skinniest chicken I offered to fight, he immediately backed off.
At the monthly officer's call of the Combat Support Group I conned each of the officers in my organization into making a consolidated bet with me against the Fighter Squadron. After I discovered we couldn't get a match, I decided to wager in their behalf.
I really didn't know how to bet, but since I was using everybody else's money, I played the big spender from the East. When my first cock was brought into the ring, it was matched against a prize bird from Manila. I then found out how they bet. The two fighting cocks are brought into the ring -- until that time, the amount of the bet is not mentioned. A challenge is made by one owner. The other owner then has to match the bet or get additional support from spectators. The big gambler from Manila announced his bet; 4400 pesos -- all the money we had. I covered the bet, and was more than a little nervous before the fight began. Fortunately, my cock attacked with great vigor, killed the other bird, and I could afford to wheel and deal for the rest of the afternoon.
Notwithstanding the heat and crowds, the day was a great success and our Astro Park cockfight probably did as much to improve Filipino-American relationships as any activity I have been associated with in an overseas area. The thing that set it apart from other cockfights was there was not a single fist fight among the people and nobody got murdered in the immediate area.
One classic remark regarding the proposed day of cock-fighting was made by my deputy. While he was attending a staff meeting it was announced that the two Thirteenth Air Force generals would probably attend the cockfight. He may have dampened some of the enthusiasm when he said: "What are they going to do -- throw out the first two cocks?" The final fund raising effort on my part for the Astro Park fund took the form of a three day "discothon" that involved all organizations on base. We took pledges from different people and units in exchange for stunts and challenges. One Commander agreed to eat a balut in front of his men if they would contribute to the project. A balut is duck embryo which many Filipinos consider a delicacy. It has the aroma of a rotten egg, and I imagine is about as appetizing. We staged a carabao race on the parade ground with thirteen riders involved. The General was a good sport and rode in the first heat. I was instantly thrown over the horns of my beast to the delight of many. We put on floor shows at the three clubs on base, and took up a collection midway through the program.
The morale building effect of the effort was more significant than the money collected. It brought different units together and diverted many people from the usual preoccupation of the base....complaining.
We did collect more than $9,000 which should give the project enough momentum to assure its completion.
I am convinced the Astro Park project probably is the most significant community relations effort that has ever been entered into between the United States military and the citizens of another country. It has generated an interest on Clark Air Base to do something of lasting value as far as the community is concerned -- and I also think it has contributed to the civic pride of the City of Angeles.
If some day this project is completed, I am sure it will stand as a lasting example of Filipino-American cooperation. Even if we are only in the Philippines for a brief tour, things like this do make a contribution and reduce the tensions that are bound to arise.
Negritos have overrun Clark Air Base for about 23 years. They are an aborigine tribe who probably were original inhabitants of the northern Pampanga province. They are mountain people who hunt for a living and have very few sophisticated requirements.
Many legends have been built around the Negritos. One is General MacArthur had promised them perpetual free medical support because of their outstanding war record. Another is they were feared by both the Filipinos and the Japanese and were fierce fighters and superior security guards.
The truth about the Negrito situation goes back only to 1950. Prior to that time there were no permanent Negrito encampments on the base and around the base proper. Sometime in 1951, a communications cable between Camp O'Donnell and Clark Air base had been continually cut and stolen. Camp O'Donnell is about 10 miles north of the main base. Since copper is a high-priced item in the Philippines, and the thieves were industrious, the communications line had only been operational for about 15 days during a two-year period.
A communications staff officer at Thirteenth Air Force arranged to hire about twenty Negrito guards to guard the cable. One group was to leave Camp O'Donnell and another group was to depart Clark Air Base at the same time, passing about midway every day. This necessitated Negritos staying overnight at Clark. The place they camped was the original site of what is now the Negrito Village.
Where the legend began concerning the promises of General MacArthur is not known. It probably began with the Negritos themselves. I haven't run across many people who wouldn't take advantage of a situation, whether there are any facts involved or not and this is no exception.
The medical assistance provided to Negritos began at about the same time the cable patrol started. A medical officer with a great interest in tropical diseases felt that doctors would benefit from a study of tropical medicine through treatment of what was then considered to be highly diseased control group of aborigines. At the beginning of this program, hospital passes were given to these guards; but it became such an administrative nightmare that the responsibility for pass control was passed to the Security Police Office.
With increase in personnel at Clark and the authorization for dependents to live on the base, an organization known as Women's Welfare was established. These ladies have been traditionally soft-hearted and soft-headed. As a humanitarian gesture, they began to give the Negritos beans and rice, both of which were promptly sold on the local market and the proceeds of the sales were gambled away.
With the original settlement of 20 or 30 tribesmen, the perversion of the pass situation, and the Negritos' ability to recognize a good deal, the Negrito Village began to expand. The rules regarding who got a Negrito pass and subsequent free hospitalization were so liberally interpreted that nearly anybody who married a Negrito, and kinky hair, or was a dark-complexioned, short Filipino, was called a Negrito. As a result of the ease with which a pass could be received, a permanent settlement sprang up. By 1973, more than 4,000 Negrito passes were in effect at Clark Air Base. Twenty per cent of the total hospital capability was devoted to Negrito health care. It was not an uncommon practice for a tribesman to sell his Negrito pass, thereby giving anyone with 100 pesos the ability to use the hospital service at Clark Air Base. The hospital staff is especially well qualified in the field of medicine but not too pure at identifying Negritos. I heard of one case where a patient in the pediatrics ward w as placed in a crib until a nurse discovered this little person was a 24 year old woman.
Whether or not General MacArthur stated that he desired the Negritos to be assisted is academic. The legend itself requires assistance. The American propensity to dip their oar in the sociological ocean of every country on earth becomes evident when the Negrito situation is viewed dispassionately. There has never been a specific U. S. obligation to support these people, and special privileges enjoyed by the Negritos, accorded to no other Filipinos, have varied from outright gifts to the right to set up vendor stands at the air terminal, base operations, and the shopping facility.
I was never able to determine what the goal of the various base social welfare activities was. If it was assimilation of Negritos into Philippine society through training and other programs, it has been a miserable failure. If the goal was to assist the village as an ethnic entity, that too has failed. Negritos have migrated to Clark from all over Luzon. The cost to the United States became prohibitive.
With the advent of martial law and restrictions on possession of knives and other weapons, I directed that restrictions be placed on the sale of these articles, none of which were products of the Negrito Village anyway. Most items were manufactured in Manila and sold by little brown people, some of whom might have had Negrito ancestors.
Many of the ladies involved in social welfare identified me as a blood relative to Simon Legree, since it was my belief that regardless of whether a person was a little kinky-haired aborigine or something else, he still is a Philippine citizen and social and civic actions should confine themselves to activity in the best interest of the United States and not get wiped out with an attitude of trying to correct the ills of Philippine society.
Whether or not I was successful in changing attitudes regarding Negritos won't be known for some time since bleeding hearts get a lot more attention than those who try to serve the best interest of the United States, even if it hurts somebody's feelings. I did dis-establish the Negrito Council and directed the base Civic Action Office to develop a program to discontinue unwarranted Negrito support. My first attempt at this was made in May of 1972 and I have taken another shot at it every month for one year.
There are some interesting sidelights regarding the Negritos. The titular head of the Negrito Village is a weird little fellow called King. When I first arrived I was led to believe that he was king of the Negritos. He has a wife that he calls the Queen and occasionally wanders around the base in the uniform of a brigadier general in the United States Air Force. I happened to run across some orders in an old file and discovered that King was really a staff sergeant in the Philippine guerrillas during World War II whose first name was King. I only had to throw him out of my office three times to discourage his return.
One time Queen came to the base and sat in my office talking to my secretary. Her complaint was that she needed 175 pesos to pay for feeding her pigs, which were kept in their house in the Negrito Village. During the course of the conversation my secretary discovered that her real complaint was King's three additional wives. The only portion of the conversation that I remembered was her remark to the secretary wherein she said: "That old son-of-a-bitch knows that I am too old to screw."
During January of 1973 we discovered that the guards on the gate to the Negrito Village were also fond of Negritos. After the gate was locked one afternoon, a Civic Action sergeant watched 125 Negritos climb over the fence with the assistance of the security guard. This was not the primary reason for the cancellation of a civilian guard contract but it did have some bearing on the final decision to reevaluate our security situation at Clark Air Base.
I hope in some future time the welfare agencies will devote a portion of their efforts to assistance of Americans who need help, instead of bleeding off their resources down to the bottomless pits of gifts to poor Filipinos.
The condition of the airmen barracks at Clark Air Base has obviously been neglected for about 25 years -- or from the time they were built, since some were less than 5 year old. The apparent cynical attitude seemed to be that as long as enlisted men were permitted to go to Angeles City, drink San Miguel beer, and fraternize with the hostitutes, their morale would be high enough. It was also said that since the tour for unaccompanied people is only 15 months, anyone could hold still for that period of time.
I attempted to launch a program of barracks improvement and had my first experience with the Clark syndrome. The monumental apathy I encountered would shatter the confidence of a Pollyanna. More than half of the junior airmen were living in open-bay barracks, partitioned off with rusty, dented wall lockers. No one in a supervisory position seemed to care too much, because for about $50.00 a young man could make an "arrangement" in Angeles whereby he could rent a room -- complete with a friendly Filipina -- and not live in the barracks at all.
It wasn't too difficult to supplement his income, since a flourishing black market existed in the Angeles area. Tax-free goods purchased in the BX have more than a triple value in the Philippine community, and many people did not seem to be particularly disturbed one way or the other that a large shopping center outside the base handled BX goods almost exclusively.
Family quarters varied from parade ground "barns" built in 1912 to relatively modern air conditioned quarters for senior officers. Bachelor officer quarters were of five different types--some pretty good, and some pretty bad. The maintenance and repair backlog of work requests on all types of quarters was so great it would have taken five years to clean up what needed to be done without accepting any more work. The most popular subject of conversation was the ineffectiveness of the Base Commander's Civil Engineering activity.
Some progress was made over an 18 month period and with the help of every squadron commander on the base and the ability of people to steal and scrounge, by May 1973 very few airmen at Clark lived in open bays.
One of the incidents which caused me to begin a barracks renovation program at Clark Air Base occurred in the Security Police Squadron. It happened there was a black airman with considerable leadership capability and a white airman with equal capacity to influence others who were living in the same open bay barracks. They had assembled all the black airmen in one side of the barracks and the white airmen in the other end. The animosity between these two groups was heavy enough to be cut with a knife. This was the first barracks where we began to build two-man air conditioned rooms.
The airmen themselves worked on the self-help program. They pooled their money and hired Filipino carpenters for finishing work because there just wasn't any appropriated money for this purpose. When this barracks was completed, I was delighted to discover that the Black Panther and the Ku Klux Klan had moved into the same room and had become close friends. This confirmed my opinion that most of the tension between these young men was fed by unsatisfactory living conditions and their only outlet was an alternative between hating each other and shacking up in Angeles City.
The quarters for families at Clark are as different as the five or six types available. Regulations concerning assignment to family quarters are based on a large group of rules made at the Washington D. C. level. No one seemed to understand the rules and until June or 1972, we had never had a housing officer at Clark who had completed a tour. They had either gone mad or were carried out as basket cases because they continuously tried to justify the rules to irate dependents or to military personnel who refused to understand why they weren't given top quality quarters regardless of their rank or the priority system. I finally struck upon a way to at least preserve the sanity of the people who worked in the housing office. I simply established a rule that no one could go to the housing office to make inquiries or discuss anything regarding quarters except the individual who signed for the housing units.
Another rule seemed to help relieve the problem to some degree. I required all military personnel to conduct their business in the housing office in uniform. We had several incidents where personnel of relatively low grade would don civilian attire and go to the housing office with the intent of berating the sergeant in charge. Since we have all grades occupying quarters, from general officers to buck sergeants, the housing sergeant was never sure who he was talking to. Several times he discovered that he had been severely reprimanded by an individual who was four grades junior to him.
About half of the married people at Clark lived off base and with the exception of the fact that they couldn't drink the water in Angeles City, probably had a better deal than anyone who lived on base from the standpoint of expense and comfortable quarters.
A service function related closely to base housing is the furniture warehouse. It doesn't appear that anyone is able to count, since we had a high-powered inventory team arrive to check all of the furniture which was in the warehouse or that had been issued. They submitted an official report of survey of furniture loss that shocked even the highest levels of command. I couldn't believe anyone would bother to steal rattan furniture in the Philippines because even the Filipinos don't like it.
A bright chief master sergeant devised a system where everyone inventoried his own furniture and submitted a list to the Housing Supply Office. One of the peculiarities of the Air Force supply system is that once an item has been surveyed and certified to be lost or stolen, it automatically drops off the supply records. After the sergeant's tickets came in, we had to pick up about $400,000 worth of furniture as "found on base." It simply means it was never lost at all. (Of course, maybe the sergeant couldn't count either).
The lengths people will go to harass one another in the area of quarters furniture has always been an interesting study in psychology as far as I am concerned. Before a person can leave his quarters, the building must be absolutely immaculate and is inspected to the point where you could probably do surgery in each room of the quarters. As soon as the inspection is completed a herd of Filipino laborers comes in and completely demolishes the house while they redo it for the next occupant. There probably is a good reason for this stupidity, but I haven't discovered it at this point.
Bachelor officer's quarters at Clark Air Base are of such widely varying styles and types that there is a constant struggle to either get on or off base depending on the kind of room an unaccompanied person occupies. All in all, however, bachelor officers seem to fare quite well. A peculiarity of some regulations is the logic that many enforcers apply. We had a case that made me question the wisdom of the rules. A young officer was living in bachelor quarters on base and became understandably lonely. The single lad was visited by his fiancé from the United States who came to the Philippines on a tourist visa. He moved her into his room for a couple of months and none of the other residents said a thing. Either through conscience, or for some other reason the young couple were married. Now comes the bitter bit. The regulation regarding families occupying bachelor quarters rears its ugly head. If you disregard the fact he was paying only bachelor quarters fees while drawing a married officer's rental allowance you reach a peculiar conclusion. It seems to be alright to shack up in the BOQ as long as the dolly you do it with is not your wife.
Another weird rule exists concerning certain security clearances and marriage. If a person has a dear friend in town and lives with her for a year or so, he can do his job and not be bothered. If he finally decides to marry her, he loses his security clearance and is immediately transferred out of the security unit. I'm sure this makes sense to the guy who wrote the regulation, but it does make you wonder.
There is a building at Clark Air Base, which is the bachelor officer's main billet, called Chambers Hall. It is an engineering nightmare, but the activities which take place there are the basis for some comment and gossip, part of which is true.
On the main floor is a sort of cocktail lounge and according to the big boys in the pool room, that is where the action is on Saturday night. They employ the loudest rock band in Central Luzon.
Chambers Hall is a coed billet occupied by junior officers, a couple of old swinging senior officers, some school teachers, and civilian secretaries. The Saturday night bash in my view generally amounted to a considerable amount of desperate clutching and brilliant conversation like: "I'm so drunk and you're so beautiful. The war will soon be over, I love you, we have so little time left, come here and lie down, I want to talk to you."
But I guess everybody has to be some place.
I would like to believe that single people are as active in Chambers Hall as the old biddies in the Officer's Wives Club imply. Unless the vitamins given to babies during the last 25 years are stronger than I suspected, I can't believe all that much swinging activity takes place.
I think the flight surgeon's remarks to the old colonel that he would have to cut his sex life in half is appropriate. The old man said: "Which half - talking about it, or thinking about it?"
Those officers who have been assigned there have two opinions about Chambers Hall: they love it or they hate it. The only formal organization at Chambers Hall is the Mount Arayat Ski Club. If it ever snows in the Philippines, they may even visit the mountain.