In 1920, the United States Military opened this airfield as part of its installation, Fort Stotsenburg. After World War II it became the largest US Air Force Base outside the United States mainland and served the US 13th Air Force and became the operational US Air Force base in the Far East. On 21 November 1991 though, the base was turned over to the Philippine Government and the runway and airfield facilities was converted to what is now the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. The whole base then became and the Clark Special Economic Zone. However, units of the Philippine Air Force are still stationed in the once sprawling US Air Field located in Angeles City (Barangay Dau) Pampanga Province.
The base was named after Major Harold Clark who was stationed in the Philippines but died in a seaplane crash in the Panama Canal Zone on 21 May 1919.
Clark Air Base has 2 10,000+ foot long runways and at least 8 helipads that it shares with Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. It is located about 15 miles northeast of Basa Air Base and about 45 miles north of metro Manila. (Coordinates: 15o11'09.6 N, 120o33'37.1 E)
The facility began as a simple airstrip constructed outside the US Army's Fort. Stotsenberg. The fort had existed since 1899 and the airstrip was constructed between 1917 and 1919. The airstrip and its support facilities were named Clark Field. Clark Field was upgraded several times until 1941, at which point it had 6 runways of various sizes, with several associated runways close, but not technically associated with the facility. Clark Field was one of the largest American overseas bases in the world at the time.
On 8 December 1941, the Japanese bombed and heavily damaged Clark Field, destroying many American aircraft, including several B-17's, and critically damaging US air defense capabilities in the Philippines. Japanese ground forces overran the facility the following month and used it as a military air base of their own until January 1945 when the US recaptured it. Clark Field served as a major base for US warplanes until the end of the war.
In January 1946, the 13th Air Force transferred to Clark Field, and in May 1949, Clark Field and Fort Stotsenberg were merged together to form Clark Air Base. This facility was turned over to the control of the newly created US Air Force. During the Cold War, Clark AB grew into the largest overseas US military facility, with 15,000 base inhabitants and an elaborate infrastructure covering over 150,000 acres. Clark AB hosted US fighters and was a major transit hub for planes supporting the Vietnam War.
While the 1947 Military Bases Agreement between the US and the Philippines had originally called for American bases to remain in the country for 99 years, the bases generated controversy from the start. The Agreement was renegotiated several times over the years. A critical amendment to the document was made in 1959 and allowed the Philippines to take over all American bases from 1991 onwards, so long as it gave a year's notice before doing so. Starting in 1990, the US began negotiations to extend the lease on Clark Air Base and the other major American installations in the Philippines, including the Subic Bay Naval Base. The 2 sides were unable to reach agreement on new terms and it became increasingly clear that the US would be asked to hand over the Bases.
In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo experienced a massive volcanic eruption that devestated the surrounding area with ash. The area was simultaneously hit with a tropical cyclone. Clark Air Base, only 12 miles east of the volcano, was barely evacuated in time and suffered serious damage, being buried under thousands of tons of soot that would take months to remove. During September 1991, the Philippine Senate opted to evict all US forces from their Philippine Bases. Clark Air Base was formerly transferred to Philippine control on 26 November 1991.
From the start, the Philippine government intended to use the large facility primarily for civilian and economic purposes. After major clean up efforts to remove the ash and repair damage, Clark Air Base was reopened and renamed the "Clark Special Economic Zone" in 1993 as a tax-free area meant to encourage an influx of business and economic growth. The airfields and directly related buildings were renamed "Clark International Airport" and were put under the management of the government-run "Clark International Airport Corporation" and reopened for traffic in 1995. In 2003, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo renamed the airport "Diosdado Macapagal International Airport" in honor of her father, who had also been president.
Though the air facility principally handled civilian air traffic (it was planned to replace Ninoy Aquino International Airport as Metro Manila's primary airport), the Philippine Air Force maintained a presence there, and part of it was still known as Clark Air Base. The primary uses of the facility became a mix of demostartions, staging for deployments, and special operations activity. As of 2012, Clark Air Base hosts the 1st Air Division, Air Force Logistics Command, Air Force Reserve Command, 410th Maintenance Wing, 420th Supply Wing, 600th Air Base Wing, and 710th Special Operations Wing.