World War II
Hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan attacked the Philippines, targeting the American military presence, as well as the Philippine Army, and taking over the civilian government. During the Japanese occupation in the country, 57,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war passed the town of Angeles. They were forced to join the Death March going to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. Angeleños showed their sympathy by handing them foods, milk, boiled eggs, rice cakes, cigarettes, and water. Angeleños followed them up to the train station in Dau to give moral and spiritual support, and even helped the escapees.
War historians considered the bombing of Fort Stotsenburg on December 8, 1941 at 12:30 p.m. as one of the most destructive air raids in World War II because almost all the American warplanes were wrecked on the ground. In thirty minutes, the air might of America in the Far East was completely destroyed.
On the early morning of the New Year’s Day of 1942, the first Japanese troops entered Angeles occupying it up to January 1945. During the Japanese invasion, another type of local government was set up on January 22, 1942. During the Japanese occupation, Clark Air 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.
The Americans recaptured Clark Air Base in January 1945, after three months of fierce fighting in the Philippines. After three years of atrocities committed by Japanese forces, the town and the rest of the Philippines were finally liberated by the combined United States and Philippine Commonwealth troops in 1945.
After World War II, the Philippines gained independence from the United States on July 4, 1946 but then would be tied to a neo-colonial relationship. The “Treaty of General Relations” signed on independence day itself signified the Americans’ withdrawal and surrender of possession, control and sovereignty over the Philippines, except the use of their bases.
It was followed by the Philippine-American Military Bases Agreement on March 14, 1947, allowing the U.S. to maintain territorial integrity and sovereignty over Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base for the next 44 years. Clark occupied 63,103 hectares and served as the tactical operational U.S. air force installation in the entire Southeast Asian region that had the capacity to accommodate the U.S. military transport planes, which served the entire Western Pacific.
Due to the presence of the U.S. base, Angeles has become home to a large colony of expatriates as many Americans chose to permanently settle in Angeles, particularly in the Balibago district. During the American colonial period (1898–1946), more than 800,000 Americans were born in the Philippines and a large concentration of Filipino mestizos or Filipinos with American ancestry were located in this city.
Mount Pinatubo eruption and Angeles today:
On June 15, 1991, Angeles was affected by the cataclysmic eruption of nearby Mount Pinatubo, with up to 60,000 people being evacuated from the city. It was the second-largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century and, by far, the largest eruption to affect a densely populated area. Angeles and Clark were badly hit and the agricultural lands, as well as other businesses, were covered by tons of lahar.
There were no casualties reported inside Clark since two days before the initial eruption, the 18,000 personnel and their families were transported to Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Guam, most of whom were returned to the United States.
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo forced the hand of the U.S. to prematurely abandon its military installation at Clark Air Base. This is in addition to the voting by the Philippine Senate in 1991 to no longer extend the Laurel–Langley Agreement, which allows the presence of U.S. military forces on Philippine territory, thus ending the long chapter of Filipino-American relations in the history of Angeles.
The U.S. military never returned to Clark, turning over the damaged base to the Philippine government on November 26, 1991. In 1993, cleanup and removal of volcanic ash deposits began. The former base re-emerged as Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) approved by then President Fidel V. Ramos on April 3 of the same year and in 2001, Clark International Airport was renamed Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in honor of Diosdado Macapagal, the father of the president at the time, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The airfield infrastructure was improved and destined to be the premiere airport in the country in the next five years and one of the most modern in Asia. The creation of CSEZ has helped to offset the loss of income and jobs previously generated by the presence of the U.S. base in Angeles. Today, Angeles and Clark together form the hub for business, industry, aviation and tourism, as well as the entertainment and gaming center of Central Luzon.