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Fiery Vigil, Philippines NEO, June 1991

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Operation Fiery Vigil

Following the 12 June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, US forces evacuated Clark Air Force Base and most personnel from Subic Bay Naval Base. The commanding general, 13th USAF, was in command of the JTF.

The first, low-level eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines occurred on 9 June 1991. The Secretary of Defense authorized evacuation of all non-essential military and DOD civilian personnel and their dependents at Clark Air Base to safe haven elsewhere in the Philippines. Evacuation began at 0600 local on 10 June. Shortly thereafter, a massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo occurred on 15 June that sent debris over 100,000 feet into the air and then down onto Clark, burying the base under one to two feet of ash. Those who fled the base never went back, but rather were evacuated to Andersen Air Force Base and processed through Guam for final return to the continental United States.

A team of 11 engineers and utility systems specialists from Headquarters PACAF and the 554th RED HORSE arrived at Clark Air Base on 22 June to assess the damage caused by Mount Pinatubo to determine the fate of the base. On 12 July, the Secretary of the Air Force announced the Air Force would leave the Philippines no later than 16 September 1992. On 4 September, a lahar, 20 to 40 feet high and almost 200 feet wide, smashed along the southern boundary of Clark Air Base, sweeping away a security policeman who was subsequently rescued.

The Secretary of the Air Force visited Clark Air Base on 5 November and paid tribute to those who remained throughout the volcanic activity and cleanup-the Ash Warriors. The American flag was lowered for the last time on 26 November 1991 by those Ash Warriors and Clark Air Base was turned over to the government of the Philippines, ending over 90 years of US presence at the base.
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