Table 4

Three Hours in the Life and Death of the Far East Air Force,

The Philippines , December 8, 1941 [a]

11:20 A.M.

Unit[b] or Location 

Information, Orders, and Actions

Clark Field

19th

B-17s on ground for refueling and servicing after flights to avoid expected Japanese attack earlier in morning. Lt. Col. Eubank receives FEAF Field Order 1 to fly a reconnaissance mission (3 B-17s) over Formosa .  Eubank orders remaining B-17s to stand by for afternoon bombing mission. 

24th

Receives information from AWS about Japanese aircraft flying south over South China Sea. 

 

 

17th 

17th P.S., based at Nichols, on ground at Clark after fruitless patrol north of Clark to intercept Japanese bombers that turned east before reaching its patrol line.

20th

20th P.S., based at Clark, also on ground after fruitless patrol.

Del Carmen  Field

34th

P-35As on ground after patrol over Clark earlier in morning.

Iba Field

 3rd

P-40s on ground.

Nichols Field

21st

P-40s on ground.

11:30 – 11: 45 A.M.               

Place or Unit

Information, Orders, and Actions

AWS

Sends warning sent to 24th P.G. and other FEAF units by radio and teletype:  Two groups of Japanese aircraft headed south:  one over South China Sea, other over northern Luzon.

24th

In response to AWS, Major Grover radios orders to three (or two)  of the five pursuit squadrons in the group. 

 

3rd

3rd P.S. ordered to take off and patrol at 15,000 feet over Iba point to block any Japanese aircraft flying south over China Sea.

17th

17th P.S. in process of refueling at Clark; no orders

20th

20th P.S. in process of refueling at Clark; no orders

21st

21st P.S. ordered to take off and cover Clark Field

34th

34th P.S. ordered to take off and patrol over Manila .[c]

19th

Lt. Col. Eubank received FEAF Field Order 2 to launch attack on Formosa in afternoon.  Of 19 B-17s at Clark, 3 are being readied for reconnaissance mission, 2 are on patrol, 1 out of commission; leaving 13 for bombing mission.

11:45 A.M. – 12:10 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

AWS

Sends another warning about approaching Japanese aircraft to 24th P.G. and other FEAF units at 11:45.

 24th

Major Grover changes orders and issues new orders.    

3rd

3rd P.S. ordered to change from patrolling over Iba Point and to fly to Manila .  10 of the 3rd’s P-40s turn toward Manila ;[d] others don’t hear order; continue to patrol Iba Point.

17th

At urging of 17th PS C.O. Lt. Buzz Wagner, Major Grover orders 17th P.S. to take off from Clark and patrol over Manila Bay area at 18,000 feet.

20th

20th PS held on ground at Clark.

21st

21stPS, headed for Clark, ordered to turn south to cover Manila Bay .[e]   12 P-40s hear orders and turn south toward Manila .  4 P-40s that take off late don’t hear changed order about Manila; head for Clark. 

34th

No orders for 34th that remains on ground at Del Carmen.

19th

19th Bomb Group does not receive warning about approaching Japanese airplanes.

12:15 – 12:20 P.M. 

Unit or place  

Information, Orders, and Actions

AWS

Waiting until approaching aircraft about 15 minutes from Clark, Colonel George sends teletype, “Kickapoo,” to 24th.  “Kickapoo” code word for “Go get ‘em!”[f]

 24th

Order goes out from 24th:  “Tally Ho, Clark Field!  Tally Ho, Clark Field!”

12:20 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

3rd

8 of 10 P-40s headed for Manila receive radio message, “Tally Ho, Clark Field.”  Turn toward Clark; two that don’t get message, fall behind.  Remaining 8 P-40s of squadron over Iba Point.

17th

17th PS continues on way to Manila Bay .

 

20th

20th PS still held on ground at Clark.

21st

4 P-40s that made late takeoff from Nichols, headed for Clark, hear “Tally Ho” from Clark.  Remainder of squadron doesn’t hear “Tally Ho,” and continues toward Manila Bay .

19th

No warning message received from AWS or 24th.

12:30 PM

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

 

3rd

8 P-40s of 3rd PS arrive and circle over Clark.  Seeing no enemy, head for Iba to refuel.

 

21st

4 P-40s of 21st PS arrive over Clark, see 3rd P.S. aircraft, and follow them, bound for Iba.  

 

12:35 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

Clark Field

53 Japanese bombers (Nells and Betties) and 34 Zeros appear over airfield at 20,000 feet or higher. Begin bombing.

24th

Major Grover, when informed about large number of aircraft overhead, questions their identification as Japanese.  He’s assured that there are more planes overhead than U.S. could put up.  Air raid siren turned on.  Bombs fall.

 

20th

C.O. Lt. Joe Moore sees aircraft overhead, hoists red flag to signal take off.  Moore and two other pilots get airborne.  Rest are killed or can’t take off because of bombs.

3rd

Five P-40s patrolling over Iba Point hear “All pursuit to Clark Field.  Enemy bombers overhead,” and turn toward Clark.  Eight P-40s that had been at Clark and are on way to Iba do not hear message and continue toward Iba.  Two P-40s that had fallen behind those that went to Clark hear message and head for Clark. 

21st

4 P-40s, following 3rd pursuits toward Iba, hear radio message from Clark and turn toward Clark.  Remainder of squadron, over Manila Bay , hears nothing, continues patrolling.

19th

Lt. Col. Eubank hears siren.  Having had no warning of approaching Japanese aircraft, he steps outside his HQ building to see first bombs explode. 

12:38 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

Clark Field

Japanese bombs hit hangers and other installations, airborne pursuit pilots see massive smoke clouds billow up.  Acts of heroism and survival on the ground.  Overhead, untouched by U.S. interceptors or antiaircraft fire, Japanese bombers complete bombing and turn back toward Formosa .  Zeros descend as bombers begin flights back to Formosa and begin strafing runs.

19th

Lt. Col. Eubank finds “only a few had been badly hit” during bombing.

12:40 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

 

21st

4 P-40s arrive over Clark and, outnumbered, attack Japanese strafers without seriously disrupting them.  P-40s abandon the unequal fight.

12:44 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

Iba Field

53 bombers and 51 Zeros attack.  After unopposed bombing, bombers fly off toward Formosa , Zeros descend to strafe.  Bombing destroys Iba radar, the only operational radar in the Philippines .

 

3rd

Some P-40s in process of landing when bombs fall; those and P-40s on ground destroyed.  Some P-40s in flight see Japanese aircraft and begin climbing toward them.  Outnumbered and outmaneuvered, the P-40s are chased away.

 

12:48 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

Clark Field

Largely unopposed, Japanese Zeros strafe and destroy B-17s and P-40s.  One squadron of Zeros has orders to fly to Del Carmen and strafe before heading back to Formosa .  Remainder will head back to Formosa .

3rd   

Four 3rd PS P-40s engage Zeros.  Some victories claimed, and all U.S. pilots survive.  P-40s have no discernible effect on Japanese strafers.  5 more P-40s arrive, fly above smoke, and don’t see strafers.  At radio message, “Many bombers, Iba!” the 3rd PS pilots head for their home base.

12:50 P.M.

Place or Unit  

Information, Orders, and Actions

Manila

 

17th

17 P-40s continue patrol over Manila, receive no messages from 24th, and don’t see smoke from Clark.  The 17 P.S. pilots also do not see 21st P.S. P-40s that are 12 miles south.

 

21st

12 P-40s patrol over Manila Bay and Cavite Navy Yard.  Like the pilots of the 17th, the 21st pilots receive no messages from the 24th, see no smoke, don’t see the pursuits of the 17th.

1:00 P.M.

Place or Unit

Information, Orders, and Actions

Del Carmen Field

A squadron of Zeros flies from Clark toward Del Carmen and approaches Del Carmen just as the 34th is taking off.

 

34th

34th PS C.O. Lt. Sam Marett leads 18 P-35As into air after seeing smoke from Clark.  (The 34th had received no orders from 24th.)  34th engages Zeros between Del Carmen and Clark, several pursuits badly shot up, but none shot down, and no pilots killed.

1:10 P.M.

Place or Unit

Information, Orders, and Actions

Between Clark and Iba Fields

 

 

 20th

Lt. Joe Moore reaches 21,000 feet, 35 minutes after takeoff.  With two wingmen takes on 9 Zeros.  Fight ends and Americans look for landing places.

1:25 P.M.

Place or Unit

Information, Orders, and Actions

North of Clark Field

Last of Japanese strafers form up for flight back to Formosa . 

U.S. airfields, Luzon

U.S. pursuits land at damaged Iba and Clark, at undamaged Nichols and Del Carmen, and at auxiliary air strips.

Clark Field

FEAF

About 75 officers and 150 enlisted men killed in the attacks on December 8.

 

19th

Of 19 B-17s at Clark, 12 destroyed, 3 damaged but repairable, 2 repaired by end of day, 2 that were airborne at time of attack undamaged.

 24th

34 P-40s destroyed; 58 remain operational 

3rd

essentially eliminated as functional unit

17th

reasonably intact, squadron didn’t see combat

20th

essentially eliminated as functional unit

21st

reasonably intact, most of squadron didn’t see combat

34th

no planes lost, but pilots knew their P-35As could not survive in combat with Zeros. 



[a]Abbreviations used in this table:

FEAF      Far East Air Force

24th         24th Pursuit Group at Clark Field commanded by Major Orrin Grover

3rd           3rd Pursuit Squadron at Iba Field commanded by Lieutenant Hank Thorne

17th         17th Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field commanded by Lieutenant Buzz Wagner

20th         20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark Field commanded by Lieutenant Joe Moore

21st          21st Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field commanded by Lieutenant Edwin Dyess.

34th         34th Pursuit Squadron at Del Carmen Field commanded by 1st Lieutenant Sam Marett.

AWS       Air Warning Service at FEAF HQ, Nielson Field, part of 5th Interceptor Command.  Colonel Harold L. George commanded the 5th Interceptor Command, and Lt. Colonel Alexander Campbell commanded the AWS..       

 

19th         19th Bomb Group at Clark Field commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Eubank, composed of Headquarters Squadron, 28th, and 30th Bomb Squadrons.  

[b] Subordinate units appear in indented boxes.  For instance, squadron numbers appear to the right of the group number.  All the listed pursuit squadrons were part of the 24th Pursuit Group.  

[c] Italics are used to indicate disputed messages.  Although there are records or memories of such messages, other records or memories do not mention or support them.  In this case, based on an interview with a veteran of December 8, 1941, Bartsch (1992, at p. 444) reports that the 34th received no orders to fly cover over Clark or any other orders.

[d] According to Bartsch (1992) at p. 444, Major Grover does not mention sending this order to the 3rd P.S. in his “Narrative of the Activities of the 24th Pursuit Group in the Philippine Islands,” Brisbane Australia, October 7, 1942.

[e] Major Grover does not mention radioing this order to the 21st (Bartsch, 1992, at p. 444).

[f] Bartsch (1992) at p. 445 states, “It is assumed that this message reached Major Grover, though neither he nor his staff acknowledge receiving it.”  This message was possibly the basis for the subsequent “Tally Ho!” from Clark. (Bartsch, 1992 at p. 445).