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The Story of Camp John Hay

From Page 2 of the

Camp John Hay Newsletter, January 1981

Baguio-CJH
Kennon Road
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     Following the Spanish American War, the Philippine Islands had become a territorial possession of the United States. With the many military and civilian employees stationed in the lowlands, the hunt began for a place with a more temperate climate where the troops and employees could recuperate from the rigors of the tropical heat in the lowlands. To this end several expeditions were sent into the mountain areas of the country. It was on one of these expeditions that the La Trinidad -- Baguio area was discovered. The climate was temperate, even cold during the nights. Magnificent pine trees abounded in the area, and the land was fertile and productive.

     This was what the Philippine Commission had been looking for and, in June 1903, a resolution was passed making Baguio the Summer Capital of the Philippine Islands. Later that year President Theodore Roosevelt reserved an area of 535 acres for military use in the area that was later to become Baguio City. This reservation was named Camp John Hay in honor of John Milton Hay, the secretary of state in President Mckinley’s and Roosevelt’s administrations. The area later grew to a maximum size of 1,764 acres. The U.S. government now has use of approximately 600 acres under the amended bases agreement of 1979. [added by ed: ‘of 1979, and up until the base was turned over to the Philippine government on July 1, 1991.]

     In 1905 a road from the lowlands through the Bued River Valley was completed, after 4 years of construction at a cost of over 2 million dollars. This road was named Kennon Road after the American Engineer who finally completed it, Major LW Kennon. Later that same year the Baguio Country Club was opened with a 3 hole golf course and croquet ground. By 1908 a Governor’s Residence (The Mansion House) and a hospital had been built in Baguio. Business and residential lots were being sold, and construction had begun on Camp John Hay.

     Through the years the land occupied by John Hay was tied up in litigation. Finally after 8 years, in a US Supreme Court decision, Camp John Hay was officially transferred to the US Military on 7 October 1910 for the price of 150,000 pesos.

General Bell Assumes Command

     In 1911, Major General J. Franklin Bell became Commanding General of the Philippine Department. It was during his tenure that most of the pre-war building of the camp was accomplished, including a dormitory (now the Main Club), paved roads, post exchange (now Snyder Hall, the Communications Building), hospital (now the Igorot Lodge), warehouses, headquarters, and the hydro electric plant that is still in use today. General Bell personally designed and supervised the construction of an open air amphitheater. This beautiful garden named after him is one of the major tourist attractions in the Baguio area today. Also about this time an eighteen-hole golf course with sand greens was constructed jointly between the Baguio Country Club and Camp John Hay.

     Camp John Hay and Baguio City continued to grow and prosper together into the 1920s. By that time John Hay had reached almost the full extent of its pre-war growth. There were three companies of Philippine Scouts stationed at Camp John Hay and Scout Barrio was constructed for their families.

      In 1940, the last major building on John Hay was completed -- the summer residence of the US High Commissioner, now the official Baguio residence of the American Ambassador.

      By early 1941, tension was beginning to build in the Philippine Islands as Japan began expanding towards Indonesia. In May of 1941 all American dependents in the Philippines were ordered back to the US as the Philippine Islands began bracing for the invasion that was sure to come from Japan. Many Japanese living in the Philippines were interred at Camp John Hay. On December 8, 1941, between 0830 and 0900, 27 Japanese bombers came over Baguio on their way to bomb Clark to the south. They flew over John Hay one time, turned around and unloaded bombs on the second pass. The first bomb to fall on the Philippine Islands exploded at Military Circle, the main gate to John Hay, inflicting the first casualties of the war.

     Within a month the Philippine Islands were occupied by Japanese, and Camp John Hay was turned into a concentration camp for American and British citizens. In April of 1942, John Hay became a Japanese Army Post. It was built into an important staging area and arsenal, from which the Japanese supplied their soldiers fighting in the mountains. They built many tunnels, trenches and pill boxes of reinforced cement. In January 1945, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Commanding Officer of the Japanese Imperial forces in the Philippines, moved his headquarters from Manila to Baguio in anticipation of the coming invasion of the allied forces. The headquarters was established in the Baguio General Hospital, but was frequently moved to John Hay in order to avoid the strafing and bombing of allied aircraft. General Yamashita chose the High Commissioner’s house for his residence.

     On 27 April 1945, the 33rd Division of the American Army moved into Baguio and continued eastward to John Hay. Like Baguio, Camp John Hay was in ruins. Most of the few buildings that had withstood the bombing were gutted by the retreating Japanese. The Officer’s Mess (now the Main Club) and Snyder Hall (now the communications building and gym) still stood but were badly damaged. The pre-war hospital still occupied the hill overlooking the vegetable garden that had once been a beautiful golf course. The general’s quarters and Bell Amphitheater had somehow miraculously escaped intact.

     Under the command of General Clarkson, Baguio underwent a rapid metamorphosis that turned it into a bustling rear echelon base to support the combat forces still active against the Japanese hiding in the mountains. Meanwhile the rehabilitation of John Hay had started under the command of Colonel Frank M. Smith. Rapidly, most of the main facilities were rebuilt and the famous John Hay Golf Course was reopened on November 17, 1945.

     On 23 August 1945, a general order was issued by AFWESPAC which determined the future of Camp John Hay as follows:
     "The Camp John Hay Leave and Furlough Center is established at Camp John Hay, Baguio, Mountain Province, Benguet Sub-Province, Philippine Islands, at 0001 hours, 24 August 1945. The mission and function of the Leave and Furlough Center are to provide facilities for rest, relaxation and recuperation to all military personnel stationed in the Luzon area of the Philippine Islands."

     On November 17, 1957, Camp John Hay was redesignated as John Hay Air Base. Through the years each succeeding commander has built on and improved this beautiful retreat high in the mountains of Northern Luzon. Today there are beautiful lodging, conference, club and recreation facilities to serve the thousands of US Forces personnel who annually come to this "Mountain Paradise."

     The city of Baguio and Camp John Hay were both founded early in the century, grew together and are traditionally considered as one entity. The harmony of the personnel at John Hay and the civilian community has become a cherished tradition and a source of great mutual respect. The gates of John Hay are open and Filipinos join Americans in one of the friendliest environments on earth, "Camp John Hay."

     On 9 Jan 1979, Free Title to Camp John Hay was returned to the Philippine Government by the U.S. Military.


Ed Note - From the page 12 credits block: "The Camp John Hay Information Letter, USAF Recreation Center, Baguio City, R.P., is an unofficial MWR Newsletter published in the interest of the personnel using the facilities at John Hay Air Station. Opinions expressed by writers herein are their own and not to be considered an official expression of the Air Force. The appearance of names of commercial establishments in this publication does not constitute an endorsement of commercial products or services by the Dept. of the Air Force. Publisher: Camp John Hay. Editor: Michael G. Claseman. Contributing Editor: B. J. Smith. Photographers: Rudy Somineg, Samuel Lopez. Printer: Baguio Printing & Publishing Co."


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