Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clark Veterans Cemetery

  Marine Corps Deaths, 1917-1921, Craig R. Scott available from
Marine Corps Deaths, 1917-1921, Craig R. Scott
available from

I am working on a book on Marine Corps Dead, 1917 to 1921. Always has been something that I wanted to do, so now I am doing it. It is almost finished. It actually was finished months ago, but I decided to add more information, like are they buried in Arlington, or in a National Cemetery. American Battle Monuments Commission has been helpful for those buried overseas. Then I decided, well if there was a Find A Grave entry, I at least should mention that there was such a thing. Nothing specific just that there was a entry.

USS Helena. Photo credit: Library of Congress.
USS Helena. Photo credit: Library of Congress.
While working I came across Corporal Paul Vincent Smith, Marine Detachment, USS Helena died in Hong Kong, China on June 27, 1921 of some disease. His sister, Ethel Bearde lived at 2 Bouton St., Norwalk, Connecticut at the time of his death according to Marine Corps records.

By consulting Find a Grave I found that he was buried in the Clark Veterans Cemetery, Clark Freeport Zone, Philippines. Reading about the cemetery I found that thousands of veterans are buried there. Especially, American soldiers and Filipino Scouts who served in the U.S. Army and other American veterans.

  Coffins of Spanish American War dead. Credit: Library of Congress.
Coffins of Spanish American War dead. Credit: Library of Congress.

It looks like the cemetery came into being about 1900 at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. Since I know from research in Quartermaster Records, years ago, that many Americans were disinterred in the Philippines and sent by way of Manila to San Francisco and then on to the next of kin, this was of interest to me.  The responsible organization for moving remains from the Philippines to the U.S. was the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, was the U.S. Burial Corps. They also move remains from Cuba. One day I hope to have a reason to touch those records again.

Fast forward past 8,600 burials including World War II, Vietnam and the Iraqi War (just one in 2004), and many dependents. Whereas in 1900 is was an army post called Fort Stotsenburg, now it was now a place named Clark Air Force Base. I place I visited many times during my two years in Subic Bay (different story). Prior to becoming Clark Air Force Base in 1948, the cemetery had been solely administered by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. In 1949 the U.S. Air Force assumed responsibility. In 1984 is was the last active USAF cemetery outside of the United States.

Then in 1991, Mount Pinatubo, an active volcano erupted, and buried the cemetery with eight inches of volcanic ash. In November 1991 the USAF left Clark Air Force Base. Basically the cemetery was forgotten about and abandoned by the U.S. Government.

In 1994, veterans belonging to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2485 stepped up to clean up this, what is a good word, disgrace. Since then VFW members has administered and maintained the cemetery at a level that prevented in from getting any worse. For such a massive task there is never enough volunteers or donations, but there is always a lot of hard work. They even kept the cemetery open to new burials of American and Philippine Scouts who had a valid DD Form 214. They did this by arrangement with the Philippine Government. Arrangements were something the Air Force failed to create when they left the ash behind.

The Clark Veterans Restoration Association was created to promote the cemetery and to advocate that the U.S. Government to reassume it responsibility to administer the cemetery.

Well, to say the least as I was learning all of this information, I was getting more and more irritated by the lack of concern on the part of the U.S. Government for our veterans. Maybe it was just me.

Then I learned that about ten days ago, President Obama signed a bill that turns the cemetery over to the American Battle Monuments Commission. $5M dollars to make it all right and get it into the ABMC system.

Evidently, in April 2012, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced "The Remembering America's Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act," which had 15 bipartisan co-sponsors. The act requires the ABMC to restore, operate and maintain the cemetery to honor those buried there.

I feel so much better. I just don't remember seeing this bipartisan effort on the news. Must just be me.

There is a picture of a tombstone at 121012af_Clark_Cemetery_500.JPG

A copy of the Ayotte bill is found at

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