History of Subic Bay


1572 - Juan de Salcedo, grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, arrives to collect tributes for Spain's King Philip II. On his return, Salcedo reports on Subic Bay's deep water, sheltered anchorages and strategic location.

1868 - The Spanish conduct a military expedition to determine if a suitable site exists in Subic Bay. They find that Subic Bay, with its deep water and healthy environment is an ideal place for a naval base.

1884 - King Alfonso II issues a Royal Decree officially declaring Subic Bay as a "naval port and the property appertaining thereto set aside for naval purposes".

March 8, 1885 - The Spanish Naval Commission authorizes the construction of "arsenal at Olongapo", with a gate, watch tower, several buildings, and railway connecting the hills of Olongapo and the bay. They also draw plans to fortify Grande Island.

April 25, 1898 - Outbreak of the Spanish-American War. Commodore George C. Dewey, Commander of the US Asiatic Squadron, is ordered to attack the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay.

April 27, 1898 - Rear Admiral Don Patricio Montojo y Pasaron moves his fleet to Subic Bay. Subic Bay's narrow entrance, guarded by Grande Island, makes it more defensible than Cavite. Upon inspection of Grande Island, however, Montojo finds that the Krupp guns are not in place due to lack of cement. He then withdraws from Subic and sets sail for Manila.

May 1, 1898 - Dewey annihilates Montojo's Spanish fleet during their encounter in Manila Bay. The Spaniards finally abandon their Naval Station in Subic. Dewey declares Subic Bay as "having no equal in the Philippine Islands."

July 5, 1898 - Filipino revolutionary soldiers, under Vicente Catalan, a Cuban-Spanish, "Admiral of the Philippine Navy," seize Subic.

1901 - US Navy selects Subic Bay for a repair and supply base site.

1903 - Theodore Roosevelt issues an executive order designating Subic Bay and 70,000 hectares of its adjacent lands as an American military reservation. In 1904, he writes that "if we are to exert the slightest influence in Western Asia... it is of the highest importance that we have a naval station at Subic Bay."

1904 - Subic Naval Station becomes operational and provides support to the US Asiatic Fleet. It is the largest US Marine Corps training facility in the world before World War I.

1906 - The Dewey Drydock arrives in Subic Bay from Virginia, USA. At that time it was the longest tow in history -- over 6 months and12,000 miles long. The Dewey could handle ships up to 20,000 tons, which at the same time meant she could handle the largest American ships at the station.

1907 - Asiatic cholera sweeps the Subic Bay, killing many Americans and Filipinos. However, the clean water and healthy atmosphere of an Olongapo saloon, owned by John Jacob Gordon, a former marine, is credited with saving lives.

1908 - After several failed attempts to convince the congress to fund the development of Subic, Roosevelt sums up the Philippine situation as a "humiliating experience." He pushes instead to develop a Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

December 24, 1941 - The Fourth Marine Regiment, tasked with defending Subic, withdraws to Bataan. THe USS New York is scuttled.

April 8, 1942 - After serving at Subic Bay for 35 years, the Dewey Drydock is scuttled at Mariveles harbor to prevent its falling into Japanese hands.

1942-1945 - The Japanese Imperial Army use Subic as their monitoring and defense facility until the end of World War II. The misuse by Japanese Army and the bombings during the war convert Subic into ruins.

January 29, 1945 - Forty thousand American troops land at Zambales and advance at Subic Bay. The base returns to US hands and is reactivated.

July 4, 1946 - Americans grant full independence to the Philippines. Olongapo remains under the administration of the US Naval Reservation.

March 14, 1947 - The RP-US Military Bases Agreement is signedsigned granting the US 99 years of rent-free use of 16 military installations, including Subic and the administration of the town of Olongapo.

October 2, 1951 - The Navy's Construction Unit Batallion I (CUBI), the famous seabees, start construction of the Naval Air Station.

July 25, 1956 - Naval Air Station completed and named Cubi Point in honor of the Seabee unit. The construction of the 8,000 foot runway involved the flattening of a 1,200 foot mountain and is said to be the digging of the Panama Canal.

December 7, 1959 - Under the RP-US Bases Treaty Agreement, Olongapo is turned over to the Philippines and converted to a municipality through the Executive Order No. 336 issued by then Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.



February 7, 1965 - With the Vietnam war escalating, Subic takes on the task of providing the upkeep and maintennance of shipsand supplies of food, fuel and ammunition to sustain the fleet in Western Pacific. Subic also becomes the premier Rest and Recreation destination in the Far East.

September 16, 1966 - The Ramos-Rusk Agreement transfers "sovereignty" over the bases to the Philippines and shortens the US presence to 25 years.

April 26-July5, 1975 - Grande Island is set up as a temporary refugee processing center for over 43,000 refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia during their exodus to the US.

1987 - A new Philippine constitution is approved. A transitory provision callsfor the removal of all foreign military installations in the country by 1992, unless a new treaty, ratified by the Senate, is signed.

January 1991 - Iraq invades Kuwait. The Gulf War breaks out. Subic becomes the staging ground for one of the biggest US military operations since the Vietnam War. Subic Bay is used in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations.

June 15, 1991 - Mount Pinatubo erupts forcing the Americans to abandon the heavily damaged Clark Air Base. American military personnel evacuated to Subic and nearby military facilities in Guam and Hawaii.

September 13, 1992 - The Philippine Senate rejects the 10-year bases Treaty of Frienship, Peace and Cooperation.

March 13, 1992 - Former Pres. Corazon C. Aquino approves the Republic Act No. 7227, known as the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992. Olongapo Mayor Richard J. Gordon is then appointed as the first chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

September 1992 - As agreed, the Americans formally turn over Subic Naval Base to the Philippine government. Olongapo residents start volunteering their services to protect and preserve Subic Bay.

November 1992 - The last American ship, helicopter carrier USS Belleau Wood, leaves the naval base, ending 94 years of American military presence in the Philippines. On the 24th, President Fidel V. Ramos and SBMA Chairman Richard J. Gordon raise the Philippine flag in front of SBMA Building 229.



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Copyright © September 1995.