The Value of History in the Air Force

A talk with Dick Anderegg, Air Force Historian.

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Anderegg: First, it scared the devil out of me, so I was in pretty good company. The volcano was only a little more than eight miles from the west side of the base, and it exploded ten times as much ash into the air as Mt St Helen. As the wing second-in-command, my job was to head the crisis action team (CAT). The CAT planned our disaster response and directed the evacuation. We got 15,000 Americans off the base in less than six hours, and the first eruptions started 48 hours later. Too close, but thanks to a US Geological Survey Team the State Department sent to us, we had enough warning to get most away. Unfortunately, during the height of the eruptions a super-typhoon hit as well. We didn’t know if it was mudding rain, or raining mud! We lost over 100 buildings on the base with another 500 badly damaged, and the AF decided, wisely I think, to just close it down. It had been the largest US military installation outside the continental US. Almost unbelievably, no US citizens were killed, but the Filipinos nearby suffered badly and are still suffering today from the total rearrangement of their landscape by what turned out to be the second largest eruption of the Twentieth Century.

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