John Hay Air Base, more commonly known as Camp John Hay, was a major hill station located near Baguio City used for rest and recreation for personnel and dependents of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines as well as Department of Defense employees and their dependents. It was last run by the United States Air Force. While officially designated a communications station, the facility was mainly used for rest and recreation. The facility housed The American Residence as well as Broadcasting facilities of the Voice of America.
The first Japanese bomb to be dropped on the the Philippines hit the Main Gate and the succeeding bombs hit the Half Way House, the Mile High Club, the left wing of the Main Club and portions of the Scout Hill area, which housed the stockade and barracks of the Philippine Scouts.
The Japanese set up their first internment camp in the Philippines at Camp John Hay. A group of more than 500 men, women and children was crowded into one building. The group consisted of missionaries, miners and two Army nurses. The missionaries had been evacuated from China the preceding year and had established a language school in the Philippines while awaiting the opportunity to return to China. The miners, some of whom were actually lumbermen, had been living and working near Baguio. The Army nurses were those first captured after their unsuccessful attempt to escape to Manila via the logging trail out of Baguio.
The building, which the Japanese selected for the internees was an old barracks that had not been used by the Army for several years because it was declared unsafe for occupancy. Designed for 50 men, the building now housed the prisoners, making the only walking space a small aisle in the center. Bedding was on the floor and each bed was rolled into a bundle during the day to allow for more space. After a few weeks, because of the obvious need, an additional building was obtained for male internees.
The first project for the weary internees was to clean the building. Water had to be carried for one mile as the water main had been broken during the bombing. Drinking water was boiled as chemicals were not available. Lack of water, outside latrines, lack of screens for doors and windows, crowded buildings and the general lethargy of the internees contributed to poor sanitation. Due to poor sanitation, intestinal diseases soon developed. Dysentery became so prevalent among the children, and adults as well, that a small dispensary was set up in the barracks.
Many of the original buildings, which were used as prisons still stand, such as the building now occupied by the Lonestar Steakhouse, the Base Chapel and the adjoining rows of cottages.
During the Japanese occupation, General Tomoyuki Yamashita used the American Residence as his headquarters and official residence.
On April 26, 1945, Baguio City and Camp John Hay fell into American hands. American forces pursued the retreating Japanese into the forests of the Benguet Mountains. Finally, on September 3, 1945 Yamashita surrendered to General Jonathan Wainwright at the American Residence. British General Arthur Percival stood as witness. These two Generals, who were both defeated by Yamashita, especially flew up to Baguio to accept the surrender of Yamashita.
Just before the facility was turned over to the Philippines, it had 290 fully-furnished rooms in the different cottages, duplexes, apartments, and lodges, which are scattered about the complex. Some of these billeting units were equipped with color television sets, refrigerators, and cooking facilities.
The base's popular spots are the 19th Tee, Halfway House, Scout Hill baseball field, Main Club (also known as Officer's Building), and the well-known Mile-Hi Recreation Center. It was off-limits to the general public, except for some who had access due to connections or official business.
Camp John Hay was formally turned over to the Philippine government on July 1, 1991 and was initially administered by the Philippine Tourism Authority and then turned over to the Bases Conversion Development Authority.
The American Residence was constructed in 1940 and was envisioned to be the summer residence of the Governor-General of the Philippines. With the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the American Residence became the summer residence of the United States High Commissioner to the Philippines and with the granting of Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, became the summer residence of the United States Ambassador to the Philippines.
When the Americans turned over John Hay to the Philippines, the Philippine Government reportedly requested the U.S. Government to include The American Residence in the transfer; this request was denied by the Americans. During Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone's term, the U.S. State Department wanted to give up the residence because it was costing too much to maintain. The Ambassador was able to convince the State Department to keep it because of its historical value.
During the term of Ricciardone, the Philippines' National Historical Institute installed a marker on the residence, which reads:
This building was completed in 1940 to serve as the summer residence of the US High Commissioner of [sic] the Philippines. During World War II, Japanese military and political leaders occupied the residence from December 28, 1941, until April 27, 1945, when Allied Forces and Filipino guerrillas liberated the city of Baguio, forcing the Japanese to withdraw into the surrounding mountains. On September 2, 1945, as the Japanese surrendered to Allied Forces in Tokyo, Commander of the Japanese Army in the Philippines General Tomoyuki Yamashita emerged from hiding in Kiangan to surrender and was brought to Baguio. In this building on September 3, 1945, at 1210 hours, General Yamashita and Vice Admiral Denhici Okochi, Commander of the Japanese Navy in the Philippines, formally surrendered to United States' Forces represented by Major General Edmond H. Leavey, Deputy Commander of the United States Army Forces, Western Pacific. They signed the Instrument for Surrender, which completed the surrender of all Japanese Forces in the Philippines and officially ended the war here. Since 1946, the US Embassy has used the residence for meetings, receptions and staff retreats.
At present, the former American R&R facility serves as a tourist attraction. Among its current major attractions are the Par-69 golf course, several restaurants and shops, and The Manor and The Suites at Camp John Hay