Nielson Field

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Nielson Field
Fifth Air Force - Emblem (World War II).svg
Part of Fifth Air Force
Makati, Philippines
Old Nielson Field Terminal.jpg
Nielson Field Tower, which is now a restaurant
Philippines location map (square).svg
Red pog.svg
Nielson Field
Nielson Field, Philippines
Coordinates 14°33′02.06″N121°01′46.08″E / 14.5505722°N 121.0294667°E / 14.5505722; 121.0294667 Coordinates: 14°33′02.06″N121°01′46.08″E / 14.5505722°N 121.0294667°E / 14.5505722; 121.0294667
TypeMilitary airfield
Site information
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Site history
In use1937-1948
The plaque at the entrance to Nielson Tower NielsonPlaque.JPG
The plaque at the entrance to Nielson Tower
Nielson Field in flames after a Japanese attack on December 10, 1941 Nielson.jpg
Nielson Field in flames after a Japanese attack on December 10, 1941

Nielson Field (Luzon, the Philippines) was the location of the Far East Air Force headquarters. Most of the aircraft of the FEAF were based at either Clark Field or Nichols Field. The cultural site was an Honourable Mention in the 2001 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards. [1]

Luzon largest island of the Philippines

Luzon is the largest and most populous island in the Philippines. It is ranked 15th largest in the world by land area. Located in the northern portion of the archipelago, it is the economic and political center of the nation, being home to the country's capital city, Manila, as well as Quezon City, the country's most populous city. With a population of 53 million as of 2015, it is the fourth most populous island in the world, containing 52.5% of the country's total population.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.

Far East Air Force (United States) Former military aviation organization of the United States Army in the Philippines

The Far East Air Force (FEAF) was the military aviation organization of the United States Army in the Philippines just prior to and at the beginning of World War II. Formed on 16 November 1941, FEAF was the predecessor of the Fifth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Air Force.


Laurie Reuben Nielson

Laurie Reuben Nielson was one of the many foreigners attracted by the business opportunities in the Philippines and moved to the country before World War II. Born in New Zealand, Nielson and his American wife, Annette, arrived in Manila in the early-to-mid-1930s. He established himself in local business, setting up his own firm, L. R. Nielson & Company, and making inroads in the securities and stock brokerage business, importing, and mining. Nielson also sat on the board of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation branch in Manila.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Hong Kong bank, subsidiary of HSBC

HSBC, officially known as The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, is a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC, the largest bank in Hong Kong, and operates branches and offices throughout the Asia Pacific region, and in other countries around the world. It is also one of the three commercial banks licensed by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to issue banknotes for the Hong Kong dollar.

Nielson was an avid aviation enthusiast; with this, he became involved in a project to build an aviation school and airport in Manila. It was an ideal time for pursuing the project because there was a real need for an airport to support the increased economic activity in the country, especially in the mining industry, at the same time, the Quezon government was encouraging infrastructure projects. Nielson convinced several other Manila-based foreign investors to join him in the project and construction of the airport proceeded after the group leased 42 hectares of land in Makati from Ayala y Compañía. When it was inaugurated in July 1937, the Nielson Airport was being touted as the biggest and best-equipped in Asia.

Manuel L. Quezon president of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944

Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina was a Filipino statesman, soldier and politician who served as president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944. He was the first Filipino to head a government of the entire Philippines, and is considered to have been the second president of the Philippines, after Emilio Aguinaldo (1899–1901).

Ayala Corporation publicly listed holding company for the diversified interests of the Ayala Group

Ayala Corporation is the publicly listed holding company for the diversified interests of the Ayala Group. Founded in the Philippines by Domingo Róxas and Antonio de Ayala during the Spanish colonial rule, it is the country's oldest and largest conglomerate. The company has a portfolio of diverse business interests, including investments in retail, education, real estate, banking, telecommunications, water infrastructure, renewable energy, electronics, information technology, automotive, healthcare, and management and business process outsourcing. As of November 2015, it is the country's largest corporation in terms of assets ($48.7B).

After the outbreak of the war and the invasion of Manila by Japanese forces in 1942, Nielson and his family were detained by the Japanese authorities. Nielson's wife and two sons were brought to the internment camp at the University of Santo Tomas. Nielson, because he was British, was taken for internment in Hong Kong. Nielson was never seen or heard from again.

University of Santo Tomas private pontifical university in Manila

The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines, or simply the University of Santo Tomas (UST), is a private, Roman Catholic research university in Manila, Philippines. Founded on April 28, 1611 by Miguel de Benavides, Archbishop of Manila, it has the oldest extant university charter in the Philippines and in Asia, and is one of the world's largest Catholic universities in terms of enrollment found on one campus. The university is run by the Order of Preachers. UST is the only university to have been visited by three popes four times: once by Pope Paul VI on November 28, 1970, twice by Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981 and January 13, 1995, and once by Pope Francis on January 18, 2015. The patron of the university is St. Thomas Aquinas, while St. Catherine of Alexandria is the patroness.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Hong Kong Special administrative region of China

Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is a special administrative region on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With over 7.4 million people of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world.

By the time the Philippines was liberated from the Japanese, Nielson's businesses and most of his properties were all gone. After his wife and two sons left the Philippines and returned to the United States for good, Nielson's only remaining legacy to the Philippines was the airport he had built.

Nielson Airport

The property on which the airport stood was part of the Hacienda San Pedro de Macati owned by the Zóbel de Ayala family. The hacienda encompassed most of what is now the city of Makati. When Enrique Zóbel de Ayala (18771943), then senior managing partner at Ayala y Compañía, and a special aide to President Manuel L. Quezon, found out about the Nielson group's proposal to the government to build an airport on a turnkey basis, he immediately offered a portion of the hacienda as a possible site for the facility. It was an ideal location for the airport because Makati was then just a sparsely populated town adjacent to Manila. The site was located on a hard tract of land jutting from rice fields, clearly visible from the air, allowing clear approaches from all sides.

Makati Highly Urbanized City in National Capital Region, Philippines

Makati, officially the City of Makati, or simply known as Makati City, is a 1st class highly urbanized city in Metro Manila, Philippines.

Enrique Zóbel de Ayala Filipino political figure

Enrique Jacobo Pedro Luis Plácido Zóbel de Ayala, was a Spanish Filipino industrialist and philanthropist who became the first patriarch of the Zóbel de Ayala family. He was also one of the leaders in the Philippine Falange during the 1930s and 1940s.

The Nielson Airport became the base of the American Far Eastern School of Aviation. More importantly, with the introduction of commercial air services at the airport, it became the primary gateway between Manila and the rest of the country and, later, between the Philippines and the world. The Philippine Aerial Taxi Company (PATCO), the first airline company in the Philippines, and the Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company, the first Filipino-owned air service, started operating from the Nielson Airport. When Philippine Air Lines was established, its very first flight took off in March 1941 from the Nielson Airport for Baguio.

Baguio City of the Philippines

Baguio, officially the City of Baguio and popularly referred to as Baguio City, is a city in the mountainous area of the Northern Luzon, Philippines. It is known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, owing to its cool climate since the city is located approximately 4,810 feet above mean sea level, often cited as 1,540 meters in the Luzon tropical pine forests ecoregion, which also makes it conducive for the growth of mossy plants, orchids and pine trees, to which it attributes its other moniker as the "City of Pines".

As a response to the expansionist policy of Japan, authorities in the Philippines set up the Far East Air Force (FEAF) headquarters at the Nielson Airport. Commercial flights at the airport were halted in October 1941 and the private carriers were asked to relocate their services to make room for the U.S. Army Air Forces.

When Japanese planes attacked the Philippines on 8 December 1941, the planes were actually spotted by a radar station in Northern Luzon, which immediately alerted the FEAF headquarters at Nielson. Unfortunately, by the time FEAF officers were finally able to get through to Clark Air Base in Pampanga, it was already too late and Japanese bombs were already dropping on Clark. By December 9, Nielson Airport was also under siege. After the Americans and Filipinos were forced to retreat from the Philippines and the Japanese occupation forces took over, the latter sequestered Nielson and turned the airport's radio tower and passenger terminal into a headquarters. When Manila was liberated, the Americans and the Filipinos were again able to wrest control of the airport from the Japanese. The partially damaged airport and its facilities were fully restored and commercial air services, including international flights, resumed in 1946.

In 1948, when the airport ceased operations in Makati to relocate to its present site adjacent to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, ownership of the airport's permanent facilities was passed on to the owner of the land, Ayala y Compañía. Although the runways were eventually converted into roads - the secondary runway (runway 07/25) became Paseo de Roxas and the primary runway (runway 12/30) became Ayala Avenue - and other airport structures were sacrificed to give way to the development of the Makati business and commercial district, the owners preserved the airport's passenger terminal and control tower, which came to be known as the Nielson Tower.

Nielson Tower

In the succeeding years, various uses were found for the Nielson Tower, a two-story concrete structure designed to resemble an airplane from a bird's-eye view. At one point, it served as the headquarters of a police detachment. It also housed the offices of the Ayala-owned Integrated Property Management Corporation for several years.

From the late 1970s up to April 1994, a group of Filipino investors leased the tower for a semi-private, first-class club and restaurant. In 1996, after almost two years of renovation work, the Nielson Tower became the home of the Filipinas Heritage Library before its transfer to the Ayala Museum. In 2014, Nielson Tower became the home of Blackbird Restaurant.

Former Airlines and Destinations


{{Airport-dest-list | KLM Interinsulair Bedrijf | Batavia | Pan American World Airways | Bangkok, Calcutta, Guam, Hong Kong, Macau, Midway Island, Honululu, San Francisco, Wake Island | Philippine Air Lines | Baguio, Bangkok, Batavia, Hong Kong, Honululu, San Francisco, Tokyo

See also

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PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website .