The Sole Survivor

On 28 October 1987, communist assassins struck almost simultaneously outside Clark Air Base in Angeles City, killing three United States citizens in what would be the first of a series of attacks against American interests in the Philippines.

I remember that Black Wednesday incident very well not only because it was the first article I submitted as the new correspondent of the Manila Chronicle in Pampanga but also because it was my first banner story for the paper.

I remember that Black Wednesday incident very well not only because it was the first article I submitted as the new correspondent of the Manila Chronicle in Pampanga but also because it was my first banner story for the paper.

Four Americans were targeted in the four attacks that were carried out at past four that afternoon by death squads of the New People’s Army (NPA) that were popularly known as Sparrow Units. All the attacks were carried out within two miles of Clark.

Sgt. Randy Davis was gunned down across the McDonald’s Restaurant in Dau while walking home. Airman First Class Steven Faust was driving out of Carmenville Subdivision on his way to Clark when he was ambushed by armed men who also shot and killed Joseph Porter, a Filipino-American businessman who tried to help him. Gunmen also shot dead retired Air Force Sgt. Herculeano Mangenti outside Hensonville Subdivision.

The fourth target was US Air Force Capt. Raymond Pulsifer II, an electronic warfare officer from Oregon who was flying in one of the F4G Wild Weasels assigned at Clark. Captain Pulsifer was the sole survivor of the attacks that made the headlines around the world the next day.

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I was able to connect with Captain Pulsifer a few years ago when I was still assigned at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. and was able to interview him for the book that I have been trying to put together about the October 28 incident that authorities say the NPA dubbed “Operation Long Nose.”

Captain Pulsifer recounted to me that he was supposed to go to the Angeles Electric Company offices at the Nepo Complex when the incident happened. He had left Clark on his Porsche 911 and had just cruised past Sunset Subdivision when two men emerged from both sides of the road, pulled out .45 caliber pistols, aimed at him and then just started shooting.

Bullets struck the front, side and back of Pulsifer’s sports car but he was lucky that day as he managed to virtually fly out of the kill zone. He zoomed past the two assassins, made a hard left turn at the Angeles-Porac Road and then another left towards Carmenville Subdivision and all the way to the police outpost near the Friendship Gate. It was there that he realized he was driving with flat tires.

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He was shaken but otherwise unscathed and was escorted back to Clark by an agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (OSI) who passed by the police station. The agent told him there were three other attacks that resulted in the deaths of several Americans. He was told he was the sole survivor.

While Captain Pulsifer was being debriefed, an agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation noticed what appeared to be a small hole in the breast pocket of his flight suit. It turned out to a bullet hole from one of the rounds that penetrated his windshield.

While Captain Pulsifer was being debriefed, an OSI agent noticed white powder that was coming out of a small hole in the breast pocket of his flight suit. It turned out to a bullet hole from one of the rounds that penetrated his windshield.

He did not feel the impact of the bullet as he was most likely hit at the exact moment he stepped on the gas pedal. What saved Captain Pulsifer that day was his wallet containing a thick wad of peso bills, checks and credit cards that he had in that pocket.

“Sometimes it does not feel like 30 years ago. Sometimes, I can still see every detail,” Captain Pulsifer told me after I messaged him to remind him how fortunate he was for cheating death in the hands of the NPA not just once but twice.

26026_110370412310734_2975115_n.jpgOnly few people knew that a year before the 1987 incident outside Clark, Captain Pulsifer and a fellow American officer were captured and held by communist guerrillas they encountered while climbing Mount Arayat also in Pampanga.

They were on their way to the summit from the Arayat side when they stumbled upon a group of armed men they thought were forest rangers. Unknown to the two Americans, they walked right into a plenum of ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Pampanga. The armed men they encountered were NPA guerrillas securing the meeting.

They only realized they were NPA guerrillas when they prevented Captain Pulsifer and his companion from proceeding and detained them for several hours while they were holding the meeting.

Upon realizing who the Filipino men were, the two officers began talking in German. The two also did not say they were US Air Force officers and pretended to be enlisted men on a hike up the mountain when the guerrillas began asking them about their background.

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Later in the afternoon, the guerrillas ended their meeting and began their descent to the village at the foot of the mountain. They decided not to bring the two Americans with them. Captain Pulsifer and his companion then quickly made their way up the mountain and went down on the other side.

As a result of this misadventure, the US 13th Air Force declared Mount Arayat off limits to US military and civilian personnel. If Captain Pulsifer thought his brief ordeal as an NPA prisoner of war was his first and last encounter with communist guerrillas, he was mistaken as a year later, he would have that second close encounter with them.

A lucky guy indeed.

 

 

Photos Courtesy of Maj. Raymond Pulsifer II

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