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Yeah sure. So go ahead anytime you feel comfortable. Go ahead and ask your question. Interviewer: Well, could you discuss the value of the base or the bases in the Philippines? Well, the value of our facilities in the Philippines, particularly and I will address Subic Bay first. Subic Bay is our key facility in the Western Pacific. To me, it's key to our remaining a western Pacific power. Now some of the operations and the specific things that we do at Subic and which Subic is able to support. For example, we have 70 ship visits a month. We have 13,000 landings and take-offs a month at QB point. Subic is our key supply depot, not only for our Western Pacific operations but also those supporting our Indian
Ocean presence. Aside from the operational aspects, strategically as I mentioned it is key to our remaining a Western Pacific power. Without those facilities in the Philippines, in order for me to exercise the same type of war of presence and war fighting capability that I can today through the use of those facilities, if I were forced to move withdraw to another area and in order to exercise that same type of presence and war fighting capability I would need two to three times the amount of resources that I have today in certain categories and we know that's not going to happen and you know... Interviewer: Can I just stop you for a second?
Yeah. And of course when the self-appointed experts who come through Subic and glibly say that we have other options, let me tell you there are no good other options and it really misses the true strategic dimension of the issue because with the Soviet very prominent position today at Cameron Bay, if we were to withdraw from our Philippine facilities, to me that would be the most dramatic change to the strategic equation in the Western Pacific and furthermore in my view we would be turning over our friends and allies to Soviet political and military intimidation and eventual domination. This, I do not see as enhancing regional stability because it is the facilities that are the key factor in maintaining stability throughout that region of the Pacific
and it is recognized by all our friends and allies in that region no one wants us to leave. Interviewer: Could you go and elaborate a little bit on what... the Soviets are that age? You know a lot of discussion has been held on Cameron Bay and I think you know when you look at what the Soviets are doing in a strategic sense, you have to look at it and a much broader perspective. It is not only just Cameron Bay but it is the entire expanse of the Soviet military buildup in the Pacific region and Indian Ocean region. In 1960, the Soviet Pacific Fleet consisted of 200 major combatants. Today it's almost 500, of which over 130 are submarines and we've had it's not only a quantitative buildup but it's a
qualitative buildup as well and we've seen a similar buildup in their land forces and in their air forces. In 1960 there were 20 land divisions today there are 54. We see in the air forces the latest fighter interceptor aircrafts, strategic strike bombers, the backfires, soon to be followed by Blackjack. We have bare hotel air launch crews, missile strike bombers simulating strikes throughout the region against the illusions, Alaska, Japan and so forth but more importantly or just as important the Soviets have been very effective in establishing a ring of bases that stretch from the ?Hollic? Island and the Red Sea, which is owned by Ethiopia but the Ethiopians aren't allowed aboard through the use of the former UK base at Aden, through the use of
Sacotra Island and certainly a point that's often overlooked is that from the airfields in Afghanistan they can cover all the important sea lines of communication in the Western Indian Ocean and throughout the Persian Gulf in fact when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, I said that was the most dramatic change to the strategic equation in that part of the world at that time and as you come out of the Indian Ocean, you're going to find the second most dramatic change to the strategic equation and that's the Soviet's permanent presence at Cameron Bay. Where on any given day, you can find 20 to 30 Soviet surface combatants, 3 to 5 submarines, a squadron of fighter interceptor aircraft, strike bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and a submarine warfare aircraft, and the surface missiles, naval infantry in fact the installations at Cameron Bay have quadrupled since we left there in 1975.
When we were there, we had two piers. Today, there are seven and has been a comparable build up throughout the entire facility. You want me to stop there and see if that's... Interviewer: One second. Just let me go [inaudible] Yeah. Interviewer: I mean, let me ask you this question. The Soviets are [inaudible] Well you know, one has to look with the, you have to look at the Soviets' track record. Now obviously in the Pacific is where we have the longest border to border relationship with the Soviets, certainly in the northern Pacific it's over 2,000 miles but look what the Soviets have done in the Pacific, you have to ask yourself who orchestrated the bloody coup in Aden in January last year, who is behind me who's in the invasion in Afghanistan who is supporting
the invasion of Cambodia, who did the brutal shoot down of the KAL 007 flight, in which we dismiss with hardly a murmur today with 250 some odd innocent women, children, and don't forget 55 Americans, including the United States congressmen were aboard well when I look at what the Soviets do versus what Gorbachev has to say about their peaceful intentions, I do not see their deeds matching his words so I have to look at their capabilities which are far and excess of what one requires for defensive purposes, after all as I just point it out look at the size of the Soviet Pacific fleet. It is the largest of
their four fleets for what purpose it in numbers wise it is approaching the entire size of the United States Navy in which we believe we need to meet our global responsibilities. You've seen so a more sophisticated approach by the Soviets in the Pacific. [inaudible] Yeah. You know I think the Pacific is not a well-understood subject in the United States. Let's try again there [in audible]. If you just try again, the pacific is not a well understood... Yeah. The Pacific, in my view, is not well understood by the general American public as it relates to our future. You know our great ambassador that Japan has said, Mike Mansfield, has said the next hundred
years are going to be the century of the Pacific and I fully believe that and if you look at all our economic indicators since 1980 versus our traditional trading partners in Europe, all of the indicators since then have been positive with regard to the Pacific. In 1985, our two-way trade was $185 billion as 40% more than with our traditional trading partners in Europe. In 1986, it was something on the order of $215 billion which was 60 some odd percent more than with our traditional trading partners in Europe and for the foreseeable future I see nothing to change that. Today, two-thirds of the world's gross national product are here with the Pacific Rimland nations with the number one and number two economies of the world, here in the Pacific Rimland, the United States and Japan and we have several Japan's in this Pacific Rimland. When you
look at the, by 1991, you're going to have almost two-thirds of the world's population, in this Pacific Rimland. I think the Soviets have recognized this as well and may account for their, let's say, their large buildup because really the only thing they have to force their way into this region, into the world is the preponderance in military forces. In a competitive sense, we have the economic wherewithal to establish the relationship that we feel will promote the well-being and interests of the countries of the region and really that's what we're all about. Our objectives for the Pacific and Indian Ocean region are to create an atmosphere where those nations, be a large or small, can develop in an
atmosphere without being intimidated and develop and grow in a way that they feel is best for their society and their people. How have we helped them do that? We have provided the shield of deterrence and to which in my view has helped maintain stability, to permit them to develop in a way they feel is best. Okay. Go ahead. Uhm, let's see what else I want to say there. Give me another little... Interviewer: Whenever.
Well. In my view, the key elements that we have in the Pacific to help maintain the proper level of deterrence is represented by the 250,000 men and women of the United States Pacific fleet which also includes 80,000 Marines and the integration of our air forces, United States Army, and our allies and friends are the key elements, which are factored into our deterrence equation. I've talked about the large buildup of the Soviet forces in the Pacific. The question is "Can we still carry out our responsibilities?" I believe that we have demonstrated on a day-to-day basis that and I feel confident, that should push come to shove, I can carry out the United
States responsibilities and objectives. Interviewer: Go back again though, could you give me some. I'm ready. Okay. You know we talked about, "What do we think Soviet objectives are in the Pacific region?" Well clearly, in my view, one of the principal Soviet objectives is to weaken where possible or eliminate US presence and a breakdown in the alliance structure, which would then permit for the Soviet penetration and encroachment and I have regretfully I have to say that they were somewhat successful with regard to the position New Zealand took in relation to meeting their responsibilities as a full
participating member of the ?ANSIS? alliance and of course, the only one, in my view, can take comfort from the New Zealand action resides in Moscow. Now, the threats to our facilities in the Philippines. We do have an insurgency, that is ongoing in the Philippines and you know, I used to be on a conventional arms limitation talks if you remember during President Carter's tenure. We had those talks that went on 1978 and 79 and I was the JCS representative. The senior Soviet negotiator was Ambassador Mendelayvich, who was their senior minister at the time, and he told me and he was and I believe him when we were trying to
negotiate a reduction in arms and the sophistication of arms being transferred to third world countries. And we finally got to their bottom line and the bottom line was, and I quote, "It is the Soviet creed to support insurgencies wherever we find it." Today, in the Philippines, I feel very confident that the Soviets are providing not only moral support, but funding to various front organizations in the Philippines. I find certain economic proposals which would provide an entree for the Soviets in the Philippines. I don't see where any of this is helpful
to the Philippine government in trying to reconstitute their economy and on one hand, there's some fundamental changes going on within the social structure. In furthering, in their attempts to further democracy in the Philippines and certainly getting a better better handle on the insurgency. Does all of this represent a direct threat to our facilities? I don't think so. I think it's a more subtle approach. Interviewer: Let me go back and ask you to elaborate a little bit [inaudible]. All right. For example, the Soviets are attempting to establish a ship repair
relationship with a commercial yacht at Subic Bay, right next to our keen naval facility. Remarkable that the Soviets would find it necessary with all of their own ship repair facilities in the Far East that they would have to center on this single commercial facility, next to our key naval operating facility at Subic Bay. Interviewer: Does the new Philippine constitution with its clause [inaudible]. Well, let me say we've looked at our security and we've made certain adjustments. We have a very good relationship with the Philippine Subic Bay's commander and we have a very good program I think for ensuring the security of those facilities. We've made certain adjustments
and I think we can afford the necessary security to those bases should they become a target of the insurgent's operations. Interviewer: Can you envision the possibility... I feel that with the continued support of financial support on the one hand, moral support that the Philippine armed forces have the wear with all to successfully counter the NPA insurgents. Provided that we have the other programs that accompany that. We have to have the civic action programs. We have to have
the economy which we are starting to see signs of coming alive again. We have to continue to maintain that sense of hope in the domestic scene and of course, that was one of the key elements that prompted us to send the hospital ship Mercy to the Philippines in March of 1987 and I viewed our problems with the Philippines and let me say right up front. I do not see the Philippine problem, which is our number one problem in the Pacific today. As the sole responsibility of the United States, I believe the United States can continue to play the leadership role
but to me, it's more a regional problem because it's the nations of the region that get the greatest benefit from stability returning to the Philippines and from a free and democratic society in the Philippines succeeding and of course two countries that get the greatest benefits of that are Japan, South Korea, who I feel need to do more in helping reconstitute the economies of the Philippines and getting back to my other point. Hold on just a second. I see that we have a two-phase program for the Philippines. Cory Aquino needs some up-front successes to sustain and maintain that atmosphere of hope. To reconstitute the economy of the Philippines
and make many of the fundamental changes in the political social structure of that country that's going to be a much longer project but in order to assist Cory Aquino achieve one of her early objectives, that is raising the quality of life of the individual Filipino. I had the idea in the July of 1986 that perhaps we could take a newly constructed hospital ship the Mercy and we could send it to the Philippines and we would mix ?manate?. In other words, there'd be roughly 50 US medical personnel aboard which would come from all of our services, civilian doctors as well and 50 Filipino medical personnel who then would go around.
We'd take the ships and we move it throughout the provinces of the Philippines and [we could] I felt we could treat a thousand people a day and that has proven to be correct because my view was that in this way we could help you know, the man in the street, he hears hundreds of millions of dollars right, well that's an abstract figure to him. He doesn't see it or feel it but if I can fix his teeth or take care of this woman's, this child's dysentery, or provide a pair of eyeglasses, that's real. That means something. They can see it, they feel it and more importantly, it has raised their quality of life. It's given them hope and we think by raising the medical health of the, of the general populace and there are a lot of good medical facilities and medical people
in the Philippines but we thought in this, in this combined effort, sponsored by the Philippine Armed Forces and supported by Cory Aquino herself, that we could make a positive contribution and I'm very gratified with the success of that program at this point in time. Let me go back to [inaudible] there are no good alternatives to the base of the Philippines Yeah. but if you would repeat that I'd appreciate it Yeah. more distinctly than when you said before Well, there are no good alternatives to the current facilities we have in the Philippines and if we, of course we've looked at other options but as I previously indicated, when you look at those other options [inaudible] don't say previously indicated because we
Oh. may use it by itself. Oh I see. Okay. All right, we'll go back and pick it up again. There are no good alternatives to the facilities in the Philippines. In fact, the only one I see taking comfort if we were forced out of those facilities, resides in Moscow. What does it mean to us? Have we looked at other options? Of course we've looked at other options. and there are high cost. They require much more forces than I have today if we're to maintain the same presence and the same war-fighting capability that I can today. Through the use of those facilities, the supply lines to support our forces in the Indian Ocean were which are absolutely
essential to keeping the sea lines of communication open and the oil flowing from the Persian Gulf and in fact, I believe it is our carrier battle group which represents the really only in theater war fighting capability in the Indian Ocean. That has acted as a deterrent to the Iranians from taking other precipitous action in that, with regard to the Straits of Hormuz. Also I think when one looks at other options, it misses people tried to make a quick analytical assessment. Well you come back a thousand miles, you move 1500 miles from this point or that point.
[background] People try to make, If you could, we'd like to change lens there. If you could start, "people trying to make a quick analytical assessment." Yes. People like to make a quick analytical assessment. If you move 1500 or 2000 miles further back, you should be able to manage that. In my view that totally misses the strategic dimension of that question what we in effect would be doing, would be adding destabilization to that particular region of the world. To me, it would be the most dramatic change to the strategic equation in the western Pacific and equally as important in my view, we would be turning over our friends and allies to
Soviet political and military intimidation and eventual domination. None of this do I see to be in the interests of the free and independent nations of the region or in the United States's interest and let's not forget what is certainly has been re-emphasized by a number of people including our great ambassador to Japan. The next hundred years are going to be the century of the Pacific. The United States needs to be involved and play the key leadership road, both economically, politically and socially for that region of the world. Interviewer: So let me just pose a question... Philippines that we don't want to get involved.
Well, we have a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines. Which I believe serves both nations well. On the one hand, our responsibility is keep the Philippines free from any outside threat. The internal matters of the Philippine need to be dealt with by the Philippine government itself and I think that's the situation you see happening today. I think that you know, we have over 40 some alliances and treaties throughout the world. The way we maintain our deterrence equation is through the free use of the seas and it is the way we maintain deterrence is through presence. In order to have presence, you must have access.
If you don't have access, you don't have presence, you weaken the deterrence equation. What is in our overall best interest, I think it is to maintain the proper level of deterrence so that we can maintain the peace and let the nations of the world and the region that we're discussing, develop in a way that they see fit. It is why I am so concerned over the position of New Zealand. I don't see how the New Zealand action, on the one hand, has enhanced regional stability or on the other hand enhanced the security of New Zealand. Particularly, when I look at the actions
that the Soviets are taking in the South Pacific region. When I look at how Vanuatu has not only established relations and a fishing agreement with the Soviet Union but they've also gone out of their way to establish relations with Libya. A known sponsor of international terrorism. This cancer we've been trying to keep out of this region of the world. So I don't see where any of these actions enhance the security of the region. Interviewer: Let me finish with just one. What the Marcos regime meant in terms of stability for the Philippines? Well I think Marcos, at that particular time, became a negative factor within Philippine society and that
[background] could you start again and just say that maybe toward the end of his [inaudible] Okay. All right rather than, at that time. [background] And your shoes are coming together too, it's ?squeaking? I don't hear 'em. Interviewer: The audience may. Towards the end of Marcos's regime in the fall of 1985, Marcos, the regime per se, had become a negative factor and I think what evolved from that period of time it was. We weren't sure exactly how events were going to unfold but what you saw as we all now know was the greatest demonstration of the democratic process. Which was brilliantly recorded by the media. It was for the entire world to see. Had you asked me in December 1985,
"Would you have forecast the events of February 1986?" I couldn't have done that because I didn't know and it was a demonstration of the free will of the people. It was democracy working at its best and you recorded. Interviewer: Let me go back and just elaborate one point. Interviewer: Pull a plug on Marcos or what? Well my own view was that this was a situation that had to be worked out by the Filipino people. This had to be a Filipino solution and our best course of actions was to keep hands off. Stay out of the internal politics, which I'm very happy to see that we did do. I think my principal concern was to ensure the security of the facilities. The facilities interesting enough were never
an election issue. The only place they became an election issue was outside the Philippines but as as a key element in the election debate, the facilities were never an issue. Interviewer: But in fact I mean you say we kept out of [inaudible] we... As that it was an internal matter for the Philippines to work out their own solution and it was one that we could not really be a participant if you will. The one thing we could do is create an environment that allowed the free will of the people to come forth and I think we were able to do that through various teams that ensured
that the election was as fair as one could be at that point in time in the Philippines and encourage people to get out and vote. Interviewer: Go back and... [inaudible] concern you again has it related to the bases That, I'm, to me the security of the bases has been the question on the security of the bases has been overplayed. When I looked at the security of the bases, we made certain changes to enhance the security but we did it within the resources that we had. It was not a major, a major evolution. So we're lucky that the things changed the way they did because by some miracle.
Interviewer: Cory Aquino came to power I mean it didn't have to happen. Well it didn't have to happen that way and but it happened that way was basically. Now putting aside you know, you always have a lot of violence in the Philippine election, that's the nature of the society but essentially, Cory Aquino came to power without firing the shot. The shot that was fired was the people. Interviewer: Divine Intervention? Well, she does operate with a little of that, doesn't she? Yeah. Interviewer: Okay. [background] Well thanks very much. Interviewer: Thank you.
In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines
Raw Footage
Interview with Admiral James Lyons
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Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Pearson-Glaser Productions (Kittery Point, Maine)
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Admiral James Lyons was the Commander of US Navy Forces in the Pacific from 1985-1987. Lyons speaks about the value of the bases in the Philippines & the importance of their strategic position in the region. He describes the relationship with the Philippines as a “mutual defense treaty”. He discusses the Soviet presence in the region and how the US presence as a result of the bases deters Soviet buildup and maintains stability. He notes how the Soviets are aiding the Philippine insurgency, both in terms of moral support and funding. He discusses how the Philippine armed forces are trying to combat the insurgency and what Corazon Aquino needs to do to increase economic security. He describes the “Mercy”, a hospital ship which was sent by the US which can now treat 1000 people per day. He discusses the demise of the Marcos regime, how it was no longer tenable for Philippine society. And how the events of 1986 was “democracy in action”, demonstrated the free will of the people and was brilliantly recorded by the media.
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Geo-political; Military Bases; Subic
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Interviewee: Lyons, James
Interviewer: Karnow, Stanley
Producing Organization: Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Pearson-Glaser Productions
Identifier: cpb-aacip-49f85330771 (Filename)
Format: Betamax
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Chicago: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview with Admiral James Lyons,” 1987-03-26, Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview with Admiral James Lyons.” 1987-03-26. Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview with Admiral James Lyons. Boston, MA: Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from