Its interesting thing how MacArthur's critics have seized upon the attack on Clarke field and used it to attack him. They seem obsessed with it, blow it out of proportion, change their story, use 20-20 hindsight, and misstate the facts. See the US Army of the History (See "Fall of the Philippines" by Smith and the officia US Air Force History by Craven and Cate). Several points need to be made:
1) The Japanese attacked Clark Field at 12:15 PM. Given that its 520 miles from the IJN Formosan airfields to Manila it would have the Japanese approximately 2 hours to get there. Assuming an additional 1/2 hour for climb to altitude and forming into attack formation, that means the IJN aircraft had taken off no later than 945 AM. Now a B-17 cruises at 170 MPH and takes 15 minutes to get to 15,000 ft. That means if the B-17 had taken off any time after 6 am they would have bombed empty airfields. Since Brenton didn't go to Big Mac's office until 5am, that would have given them 1 hour to bomb and gas up the planes, briefs the pilots and crew, get them to the planes, do the preflight check off, warm up the engines, taxi and takeoff. Simply impossible.
2) The official history states they vaguely knew where the IJN airfields were, they had no been photographed. There were no bomb lines or bomb charts to guide the bombardiers. Also, per the US history, the B-17s not flown any practice missions or had a chance to practice their bombing techniques since they arrived in the Philippines.
3) Contrary to Costello in his "Pacific War" the P-40s could NOT have escorted B-17s to Formosa. The P-40s did NOT have drop tanks and the P-40 had a maximum radius (range/2) of 425 miles and real radius of about 300 miles. It was over 500 miles to Formosa.
4) Despite his critics, its hard to see how MacArthur was to blame for anything. Nor is it hard to see how Brenton was. The Japanese were simply LUCKY. They were spotted on Radar and had the warning be given, the B-17s and P-40s could have taken off in time. Had the Japanese attacked between 8am and 10am the US planes would have been in the air. A previous IJA air attack had caused them to be scrambled.
5) Contrary to his critics, the FEAF was on alert and expecting a dawn attack. When the attack didn't come, the planes came to refuel and for the pilots to rest and have lunch. This is when the Japanese attacked.
6) In any case, even had the planes not be lost on the ground, both Nichols, Clark, and Iba field had inadequate bomb protection and AAA. Of the 107 P-40s, only 75 were operational, the rest were in unprotected hangers undergoing service and repair. These 30 P-40s would have lost in the bombing raid no matter what. Further, since the Japanese were able to destroy the unprotected communications center, repair shops, hangers, and fuel trucks, the FEAF would have been incapable of mounting another B17 attack on Formosa after December 8th or of continuing to base 75 P-40s there.
7) Finally, the critics think it "unbelievable" that Big Mac did not talk in detail to Brenton about the B-17 attack or the defense of Clark Field. Newsflash, MacArthur was a Lt. General in command of the entire Philippines, including a 120,00 man filo-American Army. He was responsible for coordinating with Washington DC, the Philippine Government, the Navy, and US civilian officials. He was NOT a member of the air corps. He only went in aircraft as a passenger. He didn't plan or fly B-17 missions. He didn't plan or oversee the defense of the airfields. He left the details to Sutherland his C-O-S and his air force general.