The Concrete Battleship: Fort Drum, El Fraile Island, Manila Bay

  • Publish Date: 1999-04-01
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Francis J. Allen Terrance McGovern
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Fort Drum on El Fraile Island in the Philippines is unique in the development of United States coastal fortifications. Fort Drum is part of a chain of forts built across the entrance of Manila Bay to defend the Bay from naval attack. The construction of Fort Drum began in 1909 by reducing tiny El Fraile Island to the low water mark. Over the next ten years a multi-deck concrete island was built to mount two twin 14-inch guns in superimposed Army designed armored turrets. The completed work rises 40 feet above sea level, it is 350 feet long and 144 across at its widest point. The exterior walls are up to 28 feet thick and the top deck attains a thickness of 20 feet of re-enforced concrete. The interior of the fort held a large engine room, powder and shell magazines, a mining casemate, storerooms and tankage, a accommodations for 300 personnel. The design of the fort followed a naval pattern with turrets, a cage mast, and secondary armament in side casemates. Due to these characteristics, Fort Drum became known as the "Concrete Battleship." When completed in 1918, Fort Drum was the most powerful defense work in Manila Bay, but the advances in military technology during World War I already began to make the fort obsolete. The post World War I reduction in military spending, the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, and economic depression of the 1930s resulted in Fort Drum being quickly reduced to caretaker status until the coming of World War II. Fort Drum became an important weapon during the Japanese siege of Corregidor and the other island forts during 1942 but only play a minor role during the American retaking of these islands in 1945. The battles of World War II would transform Fort Drum from an American-manned, fully operating fort to a burned-out hulk inhabited by lifeless Japanese sailors. This revised and enlarged 64 page softbound volume tells the story of The Concrete Battleship in words, diagrams, and photographs from its inception to the present day.

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