Fort Drum: The Concrete Fortress Built to Protect Manila Bay

It's an extraordinary piece of history that still exists today.
Loukia Papadopoulos

A new video (embedded below) has surfaced on YouTube that profiles Fort Drum, an extraordinary piece of history that still exists today although it won't be used for any new wars. At first glance, it might look like a battleship but it is not. It's a fortified island named after Brigadier General Richard C. Drum who served with distinction during the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War.

Perhaps what's most interesting about the fort is that it actually briefly fought against U.S. troops when the Japanese took it over during World War II.

Fort Drum was built in 1909 after the U.S. seized the Philippines during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and was engineered to protect Manila Bay as one of the harbor defenses at the wider South Channel entrance to the Bay.

The construction took five years and required the rocky island to be leveled. All this was achieved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The fort was engineered to include thick layers of steel-reinforced concrete.

The end result was a massive structure that looked like a battleship. It was at the time 350 ft (110 m) long, 144 ft (44 m) wide, and with a top deck of 40 ft (12 m) above water at mean low tide.

It was equipped with a heavy arsenal of weapons including 14-inch (356 mm) M1909 guns and two custom-built M1909 turrets. The fort's upper surface boasted searchlights, anti-aircraft batteries, and a 60-foot (18 m) lattice-style fire control tower while the living quarters for the men were safely hidden deep inside the fort.

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With so much ammunition and fortification, how did Fort Drum end up working against U.S. troops?  It was captured and occupied by the Japanese during World War II but that did not last for very long. U.S. forces proceeded to take back the island by igniting petroleum and gasoline in the fort. The fire was so powerful that it took five whole days for U.S. soldiers to enter Fort Drum due to the leftover heat.

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