Fort Drum, Luzon, P.I.

Fort Drum, Luzon, P.I.

As the Okinawa battles continued to rage, a completely new type of operation was progressing in Manila Bay, Luzon.

The ruined concrete fort in Manila Bay is Fort Drum. Formerly called Island, it is quite literally the world’s only unsinkable battleship. Certainly deserving of a rightful place in the list of tourist spots, it has a story that is worth re-telling.

When the United States annexed the Philippines in 1898, its defense automatically became their responsibility. In order to defend their latest colony against any future invaders, the US fortified four islands at the mouth of Manila Bay during the period of 1909-1913. These four islands – Corregidor, Caballo, Carabao and El Frail went on to become Fort Mills, Fort Hughes, Fort Frank, and Fort Drum, respectively.

To construct Fort Drum, the US Army Corps of Engineers had to cut the small, rocky island of El Fraile. Taking the rock as the foundation, they erected a concrete fortification that was in the shape of a battleship. Said ”battleship” was 240 feet long, 160 feet wide, and 40 feet above the water line, with walls 30-40 feet thick and a deck 20 feet deep. It had four levels inside that were connected by an axial tunnel that ran across the island and 11 guns.

When the Usaffe got destroyed in Bataan on 25 January 1942, the Japanese began to prepare to shell the island forts. Under the leadership of Maj. Toshinori Kondo, the Japanese began shelling the islands 5 Feb. Their objective to destroy Fort Drum, however, did not materialize, as it remained intact despite being hit over a hundred times.

By 3rd February 1945, a flying column had reached Manila led to a month-long battle to liberate Manila from the Japanese. Despite the ongoing battle, however, the Americans began to clear the fortified islands of Japanese to open Manila Bay for shipping, with Fort Drum being the last island to get liberated.

Retaking Ft. Drum

The Americans devised special tactics to liberate Fort Drum.  On 13 April, a Landing Ship Medium (LSM) and a Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) was sent to pull up alongside Fort Drum.  The LSM had a specially built ramp on top of it, using which it discharged two platoons of soldiers: while the first platoon consisted of crack snipers to cover every opening where Japanese soldiers may appear, the second comprised engineers assigned to plant demolition charges.

The sniper opened up again and a bullet cut through the fatigue jacket of SGT Mack Thomson of Springfield, MO, the colonel’s driver and radio operator. Thomson had been standing amidships unaware that he was a target.  The bullet made seven holes, passing through the outside of the jacket, the baggy pocket and a sleeve.  Thomson wasn’t even scratched.  Another sniper bullet grazed the back of CPL Vincent Glennon’s right hand.  Glennon, an aid man from Gary, IN, had dropped behind a ventilator for protection at the first sniper shot.  The bullet went through the light, thin metal of the ventilator and creased his hand, drawing no more blood than a pin scratch.

Fort Drum

A sailor, Steve Bukovics, a PA native, had worse luck. A Jap shot split the fittings that connected the three air hoses to the gyroscopic sight of his 20mm gun and several pieces of the scattered wreckage were embedded in his throat.  Army and Navy medics teamed up to give him an immediate transfusion and to dress his wounds.  He, Glennon and Thomson were the only casualties.

Once the charges were in position, the LCM poured 3,000 gallons of oil into one of the vents and dumped explosives into the other. Both the LSM and LCM were moved to a safe distance after the fuses were lit.  With the charges detonated, a series of explosions followed that finally blew Fort Drum’s manhole that was 1 ton in weight and 1 meter in diameter 50 meters up into the air. Finally gaining access to the fort on 18th April, the Americans went on to discover 65 dead.

Ft. Drum, bearing her battle scars.

As of today, Fort Drum continues to stand as an old ruin right at the mouth of Manila Bay.  Although no longer in action, it still holds its reputation as being unsinkable.

Unfortunately, though, in spite of all the history, Fort Drum, along with the nearby Fort Frank are still neglected as tourist spots.

 Article condensed from a stories in War History online and Yank Magazine;
Click on images to enlarge.
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Military Humor –

Bill Mauldin cartoon

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Farewell Salutes –

Raymond Barker – Delavan, WI; USMC, WWII, Cpl., KIA (Tarawa)

Richard Bohan – Brooklyn, NY; USMC, Vietnam

Jack Childs – Minneapolis, MN; US Army, Korea, Vietnam, Major (Ret.)

Joanne Gillespie Goldsmith – Chester, PA; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Allen Higgins – AZ; US Army, WWII, ATO, intelligence

Leopoldo Muniz – Milagro, NM; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Burgess “Buck” Rand Jr. – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; US Air Force, Vietnam

James Stoner – Cape Girardeau, MO; US Army, WWII, ETO

George Truebe – Decatur, IL; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Wayland Wadley – Cedar Key, FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS West Virginia

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 24, 2018, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 75 Comments.

  1. I really enjoy the fascinating history you write here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Denk dat een bezoek aan Fort drum zeker de moeite waard is

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After reading this, and seeing the pictures, I want to go visit Fort Drum!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was saddened to learn that the wreck of HMS Exeter (RN cruiser WW2) has literally gone from the seabed, just a hole now where she’d been lying since sunk in action.

    War grave to some, metal-mine to others …

    Liked by 1 person

    • What the scavengers do to the wrecks is comparable to grave-robbing in my book.

      Like

      • It is grave robbing. By vultures. But sadly, the world turns, the clock moves on and yesterday’s hero is todays footnote in history … and one of my very favourite images is that one of the Vietnam Memorial, where the living reach to touch the dead (and vice versa) through the stone.

        Am listening to your posts ‘Taps’ right now …

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Subli and commented:
    A historical place of history that is worth preserving for future generation.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. An interesting bit of history – an island shaped like a battleship and fortified as such.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great story GP. And I think I’ve seen the ‘Try to say something Funny’ cartoon before, Maybe in an earlier post of yours. It is a classic.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Fascinating, had to go to Wikipedia to read up more, I noticed a great photo, with another great battleship moored just off the remains of the fort, The USS New Jersey, one of my favourite ships taen not that long ago; in 1983.
    Thanks GP great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Isn’t Fort Drum an interesting bit of World War II history? Two B-24s (one from the 22nd Bomb Group, the other from the 43rd) were sent to destroy it on April 2, 1945. They were armed with one-ton bombs and…those didn’t breach the walls of Fort Drum either!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Walls 30-40 feet thick! No wonder the Japanese couldn’t destroy the structure, G. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Love the confession poster!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. For the eight years I lived in Manila, I never heard of Fort Drum. But then again, I have never knew or heard of a lot of things. This fort which was built like a ship was awesome in construction. I hope someone was passionate enough to do something and preserve it.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This is interesting in its own right. Thanks for teaching me more about everything I don’t know (near-infinite) about the campaign.
    However, there is one Civil War era military building still standing in Los Angeles: Drum Barracks. It’s the sole remaining structure of the former Camp Drum, established in Wilmington, which is a small port city at the head of the Port of Los Angeles on San Pedro Bay.

    A local business/political powerhouse, Phineas Banning, wrote to Lincoln and got the federal government to construct and staff the camp to against against a great deal of local support for the Confederacy (Breckinridge beat Lincoln 2-1 in the 1860 election here).

    The camp held between 2,000 – 7,000 soldiers during the war, and helped make Wilmington a thriving place. The city was larger than Los Angeles proper during the War.

    That building’s not too many miles from where I live.

    As I’ve just learned, the California installation was named for the same Richard Coulter Drum as the fort in Manila. At the time the California camp was named, 1862, Drum was serving as assistant Adjutant General for the Department of the Pacific, somewhere in the midst of being promoted from Capt. – Major – Lt. Col.

    By the end of an extremely busy career that included innumerable assignments, Drum was Adjutant-General for the U.S. Army and promoted to Brigadier General before retiring in 1889.

    I want to make it clear that I don’t carry this sort of military history around in my head. Your article spurred me to look into the fact that there is a Fort Drum in addition to our local Camp Drum — Same namesake.

    I did write about Drum Barracks 8 years ago, and that may actually be the last time I drove the 8 miles or so to see it. I have a couple of photos there that could be improved upon:
    https://blaknissan.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/on-the-drum-barracks-beat

    Thanks, as always, for your tirelessly researched and fascinating articles.
    Brad

    Liked by 2 people

    • I appreciate your confidence in me and hope I don’t ever let you down. I appreciate you adding this information – see we both learned something new today!!

      Like

  14. Fort Drum, the unsinkable battleship. Didn’t know. The things I learn from you, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. That last picture is soo cool!! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Amazing we could recapture this hulking thing, with such light casualties.
    The assault reminds me a bit of the German paratroopers capturing the Belgian fortress Eben-Emael, during the blitzkrieg into France.
    We have a Fort Drum, too, in N.Y., as I’m sure you know! A tad bigger than the Philippines, at this point over> 100,000 acres up near Watertown. But I don’t think they have any concrete battleships up there! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Fascinating ! Nice photos too.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sorry GP, in a few hours we have to “privatize” our blog at wordpress.com, because we read the cookie-policies of Auttomatic LLC. They can not provide all the information the GDPR forces us to provide to users inside the EU. We will work “under cover” for the next 14 days, watching the future legal situation. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Oh I’d love to visit that with my camera. Fascinating stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Thanks for the fascinating story of a place I had never heard of, GP.
    Just goes to show, we can’t know everything! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Amazing place had the privilege of visiting Fort Drum in 1995, its a shame scrap metal dealers have stolen most of the internal steel, making it very unsafe. On my list of places to revisit.

    Liked by 5 people

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