Tony Lydford's Visit To Fort Drum June 2006

Author's Video Link of the visit

Visit to Fort Drum, the "Concrete Battleship" of Manila Bay.

Arriving at Corregidor on the fast ferry from Manila I was met at the Wharf by Ron Benadero. After brief introductions to my guides, we boarded a Banca and motored off to Ft. Drum. Under  fine blue skies and on calm seas we arrived at Ft. Drum in 30 odd minutes. We were fortunate that it was nearly high tide, that in conjunction with calm seas made it easy to board the starboard side of the sally sort. The sally port is big enough to drive a Jeepney through. I spent the next 5 minutes organizing multiple torches and all my camera gear: Digital and video camera, batteries, flashes etc.

Then it was up the slight slope and we entered into the depths of Ft. Drum at the Barracks level. First impression was of a scene of utter shambles. The interior walls had fallen in  and piles of concrete lay strewn upon the floor. Pools of rainwater were everywhere. The air was good, no doubt the wind blows right thru this level entering from the sally port and Batteries Roberts & McCrea.

Walking around this level was ok, but you had to be  constantly vigilant about where you were putting your feet, with all the loose concrete it would all be too easy to turn ones ankle. That in conjunction with all the holes in the floor, certainly made it a treacherous place for the unwary or over enthusiastic!

Moving forward we were able to look down a hatch into what remained of the engine room. We could see water swishing around. Probably a combination of rainwater and saltwater. Further forward lay the circular walls around Battery Wilson. For the most part, stairways were easy to navigate, although extra care  was necessary at each step to avoid crumbling concrete.

Videoing in the darkness with extra torches was ok......just as long as the camera was able to focus properly with the video light on..  Digital camera photography  worked out ok. Using an external flash in conjunction with the normal flash I was able to get some good shots.

In the areas of Batteries Roberts & McCrea where daylight came in, I was able to get good photos and video.

Making our way thru the ruins of Battery McCrea we climbed up onto the deck. Laying on the deck was the armoured top from Battery McCrea, blown there when the Americans retook Ft. Drum in 1945. It's hard to imagine the size of the explosion that blew a 6" steel plate and its covering of reinforced concrete clean off the battery top- seen the picture, but still difficult to comprehend.

Both 14" Gun turrets are covered in surface rust and graffiti from the many visitors.

Access to the inside of Battery Marshall is easy via the escape hatch located at the rear. The only part of my exploration where I had to crawl on my hands and knees, taking extra care not to cut any of my anatomy on the various sharp pieces of protruding rusted steel work.

Once again I was able to get good photos and video of the inside of Battery Marshall.

One can certainly understand Ft. Drums perfect placement in the South Channel of Manila Bay. A clear 360 degree arc that provided covering fire to Cavite, Carabao Island, Caballo Island and Corrigedor. One gets a magnificent view of Manila Bay from the deck of the Concrete Battleship. And today was a magnificent day, a flat blue ocean under a cloudless, sun filled sky, a beautiful day to be out at sea!

One last look up top and then it was down like a troglodyte into the depths of Ft. Drum. This time we went across the barracks level and entered Battery Roberts.

Here was clearly outlined the shellfire hits from an American Cruiser in 1945. The shells had burst thru the armor plating like a hot knife going through butter!!

All in all I spent over an hour on the Concrete Battleship. I didn't venture much below the Barracks level due to the uncertainty of the flooring. As time progresses, and the salt laden sea air continues to naw away at the exposed steel rebar, more and more concrete will fall, making  Ft. Drum very unsafe. Is it to late for the authorities to stop the internal decay and semi-restore Ft. Drum?

Somehow I doubt that the resources would be made available. The Philippine Government has it's hands full trying to grow the country .

A relic from a conflict over 60 yrs ago is not a priority. Corrigedor is the memorial to that same conflict, a memorial that is very well maintained and patronized.

I can well imagine the day will come, when Ft. Drum will just be a shell, with a huge empty space in the middle full of fallen concrete.

My thanks go to Tony Feredo , my initial contact some months previously who got the ball rolling for my visit. And to Ron Benadero and his team on Corrigedor Island, thanks for an awesome time out on "The Concrete Battleship" of Manila Bay.

Tony Lydford

June 2006

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All Rights Reserved 2006 - Tony Lydford

 

  

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