Fort Drum (El Fraile Island)
Fort Drum also known as the “concrete battleship,” is a heavily fortified island fortress situated at the mouth of Manila Bay
Manila Bay
Manila Bay is a natural harbor which serves the Port of Manila , in the Philippines.The bay is considered to be one of the best natural harbors in Southeast Asia and one of the finest in the world...

 in the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, due south of Corregidor
Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is a lofty island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunition magazines to defend the entrance of...

 Island. It was occupied by the Japanese in World War II, and was recaptured by the U.S. after igniting oil and gasoline in the fort, leaving it permanently out of commission.


After the United States took the Philippines from the Spanish, Fort Drum was planned to be a mine control and mine casemate station. However, due to inadequate defenses in the area, a plan was devised to level the island, and then build a concrete structure on top of it armed with two twin 12 inch guns. This was submitted to the War Department, which decided to change the 12 inch guns to 14 inch guns and install two casemates, each with a 6 inch gun. It was also planned to make the concrete walls of the fortress 25 to 36 ft (7.6 to 11 m).


Construction began in April 1909 and lasted 5 years while the island was leveled by U.S. Army engineers and then was built up with thick layers of steel-reinforced concrete into a massive structure roughly resembling a concrete ship. The 14 inch and 6 inch guns had been delivered and installed by 1916. Searchlights, anti-aircraft batteries, and a fire direction tower were also mounted on its upper surface. The living quarters for the approximately 320 officers and enlisted men along with the power generators, plotting rooms and ammunition holds were held inside the fort.


Just before the outbreak of war in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, Fort Drum had been restaffed with men and officers of the 59th Coast Artillery Regiment (E Battery). On January 2, 1942, Fort Drum withstood heavy Japanese air bombardment. At around the middle of January, a new 3-inch gun was installed at Fort Drum. Through February, March and April, Fort Drum sustained heavy Japanese artillery and air attack, sinking several troop barges intending to attack Corregidor, another fortified island. Fort Drum surrendered to Japanese forces following the fall of Corregidor on May 6, 1942 and was subsequently occupied by Japanese forces.


In 1945, as part of the offensive to recapture Manila, Fort Drum was assaulted by US forces. After a heavy aerial and naval bombardment, US troops gained access to the deck of the fort on 13 April, and were able to confine the garrison below. Rather than attempting to break in, the troops and engineers adapted the solution first used some days earlier in the assault of mortar forts on Fort Hughes.

There, the troops "pumped two parts diesel oil and one part gasoline" into mortar pits, stood off, and ignited it with tracer bullets. A similar technique at Fort Drum used air vents on the top deck, but a timed fuse was used rather than tracer fire.

On ignition, this annihilated the remaining Japanese and kept a fire burning in the fort for several days. With the bay forts neutralized, including Fort Drum, Japanese resistance in the Manila Bay area was ended. The ruins of Fort Drum, including its disabled turrets and 14 inch guns, remain at the mouth of Manila Bay.


  • McGovern, Terrance C. and Mark A Berhow American Defenses of Corregidor and Manila Bay 1898-1945. Osprey Publishing
    Osprey Publishing
    Osprey Publishing is an Oxford-based publishing company specializing in military history. Predominantly an illustrated publisher, many of their books contain full-colour artwork plates, maps and photographs, and the company produces over a dozen ongoing series, each focusing on a specific aspect of...

    . ISBN 1-84176-427-2
  • Sgt Thomas J. Hooper, The Blasting of Fort Drum, YANK Magazine issue of August 3, 1945
  • US Army, Report on Operations and Material - Fort Drum - During the Bataan - Corregidor Campaign

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