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Learning Units (Hours)
To her “crew” (of U.S. Army coastal artillerymen), she was the “U.S.S. No-Go” – a “Land Battleship” designed to prevent any aggressor navy from entering strategic Manila Bay – the finest natural harbor in the Far East. To the USAFFE (U.S. Army Forces Far East), she was “Fort Drum,” named in honor of General Richard C. Drum (1825-1909), who had served with distinction in both the Mexican-American and Civil War/s. She was the brainchild of a freshly minted West Pointer named John J. Kingman (Class of 1904) who, as a First Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, arrived in the Philippines in 1907. There, he was placed in charge of the defenses at the entrance to Manila Bay.
The main defenses of Manila Bay were on Corregidor (a/k/a “The Rock”) – a tadpole-shaped island two miles off the coast of the Bataan Peninsula. However, there was a gap between the south shore and Corregidor that needed to be filled. The first suggestion was an artificial island upon which fortifications could be built. However, the depth of the water was prohibitive. Kingman came up with the idea of leveling El Fraile Island – a coral rock strategically located in the strait, and upon it constructing a reinforced concrete fortress that in both shape, protection and armament would be able to duke-it-out with any deep-water Dreadnought. The result was a fine example of the military engineer’s art.
When the Philippines were fortified, primarily in the first decade of the 20th Century (under the “Endicott Program”), attack from the air was not considered in their design thus they were vulnerable given their open designs. This, along with the fact that all fixed emplacements faced seaward, would be the Achilles heel of the harbor defenses when the Japanese invaded Luzon in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. As they had done in 1905 against the Russians, the Imperial Army attacked by land, down Luzon and Bataan, rather than confront directly the powerful harbor defenses. The only thorn in the side of the Japanese strategy was Fort Drum, whose powerful 14-inch rifles (in twin armored turrets) and reinforced concrete deck proved invulnerable to attack by air, land or sea.
This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.
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