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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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
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?
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.