OKB Grigorov 1/700
Fort Drum
The Concrete Battleship

Reviewed by Vladimir Yakubov

After the occupation of the Philippines US needed a way to defend the Manila Bay from a naval attack, so they set out to build a series of heavy coast defenses at it's entrance. The problem was that the artillery of the day could not cover the entire width of the entrance from the sides of the bay or from the Corregidor island. A small island called El Fraile came to the rescue, situated to the western side of the straight it was a perfect place to place battery of heavy guns to cover that side of the entrance. However due to the fact that the island was very small it was impossible to place multiple conventional batteries while the distance from other forts meant that it will be on its own in any sort of prolonged combat. So the decision was taken to build a completely different fort. The island was cut down and a ship shaped concrete structure was built on top of it. The fort looked like a forward half of a battleship with two superimposed twin 14" turrets, two two story casemates with 6" guns, to 3" AA guns on the top deck and a cage mast. The army called it Fort Drum, but of course every one around called it "The Concrete Battleship".

Construction lasted 10 years from 1909 to 1919. Almost immediately after the construction the temporary barracks were built on top deck of the fort, they obstructed the field of fire for the main guns but made living in the tropics much more comfortable. Until 1941 the fort lived a quiet comfortable life like the rest of the Manila bay coast defenses. Immediately following the Japanese invasion of the Philippines the fort was brought up to the combat condition, which meant the removal of all of the barracks from the top deck. On January 31st Japanese troops came within range of Fort Drum's guns and the fort opened fire. On February 6th the Japanese were finally able to reply. Despite over 100 hits of the 105mm rounds fort's ability to fight was not impaired. It however prompted the crew of the fort to demolish the cage mast, as they believed that it was used as an aiming point by the Japanese and could jam the top turret if it fell on top of it. The bombardment repeated several times until march. On march 15th the fort was shelled the first time by the 240mm howitzers, which put the AA gun on top of the fort out of commission. From that day on the bombardment went on every day however the fort remained operational, firing back at various Japanese batteries attacking it. On April 9th Bataan fell and the Japanese readied for the final attack on the Corregidor. The open gun pits of the Corregidor were very soon silenced by the Japanese and the only long range defense left to Americans remained fort Drum. On several occasions it was able to silence Japanese batteries on Bataan despite being under attack themselves. The end for the American defenses on Corregidor came on may 5th when after destroying all of the heavy guns on the island the Japanese landed their troops there. Fort Drum was firing its 14" guns directly into the landing barges and was able to destroy between half and 2/3 of them, but the rest landed and soon overwhelmed the defenders causing General Wainwright to surrender the next day. Orders came to fort Drum to surrender at 12pm on the 7th. Officers debated continuing to fight, but despite the fact that the fighting ability of the fort was not damaged, the food supplies were running low, so it was decided to surrender. However fort kept on firing up until the last minute before the surrender when the guns were damaged by the crew to the point where they will be useless to the Japanese. Due to the effectiveness of the fort its crew was treated very badly by the Japanese and not many survived the captivity. 

The story of the fort didn't end there. In 1945 after the recapture of Philippines by the Americans it was discovered that despite the fact that none of the guns were operational there was a small garrison of Japanese troops on board. Not willing to take useless casualties, American troops landed on the fort and pumped 2600 gallons of petroleum into the fort interior and blew it up. Fort burned for 14 days. Post was inspection determined that the fort was hit by over 3000 bombs and shells, but none of them was able to penetrate more than 4 inches onto the structure. The fort still stands there today looking very much like it did in 1945 with the turrets still intact but the interior gutted by the metal scavengers. 

OKB Grigorov is located in Bulgaria and is run by Georgi Grogorov. It is a name well known to 1/72 scale armor model builders, with their wide range of photoetch products for various small scale vehicles. Recently they expanded into resin casting as well. This is their first naval kit, but their website shows that several more 1/700 scale kits are on their way.

The kit comes packed into a sturdy cardboard box with the hull packed into the foam glove and all other pieces in a series of individual packets. Everything is separated by bubblewrap.

There are 40 resin parts in the kit. The main one is of course the "hull". Compared to the average 1/700 scale ship it is massive, roughly the length of a pre-dreadnought battleship but almost 3 times wider and taller. The original structure was 350' by 144', which in 1/700 scale is 152.4mm by 64.2mm the kit's dimensions are 152.7mm by 67mm, to they are nearly perfect, especially since the dimensions of the concrete structure are probably not 100% accurate. The "hull" shows off the stamped structure of the concrete very well. The casting is bubble free, without flash or pour plugs. Small parts are also well cast. The turrets are detailed with rivet derail that is probably a bit oversized but with drybrushing would look fine. All of the gun barrels are included in the kit.

Photoetch is the real reason why this kit is such a gem. I've been thinking about scratchbuilding fort Drum for a while, but one thing that always stopped me is a cage mast. It is of a very complex shape and that shape is very well replicated in the PE set that comes with a kit. In addition to the cage mast all of the platforms for it as well as railings and ladders for the entire kit are included in the fret. It also contains the 3" AA guns and the complex derrick crane that was present on the stern of the fort.

No decals are included in the kit
Unlike many resin kits the instruction for this one are actually pretty good. One fold contains the short history of the fort as well as drawings, while the other three folds contain the step by step instructions with 3D drawings on the construction of the kit.

This is a very interesting kit of the very unusual subject. Even through it's not a ship, it would make a very good addition to any ship modelers shelf. The kit quality is on par with the other good resin manufacturers out there and the kit contains everything that you need to build it. Highly recommend it to the lovers of the unusual as well as people interested in the WWII in the Pacific.

Thanks to OKB Grigorov for the review sample. It is only available from the Bulgarian website http://www.hobymodels.com/,  through Pacific Front Hobbies and other places. The kit retails for $67 and is well worth the money

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