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Bong Center offers story on 'Concrete Battleship

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center hosts amateur historian, Jim Hencinski, who presents on the little known story of the "Concrete Battleship."

One hundred years ago, while the United States was fighting the World War I in Europe, on the other side of the globe the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery Corps was completing construction work on a unique military installation that would play a vital, but now largely forgotten part in the World War II some 20 years later.

Fort Drum, the "Concrete Battleship," was one of the fortifications built to protect Manila Bay from attack by enemy warships. During the Japanese invasion of the Philippine Islands in 1941-42, the American soldiers manning it endured five months of almost constant bombardment from artillery and aircraft in a gallant, but doomed effort to turn back the invading forces.

The presentation tells the story of Fort Drum from its construction in the early 20th century through its glory years in the 1920s and 1930s, and its ordeal in World War II. The presentation will use many rarely seen period photographs as well as contemporary ones by taken by recent visitors to document this forgotten monument to the courage of those Americans who defended it to the bitter end in May 1942 and those who retook it from the enemy in February 1945.

Hencinski is a retired U.S. Army chief warrant officer who served as an intelligence analyst for 20 years from 1975 to 1995. He is an avid amateur historian with a special interest in World War II who has given many public talks on overlooked or misunderstood aspects of the era.

The program begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bong Center. Refreshments served.