USS Olympia (C-6/CA-15/CL-15/IX-40)
was a protected cruiser
in the United States Navy
during the Spanish-American War
. She is most notable for being the flagship of Commodore George Dewey
at the Battle of Manila Bay
. The cruiser continued in service throughout World War I
and was decommissioned in 1922. As of 2008
is a museum ship
at the Independence Seaport Museum
Design and construction
was laid down 17 June 1891
by Union Iron Works
, San Francisco, California
; launched 5 November 1892
; sponsored by Miss Ann B. Dickie; and commissioned 5 February 1895
, Captain John J. Read
in command. She was built in a transitional period for warship design and for the US Navy. The Navy was expanding is fleet to move beyond coastal defense onto the world stage. Olympia
was larger and faster than the previous generation of Navy ships, built with a new type of vertical triple-expansion steam engine. Yet she retained a vestigial suit of sails for emergency propulsion. She was one of the first naval ships to have electricity and powered steering gear.
Her initial service was as flagship
on the Asiatic Station
. In that role, she participated in Philippines-area Spanish-American War
operations, including the Battle of Manila Bay
, and returned to the U.S. in September 1899. It was from her deck that Commodore George Dewey
spoke the famous words "You may fire when ready, Gridley", which launched the attack that resulted in the sinking or capture of the entire Spanish Pacific fleet
under Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón
and silenced the shore batteries at Manila
, all within the span of six hours. The precise spot where Dewey is believed to have stood when he gave the order is marked on the ship today.
From 1902 to 1906, Olympia was active in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean. She also saw occasional service as a United States Naval Academy training ship into 1909. She was a barracks ship at Charleston, South Carolina, from 1912 to 1916, and recommissioned for sea duty in the latter year. Olympia spent World War I and the early post-war years in the Atlantic, the Russian Arctic as part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War and in the Mediterranean area. She was briefly reclassified as CA-15 on July 17, 1920, then CL-15 on August 8, 1921. In October-November 1921, she brought home the body of the "Great War's" Unknown Soldier. The Olympia was the first ship in the U.S. Navy to have a mechanically chilled fresh water dispenser, or "Scuttlebutt", and is the oldest steel warship still afloat.
Preservation of Olympia
Decommissioned on 9 December 1922
was preserved as a relic, being again reclassified IX-40 in June 30, 1931. On September 11, 1957 she was released to the Cruiser Olympia
Association and modified back to her 1898 configuration and became a museum ship
under their auspices until 1995 when faced with mounting debt, the Cruiser Olympia
Society merged, on January 1, 1996 with the Independence Seaport Museum
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Investigators studied the Olympia for clues to the explosion of the USS Maine. Two of its guns are located in the Captain's and Admiral's Quarters, which resemble Victorian sitting rooms, complete with tall cupboards, overstuffed furniture, and fireplace.
Today the Olympia is a museum at the Independence Seaport Museum, at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia. She is the sole floating survivor of the U.S. Navy's Spanish-American War fleet. NROTC Midshipmen from Villanova University NROTC regularly work on the Olympia, functioning as maintenance crew.