USS Olympia (C-6)

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, Olympia is a museum ship at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Design and construction

Olympia 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.

Service history

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, Olympia 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.


Further reading

External links

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