OLYMPIA’s propellers photographed in a floating drydock in 1904
Via the Independence Seaport Museum: Cruiser OLYMPIA’s two propellers (screws) were 14 feet in diameter and had three blades. The screws, like on most ships, counter-rotated from each other to prevent the ship from straying off course. They were also bent twice in her career!
The Cruiser Olympia Association long ago used one of the screws, which were removed when Olympia passed into use as a museum ship in 1957, for a series of commemorative coins that helped to fund the group’s operations. The 32mm bronze coins were issued for the 60th anniversary of the battle in 1958, although the Museum still had a number left in their gift shop when I visited in 2013.
From my collection:
Via the Independence Seaport Museum in Philly, where Dewey’s flagship Olympia and the old Balao-class diesel boat USS Becuna have been on display for generations:
“The Admiral/Captain’s stateroom aboard cruiser Olympia is paneled with American chestnut, which is now considered ‘functionally extinct’ according to The American Chestnut Foundation due to disease in that particular species.”
Olympia’s Admiral’s and Captain’s quarters today
Olympia’s Admiral’s stateroom in 1899
Olympia’s Admiral’s stateroom in 1899, looking aft
Olympia’s Captain’s stateroom in 1902
Of note, Olympia’s 125th birthday is this year, so if you are the City of Brotherly Love, swing on by and salute the old girl.
A colorized image of the Unknown Soldier’s casket being carried off of OLYMPIA, which is featured in the background. Via Independence Seaport Museum. You can see Gen. Blackjack Pershing to the right, commander of the AEF, and an honor guard of Marines in blues.
On this date, November 9th, 1921, cruiser OLYMPIA arrived at the Washington Navy Yard carrying the Unknown Soldier of the first World War, having brought the casket across the stormy Atlantic Ocean from Le Havre, France. It was at this time that the casket was transferred from the hands of the U.S. Navy aboard OLYMPIA to the waiting Army contingent, who would then carry the body to Arlington National Cemetery for interment where he rests at the Tomb of the Unknowns today.
From Kevin Smith at the Cruiser Olympia at Independence Seaport Museum:
“Today the crew performed the task of a gunners gang, taking down the traversing gear for our #4 5″/51 broadside gun, which we use for demonstration. The gearing was assessed to be too dirty, slowing the travel of the gun left and right. The gearing was taken apart, cleaned thoroughly, and greased anew”
USS Olympia (C-6) was of course Dewey’s flag at Manila Bay, commissioned 5 February 1895 after her completion in San Francisco.
Laid up in 1906, she was brought back out of mothballs in 1916 with the Great War on the horizon and her 5″/40 cals that she carried against the Spanish were replaced with the newer 5″/51s that were standard on battleships (as secondary armament) and cruisers of that time.
She carried and used those weapons in training new bluejacket gunners during the war, then in support of the U.S. Expeditionary Forces to Russia during the civil war in that country, and in carrying the Unknown Soldier of WWI back from France.
It’s nice to see, that although she was decommissioned as a warship 9 December 1922 (now some 93-years ago) and has been used as a relic and museum ship since, at least one of these old 5-inch casemate guns is still fit for service.
Dewey’s Olympia hasn’t been out of the water since 1945 and as such is in dire need of repair. Here is a short vid of how that is being accomplished. As noted by a member of the preservation effort in a warship group I am a member of:
Olympia has been in a fresh water port since 1922. Olympia could not have survived this long if it were in a salt water port such as New York or San Francisco. Over the last fifty years Olympia suffered a lot of corrosion from electrolysis rather than just exposure to water. The other factor that has contributed to Olympia’s hull problems is that since Olympia has been constantly moored in the same spot since 1976, the marina has silted up and so at present Olympia floats for about 70 percent for the day at high tide and is aground for 30 percent of the day at low tide. So, approximately eighteen inches around the ship’s waterline has grown thin from exposure to oxygen and then water,
Sound’s bleak right? Not really. Bottom line is that Olympia’s hull needs work to ensure that last for another 50+ years however it definitely repairable and is not too far deteriorated. Drydocking will happen soon however I’m not at liberty to give any specific details.