Tag Archives: USS Olympia

Bronze coins from Manila Bay

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:

American Chestnut, Commodore Dewey edition

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.

97 years ago today: Dewey’s flagship, bringing home the saddest casualty back from ‘Over There’

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.

The spirit of 1898 at The Tomb

While the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington is a hallowed place, established in 1921 with the Unknown Soldier of the Great War and guarded in all weather 24/7/365 since 1937, it has few tie-ins to the nation’s conflicts before the 20th Century. That is about to change in a small but interesting way.

On 18 October, four specially-made ceremonial Sig Sauer M17s will replace the current M9 Berettas carried by the Tomb Guard Platoon’s NCOs (Sentinels carry the M14, and that is not going to change).

These new sidearms are extremely interesting pieces with a non-railed aluminum grip module rather than the M17 (P320)’s standard polymer frame, a high-polish stainless steel slide, wood grip inserts, a 21-round 9mm magazine, and lots of other features.

(Photo: Sig)

Take a closer look at those grip inserts:

They contain the Distinctive Unit Insignia for the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), parent unit of the platoon.

The wood itself? It comes from the decking of the protected cruiser USS Olympia (C-6/CA-15/CL-15/IX-40), the former flagship of Commodore Dewey in the Spanish-American War that later brought home the Unknown Soldier of World War I in 1921.

More on the new Sigs here.

Rest in peace, Dewey’s parrot

The final resting place of the parrot mascot of the venerated protected cruiser USS Olympia, Commodore George Dewey’s flagship on that fateful day in 1898 at the Battle of Manila Bay, interned at age 86. The warbird is located at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in Lyon Township

According to legend, he was one of the few (American) casualties of the engagement that destroyed the last Spanish fleet in the Pacific.

USS OLYMPIA (C-6) Sailor with a parrot, which had lost a leg in the Battle of Manila Bay, May 1898. Cyanotype Print. Photographed by George Grantham, 15 Park Row, New York City. See NH 43356A for a halftoned version of this photo copied from Harper’s Weekly, September 30, 1899, p992. Description: Catalog #: NH 43356

Dewey’s parrot outlived the good Commodore (who passed in 1917) but not his ship.

Olympia (C-6/CA-15/CL-15/IX-40), decommissioned for the final time on 9 December 1922 after 27-years of service that included not only the Spanish American War and Great War but the intervention against the Reds in the Russian Civil War. The “Queen of the Pacific,” named after the city in Washington state and constructed in California, was only struck in 1957 and is currently a museum ship in (ironically) Philadelphia at the Independence Seaport on the Delaware.

No .4 gun reporting for duty

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 museum No 4 5 inch 51 broadside gun, used for demonstration, cleaned USS Olympia museum No 4 5 inch 51 broadside gun, used for demonstration, cleaned 2 USS Olympia museum No 4 5 inch 51 broadside gun, used for demonstration, cleaned 3 USS Olympia museum No 4 5 inch 51 broadside gun, used for demonstration, cleaned 4
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.


On repairs to the Olympia

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.

Mare Island Closer to getting Olympia


The Mare Island Historic Park Foundation announces submission of a Business Plan Phase IIA application to acquire a Historic Ship from the Spanish American War, the USS OLYMPIA

Vallejo, California/Tuesday April 24, 2012

Today the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation (MIHPF) submitted a Phase IIA Application to acquire the USS OLYMPIA for display in Dry-Dock #1 at Mare Island.  A written response from the ship owners on the acceptability of this submittal is due to the MIHPF on July 1, 2012.  The OLYMPIA is the oldest surviving steel hulled warship in the world most famous for her role as Admiral Dewey’s flagship in decimating the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay at the outbreak of the Spanish American War in 1898. Submission of a Phase IIA Application is the second step in a four step process for acquisition of the ship. The four step process was developed by Independence Seaport Museum (ISM), the Navy and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission each of which have a legal interest in the ship.

Kenneth Zadwick, the president of the MIHPF, commented that: “We are excited that our Phase IIA application demonstrates that we can provide a safe and protective location for the OLYMPIA while generating sufficient revenue to address expenses associated with displaying and operating her.  Now we embark on the “make or break” part of our effort as we reach out to our fellow Americans and, in particular, those who have benefitted from our American story to raise the funds required to capitalize the acquisition.  We trust that the fact that the OLYMPIA is not just some monument created to commemorate a great event, but that she is the actual ship from which American sailors fought at peril and through their heroic actions launched our nation into our role as a world power, will resonate with those who appreciate the importance of preserving and displaying for all to see such a unique and important part of our shared heritage.”

The display of a historic ship as a monument in Mare Island’s Dry-Dock #1 has long been a goal of the MIHPF.  Acquisition of the OLYMPIA remains the focus to fulfill this goal.  The OLYMPIA has a historical connection to the San Francisco Bay Area as she was built here and she operated from Mare Island prior to her dispatch to the Asiatic Station.”  It will require $9M to tow her to the west coast and conduct site preparations at Mare Island in Vallejo California.

Donations to support this historic venture are being sought to bring OLYMPIA home to Mare Island.  For more information see www.mareislandhpf.org or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tGa4M60qew&feature=relmfu for more information regarding donations see http://www.mareislandhpf.org/ships/donate.html.

The MIHPF is a non-profit public benefit corporation within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. MIHPF was founded in 1995, and operates a 50,000 sq. ft Museum, and leases and maintains three major historical properties; two Mansions on Officer’s Row, and St. Peter’s Chapel with the most Tiffany windows in the West on the former naval shipyard in Vallejo, California.


Dennis Kelly

OLYMPIA Project Manager, Mare Island Historic Park Foundation



USS Olympia Now a Hot commodity

USS Olympia fought over by 4 Groups

Looks like the Olympia, Dewey’s flagship during the whole “You may fire when ready Mr Gridley” hate at Manila Bay in the Spanish American War, may not be sunk as a reef after all.

The 115-year old spring chicken is being fought over by four groups, one that wants to keep it in Philly, another that wants to tow it to Baltimore, a third that says Parris Island is the way to go and the four wants to bring it to SF…..

Read more here http://www.suite101.com/content/four-groups-vie-for-uss-olympia-custody-a372673

This slideshow requires JavaScript.