USS OLYMPIA (C-6)
National Maritime Initiative Photograph
Class: Olympia Cruiser
Length: 344 feet
The oldest steel-hulled American warship afloat, Olympia served as Commodore George Dewey's flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. In that engagement, Spanish naval forces in the Philippines were handed a smashing defeat, securing the Philippines for the United States and embarking the nation on an expanded role as a major force in not only the Pacific, but also world affairs. The cruiser was born out of a program of ships for the "New Navy" of the 1880s and 1890s designed to correct the deficiencies of a weakened and neglected naval force. This program was directly responsible for the rise of the steel shipbuilding industry of the United States. Olympia is the last remaining ship built during that program and the sole surviving naval combatant of the Spanish-American War.
Olympia returned home in triumph from the Spanish-American War in 1899. The cruiser then showed the flag from the Caribbean to Aegean Sea and served as the training vessel for the U.S. Naval Academy until 1909. Reactivated for World War I, Olympia patrolled off New York and participated in the allied landings in Murmansk in 1918. Olympia's last major mission was the return of the Unknown Soldier from World War I for reburial in Arlington National Cemetery. Olympia was decommissioned in 1922, and saved in 1954 from scrapping. In 1996, the Independence Seaport Museum assumed responsibility for maintaining the vessel. USS Olympia is a National Historic Landmark and the triple expansion engines are Historic Engineering Landmarks.
Olympia off Mare Island July 1895
Photo from the William H. Topley Collection, courtesy of Charles M. Loring, Napa, CA, and the Naval History and Heritage Command.
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