U.S.S. Olympia (1892)

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U.S.S. Olympia (1892)
Hull Number: Cruiser No. 6[1]
IX-40 (1931)[3]
Builder: Union Iron Works[4]
Ordered: Act of 7 September, 1888[5]
Laid down: 17 June, 1891[6]
Launched: 5 November, 1892[7]
Commissioned: 5 February, 1895[8]
Decommissioned: 9 December, 1922[9]
Preserved: 11 September, 1957
Fate: Museum ship at Philadelphia
U.S.S. Olympia was a protected cruiser completed for the U.S. Navy in 1895.


Olympia was laid down on 17 June, 1891 by Union Iron Works, San Francisco. She was launched on 5 November, 1892, sponsored by Miss Ann B. Dickie.


Olympia commissioned onn 5 February, 1895, with Captain John J. Read in command. She departed Mare Island 25 August 1895 to join the Asiatic Fleet as flagship. For three years she cruised the Far East, visiting Japan, China, and the Philippines.

With Captain Charles V. Gridley in command, she flew the flag of Commodore George Dewey from 3 January, 1898. That winter she lay at Hong Kong with the fleet, awaiting orders should war with Spain break out.

On 25 April, the day the war was declared, the squadron moved to Mirs Bay, China. Two days later came the message which led to Dewey's victory at Manila Bay.

Manila Bay

Ships darkened, the fleet safely passed the harbor defenses, and engaged the Spanish ships off Manila at daybreak on 1 May, 1898. Dewey remembered, "At 5:40 when we were within a distance of 5,000 yards, I turned to Captain Gridley and said, You may fire when you are ready, Gridley... The very first gun to speak was an 8-inch... of the Olympia...." By noon Spain's Asian fleet had been destroyed with Olympia playing the leading role. The battle was pivotal in the history of the Far East, and thus of the world.

Olympia took part in the subsequent blockade and capture of the city of Manila, then covered the U.S. Army in repelling Filipino insurgent attacks until she returned to the China coast on 20 May, 1899. Next month she was underway for Suez, the Mediterranean, and Boston, which she reached on 10 October. She decommissioned there 8 November, 1899.


Recommissioning in January 1902, Olympia joined the North Atlantic Squadron, serving first as flagship for the Caribbean Division. In the next four years, she roved the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Mediterranean, protecting American citizens and interests from danger in the political strife and turmoil troubling this period. She was off Panama (December 1903–March 1904), Tangiers (June 1904), Smyrna (August 1904), and Santo Domingo (May–December 1905), on the alert for any threat.

For six years, beginning on 2 April, 1906, Olympia was out of commission first at Norfolk, then at Annapolis, recommissioning three summers for midshipmen training cruises (15 May through 26 August, 1907, 1 June to 1 September, 1908, and 14 May through 28 August 1909). She arrived at Charleston, South Carolina on 6 March 1912, to serve as barracks ship for the reserve torpedo group based there.

As war came closer to the United States, Olympia recommissioned in late 1916 and became flagship, Patrol Force Atlantic Fleet, on 13 April 1917. She patrolled off Nova Scotia and escorted convoys before departing Charleston on 28 April, 1918 for Murmansk, Russia. There on 24 May 1918, she joined an allied force during the crisis brought on by Russia's revolution and her peace treaty with Germany. Olympia landed sailors to garrison Murmansk, and contributed others to the Allied expedition on Archangel.

At war's end she sailed for Portsmouth, England, and then the Mediterranean. She cruised principally in the Adriatic from 21 January, 1919 to 25 October, policing the Dalmatian coast which was wracked with turmoil in the wake of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On 18 August, she sailed for the Black Sea to aid refugees before returning to the Adriatic on 19 September. On 23 September, she sent a landing party ashore at Trau to prevent a clash between Yugoslavs and Italians.

Returning to Charleston on 24 November, 1919, Olympia prepared for further Adriatic duty, departing New York on 14 February 1920. Home again at Philadelphia on 25 May, 1921, she became flagship of the Fleet Train, Atlantic Fleet, the next month. She took part that July in the Army-Navy experiments which sank the ex-German warships Frankfurt and Ostfriesland off the Virginia Capes.

On 3 October, 1921 Olympia departed Philadelphia for Le Havre to bring the remains of the Unknown Soldier home for interment in Arlington National Cemetery. The cruiser sailed for home on 25 October 1921, escorted by a group of French destroyers for the first leg of the passage. At the mouth of the Potomac on 9 November North Dakota and Bernadou joined her as she stood up to the Washington Navy Yard. There with full and somber military honors, the body was piped over the side, Olympia firing a last salute.

After training midshipmen in the summer of 1922, Olympia was decommissioned at Philadelphia 9 December 1922. She was reclassified IX–40 on 30 June 1931.

The Navy's oldest steel ship still afloat is perserved as a shrine at Philadelphia. Title was transferred to the Cruiser Olympia Association on 11 September, 1957.


Dates of appointment are provided when known.


As Completed


  • four 8-inch/35 caliber
  • ten 5-inch/40 caliber
  • fourteen 6-pounders
  • seven 1-pounders
  • four Gatling guns
  • six 18-inch torpedo tubes



  • ten 5-inch/51 caliber
  • two 1-pounders

See Also


  1. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  2. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 451.
  3. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  4. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  5. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 15.
  6. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  7. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  8. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  9. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  10. Register of Officers, 1898. p. 6.
  11. Register of Officers, 1898. p. 6.
  12. Records of Living Officers (7th ed). p. 97.
  13. Records of Living Officers (7th ed). p. 97.
  14. Register of Officers, 1903. p. 8.
  15. Register of Officers, 1904. p. 8.
  16. Register of Officers, 1905. p. 8.
  17. Register of Officers, 1906. p. 8.
  18. Register of Officers, 1906. p. 8.
  19. Register of Officers, 1907. pp. 8-9.
  20. Dispatch-Republican (Kansas) 24 June, 1907 p. 4
  21. Brooklyn Citizen 25 August, 1907 p. 7.
  22. Register of Officers, 1911. p. 14.
  23. Register of Officers, 1912. p. 14.
  24. Register of Officers, 1917. p. 14-15.
  25. Register of Officers, 1920. p. 12.
  26. Naval History and Heritage Command.
  27. Naval History and Heritage Command.
  28. Register of Officers, 1920. p. 16-17.
  29. Register of Officers, 1922. pp. 14-15.
  30. Evening Star (Washington, DC) 10 December, 1922 p. 19.
  31. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 461.
  32. Silverstone. The New Navy. p. 27.


  • Chesneau, Robert; Kolesnik, Eugene (editors) (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Cooling, Benjamin Franklin (2007). U.S.S. Olympia: Herald of Empire. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). The U.S. Navy Warship Series: The New Navy 1883-1922. New York: Routledge.

Protected Cruiser U.S.S. Olympia
<– Columbia Class Minor Cruisers (US) New Orleans Class –>