USS Olympia (Cruiser # 6, C-6, later CA-15, CL-15, and IX-40), a 5586-ton protected cruiser built at San Francisco, California. The cruiser Olympia was launched in San Francisco in 1892 and was commissioned in February 1895. 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.
Olympia was designed and built entirely within the US, a stipulation which Congress imposed in order to force advances in American industrial technology. This tactic was successful, and this program was directly responsible for the rise of the steel shipbuilding industry of the United States. Though further advances after the turn of the century quickly left Olympia behind, she was very sophisticated for her day. Technologically, Olympia is a magnificent piece of work. She had electric power, refrigeration, hydraulic steering, and other engineering advances which are distinctive.
It was said that there was no other protected cruiser in the US Navy, nor in any other navy, that surpassed the Olympia in those qualities that go to constitute perfection in a ship of her class and size. Her speed was as great as can well be had without the sacrifice of some other feature of essential value, such as protection or weight of guns. The Columbia and Minneapolis were her superiors in speed, but have attained this supremacy only through a consfderable reduction of their powers of offence. They can run faster than the Olympia, but cannot fight as well. If she be compared with the British ships of the Eclipse type, of practically the same displacement, she will be found, while carrying a considerably superior weight of guns, and a heavier deck armor, to have also the advantage of over two knots in speed,-this due to her greater engine power, which is nearly double that of the British ship.
She is a twin screw steamer of steel with two covered barbettes and two military masts. She is three hundred and forty feet long, has a beam of fifty-three feet and a mean draft of twenty-one feet six inches.She carried four hundred and sixty-six men and belongs to the second class of protected cruisers.
The Olympia is rigged as a two-masted schooner, and is three hundred and forty feet long, fifty-three feet wide, and twenty-one feet six inches in draught. She has a displacement of 5870 tons, her engines can develop 17,313 horse-power, and her record of speed is 21.686 knots. Her coal-carrying capacity is one thousand three hundred tons and her speed is twenty-one and a half knots. All her six boilers can be worked under forced draught on the air-tight fire system.
Known at the time as a Protected Cruiser, she was fast, carried a good armament, with moderate protection. Her armor consists of steel deck plates, steel-covered barbettes, hoods and gun shields, and two conning towers. This fine vessel has been complimented as being a smaller edition of the New York, to which she does, indeed, present a certain resemblance in general attractiveness of aspect and in some other particulars, though she differs in type, since she has no side armor. She has, however, a protective deck, which joining the hull beneath the water line at an angle of thirty degrees, and with a thickness of four and three- fourths inches on the slopes amidships, and three inches on the forward and aft slopes and two at the center is a very good substitute for side armor. She is also protected with a cellulose belt thirty-three inches thick and eight feet broad. This layer of cocoa packing affords protection against the inrush of water.
The armament of the Olympia is very heavy for a cruiser of her weight. The ship has a double barrel eight inch gun turret on the front of the ship and a double barrel eight inch gun turret on the rear of the ship, the barbettes and turrets having respectively 4 and 3-inch steel armor. Ten (10) Five Inch (127 mm) naval guns are mounted in Casemates; five are mounted on either side of the ship. The guns have a limited arc of fire due to the fact that they are mounted in casemates and cannot be used against air targets. Her armament includes fourteen six-pounder quick-fire guns, six one-pound quick-fire guns, four gatlings and six torpedo tubes.
The placing of figureheads under the bowsprits of ships, together with the carvings and decorating of bows and sterns, is a custom of the greatest antiquity. Until the seventeenth century it was the custom to place at the extremity of the prow a sculptured figure, which served to distinguish vessels of different nationalities. The Venetians adopted a bust of one of their great men, the Spaniards a lion, the English the figure of the reigning monarch, either on horseback or riding a lion. On the sterns of the Venetian, Portuguese and Spanish ships the carved image of some saint or hero was placed in much the same manner as a spread-eagle was at one time the favorite emblem on the stern of an American ship.
Figureheads were discarded with the bowsprits of the wooden warships of the old navy. The builders of men-of-war made but slight efforts to decorate either bow or stern of the grim fighting machines, which would scarcely relieve the rigid and formidable appearance of the huge floating batteries. A number of United States cruisers carried a shield draped with the national colors, but the execution or effect has never awakened criticism or aroused enthusiasm in connection with the modern navy.
A radical departure from stereotyped lines was inaugurated with the cruiser Cincinnati, which was decorated with an elaborate figurehead and stern piece. A similar figurehead and stern piece has been placed on the Olympia. The design differed from that of the Cincinnati in that the cartouche bearing the seal of the Navy Department was replaced by the seal of the United States as the feature of a huge scroll ornament. The ornaments of Dewey's flagship were made from bronze, in which there is metal carried by the ship while at Manila. At that time the Olympia bore no figurehead. On the bow she carried the national shield in red, white and blue with gilded scrollwork.
Her initial service was as flagship on the Asiatic Station. In that role, she participated in Philippines area Spanish-American War operations. 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 world affairs.
After slipping unseen into Manila Bay on May 1, Dewey's ships came under fire at a range of about 9,000 yards. As he later recalled: "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." The gunnery was appalling on both sides. In Dewey's fleet, only 2.4% of the 5,859 shells expended hit their targets. But after two hours, the two largest Spanish ships had been sunk and most of the rest were either sinking or burning.
The 1902 overhaul gave her a new rig, removed the torpedo tubes and fighting tops, relocated the hawsepipes, substituted ornate scrollwork and a figurehead for the bow shield, and replaced her 8" turrets with deck guns. After her Spanish American War service, the OLYMPIA also served as a training ship for midshipman from the U.S. Naval Academy and as Flagship of U.S. Naval Forces Eastern Mediterranean during World War I.
The reserve torpedo group, during yeat before the outbreak of teh Great War, consisted of 8 torpedo boats, 2 destroyers, 2 submarines, and the U.S.S. Olympia as tender. The U.S.S. Olympia is a vessel of the second class with an authorized complement of more than 175 men. but during the period from December 0, 1912. to March 31, 1913, there were only 96 men on board that vessel. The complement of the other vessels in the reserve torpedo group numbered over 300 men.
In 1921, the body of the Unknown Soldier was received aboard the OLYMPIA at LeHavre, France, with full military honors for return to the United States and its final resting place in Arlington Cemetery. This was the OLYMPIA's last mission.
Olympia was decommissioned in 1922, and lay neglected for thirty years at an abandoned pier in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Olympia was saved in 1954 from scrapping. In 1955, the Society of Founders and Patriots, stepped up to save this ship that served her country well, followed by the Cruiser Olympia Association, who restored this treasure for posterity. The Olympia has been on display as a museum / memorial ship since 1957. Replications were carried out to return her to her appearance of 1898. The 8" turrets were mocked up and installed on deck, masts and fighting tops were reconstructed, and the missing 5" battery was replaced with similar weaponry to her original.
The Crusier Olympia Association cared for this ship until 1996, when it was placed under the watchful eye of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia and is now moored on the Delaware River. Today, the Olympia displays her traditional garb of "buff and white" as a naval shrine at Penn's Landing on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since receiving custody of the vessel in 1996, the Museum's staff has been working to stabilize her, and then intends to work toward her complete restoration. Nearly fifty years of creeping deterioration and a chronic lack of consistent preservation policies have left the vessel in a poor state of preservation.
Over 6 weeks in 1997, a contractor removed deteriorated lead-based coatings from the USS Olympia, a tourist attraction docked on the Delaware River at Penn's Landing, a busy waterfront park in the center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The visibility of the project, coupled with the owner's inability to place the ship in drydock, made for a challenging project. The existing coatings were delaminating in huge pieces, and extensive corrosion was evident. High-pressure waterjetting was selected to remove deteriorated coatings and loose material over vacuum-shrouded hand tools, because the method offered better surface preparation and less chance of airborne emissions. Before beginning surface preparation, the contractor constructed a containment system that spanned the height of the vessel. The blasting water was filtered and reused for surface preparation. Due to the presence of lead-based coatings, the contractor performed area and personal air monitoring and measured its employees blood lead levels before, during, and after the project. Substrates were waterjetted at 20,000 psi (137 MPa) to keep sound, intact coatings and remove degraded areas and corrosion. For coatings, the museum selected a system consisting of a 100% solids epoxy penetrating primer coating, an epoxy primer, and an alkyd topcoat. The contractor applied the coatings to the exterior of the vessel using conventional and airless spray.
The Cruiser OLYMPIA is one of the United States' greatest historical artifacts. The sole surviving warship of the Spanish American War and the early American steel navy, OLYMPIA is the third oldest US naval vessel in existence, after CONSTITUTION and CONSTELLATION. The U.S.S. Olympia, a registered national historic landmark whose engineering plant has been documented by the Historic American Engineering Record. The Olympia is one of the last steel-hulled ships remaining in the world and she is listed on the annual report to the U.S. Congress of Damaged and Threatened National Historic Landmarks. The Olympia is open for the public to enjoy and experience this unique piece of American history.
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