(C-6) was laid down 17 June 1891 by Union Iron Works, San Francisco,
California.; launched 5 November 1892 sponsored by Miss Ann B.
Dickie; and commissioned 5 February 1895, Captain John J. Read
in command. Almost immediately members of the California
Naval Militia trained aboard her during her stay at Mare
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 immortal
victory at Manila Bay.
Ships darkened, the fleet safely passed
the harbor defenses, and engaged the enemy off Manila at daybreak
1 May. 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.
took part in the blockade and capture of the city of Manila and
covered the Army in repelling insurgent attacks until she returned
to the China coast 20 May 1899. Next month she was underway for
Suez, the Mediterranean, and Boston, which she reached 10 October.
She ecommissioned 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, Turkey (August 1904), and
Santo Domingo (May-December 1905), on the alert for any threat.
For six years, beginning 2 April 1906,
OLYMPIA was out of commission first at Norfolk, then at
Annapolis, recommissioning three summers for midshipmen training
cruises (15 May-26 August 1907; l June-1 September 1908; 14 May-28
August 1909). She arrived Charleston, S. C. 6 March 1912, to
serve as barracks ship for the reserve torpedo group.
As war came closer to the United States,
OLYMPIA recommissioned in late 1916 and became flagship,
Patrol Force Atlantic Fleet, 13 April 1917. She patrolled off
Nova Scotia and escorted convoys before departing Charleston
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 to 25 October 1919, policing
the Dalmation 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 19 September. On 23 September, she sent a landing
party ashore at Trau to prevent a clash between Yugoslavs and
Returning to Charleston 24 November 1919,
OLYMPIA prepared for further Adriatic duty, departing
New York 14 February 1920. Home again at Philadelphia 25 May
1921, she became flagship of the Train, Atlantic Fleet, the next
month. She took part that July in the Army-Navy experiments which
sank ex-German warships FRANKFURT and OSTFRIESLAND off the Virginia
On 3 October 1921, OLYMPIA departed
Philadelphia for LeHavre to bring the remains of the Unknown
Soldier home for interment in Arlington National Cemetery. The
cruiser sailed for home 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 (BB-29) and
BERNADOU (DD-163) 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 decommissioned at Philadelphia 9 December
1922. She was reclassified IX-40 on 30 June 1931. The Navy's
oldest steel ship still afloat is preserved as a shrine at Philadelphia
by the Cruiser OLYMPIA Association, to which title was
transferred 11 September 1957.