Commodore Dewey’s laconic dispatches tell the story of the greatest sea fight in the history of the world. They will forever henceforth rank as models of celebrated announcements of victory by great commanders. The language was simple, direct, explicit, and free from all vain-gloriousness. One instantly wonders, after reading the dispatches, if Dewey realized that he had fought and gained the greatest naval victory recorded in the annals of mankind. ” (America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas, at page 185)

With the Battle of Manila Bay characterized as “the greatest naval victory recorded in the annals of mankind”, should the ancient Battles of Salamis and Actium be relegated to the dustbin of history? Should the shade of Horatio Nelson hang is head in shame over his and the Royal Navy’s lamentable performance at the Battle of Trafalgar? Hyperbole? Undoubtedly but the Battle of Manila Bay did mark in a most dramatic manner the arrival of a new world naval power, the United States Navy. In Europe , the smart money was on the Spanish Navy and the American victory came as a shock. 

Most of the nations of Europe were in support of Spain with the one notable exception of Great Britain . In spite of the fact that France was a republic, which favored Spain , and Great Britain was a monarchy, which favored the United States , many, if not most authors, as well as the American public, saw the Spanish-American War as a test of a republic against a monarchy. “The compiler of this book has no respect whatever for the average king or queen in their official capacity. He regards them as useless and hurtful relics of an earlier and less civilized age of the world. Their right to rule is based solely on their power to enforce their authority; and nine-tenths of the wars that have cursed the nations of the earth have resulted from the vanity and petty personal ambitions of these upstart and often ignorant and imbecile persons. But, at the same time, there is a certain morbid curiosity regarding them on the part of the public, similar in character to that which leads people to view the wild animals of a circus.” (America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas, at page 79) Well, perhaps the honorable Senator from Kansas considered Queen Victoria as above average for a monarch, or maybe because Great Britain was governed by a Parliament and not through absolute monarchy, the above comments apparently did not apply to Great Britain . Nonetheless, even the British felt that the United States had got more than it had bargained for. “In point of fact, we do not believe that the Yankees thoroughly understand the spirit of mischief that they seem so determined to evoke.” The London Engineer. Almost universally, the European press scoffed at the melting pot nature of the USN. “You hire riff-raff of all nations.” Spanish officer to Ralph Paine of the Philadelphia Press. “…no hirelings of an alien state are likely to come well out of such a terrible ordeal.” The London Engineer on the American navy’s prospects in a war with Spain .  

In the east the fortunes of the United States rode upon the shoulders of a white haired Commodore from Vermont , named George Dewey. Born in 1837 Dewey had graduated from the Naval Academy in 1858. Very active during the American Civil War, he had been a lieutenant on the steam sloop Mississippi with Farragut in the seizure of New Orleans . After the war he had risen to command the fleet flagship Pensacola from 1886-88. He had just come off an assignment as the influential chief of the Board of Inspection and Survey. He had assumed command of the Asiatic squadron in January 1898 at Nagasaki , Japan . At the time the Asiatic Squadron was scattered throughout ports of Asia . He had received this post through the help of a Senator from Vermont and John Long, Secretary of the Navy, called Dewey a carrion of patronage. However, as events would show, the United States had present, the right man, the right instrument, and at the right time in the war to come.

By far the most powerful ship in the Asiatic Squadron was the USS Olympia, Dewey’s flagship. At the time of the rebirth of the United States Navy in 1883, the prime type of warship that was built for the new Steel Navy was the protected cruiser. By definition a protected cruiser had no side armor. Instead the protection came in the form of an armored deck. Typically this deck was low on the ship, covering the machinery spaces. It sloped downward as approached the hull sides and would reach the sides underwater. It was somewhat like the shell of a turtle. In theory the upper works of the cruiser could be shot up but as long as the armored deck was not pierced, the ship would maintain her stability.

A number of these ships had already been built or were building by 1888, when Congress authorized two new cruisers. One was for a 7,500 ton armored cruiser, which became New York , but the other was for a large protected cruiser of 5,300 tons. The earlier protected cruiser designs had set 18 knots as their top speed but for this new design, the top speed was increased to 20 knots. From the start the design would use the 8-inch gun as the main weapon system but there was fluidity in the selection of the secondary battery. Original plans contemplated two 8-inch and twelve 6-inch or four 8-inch and thirty-six 4-inch. For the next several months different variations of the plans, using 6-inch or 4-inch guns as secondary were prepared. Finally there was a thorough analysis of the proposed secondary guns against the requirements for a Rapid Fire (RF) secondary. The six-inch gun (RF) was far too slow in firing to be truly considered a rapid fire system, in spite of its classification. The four-inch gun did not have the stopping power that was desired. Therefore, the designers turned to a compromise, the 5-inch secondary gun. The final disposition was four 8-inch/35 guns paired in turrets and ten 5-inch/40 guns in casemates, as well as six 18-inch torpedo tubes, fourteen 6 pounders, seven one-pounders and four Gatling machine guns. Another departure from previous protected cruiser designs was the inclusion of turrets for the main guns. Instead of the open mounts with gun shields, the Olympia was given turrets of 3-inch armor.

Only one company bid on the proposed design, Union Iron Works of San Francisco. At the company’s own expense, the length of the design was increased by ten feet to provide more space in the fire rooms. From the start the Olympia was classified as a fast commerce raider of exceptional power and the huge range of 13,000 nautical miles. In fact in an odd form of criticism the British stated in their critique of the Olympia that she was over-gunned and over-powered. That is strange criticism indeed to complain that a design is too strong and too fast for its size. The design was so successful that it was likely to became the basis for a whole series of new protected cruiser designs, except that policy changed. No longer interested in the commerce raiders of a navy in an inferior position, USN policy changed to build a full-blown battle line with heavy armored cruisers in supporting roles.

Plan, Profile & Quarter Views
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John Long had been appointed by President McKinley as Secretary of the Navy. As the under secretary Long had an individual whom be thought was impulsive but competent and that man was Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt liked nothing better than to act on his own, rather than merely carrying out the directives of Long. The only times that this occurred when Long was out of the office. Ever since the Maine had blown up in early February 1898, Long had been suffering insomnia. He was worn out and took off February 25 to receive treatment for his illness and Teddy Roosevelt made the most of his opportunity. “After Long went off to have his legs palpated, Roosevelt began cabling orders to squadron commanders, bureau chiefs, shipyard commandants, and coal-purchasing agents. He moved guns from Washington to New York , authorized the purchase of coal, told captains to have their ships ready to sail immediately, and designated strategic rendezvous for various squadron elements in the event of war.” (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 121) Dewey had already moved three of the ships, Olympia , Boston and Petrel, of his squadron from Nagasaki to Hong Kong , so as to be closer to the Philippine Islands. Unlike Long, Roosevelt liked Dewey as a fighter not afraid to use initiative. “I knew that in the event of war Dewey could be slipped like a wolf-hound from a leash. I was sure that he were given half a chance he would strike instantly and with telling effect.” (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 121)  

The Olympia had been scheduled to return to the United States but Under Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt first suspended her transfer and then cancelled it outright so that Dewey could keep the powerful ship. To help Dewey’s chances with the Spanish, Roosevelt ordered two more cruisers and a gunboat to join Dewey in Hong Kong . In a cable to Dewey, Roosevelt ordered, “Dewey, Hong Kong: Order the squadron except Monocacy to Hong Kong . Keep full of coal. In the event of declaration of war Spain , your duty will be to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast and then offensive operations in Philippine Islands . Keep Olympia until further orders. Roosevelt” (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 122) When Long examined Roosevelt ’s cables the next day, he was stunned. Long thought TR had gone far beyond what was proper for an Under Secretary. “Roosevelt, in his precipitate way, has come very near causing more of an explosion than happened to the Maine ….the very devil seemed to possess him yesterday afternoon.” (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 122) Although Long told Roosevelt to never assume such authority again without Long’s or the President’s approval, none of Roosevelt ’s orders were cancelled.

Dewey needed no further prompting. He put his squadron on a war footing. He arranged to have his ships put in dry dock to scrape their hulls of marine growth that would impede speed. The ships had their brilliant peacetime white and buff schemes over painted to war gray. The color used in Hong Kong on the ships of the Asiatic Fleet has been variously described as slate gray or greenish gray. This paint was most probably ordered from merchant stocks, as the Royal Navy was still five years away from abandoning their black, white and buff paint scheme (white and buff on overseas stations). One apparent addition to Olympia was a lattice tower added to the top of the conning tower, which slanted forward over the forward turret. This odd structure resembled an American collage football coaches tower.

On April 24, 1898 Spain declared all treaties between Spain and the United States null and void and on the 25th President McKinley asked Congress for a Declaration of War. On that same day Dewey moved his squadron from Hong Kong to Mirs Bay , 30 miles up the coast. With war the British government had asked Dewey to leave Hong Kong . At 7:00 PM on the 25th Dewey received a cable from Long. “War has commenced between the United States and Spain . Proceed at once to Philippine Islands . Commence operations particularly against the Spanish fleet. You must capture vessels or destroy. Use utmost endeavor.” (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 209) Dewey waited two more days at Mirs Bay , waiting for the latest information about the defenses of Manila and the mines in Manila Bay but on 27th leaped into action and cabled Long that he was immediately sailing for Manila .

Hull Detail
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Joseph Stickney was a reporter for the New York Herald. He was in Japan when the war broke out and immediately made his way to Dewey,s squadron. He requested that he be allowed to go with the squadron. When Dewey granted the request, Stickney further asked to be allowed on the forward bridge during any battle. Dewey responded, “I think you will be satisfied.” When the time came Dewey appointed Stickney as his aide and told the reporter, “You will take station with me on the forward bridge.’ Dewey paused, then added with a wink: ‘Satisfied?” Clearly George Dewey recognized the power of a favorable press.

For three days the US Asiatic Squadron slowly steamed across the China Sea bound for battle in the Philippines . Each day Dewey would exercise his ships and crews and each night band of Olympia would perform for the crew. Olympia ’s time to clear for action was seven minutes. Saturday morning April 30 Point Bolinao on the north end of Luzon was sighted. That afternoon Boston and Concord were sent ahead to scout Subig Bay and later Baltimore was sent to back up the other two. After that trio had left Olympia came close to a collision that could have changed history. The Zafiro, a steamer hired to haul coal for the squadron, was ordered to check several small schooners for the latest news from Manila . When the Zafiro returned, she closed with Olympia to communicate and her helm was put over the wrong way. She turned directly ahead of Olympia and it appeared that a collision could not be avoided. However, Lieutenant Strite Officer of the Deck of Olympia quickly put the Olympia ’s helm over and the cruiser’s bow cleared the collier’s stern by three to four feet.

Subic Bay was empty so the squadron was reunited before passing Corregidor and entering Manila Bay. Before entering the Bay, Dewey stopped the squadron and had all commanders report to Olympia for his final battle plans. “They’re comin’,’ said one of the old seamen,’ to hear the ‘old man’s last word before we go at the Dons.” Each commander was given specific orders for his ship and by 7:00 PM, they were back aboard their vessels. Dewey had planned to pass the fortified island of Corregidor at night and reach Manila at dawn with the squadron speed of eight knots, due to the slow colliers. “With all lights out, and the crews at the guns, the warships in their gray war paint turned silently toward the Boca Grande, the larger entrance to the bay, the flagship, Olympia, leading.” (Fire When Read,y Gridley! 1993, Edited by William Honan, at page 8) The Olympia was a mile past Corregidor , before the Spanish fired. “Then, one heavy shot went screaming over the Raleigh and the Olympia , and plunged harmlessly into the water. It was followed by a second, which fell far astern of the vessels.” (America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas, at page 188) Once past Corregidor, speed was reduced to four knots in order to time the arrival of the squadron at Manila to dawn.

Hull Detail
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As the squadron approached Manila , only the masts of merchantmen were seen. The Spanish squadron had to be down the coast at Cavite . The great unknown to Dewey was the presence of mines and the Spanish guns in the fortifications. The American squadron was clearly superior to the Spanish squadron but land guns and mines could spell disaster for the American effort. There were mines but not contact mines. They were command detonated mines and at 05:00 the Spanish detonated two. The Spanish did not have a good estimate of the location of the mines or the American Squadron because both mines were detonated when the Americans were still two miles away from their location. One petty officer remarked, “They ain’t so good at blowing up ships that come with their fighting clothes on as they are at murdering a crew in time of peace.

The Spanish squadron was sighted and when the American squadron was three miles from Cavite , it opened fire. “As the Olympia drew nearer all was as silent on board as if the ship had been empty, except for the whirr of blowers and the throb of the engines. Suddenly a shell burst directly over us. From the boatswain’s mate at the after five-inch gun came a horse cry: ‘Remember the Maine .’ It arose from the throats of five hundred-men at the guns. This watchword was caught up at the turrets and firerooms, wherever seaman or fireman stood at this post. ‘Remember the Maine ’ had rung out for defiance and revenge. Its utterance seemed unpremeditated, but was evidently in every man’s mind, and, now that the moment had come to make adequate reply to the murder of the Maine ’s crew, every man shouted what was in his heart. The Olympia was ready to begin the fight. ” (America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas, at page 190)

When Olympia was 5,500 yards from the Spanish ships, Dewey hailed Olympia ’s captain, who was in the conning tower. “You may fire when you get ready, Gridley,’ quietly remarked Commodore Dewey, at precisely forty-one minutes past five o’clock, and instantly the starboard eight-inch gun in the forward turret roared forth a compliment to the Spanish forts.” (America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas, at page 190) Only 200 yards separated each American ship as they opened fire from their port broadsides. The water around the Spanish ships churned so much that it was difficult to see if shells were hitting or falling short. A 40-foot torpedo launch darted towards the American squadron. “Let me know when you are finished with her.”, Dewey stated to newspaperman Stickney, who was helping with the QF guns of Olympia . The wooden hulled launch was torn apart and went down quickly. After Olympia passed down the Spanish line, Dewey reversed course towards the enemy. Now at 3,000 yards the starboard batteries had their turn.  

The piercing scream of shot was often varied by the bursting of time-fuse shells, fragments of which lashed the water like shrapnel, or cut into the hulls and rigging of the American ships. One large shell came straight at Olympia’s forward bridge, where Commodore Dewey and his officers stood, but fortunately fell short less than one hundred feet. A fragment of this shell cut the rigging over the heads of the group of officers; another struck the bridge gratings; and a third passed just under the Commodore and gouged a great hole in the deck. Incidents like these were plentiful, but the men laughed at the danger and chatted good-humoredly. A few nervous fellows could not help dodging, mechanically, when shells would burst right over them, or close aboard, or struck the water and glanced overhead, with the particular spluttering roar made by a tumbling rifled projectile.” (America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas, at page 192)  Dewey continued these tactics of reversing course. During the 4th pass of the Spanish, the Reina Cristina, Spanish flagship of Admiral Montojo, came out of the smoke and made for Olympia as if to ram. At a range of 1,200 yards, the Spanish cruiser was pounded by multiple broadsides. “There came upon us numberless projectiles,’ Montojo later reported. Shells hit the poop, the mizzen masthead (the admiral’s ensign and the Spanish flag crashed to the deck), the stern ammunition room, the fire room, a starboard battery.” (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 230) As ammunition started cooking off aboard Reina Cristina, Admiral Montojo ordered the magazines flooded.

USS Olympia Vital Statistics

Dimensions: Length - 344 feet (OA), 340 feet (WL): Beam - 53 feet; Draught - 21 feet 6 inches: Displacement - 5,870 tons
Armament - four 8-inch/35 BLR 2x2; ten 5-inch/50 RF 10x1; fourteen 6 pounders; six 1 pounders; four Gatlings; six 18-inch torpedo tubes (aw)

Armor - Protective Deck 4 3/4-inch on slopes, 2-inches on flat crown: Barbettes - 4-inchs, Gun Houses - 4.5-inches & 3.5-inches; 5-inch gun shields - 4-inches; shields for 6-ponders - 2-inches: Machinery - Two shaft vertical triple expansion (VTL) engines, four double-ended boilers, 17,313ihp, Range - 13,000nm (design), actual 1901 6,105nm at 10 knots:  Maximum Speed - 21.69 knots: Complement - 33 officers, 395 enlisted men

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Near the end o the 5th pass, Captain Gridley emerged from the conning tower to report that the ammunition was running very short. It was now 07:30 and the Olympia had been in action for almost two hours. The 5-inch guns were down to only 15 rounds per gun. With the nearest resupply of ammunition 1,000s of miles to the east at San Francisco , Dewey decided to break off combat, sail across the bay, determine ammunition status and possibly redistribute ammunition among the ships of the squadron. To mask the low ammunition status from the crews, it was decided to announce that the break in action was to provide breakfast for the crews. Writers later locked on the cover story, rather than the real reason for the break, other than Stickney, the New York Herald’s reporter, who had dreamed up the cover story. “At the close of the fifth run, the most remarkable incident of this or any other battle that was ever fought took place. At thirty-five minutes past 7 o’clock the signal to cease firing and pass out of the range of the enemy’s guns floated from the flagship, and instantly a silence fell upon the bay that seemed like the stillness of death after the fury and uproar of the preceding two hours. Gracefully the ships of the squadron passed to the rear, saluting and cheering the flagship as they went by, and for the next three hours and fifteen minutes the time was wholly devoted to the preparation and serving of breakfast! Was there ever anything so cool and methodical in all the history of the world? Coffee was made, pork was broiled, potatoes were fried, and breakfast was eaten by the men and officers with as much unconcern as if the ships were riding at anchor in some friendly harbor. ‘Dewey’s Breakfast’ will go down to future ages as the most remarkable event that ever occurred in connection with a battle on sea or land. (America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas, at page 194) However, the Spanish governor also misinterpreted the move as he telegraphed Madrid that the US squadron had fled and was hiding behind neutral merchant ships. 

As the Olympia ’s crew came up from the machinery spaces and gun batteries to eat, there was a gypsy caravan look about them. Some were wearing pith helmets and others golf hats. There were men attired in pajamas and in skimpy undershirts. The crews of the 8-inch gun turrets, which were ovens in the tropical morning sun, emerged and were “primeval in their attire.” A conference was called aboard Olympia . At the conference the different captains reported their ship’s damage, casualties and ammunition status. Dewey could not have asked for better reports. Although Baltimore had some wounded, no sailors had been killed. More importantly, it was determined that there was still plenty of ammunition. Captain Gridley had received a garbled report. In stead of the 5-inch guns being down to 15 rounds per gun, the actual situation was that the guns had only fired 15 rounds per gun during the battle.

Looking at the Spanish squadron, the smoke had cleared and it was clear that the Spanish ships were in extreme distress. Several ships were on fire and others were listing. Admiral Montojo had transferred his flag to the Isla de Cuba. At 11:00 the Asiatic Squadron reformed with Baltimore in the van, followed by Olympia . What remained was no real battle but a mere pounding of the Spanish remnants. By 12:30 it was over. Every Spanish ship was sunk and the Cavite arsenal had raised the white flag. When Dewey was denied the use of the telegraph cable by the Spanish governor, he cut the line. The world did not know what had happened at Manila for a week. The last report of the battle was the one by the governor that reported the American ships fleeing. Correspondents that had been with the Asiatic Squadron did not reach Hong Kong until May 7 and it was the Chicago Tribune that scooped the story with “Direct News from Dewey! Not One American Killed!”, while the New York Journal reported “Great Nervousness is Felt in Washington Because Nothing is Heard from Dewey” and the New York Times printed “Dewey May Report Today”. When the official report was received, Teddy Roosevelt waited for the coded message to be decoded. He had resigned his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy the day before to become the second in command of the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment but was eager to let the press know of Dewey’s victory. In large part, the victory had been the product of Roosevelt ’s efforts as well. TR had set the pieces in place and provided Dewey the ships and logistical support that resulted in an overwhelming victory at the start of the war.

Smaller Parts
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From 1901 to 1903 the Olympia was partially reconstructed. She was rearmed in World War one from 1917 to 1918 with ten 5-inch/51 guns and lost her eight-inch guns. During this war, she served as a convoy escort and patrolled the western sea area off the Canadian and northeast US coast. Immediately after the war for a brief period of time she participated in the allied intervention period against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. She went out of service in 1922 and went to reserve. During World War Two steel was needed desperately. However, in spite of the need it was decided that either Olympia or the battleship Oregon would be saved as a memorial for the Spanish-American War. Olympia , Dewey’s flagship, was the selection. In 1957 Olympia was opened as a museum ship in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania and can be seen there to this day. (History from: America’s War for Humanity, 1898, by John J. Ingalls, former US Senator from Kansas; Fire When Read,y Gridley! 1993, Edited by William Honan ; A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow ; U.S. Cruisers, An Illustrated Design History, 1984, by Norman Friedman)  

The Combrig Olympia
Combrig’s 1:700 scale model of USS Olympia is a resin and brass replica of Dewey’s flagship. The hull is 5 ¾-inches in length and is virtually free of defects. It is executed very crisply as is true with Combrig kits for the last several years. Detail is found on hull sides and on the decks. In comparison with photographs and line drawings, the hull lines of the model appear right on target. The cutwater of the ram bow and the torpedo tube right above the waterline match the references. Even more impressive is the compound curve at the stern. That also matches the references and in many respects is harder to get just right than the cutwater. The five hull mounted cupolas on each side are of correct shape and size. These could have been easily overdone but again, Combrig seems to be right on target. There are two rows of portholes on each side of the hull. If you have a copy of Norman Friedman’s U.S. Cruisers, An Illustrated Design History, go to page 29 and compare the porthole placement on the Combrig kit with the photograph of Olympia taken on September 27, 1898. The numbers and placement of the portholes in both rows match those in the photograph of the actual ship.

In addition to portholes the sides of the Olympia had a number of other features captured on the Combrig hull. Underneath the top row of portholes there is a row of small square windows. These are very delicately scribed in the hull as well as the two oval doors for the above-water torpedo tubes found on each side. About the only thing missing are the hinges for the doors, which in any event can’t be seen in photographs. At the bow there are short solid bulkheads on each side. These not only provided protection against spray, but also provided hawse holes for the chain of the stocked anchors. For the gun deck superstructure, you’ll find the five positions found on each side for the five-inch secondary guns. Solid bulkheads are also found at the top of the 01 deck with a QF position at the fore and aft ends. Combrig has made the resin very thin for gun openings for these positions, so it is a simple matter of using a hobby knife to open them up. One omission is the lack of bow scrollwork.

The decks feature very fine scribed wood planking. This is another area where it is very easy to overdo the scribing but the Combrig planking is very subtle and well done. As with any late 19th century warship, the decks of Olympia are clustered with fittings. First of all the stocked anchors needed washboards upon which the anchors would rest after being raised and moved by the bow anchor cranes. For the Olympia there are two lengthened, raised semicircular washboards, which is only part of the interesting detail on the forecastle. There are two large bollard fittings on their plates mounted inboard, rather than at the outboard sides of the deck. Two more sets of bollards are found on each side of the conning tower. Three very delicate open chocks are found on each side of the deck at the edge. Four other fittings are cast as part of the hull on the forecastle. Two are centerline access hatches and other two are anchor chain guides. Just in front of the forward barbette is the large anchor chain locker. Lastly there are eight locator holes for additional separate fittings that are found on the small parts sprues. These parts are four small ventilator funnels, two anchor chain windlasses and two anchor cranes. Narrow gangways outboard of the superstructure, link the forecastle to the quarterdeck.

Brass Photo-Etched Fret
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The quarterdeck has four more sets of bollards on their plates. Two large sets inboard and two smaller sets forward slightly in front of the aft five-inch gun positions. With the quarterdeck there are six of the open chocks at the edge of each side of the deck. Three centerline fittings are found and appear to be a circular skylight, a peaked rectangle access/skylight fitting and a square flat plate. One locator hole is for a windlass. The design has very tall fore and aft barbettes. The 01 deck runs 55 to 60% of the length of the ship and Combrig certainly has not shorted this deck of detail. There is a very large skylight for the machinery spaces towards the aft end. This fitting is comprised of 42 individual panes on the Combrig fitting. Three more, smaller skylights are found aft of this large fitting and a fourth small skylight is found between the funnels. Each funnel will fit into a funnel base deckhouse cast on the hull. There is a third large deckhouse, also found between the funnels. A conning tower dominates the forward end of the 01 deck with a small deckhouse right behind it. Four low rectangular coamings or plates comprise the rest of the deck fittings cast on the hull. Fourteen locator holes are present for separate. All of these are for ventilator funnels, except for two locator holes for the masts.

Smaller Resin Parts
Although most of the model is the hull, there are still many smaller resin parts to give the model a nice cluttered look. Both 8-inch gun turrets are in the classic circular pill-box design favored by the USN at the time. They are rather shallow but this is not surprising in light of the very tall barbettes used in the design. The crown of each turret has two sighter’s domes, an access hatch and two smaller fittings scribed delicately in the resin top. The two funnels are of different shapes. The forward funnel is oval in shape and the aft one is circular. Both funnels feature a wider casing with apron at the bottom and a fine lip at the top. The tops of each funnel are hollow for a small distance to add a three-dimensional appearance. There is a small resin film wafer with five parts. The largest is the forward bridge with pilothouse. The pilothouse has an overhang at the top with clearly defined windows and plank decking. This bridge had railings along the edge but Combrig produced the part with solid thin bulkheads, which would represent canvas dodgers on the railing, with notches at the rear edge for inclined ladders descending to the 01 deck. It will be an extremely simple matter to remove these and add photo-etch railing
if that is your choice. The smaller aft bridge as no deckhouse but does have the planking detail and simulated canvas dodgers at deck edge. The other three parts on he sheet are the two fighting tops and one mast searchlight platform. There is a separate second searchlight platform included with the rest of the parts, as each mast had one platform.

Two identical resin runners each contain five of the largest ventilator cowling fittings and two 8-inch gun barrels. The five-inch gun barrels are on another resin runner. As with any late 19th century design, there are a significant number of ship’s boats and their fittings. Included in this mix are two steam launches and eight oar powered boats in four different designs. Also falling into the boats category are two balsa rafts and four boat chocks. Another resin runner includes four small deckhouses. The two smallest are placed on each side of the aft funnel deckhouse and the two larger on the rectangular plates behind each funnel. Each of these structures has an upper lip overhanging the structure. Two identical resin runners contain the smaller ventilator cowlings, cable reels, anchors, windlasses, QF guns and some other very small fittings. The searchlights and binnacles each have separate resin runners with four parts on each runner. These, as well as the other smaller parts, are very well done. The last three resin runners contain one with both masts and the other two for yards and booms. One mast and some of the yards had a slight warp. Of course you would want to straighten these parts or substitute for them before using them for assembly. 

Brass Photo-Etch Fret
The presence of a brass photo-etch fret with the Combrig Olympia is essential. There are many architectural features that can not be adequately represented in resin. However, with Olympia thee is one striking feature that was present for the Battle of Manila that really mandates photo-etch. If you look at photographs of Olympia shortly after the battle you will see a lattice tower on top of the conning tower. The cruiser was not built with this tower but it was added before the battle, most probably at Hong Kong . At the top was a navigation platform with a binnacle. What makes this structure unique was that it sloped forward over the forward 8-inch turret. For those familiar with American collage football, the structure looks very much like a coach’s tower. Combrig included this feature in their photo-etch fret. “Navigator Calkins stood at his compass, taking bearings and calling out headings and ranges from a steel grating twelve feet above the conning tower. For a while Dewey joined him in the little crew’s nest – there was barely room for the two of them and the compass – then moved down to the flying bridge.” (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 227) You too can put Coach Dewey in his tower to encourage his lads. There is not just the navigation tower on the fret but two searchlight towers as well. Not as tall as the navigation tower, these two towers still rise above the tops of the solid bulkheads amidships with one on each side of the aft funnel.

Box Art & Instructions
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The boat skid arrangement is found on the fret. These bow shaped frames could have been done in resin but would not have the crispness and thinness of the brass parts. There are two boat skid positions, each comprised of six brass parts, two bows and four skids/chocks. The bases for the QF guns at the corners of the 01 deck also present structures that could not be duplicated in resin. Each has seven legs with open space between them. Also included are four brass cradles for the resin QF guns. Other photo-etch parts include 12 davits with support brackets, aft ship’s wheels, cable reels, anchor chain and mast platform support brackets.

With the instructions for Olympia Combrig has modified their tradition instructions format. It is one, back-printed sheet but slightly larger in size than previously provided. On the front side is a 1:700 scale plan and profile line drawings, which should be consulted in assembly. The ship’s history and statistics are provided in English. One change is the inclusion of the photograph of the components on the front page. This feature used ti share the 2nd page with the assembly diagrams. By moving this to the first page, the second page is completely devoted to the assembly drawings. This one change does make a significant difference, as more drawings of the assembly are provided. There are two large assembly drawings and ten subassembly insets. The subassembly drawings include two for the boat skids, two for the fore and main masts, one for the navigation tower, one for boat davits, one for the turrets, one for the photo-etch cable reels, one for the aft ship’s wheel and one for the open QF mounts. Although the line drawing plan and profile are still very useful for determining the exact positioning of some items like the davits and searchlight towers, for the most part the assembly drawings are quite satisfactory for final positioning of almost all of the parts.

You may build when ready Gridley! Your name does not have to be Charles Gridley to appreciate the Combrig USS Olympia. The lines are right, the parts are right and defect free, the instructions are clear, almost every aspect of the model is tweaked to provide for an easy and enjoyable build. To top every thing the brass photo-etch fret provided by Combrig provides essential parts that cannot be duplicated in resin. With the Combrig Olympia, you’ll be ready to take on the Dons at Manila .