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Historic warship Olympia may be scrapped, sunk
The News Tribune (Tacoma WA) ^ | 5/27/10

Posted on 05/27/2010 1:34:22 PM PDT by llevrok

Warship: Veteran of 2 wars rusts away

PHILADELPHIA - The old warship has been part of Philadelphia's waterfront for 50 years and left lasting impressions on thousands of visitors who heard gripping stories of its role in the Spanish-American War.

Now the Olympia – named for Washington state’s capital and the last surviving vessel from that 1898 conflict – could face an ignoble end as an artificial reef off Cape May, N.J., if a new benefactor cannot be found.

The Independence Seaport Museum and the Navy have already checked with officials of New Jersey’s Artificial Reef Program on the possibility of sinking the ship, once a source of national pride.

“Another option would be scrapping Olympia,” said James McLean, interim president of the museum, which owns the ship and is adjacent to it at Penn’s Landing. “But the Navy has told us that ‘reefing’ is better because it would allow divers to go down on it and would preserve Olympia.”

The museum can no longer afford the ship’s upkeep, McLean said. At least $20 million is needed to tow, restore, interpret and endow the deteriorating vessel.

“We have a couple people we’re talking to who might take the ship,” McLean said, “but these things don’t move with great speed.”

The ship will be open until the end of September, then closed while its future is determined, McLean said.

“This may be the last summer for people to visit,” he said. “They should come to see it while they can.”

Another former Navy warship, the Arthur W. Radford, a 563-foot-long Spruance class destroyer, will be sunk by the fall to create a reef about 30 miles southeast of Cape May.

As for the Olympia, “we recognize the historic significance of the ship,” said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s not our call. It was an inquiry. The DEP is not endorsing this.”

Countless tons of vessels, military tanks, railroad cars and other materials have been reefed since the state’s Bureau of Marine Fisheries began the program in 1984. The purpose is to provide a habitat for marine life, fishing grounds, and points of interest for scuba divers.

Talk of making the Olympia part of New Jersey’s reef network disappoints ship supporters such as Harry Burkhardt, a merchant marine captain and steam-engine expert who is a volunteer on the vessel.

Burkhardt is president of Friends of the Cruiser Olympia (, which is trying to raise money for preservation of the ship. The group got its nonprofit status this month and has begun receiving pledges and interest from individuals and corporations, Burkhardt said.

“We want to take over its ownership and operation,” he said. “We have a long list of ideas, but we have to save the ship to implement them.”

Burkhardt, 53, of South Philadelphia, said he would turn the Olympia into a self-sustaining museum with a living-history crew and education programs for inner-city children.

“I think what’s happening is a total disgrace,” he said. “The Liberty Bell has a crack in it, but we don’t melt it down. The Statue of Liberty turned green with corrosion, but we don’t throw it away.”

The Olympia “was a symbol of America’s might and freedom,” Burkhardt said. “Now she’s a symbol of negligence.”

Concerned about the condition of the Olympia, the Navy sent a letter to the museum last May asking about plans to dry-dock the vessel for the necessary maintenance.

On the water line, small portions of the Olympia’s half-inch steel hull have corroded to an eighth of an inch and must be monitored continually. Water leaks through the deck into the interior, causing further rust.

“We have cared for Olympia lovingly,” McLean said. “We have put $5.5 million into it and spend money on it every day.”

The Olympia was authorized in 1888 and commissioned in 1895. The state-of-the-art vessel led five other U.S. warships into Manila Bay in the Philippines on May 1, 1898, and fired shots in a battle to wrest control of that country from the Spanish.

Navy Commodore George Dewey stood on the bridge of the ship and uttered the famous words: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”

Under Dewey’s command, the U.S. fleet destroyed 10 Spanish cruisers and gunboats in hours without losing an American life.

The Olympia spent World War I in the Atlantic Ocean, and brought remains of the Unknown Soldier home from France in 1921.

It was docked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard from 1922 to 1959, and was on display at Pier 11 at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge through the 1960s until 1976, when it was moved to Penn’s Landing. Today, the vessel is the world’s oldest floating steel warship.

“The Navy has been in discussions with the museum to come up with a disposition plan if they can no longer operate it,” said Patricia Dolan, a Navy spokeswoman. “Any plan for disposal of the vessel – scrapping or reefing – will have to be approved by the Navy.”

The thought of scuttling the naval time capsule – filled with paintings, photos and artifacts – has raised the ire of historians.

“It will be a national disgrace and major embarrassment for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania if Olympia is disposed of by scrapping or being sunk off the coast of New Jersey,” said naval historian Lawrence Burr, who has produced documentaries and written four books, including “U.S. Cruisers 1883-1904: The Birth of the Steel Navy.”

“Neither the Spanish navy in 1898 nor the German navy in 1917-18 was able to sink Olympia,” he said. “It will be ironic if the state of New Jersey is able to sink this unique historic warship that has been in the care of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania for over 50 years, and who have benefited from its role as a tourist attraction. ...

“If sunk, she will only be seen by a small elite who are able to dive, with the risk that she will be plundered for souvenirs,” he said.

Also expressing disappointment was the nonprofit Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay, N.Y. Congress chartered the group in 1920 to perpetuate the legacy of Roosevelt, who was assistant secretary of the Navy before the Spanish-American War and ordered the Olympia furnished with extra coal so it could be sent to the Philippines. Roosevelt resigned from his office and served as a colonel in the Rough Riders during the invasion of Cuba.

The possible sinking of the Olympia “is an outrage,” said Howard Ehrlich, executive director of the association. “You would think veterans groups would get together and lobby the Navy to save the ship.”

Even sinking the 5,600-ton ship would be costly. Because of the ship’s 211/2-foot draft, the basin where it is berthed would have to be dredged so the vessel could be moved to dry dock. There, it would be structurally reinforced so it could be safely towed down the Delaware River to the reef location.

“No decision has been made,” McLean said. “This is not what we want to do. In these tough economic times, everybody is forced to make tough decisions.”

TOPICS: US: Pennsylvania; US: Washington
KEYWORDS: historic; olympia; philadelphia; scrapped; sunk; warship
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To: llevrok

She needs to be saved. Our country’s history is not being taught to our kids and all historical evidence is being systematically destroyed.

I’d love to see her tied up next to USS North Carolina in Wilmington or USS Alabama in Mobile.

21 posted on 05/27/2010 1:48:56 PM PDT by ryan71 (Let's Roll!)
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To: llevrok


er....excuse me...thought this was about Olympia Snowe.

Carry on!

22 posted on 05/27/2010 1:49:05 PM PDT by DCPatriot ("It aint what you don't know that kills you. It's what you know that aint so" Theodore Sturgeon))
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To: llevrok

I visited the Olympia earlier this month. It’s quite fascinating and the interior of the ship open to the public appears to be in good condition. I’m shocked and surprised anyone is suggesting the ship should be scrapped or sunk. Such a thing is outrageous.

As for the Mikasa, which I’ve also visited: it’s not afloat. It’s encased in concrete and is therefore on dry land, at Yokosuka south of Tokyo. In my opinion, the interior spaces on the Mikasa aren’t as well preserved as those on Olympia.

23 posted on 05/27/2010 1:49:43 PM PDT by Poundstone
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To: llevrok

We could afford funding to maintain important historic items, if government employees weren’t retiring in their 50s with nearly 100% of pay plus lifetime health care, and then their spouse afterwards.

24 posted on 05/27/2010 1:50:10 PM PDT by truth_seeker
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To: GonzoGOP
The Aurora is a beauty thank you for that info.
25 posted on 05/27/2010 1:50:12 PM PDT by omega4179 (
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To: henkster
I stand corrected. I did not know Mikasa was still afloat; I would have expected her to have not survived WW2.

She had been disarmed and was being used as a floating barracks so didn't count as a priority target. They were going to destroy her along with the other old Japanese warships, but C.W. Nimitz was a big fan of Admiral Togo didn't want to see the old ship scrapped. It would be a sad statement if the US Navy saved a Japanese predreadnaught and let our own ship of empire go to the scrappers.
26 posted on 05/27/2010 1:50:26 PM PDT by GonzoGOP (There are millions of paranoid people in the world and they are all out to get me.)
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To: Truth29
Will Obama come and dedicate the symbol of America’s Navy as a reef?

The saving grace here is that Louisiana can't get a permit from the Feds done quickly for some barrier dunes to contain oil . It could be decades before making this ship a reef at that pace.

27 posted on 05/27/2010 1:51:18 PM PDT by llevrok (Obama = POTUS= Piece Of Totally Useless S--t .)
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To: omega4179; neverdem; CPOSharky; Doohickey

Not true.

They are more important, more profitable as museums than $200 million dollar “art” projects (er, graffiti contests) in the inner city for juvenile delinquents....

28 posted on 05/27/2010 1:51:30 PM PDT by Robert A Cook PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: llevrok

Tow it to Bremerton or San Diego!....

29 posted on 05/27/2010 1:51:33 PM PDT by AngelesCrestHighway
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To: x
Years ago, "You may fire when ready, Gridley" was a familiar phrase.

I remember reading, many years ago, a parody history book that quoted that line, then said, "Unfortunately for the Spanish, Gridley was ready."

30 posted on 05/27/2010 1:52:08 PM PDT by Bubba Ho-Tep ("More weight!"--Giles Corey)
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To: llevrok

Yikes! I was on the Olympia as a kid. Pointed it out proudly everytime I drove by on I-95. It’d be sad to see it go.

31 posted on 05/27/2010 1:53:16 PM PDT by Claud
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To: llevrok
Can't we keep the ship, and scrap and sink the historic Senator Olympia instead?

Frowning takes 68 muscles.
Smiling takes 6.
Pulling this trigger takes 2.
I'm lazy.

32 posted on 05/27/2010 1:53:16 PM PDT by The Comedian (Evil can only succeed if good men don't point at it and laugh.)
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To: llevrok
I did a double take on that headline.

My son's on the Olympia, just not that one.

33 posted on 05/27/2010 1:54:12 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: llevrok

Save the ship... make it a Hooters.

Seriously, I hate to see any of these old girls go to scrap..... but nothings for free.

34 posted on 05/27/2010 1:58:19 PM PDT by Gator113 (OBAMA THAT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE..... IMPEACH Obama NOW..)
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To: omega4179

“That would be a tragedy but these ship museums never are profitable enough to maintain a ship.”

And do we keep things in museums only based upon their profit? The land at Gettysburg would make a great subdivision. This would truly be as bad as sinking the original USS Constitution, Old Ironsides.

Of all the absolute garbage the government spends money on,,, they would sink this ship?

We hand it out money like *confetti* to ungrateful african dictators,,,also to North Korea,, promise 43 BILLION to the UN for Global warming, we buy rifles and Grenade launchers for the PLO,,

Probably the money the US govt spends on condoms and syringes for addicts would restore this treasure many times over.

How about another crazy INSANE idea,, sell Pelosi’s 757 with free liquor, she flies commercial and the USS Olymia is saved!

35 posted on 05/27/2010 1:59:39 PM PDT by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office)
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To: tacticalogic
My son's on the Olympia

He is a lucky man.

As a resident of the city of olympia, please offer my thanks for his service AND my apologies when our #@!% commie city council refused to let her call about 5 years ago.

36 posted on 05/27/2010 2:00:43 PM PDT by llevrok (Obama = POTUS= Piece Of Totally Useless S--t .)
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To: llevrok

Given obozo’s peace through diplomacy approach ... the Olympia may have a lot of company.

37 posted on 05/27/2010 2:00:52 PM PDT by crusadersoldier
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To: Paladin2

I played Monopoly with that ship!

38 posted on 05/27/2010 2:01:37 PM PDT by rahbert (Our enemy has yet to reveal himself...)
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To: omega4179

ships of that era had such great lines !

39 posted on 05/27/2010 2:02:08 PM PDT by llevrok (Obama = POTUS= Piece Of Totally Useless S--t .)
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To: llevrok

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar;—
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee;—
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered bulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!

Old Ironsides By Oliver Wendell Holmes
September 16, 1830

As you can see warship preservation is a long-standing problem. Both America and Hartford were lost due to negligence, and Oregon through stupidity. At least the state of Texas is doing something about its namesake battleship.

40 posted on 05/27/2010 2:02:35 PM PDT by No Truce With Kings (I can see November from my house.)
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