Marines may not believe they have a bone in the fight to save the ex-USS Olympia (C-6). But they do–the vessel’s experience in the closing days of World War I helped push the Navy to think harder about expeditionary logistics:

In May 1918, two months after Russia withdrew from the war, 55 Americans from the cruiser Olympia (CA-15) joined British forces in occupying Murmansk and Archangel to guard stockpiles of arms and ammunition shipped there for the czarist army. For most of their time in northern Russia, Olympia crewmen lived on reduced rations of “two little slices of bread, . . . one spoon of stew, and one cup of coffee” per day. Despite the almost monthly arrival of supply ships, soldiers of the North Russian Expeditionary Force who reinforced men of the Olympia resorted at times to stealing food from British troops, who were far better supplied-perhaps because Britain had a long history of expeditionary warfare and thus developed the infrastructure needed to sustain it.

The experience of the Olympia’s Marines, coupled with the equally rough time the Brooklyn (CA-3) Marine detachment had in Vladivostok, helped put expeditionary logistics on the Navy’s radar screen.

At a time when the DOD is contemplating a major shift in the Marine Corps’ expeditionary capabilities, it might be wise to start remembering the teething pains America’s Marines endured back in the days when the nation didn’t appreciate the nuances of expeditionary warfare.

(Quote is taken from James C. Bradford’s Feb 2006 Naval History article, “The missing link: Expeditionary logistics.)


Posted by Defense Springboard in From our Archive, Marine Corps, Navy
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  • UltimaRatioReg

    The Marines care plenty. Or at least this one does. An executive order putting Olympia back into the possession of the USN for the purposes of drydocking and repairing her is in order. Dilly-dallying will make matters eminently worse.

    I am headed to see her at the end of the month, before she is gone. I hope to post about it here.

  • Paul

    Why can’t this ship be Brought back on the Naval Register in the same vein as the USS Constitution, registered by name only. Take her into dry dock, repair her and then bring her out of the water permanently and put her on display at the USNA.

    Course my ideal situation is to make as much of her active as can be to use her as a living classroom for midshipmen. Granted, I’m ex-army and Norwich, but such an experience is well worth the middies time. If we can recreate Civil War battles, why not expose middies to their history as well?

  • Heh. And with Congress wanting three ships commissioned for every two decommissioned…

    I wonder if historical monuments would count?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    The cost of dredging and repair of a national symbol of pride and sea power will cost slightly less than some transformational gizmo NGSB will hang onto a $600 million ship that can’t kill another ship or defend itself.

  • Chuck Hill

    Of all the ships out there now, this is the one that most needs saving.

  • Chuck Hill

    The Brits still have a pre-WWI light cruiser in commission as a station ship. I love Paul’s idea of doing something similar with Olympia at the Naval Academy.


    I am all for saving the Olympia if possible. I live near Philadelphia and saw the Olympia within the last month. That said, I do not want to save this ship with funds that are diverted from the active Navy or Marine Corps. It is not worth the life or limb of anyone currently serving if that is the choice of expenditures. We need to have a national policy on which ships should be saved as artifacts of the past. We cannot afford to save four Iowa class battleships or any other museum ships simply to provide local tourist attractions if the locality cannot foot the bill in the long run. Museum ships deserving national funding need to be representative of a class of ships that is unique. Any other ship being saved for the primary purpose of being a local tourist attraction needs to show a realistic business plan that ensures that the preservation of the ship is economically sustainable.

  • Al Sumrall

    So why should money be spent to save the USS Olympia? There are so many other uses for it. Well, to be frank, the Olympia is a National Treasure and it’s value extends into future generations. 15-20 million now amortised over 100 years, which would be how long the hull repairs would last at a minimum, suddenly pale to the great historic loss that this ship would entail. The Olympia is worth is incalculable. To not save it will be to rob future generations of their heritage and to say otherwise is incredibly short sighted and selfish. The Olympia will INCREASE in value with age. It’s loss will be a deserved national embarrassment.
    A national fundraiser could save her if it is done NOW as well as loans obtained against that fundraiser. There are at least 30 million patriots who would donate $1 to this ship. Contact everyone you know that can help, politician, pundit, foundation, friend. Lose the Olympia and we will stain this generation of Americans for a hundred years to come.

  • Tony Coulter

    There is quite a substantial movement to recover historic aircraft in this country. They spend millions of dollars to locate , recover and restore WW2 types. Here is the only surviving example of a Spanish American warship and they want to condemn it to a future as a reef.

    is this insanity or what ?

    I am sure that all the the vendors who sell to the Navy could come up with the neccesary contributions to rescue this and restore it instead of seeing it be sunk by shortsightedness !

    Semper Fi !

  • Justin

    I for one will be pushing a fundraising drive from active duty and retired Marines to contribute what they can to save this ship. When Roosevelt removed Marines from Naval Ships after the Spanish American War as he saw no need for them (Or a Corps in general), Admiral Dewey voiced his opinion against doing away with the Marine Corps. He supported us then it is only fitting to support the saving of his flagship now.

  • The plight of Olympia made Yahoo! News, and here is my comment:

    Olympia definitely should be saved, just like Enterprise/CV-6 should have been.

    I voted for Obama, but if he can’t scrape up $25 million or so to save this ship … after all the money he has continued to waste in Iraq and Afghanistan … he finally exhausts my patience.

    This isn’t just another World War 2 ship: to Asians it represents the historical beginning of Pax Americana in the Pacific.

  • Christopher L. Rhode

    My grandfather served on the Olympia and the news she is in such dire straights has shocked my family. We would be willing to donate to any cause to save her as long as the folks that have let her degrade to the state she is in currently have no say in her future. I also hope the Navy will step up and tow her up to Annapolis where she would receive the care and respect she is due.

  • We are working with the wounded warriors in the National Capital area building an internship program for planning and management. Some now two years ago we initially heard about the Olympia and her problem remaining above the waves. Looking into the issue for about six months, we could not believe our findings; her heritage and value was squandered by many parties. Today, she sits waiting and I can only imagine, hoping to be embraced by the maritime heritage community or some other entity and give a new berth to preserve her. Our finding show, a major hurdle is less than 3% (and I’m being kind with the number) of the United States population really is involved with the military and less than that the Navy/Marine Corps.
    What the means, as we are finding out, the struggle to save the Olympia is up against that new high rise condominium planned for the waterfront or some other “wish list” project that may never gain adequate support or funding. Meanwhile, Olympia is shut out and will fail in any attempt to find a new berthing site, and be repaired. The Navy will sink her in the fall of 2014 unless we can engender support and funds to keep her afloat. The group, is using up to 24 wounded warriors to form the intern planning staff to develop a plan and fund raising ideas to save her. Perhaps, just perhaps, if they roll up their sleeves and pitch in, shouldn’t we who are more fortunate;” kind’ a count me in, Admiral Dewey!” It will not be easy; however, we are looking in Baltimore to see if anyone will raise a hand and offer to help save this great lady.

    Over these last two years I have gained a great respect for her, perhaps you will too.

  • Hoodoo

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation,a respected National Group dedicated to physically saving our National Heritage (buildings, battlefields, etc) , has just set up a donation repository for funds that will go directly to the Olympia’s urgently needed temporary repairs (1.5 million needed) which will stabilize the waterline hull corrosion and permanent repairs of about (10 million). Forget the government, they are not going to help…it is up to us.

    The NTHP cannot afford to send out publicity for the effort….that is up to us as private citizens to get out the word. Please consider donating and also spread the word!

  • Hoodoo