Opinion

Help us keep the historic USS Olympia afloat

If you were a ship named for a state’s capital, and had been ignored by that state for 125 years, how would you feel? A sinking feeling, perhaps?

The cruiser USS Olympia, the oldest steel-hulled warship afloat, is literally in that condition at her museum moorage in Philadelphia.

Washington state needs to make amends for neglecting its iconic namesake ship. A group of Washingtonians, the Washington State Friends of the USS Olympia (FOTO), has formed to do just that. We include former governors Dan Evans and Chris Gregoire, former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Tom Hayward of Seattle, FOTO Executive Secretary Les Eldridge and me.

FOTO’s purposes: raise money to help Independence Seaport Museum of Philadelphia keep the ship from the scrapyard, educate our citizens about the ship’s place in U.S. history, and illuminate artifacts in Washington state connected with the cruiser and her squadron. Those artifacts include four gun batteries located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. They fired on the Olympia from the Manila Esplanade in the Spanish-American War.

After the Olympia’s squadron sank the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, we gained an empire: the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, Wake Island and Samoa. She served with valor in World War I, transported the body of the Unknown Soldier to Arlington and was decommissioned in 1921.

Admiral George Dewey wrote Washingtonians a scathing letter in 1900, stating we had “undervalued” the Olympia. We’ve done little for the ship since. Let’s show the admiral that we finally got the message and help save the ship. A crowdfunding campaign is underway at igg.me/at/ussolympia until Oct 28. After that you may contribute at navycruiserolympia.com.

Citizens of Pierce County care deeply about our military and its history. Please help us keep our Olympia afloat.

Sam Reed was Washington’s secretary of state from 2001 to 2013.

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