These were to workhorse guns of the OLYMPIA at the Battle of Manila Bay. Unlike the eight inch guns, which were difficult to aim and slow to fire, the five inch guns could, in theory fire a fifty pound shell over seven times a minute! At a range of nearly five miles, the shell would penetrate nearly two inches of armor! Each of the five-inch guns had a horizontal range of fire (azimuth) of 113 to 116 degrees. The gunports could be opened to allow for an unobstructed turning radius.
It was at Manila Bay where the weak point of the five inch gun
was also shown. The ammunition for the five nch guns took up
space in the magazines, as did the ammunition for the eight inch guns.
However, the eight inch guns fired slowly enough that maintaining a
of ammunition and a flow of ammunition to the gun was not a problem.
the smaller six pounders, one pounders, etc., the ammunition was quite
small, and keeping a supply of it was not difficult. The five inch gun
fired a large shell and did it rapidly. During the Battle
of Manila Bay,
Captain Gridley notified Commodore
Dewey that only 15 rounds of ammunition remainde for each of the
five inch guns. This was the low point of the battle, since the
believed that he had, in theory, the ability to fire his most important
battery for two minutes, and would then be out of ammunition - and
thousand miles from resupply. At the same time, the fire from the
vessels had not slackened, indicating that they were not badly damaged.
Dewey broke off the battle, only to find that
information was in error, and that only 15 rounds per gun had been
This meant his men were firing only at a rate of about one shot every
minutes, taking their time to aim and wait for a good shot on which to
expend the precious ammunition. In addition....it soon became clear
many of the Spanish ships were lost, but that their crews were bravely
fighting to the last.
The five inch gun battery also had a sad memory associated with it. They were the cause of the first death of an OLYMPIA crewmen. Before the OLYMPIA had left for the Asiatic Squadron, it was involved in target practice off San Diego. Coxswain Johnson was serving on the crew of the five inch gun in Battery 4 on the port side of the vessel. Unbeknownst to anyone, the recoil cylinder for the gun had been inadequately filled. When the gun recoiled, it jumped out of its carriage, landing on and instantly crushing him. He was taken to Mare Island for burial. In the vicinity of the location of this gun, all of the way forward on the port side, a copy of a poem written by one of the OLYMPIA's crewmen is posted. It commemorates the life and death of the well-liked coxswain.