Battle of Manila Bay 1898

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Manila Bay, Battle of (1898).As tensions between Spain and the United States over Cuba increased during 1896 and 1897, naval officers in the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Naval War College began to develop plans for a conflict with Spain. As finally adopted in the spring of 1897, these plans included an attack on the Spanish Philippines as a diversion from the Cuban theater, and as a way of improving the U.S. position in peace negotiations.

After the outbreak of war in April 1898, the commander of the Asiatic Squadron, Commodore George Dewey, who had already been alerted to the imminence of war by Navy assistant secretary Theodore Roosevelt, received orders from President William McKinley to “capture or destroy” the Spanish naval squadron in the Philippines.

Dewey's six modern warships, some armed with guns as large as 8‐inch caliber, completely outclassed Adm. Patricio Montojo's Spanish squadron at Manila, which consisted of seven antiquated cruisers and gunboats; the harbor defenses were in disarray. Armed with timely reports of this by the American consul in Manila, Dewey decided from Hong Kong to attack immediately. In a few hours, on 1 May 1898, his squadron annihilated the Spanish fleet without the loss of a single American life, and blockaded Manila. This dramatic victory made Dewey a popular hero and began a chain of events that led to the U.S. annexation of the Philippines.
[See also Navy, U.S.: 1866–98; Philippines, U.S. Military Involvement in the.]

Ronald H. Spector

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MANILA BAY, BATTLE OF (1 May 1898). Upon the declaration of war with Spain in April 1898, George Dewey, commander of the U.S. Asiatic Squadron, received orders to attack the Spanish squadron under Adm. Patricio Montojo y Pasarón at Manila. On 30 April, Dewey reached Manila Bay and entered at midnight, disregarding serious risks from shore batteries and mines. Off Manila at dawn, he sighted Montojo's force ten miles westward. At 5:41 a.m. Dewey opened fire and by early afternoon every Spanish ship, to quote Dewey's report, "was sunk, burned, or deserted." The Spanish suffered 381casualties, the Americans but nine wounded. Manila surrendered on 13 August.


Spector, Ronald H. Admiral of the New Empire: The Life and Career of George Dewey. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974; Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

Trask, David F. The War with Spain in 1898. New York: Macmillan; London: Collier Macmillan, 1981; Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

AllanWestcott/a. r.

See alsoImperialism ; Navy, United States ; Philippines ; Spanish-American War ; Spanish-American War, Navy in .