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 battery
was also shown. The ammunition for the five inch guns took up
considerable space in the magazines, as did the ammunition for the eight
inch guns. However, the eight inch guns fired slowly enough that
maintaining a supply of ammunition and a flow of ammunition to the gun
was not a problem. For 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 remainder for each of the ten five inch
guns. This was the low point of the battle, since the commodore 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 seven
thousand miles from resupply. At the same time, the fire from the
Spanish vessels had not slackened, indicating that they were not badly
damaged. Dewey broke off the battle, only to
find that the information was in error, and that only 15 rounds per gun
had been fired! This meant his men were firing only at a rate of about
one shot every five 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 that 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.