This Day in History
Dewey at Manila

Dewey at Manila Bay
May 1, 1898

In 1898 war with Spain was supposedly fought to liberate Cubans from Spanish misrule and to avenge the sinking of the American Battleship Maine. Certainly few Americans had contemplated any action against Spanish dominions in the Far East. But those few included naval officers eager to catch up with the navies of Britain and Germany; businessmen hungry for far eastern markets; and “imperialists” impatient for the rise of the “American Empire.” To all these the war provided an opportunity to aid the Philippines and confront at close quarters the rising Japanese Empire. The United States, by 1898, was already well on that road; she had acquired Alaska and Samoa, and was poised to seize the Hawaiian Islands. Such a destiny was all but “manifest” to young Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Even before the outbreak of war he took it upon himself to cable Admiral George Dewey of the Pacific Fleet: “In the event of war with Spain your duty will be to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast, and, then, offensive operation in the Philippines.” On the night of April 30, Dewey’s splendid fleet slipped into Manila Harbor. The next morning the attack began. The rising sun showed the whole Spanish Pacific Fleet huddled under the protection of formidable shore batteries. Not for a moment did Dewey hesitate. The American fleet swept back and forth across the bay, and reduced the enemy fleet to a shambles - and all this without losing a man. The Battle of Manila Bay made Dewey a national hero and marked the United States as a world power.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.