Quoting the Historic Naval Ships Association, "The oldest steel-hulled American warship afloat, the U.S.S. Olympia served as Commodore George Dewey's flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. In that engagement, Spanish naval forces in the Philippines were handed a smashing defeat, securing the Philippines for the United States and embarking the nation on an expanded role as a major force in not only the Pacific, but also world affairs.
The cruiser was born out of a program of ships for the "New Navy" of the 1880s and 1890s designed to correct the deficiencies of a weakened and neglected naval force. This program was directly responsible for the rise of the steel shipbuilding industry of the United States. Olympia is the last remaining ship built during that program and the sole surviving naval combatant of the Spanish-American War."
The Olympia also served in World War I as the flagship of the United States Patrol Force, escorting allied vessels in the North Atlantic as well as along the east coast.
It was the Olympia that in 1921 was called upon to bring back the body of the Unknown Soldier from La Havre, France to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.