Sunday, March 20, 2011

Capt. Charles V. "Steve" Gridley

Congratulation to RTD, "aka Roger," winner of yesterday's Person-of-Mystery contest.

Charles Gridley is best known as the Captain of the USS Olympia, made famous at the Battle of Manila Bay, during the Spanish-American War.  Admiral George Dewey had chosen the Olympia as his flagship, and gave the famous order, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."  Of course, younger readers may be more familiar with this line from the many Looney Tunes cartoons where this line was regularly used by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

Gridley would certainly have become a national hero like Dewey, but he was unwell (even during the battle) and took leave of the squadron after the capture of Manila and died June 5, 1898, at Kobe, Japan, while en route back to the States.

Interestingly enough, if you are in Philadelphia, you can still tour the Olympia, but not for long.  The ship needs costly repairs to halt a rusting hull and there is much talk about scraping the vessel soon.

(Gridley, far left, with other officers of the Olympia)

Although even more interesting is Charles Vernon Gridley's nickname, "Steve."  He acquired the name when attending Annapolis.  I'm sure there's has to be some story behind it, but I've never read how it came about.


Astrocrabpuff said...

Thank you for that history! Now that cartoon line makes sense!

In "8 Ball Bunny", Bugs Bunny watches the Playboy penguin sail off to the Antarctic in a ship named "Admiral Byrd" - this is one of my favourite historical references in cartoon! "HoBOken?! OOOOO! I'm dying!"

Astrocrabpuff said...

PS: "8 Ball Bunny" also contains a reference to the movie, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", with Bogart making a few appearances, but the ol' Admiral Byrd, which is in fact sailing off to Brooklyn, is my fav. :)

al_luz812 said...


there is a historical claim that the battle of manila bay was not really a "battle".
having manila blockaded and surrounded by filipino and american troops,the spaniards arranged a mock battle with adm dewey so as not to lose face. the americans, not wanting the filipinos to take control of intramuros agreed.
on may 1, 1898 cannon shots were fired by american ships towards the intramuros' walls. spain promptly surrendered and thereby the american colonization of the phils started.