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The Asiatic Squadron was a squadron of United States Navy warships stationed in East Asia during the latter half of the 19th century. It was created in 1868 when the East India Squadron was disbanded. Vessels of the squadron were primarily involved in matters relating to American commerce with China and Japan, though it participated in several conflicts over 34 years of service until becoming the Asiatic Fleet in 1902.
In May 1871, Rear Admiral John Rodgers went to Korea, commanding an expedition of five Asiatic Squadron vessels, the screw frigate USS Colorado, the screw sloops-of-war USS Alaska and USS Benicia, the sidewheel gunboat USS Monocacy, and the screw tug USS Palos. The objective of the operation was to ascertain the fate of the merchant ship SS General Sherman, establish trade relations, and receive an assurance from the Joseon government that shipwrecked American sailors would be safely treated should they become stranded in Korea.
On 1 June 1871, while Rear Admiral Rodgers was negotiating in Inchon, one of the Selee River forts opened fire on Palos as she traversed the Gangwha Straits. In the following engagement, Palos and Monocacy bombarded the fort until it was silenced and on 10 June 1871, the expedition attacked in force. Five of the six hostile forts were captured and destroyed, over 200 Koreans were killed and dozens of cannons were captured. Although the Americans won a military victory, the Koreans refused to sign a trade treaty until 1882.
On 27 April 1898, the squadron, composed of the protected cruisers USS Olympia (the flagship of the squadron's commander, Commodore George Dewey), USS Baltimore, USS Raleigh, and USS Boston, the gunboats USS Petrel and USS Concord, and the United States Revenue Cutter Service cutter USS McCulloch, sailed from Mirs Bay, China, to the Philippine Islands to participate in the Spanish–American War.
In the Battle of Manila Bay on 1 May 1898, the squadron destroyed the Spanish fleet in the Philippines, and effectively took control of Manila Bay. Eight Spanish ships were sunk and over 150 killed while the Americans suffered only slight damage. Vessels of the squadron also fought the Spanish in the battle to capture Manila. Naval gunfire on the Spaniards' left flank helped American troops take the city without severe losses. The Philippines became an American possession.
On 20 June 1898, the Asiatic Squadron protected cruiser USS Charleston captured Guam from the Spanish without resistance, beginning the American possession of the island.
The Asiatic Squadron participated in the Philippine–American War from 1899 until its disbandment in 1902. American naval forces operated by sending landing parties ashore and by providing them with naval gunfire support. From 1899 to 1902, the squadron conducted several missions against the Filipinos.
Dewey's squadron engaged in naval operation against the Filipinos during and after the 1898 Battle of Manila against the Spanish. At the beginning of the Philippine–American War in February 1899, several American warships supported the occupation of the Philippine Islands. At the same time, the monitor USS Monadnock, the protected cruisers Charleston, and the gunboats Concord, USS Callao, and Laguna de Bay bombarded Filipino positions during the Battle of Caloocan. Over 300 Filipinos were killed in action and three times as many wounded, with many of the casualties attributed to accurate naval gunfire. USS Petrel and USS Boston shelled Panay Island on 11 February 1899, and, on 22 February 1899, a landing party from Petrel occupied Cebu. In October 1899, Petrel joined Callao in supporting American troops in the Battle of Noveleta by bombarding Filipino troop concentrations at Noveleta before a shore party made its assault.
Many of the captured Spanish gunboats used in the Philippine–American War were manned by United States Army troops and operated together with United States Navy forces. In mid-April 1899, General Henry Lawton led an expedition of 1,500 men in several cascoes and three gunboats to a place near Santa Cruz to find another former Spanish gunboat which was being used by the Filipinos; during the ensuing Battle of Santa Cruz, the American force captured six steam launches along with two cascoes, and later took the Filipino gunboat, which the Filipinos reportedly had disarmed so that they could use her guns on land, without a fight.
Baltimore and Petrel served at the Battle of Iloilo, in which about 1,000 Filipinos were defeated when the two warships bombarded the fort there and sent United States Marines and sailors ashore. Only minor skirmishing occurred on land because the Filipinos retreated and burned the town as they left.
On 7 May 1899, Laguna de Bay and another gunboat bombarded Sexmoan and routed the Filipinos there. Later that day, the gunboats fought at Gaugua, where they bombarded Filipino positions in the town and sent men ashore to fight on the ground. Again the Filipinos retreated and set several buildings on fire as they went.
In June 1899, American gunboats silenced an artillery piece during the Battle of Zapote River, which ended with an American victory.
In the summer of 1899, American gunboats started patrolling Subic Bay. During a routine patrol, the collier USS Zafiro entered Subic Bay and came under fire from a shore battery protecting Olongapo. Zafiro withdrew to Cavite and reported the incident to headquarters. In response, Charleston engaged the battery. On 23 September 1899, Charleston, Concord, the monitor USS Monterey, and Zafiro steamed into Subic Bay and destroyed the battery in the Battle of Olongapo. Then, a company of U.S. Marines and sailors landed and took control.
Charleston grounded on an uncharted reef off Camiguin Island on 2 November 1899. She sustained heavy damage, and her crew abandoned ship and escaped to the nearby island where they made camp. Charleston's launch was sent out for help and, after ten days of being marooned, the American sailors were rescued by the gunboat USS Helena.
On 7 November 1899, Helena bombarded San Fabian in Lingayen Gulf and covered the landing of 2,500 American troops there.
Asiatic Squadron gunboats took part in the Battle of Mabitac in June 1900, where they bombarded Filipino forces while U.S. Army troops attacked their fortifications. In a bloody frontal assault the American troops were repulsed and the Filipinos won the battle.
In November 1900, the Asiatic Squadron auxiliary cruiser USS Yosemite was heavily damaged in a typhoon while in Apra Harbor, Guam. Due to damage to her screw, her crew scuttled her. They were picked up later by the collier USS Justin.
The gunboat USS Vicksburg assisted land forces in capturing the Filipino rebel Emilio Aguinaldo in March 1901 at Palawan Island. Later the gunboat USS Isla de Luzon supported the operation which led to the capture of the Filipino general Vicente Lukbán on Samar in November 1901.
During the Boxer Rebellion, the Asiatic Squadron participated in the China Relief Expedition in 1900. At the time, Peking was home to many foreigners who were under siege by Boxer rebels. An international force including U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy sailors of the Asiatic Squadron slowly fought their way to take control of Tientsin away from the Boxers in order to relieve the Siege of the International Legations at Peking.
In 1902, the Asiatic Squadron was upgraded in status, becoming the United States Asiatic Fleet. Except for a period from early 1907 until 28 January 1910 when it was downgraded to the status of First Squadron, United States Pacific Fleet, the Asiatic Fleet replaced the Asiatic Squadron in defending American interests in East Asia from 1902 until February 1942.
Successive Commanders-in-Chief of the Asiatic Squadron were as follows:
George Dewey was Admiral of the Navy, the only person in United States history to have attained the rank. He is best known for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War, with the loss of only a single crewman on the American side.
The Battle of Manila Bay, also known as the Battle of Cavite, took place on 1 May 1898, during the Spanish–American War. The American Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey engaged and destroyed the Spanish Pacific Squadron under Contraalmirante Patricio Montojo. The battle took place in Manila Bay in the Philippines, and was the first major engagement of the Spanish–American War. The battle was one of the most decisive naval battles in history and marked the end of the Spanish colonial period in Philippine history.
During the Spanish–American War of 1898, Cámara's Flying Relief Column was a naval task force of Spain's most powerful warships, under the command of Rear Admiral Manuel de la Cámara, tasked with relieving Spanish forces in Manila after the defeat of Spanish Pacific Squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón by the American Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey in the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. The Spanish fleet, consisting of the battleship Pelayo, armored cruiser Emperador Carlos V, auxiliary cruisers Patriota and Rapido, destroyers Audaz, Osado, and Prosepina, and transports Buenos Aires and Panay, left Spain in June 1898. The squadron was far more powerful than that commanded by Dewey, which only consisted of four protected cruisers and two gunboats. The monitor USS Monterey had been ordered from the U.S. to the Philippines, and departed on 11 June.
Rear Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón was a career Spanish naval officer who commanded Spain's Pacific Squadron based in the Philippines during the Spanish–American War. Considered a man of high ability and experience, he was given the difficult task of defending the Spanish Philippines with a small navy and low supplies against a larger U.S. Asiatic Squadron. Despite his valor and determination, Montojo's navy was defeated at the Battle of Manila Bay by U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey, which was a decisive naval battle of the war. He was later held accountable for the defeat and was court-martialed in Spain. Although the decision was later overturned, Montojo was still discharged from the Spanish Navy.
Peirce Crosby was a rear admiral in the United States Navy, whose active duty career included service in the Mexican–American War and the Civil War.
The Dewey Medal was a military decoration of the United States Navy which was established by the United States Congress on June 3, 1898. The medal recognizes the leadership of Admiral of the Navy George Dewey, during the Spanish–American War, and the Sailors and Marines under his command.
Rear Admiral Raymond Perry Rodgers was an officer in the United States Navy. He served as the second head of the Office of Naval Intelligence and as the 12th President of the Naval War College and fought in the Spanish–American War.
The third USS Petrel (PG-2) was a 4th rate gunboat in the United States Navy during the Spanish–American War. She was named for a sea bird.
The timeline of events of the Spanish–American War covers major events leading up to, during, and concluding the Spanish–American War, a ten-week conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States of America.
Isla de Luzón was an Isla de Luzón-class protected cruiser of the Spanish Navy which fought in the Battle of Manila Bay.
Marques del Duero was a Fernando el Catolico-class gunboat of the Spanish Navy which fought in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War.
Don Antonio de Ulloa was a Velasco-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy that fought in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War. She was built at La Carraca shipyard, Cadiz, Spain. Her keel was laid in 1883 and the vessel was launched on 23 January 1887. Don Antonio de Ulloa took an active part in Spanish military action against Philippine insurgents during the "Tagalog Revolt" (1896–1897), the Spanish name for the first two years of the Philippine Revolution. During her overhaul in Manila bay whilst part of the squadron of Rear Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón, the Battle of Manila Bay occurred. With her reduced complement, armament, and inability to maneuver she was sunk with little resistance.
Don Juan de Austria was a Velasco-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy that fought in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War.
USS Isla de Cuba was a former Spanish Navy second-class protected cruiser of the same name, captured by and commissioned into the United States Navy as a gunboat.
Callao was a Samar-class gunboat of the Spanish Navy which served in the Spanish fleet from 1888 to 1898 and fought in the Spanish–American War.
Callao was a gunboat of the United States Navy which fought in the Spanish–American War and served in the U.S. fleet from 1898–1923.
Rear Admiral Frederick W. Rodgers was an officer in the United States Navy. He fought in the American Civil War and rose to be the last commander of the Asiatic Squadron. He was a grandson of U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry.
The Battle of Olongapo was fought September 18–23, 1899, during the Philippine–American War. The battle featured both land and sea fighting, of which the objective was the destruction of the single Filipino artillery gun in Olongapo, a menace to American ships crossing the nearby sea.
Commodore James Philips Parker was a United States Navy officer. His career included service in the Spanish–American War, the Philippine–American War, and the Santo Domingo Affair, and he was recalled from retirement to serve as an Acting President of the Naval War College during World War I.
Francis John Higginson was an officer in the United States Navy during the American Civil War and Spanish–American War. He rose to the rank of rear admiral and was the last commander-in-chief of the North Atlantic Squadron and first commander-in-chief of the North Atlantic Fleet.