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|The Battle of Manila Bay, 1898|
The Battle of Manila Bay, which took place on May 1, 1898, was the first major engagement of the Spanish–American War. The American Asiatic Squadron under then-Commodore George Dewey engaged and destroyed the Spanish Pacific Squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo. It was described as one of the most decisive naval battles in history and marked the end of the Spanish colonial period in Philippine history.
Dewey, who had received word on April 25, 1898 that war with Spain had been declared, and immediately sailed from Hong Kong to preemptively assault the Spanish Fleet in Manila Bay.
Montojo, in anticipation of the coming attack, responded by moving the majority of his fleet to Subic Bay considering it to be a more defensible position than Cavite and knowing that it would allow the Spanish fleet to conduct a strategic ambush on the rear of the American fleet when they enter Manila Bay.
Military preparations by the Spanish in Subic Bay included scuttling of the ships Caviteno, San Quentin and Sta. Ana to limit access to the harbor but in the end, critical preparations were not completed. The Spanish fleet failed to install their 6-inch guns on Grande Island and was able to lay only four of the 15 available mines they possessed at the mouth of the bay.
These delayed preparations, along with suspicions that the Americans were aware of the movements of the Spanish fleet made Montojo change his mind and decided to return his fleet to Manila Bay.
In the early morning of May 1, 1898, the American fleet entered Manila Bay and approached within 5,000 yards of the Spanish fleet before opening fire. The Spanish Fleet was completely annihilated while the American fleet suffered no casualties.
In the same year, while the construction of the Spanish Administration Building in Subic Bay was still ongoing, a detachment of Dewey’s fleet bombarded the Navy Yard and forcibly took Olongapo and Subic Bay from under their control.
Dewey was fascinated with what he saw and regarded the deep-water harbor in Subic Bay as without equal in the Philippine islands.
As a result of their loss, Spain was forced to relinquish its control over the Philippines to the United States in what is now known as the Treaty of Paris. This marked the end of more than three hundred years of Spanish rule in the Philippines.
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