​​Missions of Mercy: Humanitarian Aid in the Adriatic

OLYMPIA's landing force 1919
She led a vital squadron tasked with dispensing food, water and medicine to the sick and needy.

After World War I, with a deadly flu epidemic disrupting all of Europe, Olympia was quickly deployed to the Mediterranean as a flagship for humanitarian aid. She led a vital squadron tasked with dispensing food, water and medicine to the sick and needy. Olympia's presence was yet again critical for providing diplomacy and compassion to a foreign region. A particularly poignant moment came at Christmas 1920, when an Olympia crew member dressed as Santa Claus greeted thousands of Venetian orphans as they circulated through the ship to receive presents and tour the famous vessel. Olympia was also used militarily at this time to police the chaotic areas around the Adriatic, many of which suffered from continuous riots and power struggles following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Orphans on OLYMPIA with Santa in Venice
Orphans on OLYMPIA with Santa in Venice
OLYMPIA's Medical Dispensary
OLYMPIA's Medical Dispensary
Taking a body off of OLYMPIA during an influenza epidemic
OLYMPIA during the influenza epidemic in Europe (photo credit:Naval History & Heritage Command)