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The Great Naval Battle off Cavite (Manila Bay), color lithograph by Kurz & Allison, ca. 1898

On May 1, 1898, six U.S. Navy battleships commanded by Commodore George Dewey attacked and sunk 11 Spanish ships in Manila Bay. Although Dewey intended only to weaken Spain’s naval power, his overwhelming victory propelled the United States to send ground troops to capture the city of Manila.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The Great Naval Battle off Cavite (Manila Bay)

Annexing the Philippines

In 1898 Congress declared war against Spain to support Cuba’s independence from Spanish rule. Hostilities quickly extended to other Spanish colonies, including the Philippines. At the end of the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for $20 million. Congress passed an Organic Act establishing a civilian government for the Philippine Islands in 1902, after U.S. troops suppressed a Filipino nationalist movement. Except when occupied by Japan during World War II, the Philippines remained under U.S. control until Congress recognized its independence in 1946.