There were some minor disagreements between Germany and the US during the late 19th century, but nothing serious or even very unusual. One incident occurred during the Spanish-American War in 1898 when Japan, Great Britain, France and Imperial Germany dispatched fleets to protect their nationals and interests in the area. Germany’s fleet under German Vice Admiral von Diederichs was impressive and the strength of the German squadron aroused the envy and animosity of US Rear Admiral George Dewey. The German officers and sailors were in contrast quite impressed by the performance of Dewey’s fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay over the antiquated Spanish vessels.

After defeating the Spanish fleet on May 1, 1898, Dewey ordered a blockade of Manila. It troubled Dewey that the German squadron of five warships and two auxiliaries outnumbered the Americans. One ship alone, the transport Darmstadt, carried 1,400 men, nearly the number of Dewey’s men. Believing that they were following acceptable international protocol regarding starving civilians, the Germans violated Dewey’s blockade of Manila by supplying flour to trapped Spanish residents and even welcomed them aboard the German vessels.

German officers also visited Spanish and Filipino outposts, and Dewey disliked this. After a few other minor irritations, Dewey reacted with some provocative acts and a threat to start a war with Germany. Tensions increased, and at this point a British squadron sided with Dewey and even ordered its band to play “The Star Spangled Banner.” Finally, the German gunboat Cormoran refused to acknowledge an American attempt to board the ship for inspection since the US had no right under international law to do so, and the ship was finally stopped by the US firing a shot across its bow. Von Diederichs complained about Dewey’s overtly provocative acts, but the Germans expressed no interest in a conflict and it went no further.