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Today in History: The Sinking of the Maine

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 15, 2019 at 5:10 AM

On this day (February 15) in 1898, the U.S. Battleship, Maine, sank in Havana Harbor killing nearly three-quarters of her cruise. The Maine had been sent to Cuba as a show of American strength and to protect American interests there during the Cuban revolution against Spain. The cause of the explosion was initially unclear, but yellow-journalist publishers, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, exaggerated and sensationalized the investigatory report as well as the conflict between revolutionaries and the Spanish to sell papers. (It’s ironic that Pulitzer today is a name synonymous with quality journalism.) Their efforts inflamed popular support for their agenda of U.S. territorial expansion at the expense of the Spanish Empire. As popular pressure to punish Spain rose (“Remember the Maine and to Hell with Spain!” ), McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war.


The Spanish American War helped bring Theodore Roosevelt to public prominence. It also resulted in the acquisition by the U.S. of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, as well as short term control over Cuba. While one of the justifications for the war was supporting the Cuban revolutionaries, they were not permitted to participate in the peace ceremonies and they were not permitted full control over their country after the U.S. withdrew.


It is still uncertain today what caused the Maine to sink. The major theories remain an underwater mine, an undetected fire in the coal bunkers, and a boiler explosion. Spain was anxious to keep the U.S. from becoming involved in its Cuba problems, so the mine theory has never made a lot of sense to me.


Categories: Today in History

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