In the New York Navy Yard, on October 17, 1888, many American ship builders began building a 6,682 ton battleship soon to be named the USS Maine. This second-class battleship sported four 10 inch and six 6 inch cannons, and 15 pound guns with four 14 inch torpedo tubes when she was launched from the navy yard a year later in November 1889. She was commissioned on September 17, 1895, her was Captain Arent S. Crowninshield, and she crewed 350 men; a few months after her commissioning, she was on her way to her first and final voyage, which was a peace keeping mission to Cuba.1
In January of 1898, the USS Maine steamed from the Florida Keys to Havana Cuba. A Cuban fight for independence from Spain was underway, and with American citizens in Cuba caught in the cross-fire, the presence of an American battleship there would demonstrate US concerns to Spain about those American citizens. The ship was there in what the United Stated called a “friendly act,” though there wasn’t many friendly feeling from the Spanish authorities toward the battleship being in their harbor. No actions against the ship were taken. But at 9:40 P.M. on 15 February, that all changed. Two explosions rocked the ship as it threw pieces of the Maine two-hundred feet in the air as it illuminated the whole harbor. The first explosion was a small dull roar that was followed by a much more powerful second explosion. The explosion was larger due to the forward magazines going off in the fire. The forward half of the ship was reduced to a mass of twisted steel; the aft section slowly sank, leaving two officers and 258 members of the crew dead in the aftermath of the destruction.2
Upon hearing what happened to the USS Maine, both the Spanish and American Governments sent their own investigators to the wreck to determine what happened to the ship. Both investigators came up with completely different conclusions as to the cause of the explosions. The Spanish said that the cause was an internal explosion in the coal bunker, while the American investigator said it was an external explosion that set off the forward magazine after the first explosion. While the investigators were working on the causes, the remaining survivors were rushed to hospitals on a ward steamer and a Spanish cruiser. Eight of those survivors subsequently died. Once news of the Maine’s explosion and the deaths of American sailors reached the States, many Americans believed that the explosion was due an external explosion caused by a shady individual, and they demanded an armed intervention against the Spanish. Though this wasn’t the cause of the Spanish-American War, it was certainly a catalyst for starting it.3
The wreck of the Maine stayed in Havana’s harbor for years, until 1911, when the American Government sent a group of Army engineers to raise the wreck. There they found that the aft section was the only intact part of the ship, so they raised it and floated it out to sea. Then, on the 16th of March, 1912, the Maine was given her minute gun salute as she sank with her flag flowing proudly one last time. Remains of the crew found with her were subsequently laid to rest as well in Arlington cemetery. Before she was sunk, officials performed one last set of investigations. They found evidence that pointed to a faulty boiler as the possible cause of the explosion, but they still lacked conclusive evidence to support the theory, so the cause of the explosion is still undetermined and we may never know for sure what caused the Maine to explode.4
I was unaware of the USS Maine before reading this article. However, after reading this article, I have a more clear understanding of the USS Maine and the sinking of it as well. I also found it interesting how the whole sinking was unknown and it is still a mystery on how it truly sank. In addition, I was intrigued by how it took so long for the wreckage to actually be lifted by the U.S. army. This was a successful article and I know more about the sinking of the USS Maine.