20. 2/15/1898

“President [William] McKinley sent the second class battleship USS Maine from Key West to Havana…At 9:40 on the evening of 15 February [1898], a terrible explosion on board Maine shattered the stillness in Havana Harbor. Later investigations revealed that more than five tons of powder charges for the vessel’s six and ten-inch guns ignited, virtually obliterating the forward third of the ship. The remaining wreckage rapidly settled to the bottom of the harbor. Most of Maine’s crew were sleeping or resting in the enlisted quarters in the forward part of the ship when the explosion occurred. Two hundred and sixty-six men lost their lives as a result of the disaster: 260 died in the explosion or shortly thereafter, and six more died later from injuries. The U.S. Navy Department immediately formed a board of inquiry to determine the reason for Maine’s destruction…In the end, they concluded that a mine had detonated under the ship…When the Navy’s verdict was announced, the American public reacted with predictable outrage…the public had already placed guilt on the Spanish government. Although he continued to press for a diplomatic settlement to the Cuban problem, President McKinley accelerated military preparations…”

“The Destruction of USS Maine,” Department of the Navy-Naval History and Heritage Command, History.Navy.mil

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