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Maine, U.S.S., Sinking of the

Maine, U.S.S., Sinking of the

The United States battleship Maine was sent to Havana in January 1898, at the height of Cuba's second war of independence, for the purpose of protecting American lives and property should the turmoil prevailing in that country make it necessary. At 9:40 p.m. on February 15 the ship blew up in Havana harbor, where it was anchored. Out of a complement of 355 officers and men, a total of 260 were killed. It is likely that the explosion was caused by the detonation of the Maine's own gunpowder, but official inquiries conducted at the time were inconclusive. Inflamed by the yellow press and certain U.S. government officials, public opinion in the United States quickly placed the responsibility for the tragedy on the Spaniards. Two weeks later, Congress appropriated $50 million for war preparations, and on April 11 President William McKinley sent to Congress a war resolution. For this reason, the destruction of the Maine traditionally has been regarded as the chief causal explanation of the Spanish-American War. More recently, however, historians have emphasized the need to reconceptualize the origins of the war in the context of U.S. policy toward Cuba in the nineteenth century. For even if the explosion of the Maine had faded into the background of the Cuban War of Independence, the fact remains that the United States and Spain were on a collision course because of Cuba and neither showed any willingness to turn aside.

See alsoCuba, War of Independencexml .


Louis A. Pérez, Jr., "The Meaning of the Maine: Causation and the Historiography of the Spanish-American War," in Pacific Historical Review 58, no. 3 (Aug. 1989): 293-322.

Guillermo G. Calleia Leal, "La voladura del Maine," in Revista de Historia Militar 34, no. 59 (Spain, 1990): 163-196. The latter is especially interesting in that it reflects the Spanish perspective on the episode.

Additional Bibliography

Carrasco García, Antonio. En guerra con Estados Unidos: Cuba 1898. Madrid: Almena Ediciones, 1998.

Pérez, Louis A. The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

                                    JosÉ M. HernÁndez

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